Textual Analysis in Mass Communication Studies:
Theory and Methodology
Patricia A. Curtin
Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication
The University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia 30602-3018
phone: (706) 542-5092
fax: (706) 542-4785
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Textual Analysis in Mass Communication Studies:
Theory and Methodology
This study examines textual analysis methodology as applied to mass
communication studies: the theoretical basis, the analytic process, and
congruent theoretical perspectives. Textual analysis is differentiated
from other textual approaches, such as qualitative content analysis and
discourse analysis. Particular attention is given to making the
specialized vocabulary of textual analysis more accessible and providing
concrete examples of the analytic process. A list of additional
is included to facilitate further study.
Textual Analysis, page
In a recent article Cooper et al. (1994) found that despite claims that
qualitative methods have "re-emerged" over the last two decades, the
percentage of qualitative articles in major U.S. mass media journals has
been declining since the 1960s. The authors suggest two explanations
this decline: researchers believe major journals publish only
work and they lack training in qualitative methods. Tompkins (1994)
implies these two reasons may be connected:
Quite a few graduate students in communication since the "qualitative"
or "interpretive" turn of the early 80s . . . seem to have avoided
mastering the criteria for evidence established by either the
or quantitative approaches. Some of these researchers have been
whining recently that journal editors refuse to publish their work.
At the same time they resist applying criteria to their work. . .
Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" seems to be their methodo-logical
and reprise. (Tompkins, 1994)
Although a few reviewers reject even the most carefully crafted piece
simply because it is qualitative, Tompkin's point is well taken. Of the
six articles in U.S. mass media journals that analyzed data and used
"qualitative" as a key term in Communication Abstracts for 1988 through
1994, just one specified a data analysis method. The others listed
"qualitative analysis," which is as meaningless as saying data were
analyzed using "statistical methods" in quantitative research.
A review of qualitative methodology literature in mass communication
substantiates the conclusion that this lack of rigor stems at least in
from a lack of training. Most texts touch on theoretical perspectives or
data collection methods, but say little about data analysis methods or
need for an integrated research design (see Lindlof, 1991 and Pauly,
for example). Those texts that do address analytic methods often
the coding process common to qualitative content analyses, constant c
omparative analyses, and analytic induction with these methods themselves
(e.g., Berg, 1989; see Bogdan & Biklen, 1992 and Strauss & Corbin,
Denzin and Lincoln's 1994 Handbook of Qualitative Research does address a
variety of theoretical perspectives and data collection and analysis
methods and emphasizes the need for congruency among these elements to
produce an integrated research design (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). But
new to qualitative research may find the volume intimidating, in part
because it is not specific to mass communication studies and the
terminology across disciplines is at times conflicting. If qualitative
approaches are to remain a viable form of mass communication
better explications of particular qualitative methodologies as applied
the field are needed. This study attempts to fill the gap in the
literature for one qualitative approach--textual analysis--and demonstrates
how it differs from other frequently used qualitative textual methods
(e.g., qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis). It works
through the highly specialized vocabulary of textual analysis to make
concepts more accessible, while giving examples from published works
demonstrate how the concepts are applied. A list of additional
given to facilitate further study.
Textual analysis draws from a number of disciplinary fields, and its
application varies somewhat among research traditions. In mass
communication studies, however, the method has been most fully explicated
by Stuart Hall, director of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary
Studies from 1968 to 1979 (Lindlof, 1991). Hall drew on The Frankfurt
School's reworking of classical Marxism, Althusser's formulation of
structural Marxism, Gramsci's notion of hegemony, Barthes' development of
structural linguistics, and Foucault's elaboration of neo-Marxism,
resulting in four main underlying constructs: language and meaning,
ideology, ideology and myth, and historicity (Fiske, 1994; Steeves, 1987).
Language and Meaning
Although many semiologists claim meaning resides in the semantic content
of the text itself, textual analysis theorists claim meaning resides
dialectical process between the text and the reader, which takes place in
a particular social and historical context (Hill, 1979). This notion
meaning as a social production and language as the medium through
meaning is produced is at the basis of French structuralist thought.
strict structuralism tends to be reductionist, neglecting the aspect
production, whereas for Hall and other textual analysts language is the
means by which the role of the media is changed from that of conveyors
reality to that of constructors of meaning. Media actively labor not
reflect reality but to construct it, a process defined as a
practice," with the media as signifying agents (Hall, 1982).
Because language is polysemic (having more than one meaning), texts are
necessarily polysemic. If there is not "a" message to be found,
how does a text make sense of an event to readers, and how can textual
analysis uncover this sense? The answer lies in the dominant reading of
text, which "positions the reader" in relationship to the text. The
analyst must determine all layers of meaning in a text, however,
identifying not only the preferred positions but also the alternative
readings, even if they are contradictory to the dominant form (Johnson,
1986-1987). Texts can be labeled as either open or closed, depending
the range of different readings available (Eco, 1978).
The analyst, by unfolding the polysemic layers of meaning in a text, is
uncovering the ideological force of these meanings (Kress, 1983).
most fully developed in his work this "intimate relationship" between
language and ideology (Rai, 1984). Ideology exists in and through
language, and the ideological system can be discerned through an analysis
of the "domain of discourse--where language is deeply penetrated and
inscribed by ideology" (Grossberg & Slack, 1985).
Ideology is the power of language to shape perception and knowing such
that social agents "accept their role in the existing order of things,
either because they can see or imagine no alternative to it, or because
they see it as natural and unchangeable, or because they value it as
divinely ordained or beneficial" (Lukes, 1975). Ideologies cannot then be
defined as false ideas, and people cannot author them.
Ideology also is not hidden or concealed, but openly manifest within
society: what is hidden is the foundation of ideology, the source or site
of its unconsciousness. But it is precisely this unconscious
that makes ideological communication so powerful. Language represents
categorization of the world from a point of view; language has not only
linguistic meaning but also presupposes and evokes beliefs and
values (Banks, 1989; Geis, 1987; Kress, 1983).
Hall breaks with classical Marxism by adopting Althusser's (1971) and
Williams' (1974) notion of ideology as limiting but not causal.
Gramsci's formulation of hegemony as obtained by social and cultural
leadership, Hall claims that hegemony works through ideology: the dominant
classes define reality; the defined reality becomes institutionalized;
through institutionalization, it becomes the lived reality (Grossberg &
Slack, 1985). This development led to Hall's ostracism from the ranks
classical Marxism, but it offers a more satisfying view of the role of
media in conveying dominant ideological thought. Because the media
the news, rank the news, and classify the news within the limits of
dominant ideology, the media produce consensus and construct their own
legitimacy through the processes employed (i.e., argument, exchange,
. . . the news works ideologically to support the dominant power
structure by creating a consensus that appears grounded in everyday
reality. This consensus, produced through language and
legiti-mizes the hegemony of the ruling social formation by
manufacturing the consent of the governed. (Meyers, 1994)
Although many possible ways of encoding events exist, the media select the
dominant preferred codes, the natural explanations, as the most effective
means of conveying sense to the readers. For media producers, the
professional ideologies are unconscious, subverted as routine practice,
news intuition (Hall, 1977). The media, then, do not set out
to subvert a position in favor of the dominant ideology as if they
some kind of unified mafia" (Galtung, 1989). They instead
perate only within the limited range of dominant ideology, which
narrow diversity of meaning and interpretations but not alternative
readings. The media achieve consensus by systematically including those
interpretations of events that "make sense" and excluding anything
"extremist," "irrational," "meaningless," "utopian," "impractical," etc.
Media thus produce consensus and manufacture consent. Any
disagreements are not only illusory, but they also serve the media by
lending them an unearned legitimacy.
. . . there are fundamental agreements which bind the opposing
positions into a complex unity: all the presuppositions, the limits to
the argument, the terms of reference, etc., which those elements
within the system must share in order to "disagree." It is this
underlying "unity" which the media underwrite and reproduce: and it
in this sense that the ideological inflexion of media discourse are
best understood. (Hall, 1977)
Through the space within the hegemonic codes for negotiation, for a
subordinate reading of the text to be made, media retain an autonomy in the
eyes of the public; because they are not linked to any particular class,
they retain their public appearance of objectivity, neutrality, and
Ideology and Myth
The dominant reading is often conveyed through myths. Hall does not
explicitly expound on myths in his work, although the lack is more
than theoretic. Hall's notion of how ideology is conveyed is similar to
Barthes' (1973) explication of myth. Hall (1982) describes Barthes'
as being at the intersection of myth, language, and ideology,
that Barthes puts the accent on the masking and connotative powers of
the polysemic interpretations that allow ideological power to be realized.
Hall, however, could himself be describing the power of myth, not
ideology, when he states
. . . the more one accepts that how people act will depend in part on
how the situations in which they act are defined, and the less
assume either a natural meaning to everything or a universal
consensus on what things mean--then, the more important, socially and
politically, becomes the process by means of which certain events
recurrently signified in particular ways. . . . The power
here is an ideological power: the power to signify events in a
particular way. (Hall, 1982)
Breen and Corcoran (1982) view the unconscious encoding process as
mythologizing in action, and they posit that the function of ideology in
modern society is only fully understood through an examination of myth
the dialectic link between culture and communication. Myths are
in communication as ideological representatives to make sense of new
by fitting them into old, familiar cultural molds; myths serve to reify
Reification of myths as perceptual systems makes them invisible,
providing, in Said's (1981) words, "the mythical lens through which the
news media focus." Because myths are read as facts rather than as
constructed cultural images, myths can become organized into ideologies:
"Ideologies are conventions of seeing and knowing, as myths are, based
priori assumptions about the world which operate at the level of latent,
as opposed to manifest, content, which cultures therefore usually
unchallenged" (Breen & Corcoran, 1982).
But, precisely because myths are what they are, they are comforting; to
challenge them is to call into question a shared cultural heritage.
John F. Kennedy (in Safire, 1972) said,
The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate,
contrived, and dishonest--but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and
unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our
We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations.
The mingling of ideological and historical roots within myths exerts a
strong and traditional force on ways in which succeeding similar
elements can be developed. The "deep structure" of every news
must be conceived
. . . as the network of elements, premises and assumptions drawn
from the long-standing and historically-elaborated discourses which
had accreted over the years, into which the whole history of the
social formation had sedimented, and which now constituted a
of themes and premises on which, for example, broadcasters could draw
for the work of signifying new and troubling events. (Hall, 1982)
Along with this force of historicity on the text, Johnson (1986-1987)
cautions we must also take into account the immediate and historical
context of the reader because "texts are encountered promiscuously."
Readers are not wiped clean between texts but control their reading
a sense of coherence and continuity. Therefore an analysis of media
ideology cannot examine simply the production of the text and the text
itself because the meaning produced in the encounter between the text
the subject cannot be gleaned from the text alone: the text cannot be
considered separately from its historical conditions of production and
consumption, which form an "indissoluble part" (Hardt, 1989; Morley,
Textual Analysis Methodology
Given this theoretical base driving textual analysis methodology, it
follows that the text is the means to the study in textual analysis, not
the end; of interest is not the text itself but what the text
The text in this sense is not what you physically hold but a process
"potentially infinite processes of signification" (Barthes, in Cheney &
Tompkins, 1988). Studying text as a process, a means of study, is
decentering the text.
More generally, the aim is to decentre "the text" as an object of
study. "The text" is no longer studied for its own sake, nor even
the social effects it may be thought to produce, but rather for the
subjective or cultural forms which it realises and makes
This primary process of decentering the text distinguishes textual
analysis from qualitative content analysis, in which the text remains at
the center of the analysis. In qualitative content analysis, content
broken down through open coding into categories, which are then
in relationship to one another through the process of axial coding. The
goal is to obtain emic and etic understandings of participants'
perspectives. For example, to understand Reagan's perspective on the
Soviet Union, a content analysis of his "evil empire" speech (1984) might
note that he used the term at the climax of the speech, following a
against atheist states and the need for nuclear proliferation, and
categorize the inherent themes. But a textual analysis of the same speech
might examine what shaped the content by unfolding the meaning of evil
empire in terms outside the text, such as Star Wars defense plans, the
greater cultural milieu of the Star Wars films (i.e., The Empire Strikes
Back), and the larger ideological power struggle and resulting
of the Cold War and atomic age. Given this differentiation in the
of the text between qualitative content analysis and textual analysis,
mass communication "textual analysis" studies would be more appropriately
reclassified as content analysis studies (e.g., Riggs et al., 1993).
Employing textual analysis, then, the analyst must decenter the text to
deconstruct it, working back through the narrative's mediations of
appearance, rhetoric, and style to uncover the underlying social and
historical processes, the metalanguage that guided its production (Hall,
Our working hypothesis was that every significant stylistic, visual,
linguistic, presentational, rhetorical feature was a sort of
witness . . . every shift in tone and rhetoric, every change in
balance of content, every move in the implied "logic" in the
signified something more than a mere stylistic shift.
The purpose of these initial steps is to uncover the existing framework
within which production of meaning takes place. The analyst works to
uncover the pre-existing stock of meanings employed by media producers to
take the complex process of historical and social change and make it
intelligible to readers (Hall, 1975, 1982).
In this first deconstructive phase, then, the analyst identifies the
categories used by the media to define the event (e.g., hard news,
editorial, etc.). Readers, in turn, have expectations of these categories:
news on the front page of a paper is important; news on the entertainment
page is trivial. These categories serve as "those taken-for-granted,
but unnoticed' background features and expectancies by means of which
people share a collective world of cultural meanings" (Hall, 1975).
also employ codes to give news meaning--visual, verbal, rhetorical,
presentational--and tone, how media set the feel of the event to make it
meaningful. But these categories, codes, topics, and tones are
unconsciously by media personnel during the production process. To
the cultural significance of media accounts, researchers must
codes and determine their underlying social meanings (Hall, 1975).
The analyst also examines the narrative structure of each story to
determine how it contributes to the interpretation of the content. Does
the lead frame the issue within a particular context? For example, a
narrative beginning "Once upon a time" implies a happy ending. The
remainder of the story is analyzed to determine the chronological ordering
of events, the causal relations implied by the ordering, and the
used in opposition to each other, which highlight differences and
distinctions between the two.
The beginning of Meyers (1994) analysis of news coverage of the murder of
a battered wife by her estranged husband, the director of the
exhibit in Atlanta, demonstrates this first step in the deconstruction
process of textual analysis methodology. She notes that the story broke
the front page of the Metro Section, indicating the news staff deemed the
story newsworthy. The headline, however, made no mention of murder:
"Cyclorama chief tries to end life of battles." Use of this headline
es attention on the murderer, not the victim; it is the perpetrator of
crime who is given prominence in this case.
The story begins with narration of the husband's fight to gain the
directorship of the Cyclorama--a discussion of his struggle to obtain his
life-long dream. Not until the fourth paragraph is his murder of his
mentioned. Although his wife is the victim, she is marginalized in
coverage. The headline on the jump--"Walters: shoots wife, then
himself"--keeps the emphasis on him. The murdered wife is the object, not
the subject of the story, and the headline serves to equalize the
they have received. In this manner, the husband also becomes a victim,
and his act of murder is portrayed as obsession gone awry.
This example also demonstrates how the language used is examined to
ascertain inherent cultural assumptions. Each word and image not strictly
neutral in its connotative meaning is analyzed in terms of its
interpretations. The larger meaning of metaphors is examined: e.g., a
sports metaphor indicates a bipolar competition with a winner/loser,
For example, Lule (1991), in an examination of news coverage of the
launch, found reports immediately employed the metaphor of a race and attr
ibuted it to the Soviet Union: "Symbols and metaphors then were
patterns of portrayals in the report were made clear. For example,
metaphor of the race served an integral role in early reports, with
explicit references to victory and defeat." Additionally, to the victor
went "a great propaganda victory." In sum, examination of the
used in the news reports revealed that it "enacted a drama of defeat
in language of the Cold War. . . . In the language of the news,
first step into space was a major U.S. defeat in a space race (Lule,
The analyst must also identify metonyms (the whole hidden by the part used
to represent the whole) and synecdoche (the specific hidden by the whole)
in the narrative and explore the relationships they represent. For
example, when discussing the possibility of nuclear waste leaking at the
Hanford plant site, Time magazine (August 13, 1990) noted: "The U.S.
eventually expects to pump the liquid out of the tanks, encapsulate it in
glass and store it permanently in underground sites . . ." The use of
as a synecdoche in this instance removes actual people from the danger of
handling nuclear waste. It also removes the general reader both from
sense of involvement and responsibility. In this way the media stress
role of institutions, not people, in resolving social issues (Allen &
In like manner, the analyst must isolate symbols and metaphors and explore
assumptions and beliefs to determine the underlying ideology. Lule, in a
study of news coverage of Huey Newton's death, presents an excellent
overview of the deconstructive process of textual analysis through
. . . the analysis first examined within each report the selection and
portrayal of actors and acts. Of particular significance were the
choice of titles, verbs, adverbs, qualifiers. For example, one
stated that Newton was a "self-proclaimed" revolutionary. The phrase
cast doubt on his status. Similarly, another report said that Newton
at times "portrayed himself to be an intelligent academician."
The study then examined symbols and metaphors. For example, many
accounts reported in the lead that Newton was shot in the "same
troubled neighborhood where he began his work." Why note the
neighborhood? Analysis suggested the reports used the neighborhood as
an ironic symbol for the failure of Newton's work.
Assumptions and beliefs that grounded each report then were
considered. For example, many reports followed convention and gave
over much space to the official record, a recitation of Newton's
criminal charges. In the context of the reports, the record was
to foster the belief that Newton's life was spent largely on
and crime. (Lule, 1993)
Having taken apart the text to determine underlying assumptions and themes
in this manner, the analyst must then reconstruct the text to determine
the dominant or preferred reading; a textual analysis is not complete
stops after the deconstructive process. The goal of effective
communication is to ensure that the dominant meaning is put into language
that will "'win the consent' of the audience to the preferred reading,
hence be decoded within the hegemonic framework" (Hall, 1977). In
(1994) words: "a close textual analysis . . . focus[es] on discursive
strategies within the text that . . . help reveal how ideological
dimensions structure reporting of news and in fact narrow the range of
discursive and democratic possibilities."
As part of the reconstructive process it is important that the analyst
identify omissions in the text, because what the producer of a text
not to tell the consumer also shapes the preferred reading of an event,
casting it within a particular ideological framework. Lule's analysis
coverage of Huey Newton's death notes that the newspapers studied made
little to no mention of the grieving of his community and their attempts
The depth of feeling suggested, the meanings of Huey Newton for people
of color in Oakland, was touched upon but then dropped. Yet, for a
few paragraphs, a hint of a different strategy had been raised.
Deadline pressures do not explain the omissions of these scenes by
other newspapers. Newton was shot in the early morning of August
Stories would not run until the following day. Reporters were filing
their accounts as the devotions were taking place. Nor can it be
said the memorial--dramatic and spontaneous--lacked news value.
Rather, the conclusion of this study will suggest that homage and
devotion simply did not fit with larger news strategies that
and demeaned Newton and his work while upholding the order to be
challenged. (Lule, 1993)
Through this process of reconstruction, then, the analyst explores the
consequences of the preferred reading and determines the range of
legitimate cultural understandings that emerges to identify the cultural
myths that underlie their construction. Through identification of
myths, a cultural consensus can be delineated and its implications for
media production explored (Lule, 1991). Meyers (1994), in her study of
coverage of the murder of the battered wife, concludes, "By
the idea that violence against women is a problem of individual
the news disguises the social roots of battering while reinforcing
stereotypes and myths which blame women."
An extended example demonstrates how the reconstructive process of
analysis reaches this stage. Lester (1992) performed a textual analysis of
Banana Republic mail order catalogues, concluding from the initial
deconstructive stage of analysis that they reveal an Us-Other dichotomy in
which the Other is an exotic object used to commodify Others and sell
only clothing but a way of life. Having examined the cultural
of the textual and pictorial language and symbols used, she concludes that
apparently amusing and trivial, positions the reader as one who can
share the joke; the joke turns on an ironic position towards
colonialism and liberation struggles, thus necessarily denying the
real problematics of domination and subordination. Furthermore,
through references to the history of the "Botswana Lawn Bowling
League" and the "Ivory Coast Tennis Club," a pernicious past is
as merely amusing. (Lester, 1992)
Proceeding to the reconstructive process, the ideology of colonialism is
then linked to its mythic aspects, demonstrating the role of myth in
keeping readers comfortable within their culture and the dialectic process
between media producer, consumer, and text.
[The tactics used] refer to and reinforce already constructed concepts
of a specific version of historical experience, a version which can
only exist for the preferred reader of the text. . . . a
past when the white man's burden was linked economically,
and socially with colonial imperatives. This reminds the
readers of the comfortably familiar version of history (and
events) in which it is the arrival of the "we" who initiated
who literally invested in the empty canvass of Africa, Asia and
Americas with peoples, places and things. The intertextuality of
catalog keeps the reader squarely within the commodity culture of
twentieth century America. (Lester, 1992)
Finally, the analyst fits the textual analysis back into its context of
production, bringing in the notion of historicity both of the text and
the reader. Lester accomplishes this by demonstrating how the myth of
colonialism is expressed in other hegemonic cultural forms experienced
The Banana Republic mail order catalog is one text among many which
suggests that western cultural and political-economic hegemony is
natural occurrence, that progress towards the post-industrial can
balanced and informed by the acquisition of the authenticity of
Others. Therefore, it must be read, not simply as an amusing, if
trivial or ephemeral throwaway (although it is that too), but as
among many texts which support the notion that a Third World,
distanced by time, space, custom and integrity, is an object available
for sale in terms of politics and economics as well as culture.
This passage also points out the polysemic nature of texts and the need for
the analyst to acknowledge diverse readings.
In like manner, Lule's study of news coverage of the Sputnik launch places
the resulting mythic construction into its social and historical context.
The study . . . demonstrate[s] how U.S. news reports, while drawing
from a rich, timeless, almost mythic treasury of wonder and
about space, also used humanity's first step into the heavens as a
means to enact powerful dramas that evoked and extended ongoing
cultural concerns over the Cold War, atomic weapons, perceived shifts
of power and prestige, and deteriorating national values. (Lule,
This fitting together of the analysis with the construct of historicity
marks the final step in textual analysis.
These examples of textual analysis highlight the differences between
discourse analysis as explicated by its leading practitioner, Van Dijk,
textual analysis as practiced by Hall. It should be noted, however, that
within the speech communication discipline, the terms textual analysis
discourse analysis are often used interchangeably. Discourse
however, has its theoretical roots in the work of Propp, in the Russian
Formalism school, and Saussure, at the beginning of the French
Structuralist movement, and first flourished in the 1960s (Van Dijk,
In discourse analysis, the microstructure of the text is broken down into
three parts: syntax, the words used; semantics, how the words are put
together both intentionally (meaning) and extensionally (reference); and
pragmatics, the speech acts. The macrostructure of the text, which
the theme of the whole, is derived from the microstructure through what
Van Dijk terms macrorules. These macrorules are reductionist: they
information to its universal structure, echoing Levi-Strauss' (1967)
formulation of unconscious, universal forms (Van Dijk, 1988). Thus,
discourse analysis subscribes to the tenet of meaning in structure:
discourse is "the cognitive/intellectual framework within which
communication takes place" (Galtung, 1989); rhetoric is the persuasive
element found in the structure itself, visible when the detail has been
This stripping of detail to find the meaning in the structure stands in
sharp contrast to textual analysis, which looks to unfold or unpack
from the text by examining the unseen, unconscious ideology behind the
production and consumption of the text. While Hall admits the
inherent in a structuralist approach--its ability to handle relations
to conceive of the complexity of the whole--he cautions that
goes too far in erecting the machine of a 'structure,' with its self-
generating propensities" (Hall, 1986). For Hall, to reduce text to
present structure is to deny the true meaning of context and the
Integrating the Textual Analysis Research Design
From the above discussion it is obvious that textual analysis methodology
is congruent only with critical theoretical perspectives. Researchers
operating within a British critical/ cultural studies framework have
most use of the method, but feminist scholars have found the method
as well (see Steeves, 1987 for a full discussion). For example,
(1994) combines a critical/feminist perspective with textual analysis
methodology to demonstrate how cultural myths and stereotypes of gender,
ce, and class contribute to the representation of violence against
For qualitative researchers operating out of traditions principally
interested in obtaining participants' meanings, such as cultural
anthropology (e.g., Geertz), symbolic interactionism (e.g., the Chicago
School and Lindlof), and American cultural studies (e.g., Carey),
content-centered methods are more apt. In particular, the open and axial
coding process common to qualitative content analysis, analytic
or constant comparative analysis provides a more consonant textual
(Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
Although many expositions of textual analysis concentrate solely on
aspects of data analysis, equal care must be given to the text selected.
The researcher must choose text that can be profitably decentered to
the larger cultural implications of its production. In particular, the
text should be rich, or polysemic. The wealth of data contained
such text, however, requires the analyst to restrict the text to a
and therefore manageable, amount. For example, Lule (1993), exploring
difficult issue of how media handle radical, racial politics, analyzes
press coverage of the death of Huey Newton--text which embodies the
under scrutiny but does so within strictly limited bounds. Meyers (1994),
in her study of myths surrounding violence against women, selects as her
text the two stories run by one newspaper about the murder of a
It should be noted that while the majority of examples used in this paper
have been print news accounts, all media texts may be candidates for
textual analysis. Along with Lester's analysis of mail order catalogues
discussed here, Lewis (1991), for example, has performed a textual
of The Cosby Show, and Ang (1985) has analyzed how Dallas positions its
"readers." What constitutes a media text, then, may be broadly
Perhaps even more so than in other qualitative approaches, the analyst is
part of the textual process. For example, Johnson (1986-1987) notes
this inherent situating of the researcher into the process
textual analysis from ethnographic approaches, which tend to distance
subject and produce an "Us-Them" construction. Textual analysis is
than just literary criticism, however. While literary criticism
critical judgment, textual analysis examines the style and integrates
with the social meaning to uncover the unconscious social framework of
reference (Hall, 1975). Textual analysis maintains its rigor by using
copious evidence from the text to support the interpretation; a standard
Tompkins (1994) refers to as "consistency and public/private texts."
Words are the facts of texts. The numerical data from experiments on
source credibility, fear-arousing appeals and compliance-gaining
strategies often do not have the same status of accessibility. We
usually take it on faith that the data reported by the
research are facts. (Tompkins, 1994)
Thus Hall (1975) suggests that analysts demonstrate why their
interpretation is most plausible by including as much of the original
as possible for critics and reviewers to examine. This requirement,
however, can prove difficult given the page limitations of many journals.
An integrated research design employing textual analysis methodology,
then, necessitates a research question stemming from a critical
perspective, a text that exemplifies that issue in a rich yet
quantitatively limited way, and an analysis that centers not on
content but on the assumptions underlying its production and the
between the producer and consumer. The analysis must both deconstruct
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