Directions: You will view several episodes of a crime-related television program, logging information about your observations and using that data to develop a written case study of the program. The purpose is to discover the narratives and frames the producers advance through the programming and determine if these choices have an impact on the social construction of the issues raised. For example, does the program Live PD promote a positive image of law enforcement, and how is that emphasized? You will use the Content Analysis Worksheet (Excel version) to record your observations and the Content Analysis Guide as a resource to develop the case study. A Word document version of the Content Analysis Worksheet (Word version) is also available as an alternative to the Excel version.
Content analysis is the process of breaking down or deconstructing a piece of media into its component messages. From these content pieces, you can observe images and messages that occur frequently and identify patterns of crime and justice content. (Are women usually shown in some roles (e.g., victims) but not in others (e.g., heroic crime-fighters). The process is different from doing a book report or film review in that the plot, character development, dramatic elements, and other things you would write about in a COM class are not topical in a content analysis. Content analysis is the basis for a study of the media’s social impact, not its artistic impact. Here’s what you need to know and do.
First, you must choose a media component of which to conduct a content analysis. It must be crime-related. For this class, it will be a television crime show, fiction or nonfiction (which may be more accurately infotainment). You will want to be able to draw generalizations from your content analysis about the program. To do that, you must view multiple episodes; a single episode won’t give you enough data. Your sample must be large enough to be able to generalize about whatever type of media you’re looking at. You can watch broadcast episodes on regular TV over the next few weeks or binge a set if you have streaming service. Many series also have free episodes on the Web or websites such as YouTube.
Watch each episode while taking notes on how specific crime and justice-related material is presented. These content notes would be the raw data that you will then use to write up a content analysis of the program. You would refer to your content notes to draw generalizations about how this program portrays crime and justice. For example, you might find that in this program, most criminals are shown to be white, middle-aged males. You could support this by noting the percentage distribution of types of criminals across the shows you observed. Or, you might decide that these shows emphasize a defective personality theory of crime and offer as support for this conclusion that in half of the episodes, the primary criminal was mentally ill and delusional. The content analysis thus notes supple, supportive evidence and specific examples of the points and conclusions you’re offering in your case study.
The content areas you need to take notes on are suggested in the following list. You may also want to modify the listed categories to better fit your study. (For example, if you were looking at a show about police corruption, the crime-fighter and criminal categories would be the same.)
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