Content analysis: An introduction

By Gordon Rugg

I have very mixed feelings about content analysis. At its best, it gives you a new understanding of the world around you. At its worst, which I see all too often, it’s little more than an attempt to salvage mangled fragments of something useful from the wreckage of a questionnaire perpetrated by some sinner who deserves to be locked in a cell for a while with the assorted works of Barbara Cartland being read aloud over the intercom. Accompanied by accordion music.

So what is content analysis, and why do I have such strongly mixed feelings about it? In essence, it’s about analysing the content of texts. The texts may be questionnaire answers or interview answers, or magazine articles, or books, or online forum debates, or just about anything else that’s spoken or written.

Content analysis is usually something that you “grapple with” rather than “do” because it’s a messy, nasty problem. The core dilemna is that the further you get from the original words in the text, the more you risk distorting their meaning; however, the nearer you get to the original words, the less sense you can make of what those words are telling you.

There are various ways of tackling this problem, but none of them provide a perfect solution. The result is that there are numerous types of content analysis, which vary widely in their assumptions, methods, strengths and weaknesses. This article describes a “vanilla flavour” type of content analysis, which is enough for the needs of many students. I’ll look at other types in future articles.

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Life at Uni: Will the world end if I fail my exams?

By Gordon Rugg

The short answer, in case you were in any doubt, is “No”.

The world won’t end if you fail your exams.

At one level, you already knew that. The planet won’t be destroyed if you don’t get the exam grades you wanted. However, there’s another version of the question that bothers a lot of students. It’s about whether their personal world is going to be destroyed by exam results.

Again, the answer is “No”. This article is about the reasons for that answer. It’s another gentle, supportive article with practical advice. To set the mood, here’s a picture of a sweet little kitten.

Slide1

“Wikipedians cat” by Remedios44 – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikipedians_cat.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Wikipedians_cat.jpg

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How much is too much?

By Gordon Rugg

There are various well-established answers to the question of how much is too much. (Though being well-established doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re true…)

In this article, I’ll look briefly at four types of answer:

  • Moral outrage
  • An unforeseen price
  • To infinity and beyond
  • The statistics of uncanny valleys

I’ll look at the statistical type in most detail, because it’s received least attention in the past, and because it has some fascinating implications for fashion, the media, and inter-group relations.

This is a story that goes in some improbable-sounding directions. It starts with mediaeval pointy shoes, lust-crazed beetles, and beer bottles.

bannerImages from Wikipedia; full details and acknowledgements at the end of this article

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A cheering tale: The Gimli Glider

I like the story of the Gimli Glider. It’s a feel-good true story, for days when a person needs a feel-good true story; it’s invaluable as a case study for my students; it’s also good for putting problems into perspective on a hard day.

If the name gives you surreal images of a Middle-Earth dwarf wielding an axe in a sailplane, you might be relieved to learn that the reality is very different, though equally surreal in some ways.

It’s the true story of an airliner that ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet, because of a misunderstanding about whether it had been fuelled in litres or in pounds of fuel. At that point, it became the world’s largest glider. The co-pilot recommended an emergency landing at Gimli airfield, which he knew from his days in the Royal Canadian Air Force. The pilot landed successfully, largely because he happened to know a lot about flying gliders. Nobody died; everyone walked away, with feelings of disbelief and massive relief. Even by the standards of movies about fictional aircraft in jeopardy, it’s quite a story.

bannerImages from Wikipedia; details with attributions at the end of this article

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Exam season mood lifters

By Gordon Rugg

It’s exam season. Academics are feeling blue because they have to do piles of marking. Students are feeling blue because they’re dreading the results of that marking.

It’s a good time for a mood lifter.chingiz khan

Still from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amCeqrpYzes used under fair use principles, as a low-resolution still used for humorous purposes.

Here’s something that should brighten your day without demanding too much mental effort. It’s Japanese idols singing Dschinghis Khan. The song is indeed about the Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, whose name has an impressive number of variant spellings. It had its origins in Eurovision, in 1979, where it was performed by the band Dschingis Khan. I’ll draw a discreet veil over that experience. Anyway, here’s the Japanese idols version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtFSCvLLluw

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Life at Uni: After uni

By Gordon Rugg

If you’re trying not to think about life after university because it all feels too scary and depressing, then you’re in good company. Most students feel that way sooner or later.

This article is about other ways of looking at life after university, particularly if you’re scared and/or depressed and/or have no idea what to do next. It’s a gentle article. Here’s a picture of some kittens to set the mood.

1024px-4_Kittens “4 Kittens” by Pieter Lanser from The Netherlands – IMG_9051Uploaded by oxyman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:4_Kittens.jpg#mediaviewer/File:4_Kittens.jpg

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The Knowledge Modelling Book

By Gordon Rugg

Over the last year, we’ve blogged about various aspects of knowledge modelling. That’s allowed us to go into depth about specific topics.

We’re now pulling that information together into a structured format, as an online book. This article contains the core structure of the book, with links to our previous blog articles about the topics within the book. Those articles cover about half of the material that the final version of the book will contain.

We’ve gone for this format, rather than a single downloadable document, because it’s more practical at this point. The knowledge modelling book covers a lot of topics, and even the current partial draft would be a very large document, with a lot of illustrations.

We’ll update this draft fairly frequently, via further blog articles. Some of those articles will be case studies showing how concepts from the book can be applied to real examples. Other articles will be about the broader and deeper context of the book; in particular, the introductory sections and the discussion sections for the main sections. At some point, we’ll put a more reader-friendly version onto the Hyde & Rugg website, which we’re currently updating.

We welcome constructive feedback and suggestions.

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