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Deciphering the Data: A Comparison of Computer and Traditional Coding in Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  7 Tony Sanchez and Dan Morales who are both Democrats. So the sampling unit became all articles in the Austin newspaper concerning the three candidates during the specified time period. Then, a group of 14 graduate students, under the supervision of a faculty member, in a large southwestern university’s college of communications read the 107 articles in the sampling unit. The coding unit was every paragraph that included any reference to the image of the candidate. Since a single paragraph could have more than one reference to a candidate’s image, the unit of analysis became the assertion. At this point a decision was made to eliminate headlines, graphics, photographs and cutlines from the data set. A codebook was created partly from the voter survey that had been conducted as part of the overall study. In addition, image characteristics also came from the newspaper articles themselves as well as previous second-level agenda setting studies. The codebook was tested on a sample of the material and then was modified because of questions or problems that came up during the initial coding. The students then used the revised codebook to code all of the identified paragraphs. The coders then checked each other’s work and identified any discrepancies. If the two people couldn’t agree on the proper coding for an assertion, a third person was utilized to reconcile the differences. Concurrent to the human coding of the data, a computer program was employed to attempt to answer the same questions about candidate images in the newspaper coverage. For closer comparison of computer versus human coding and analysis, both groups used the same data set, sampling unit, and started with the same codebook. The

Authors: Conway, Mike.
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Tony Sanchez and Dan Morales who are both Democrats. So the sampling unit became
all articles in the Austin newspaper concerning the three candidates during the specified
time period.
Then, a group of 14 graduate students, under the supervision of a faculty member,
in a large southwestern university’s college of communications read the 107 articles in
the sampling unit. The coding unit was every paragraph that included any reference to
the image of the candidate. Since a single paragraph could have more than one reference
to a candidate’s image, the unit of analysis became the assertion. At this point a decision
was made to eliminate headlines, graphics, photographs and cutlines from the data set.
A codebook was created partly from the voter survey that had been conducted as
part of the overall study. In addition, image characteristics also came from the newspaper
articles themselves as well as previous second-level agenda setting studies. The
codebook was tested on a sample of the material and then was modified because of
questions or problems that came up during the initial coding.
The students then used the revised codebook to code all of the identified
paragraphs. The coders then checked each other’s work and identified any discrepancies.
If the two people couldn’t agree on the proper coding for an assertion, a third person was
utilized to reconcile the differences.
Concurrent to the human coding of the data, a computer program was employed
to attempt to answer the same questions about candidate images in the newspaper
coverage. For closer comparison of computer versus human coding and analysis, both
groups used the same data set, sampling unit, and started with the same codebook. The


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