Feminist Content Analysis

I take pride in my method descriptions, which doesn’t mean they’re always perfect, but I try. Currently, I am fully immersed in conducting another critical literature review and before I started even assembling the corpus, I wrote down extensive notes about how I intended to analyse the works. In fact, I aim to write my methods sections for associated publications early on in the analysis process to adequately document them.

For my current work, I chose Feminist Content Analysis as defined by Leavy (2000) (and further refined in the book on “Contemporary feminist research from theory to practice” by Harris & Leavy, 2018). In my reading, the method consists of six steps, which I allude to here so that others might get curious and find their own interpretation and use cases for the approach. For the record, a corpus here might refer to a a set of papers (in literature reviews), texts (e.g., social media postings), non-textual texts (e.g. movies, images), and any other source material that can be chunked into units of analysis.

  1. Setting an outline. Transformation of the topic into a research purpose statement and research questions as well as expectations to set the outline of the research design.
  2. Assembling a corpus. Process of assembling source material that is suitable to the topic and its questions while remaining feasible to manage as a corpus for inquiry. In some cases, this requires to additionally identify a ‘unit of analysis’ (a posting, paragraph, paper, etc.).
  3. Exploring the source material. Initial immersion with the corpus material to refine its scope and get an initial feeling for its contents.
  4. Studying the source material discoursively. Closely reading the corpus material, writing memos and identifying inductive codes and/or appropriate theoretical lenses supporting deductive codes.
  5. Crafting an argument. Construction of a dimensional narrative from initial themes while reflecting on researchers’ positionality within the analysis.
  6. Identifying findings and discussion. Establishing relevant findings and appropriate critical insights in discussing the source material largely in the process of writing a given manuscript. Note, that this could not just involve writing, but also drawing, manuell crafting, programming or artefact assembly in more experimental settings.

Given how little ‘content analysis’ tends to be specified in HCI, I hope that this may provide an initial short introduction into a more concrete method for critical HCI scholars engaging with corpus analyses.