Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

Content Analysis

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Essay type Analysis
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Qualitative methods are those which look for a causal explanation to a viewpoint/choice. Through using qualitative methods, I can investigate the portrayals of gender found in advertising. I will be able to compare and contrast each portrayal found. I will also be able, using these qualitative methods, to investigate the views of the public on gender portrayal. Instead of asking set questions, only gaining superficial information and allowing me to guess at meaning, I can elaborate and gain a bit more insight into their views and the ways that the portrayals are perceived. I am aware of the beliefs of methodological pluralism in the use of these two methods of research. By this I mean that I am aware that both quantitative and qualitative methods have their own strengths and weaknesses but when combined will be able to produce a comprehensive and rounder picture of the research data.

My primary research will take two methods. The first method I will be using is content analysis. In this I will be looking, again, at two things: Billboard advertising and Magazine advertising. The second method of research I will be using is semi-structured interviews. Content Analysis In my content analysis of Billboards I will be going into Chester City centre and photograph adverts relating to gender. I will be looking on bus stops, on buses, actual billboards, posters, and in shop windows. I will look around the city centre in order to make the most efficient use of my time. There are likely to be a lot more adverts in city centres than in, say a village.

After obtaining these photographs, I will study them and from there, fill in a table with information on all aspects of the adverts, from the type of portrayal to the product it is advertising. I chose to go out and take photographs in order to quickly and easily gather the data that I needed. By photographing the adverts, I would be able to fill in the content analysis tables in my own time, therefore allowing me to think about the meaning and portrayals shown in each of the adverts. The categories in this table have been chosen for certain reasons in order to help with my analysis of the adverts.

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The categories for my billboard adverts are very similar to those for my magazine adverts. However, in the magazine categories I have included 'audience of magazine'. This category helps me to look at the tactics associated with age. The 'type of portrayal' category is essential. I need to be able to log the portrayal, be it, of traditional roles, or the use of sex. The 'text' category also helps to enable me to decide on the tactics of the advertisers.

Four of the categories in my table involve a description of the characters in the advert. They are 'people in advert' which simply states the gender and age of characters; 'part of body shown' and 'body-shape' which helps me to easily analyse the use of physical characteristics of the characters. The final category, 'proportion of image taken up by person' relates to the amount of emphasis that the adverisers are using on the characters and how important the characters are to the advert.

Once I have inputted this data I will begin to decipher the meanings and tactics behind the adverts in order to investigate the effectiveness of gender portrayal in advertising. The content analysis of Magazine adverts will be much like that of Billboard adverts. I will look through several magazines and obtain adverts using gender portrayal to sell the product. Once again, I will be investigating the effect of this and the reasons for its use.


I chose to look at billboards because of the way they are prominently placed in public places and easily viewed by the public. My theory is that they will be more eye-catching and/or complicated therefore making the public stop and analyse them. Magazine adverts are of use because they are usually designed to appeal to readers and in so doing catch their attention and influence them. The adverts in different magazines can have different messages to send out.

Interviews The reason for using interviews is to gain first-hand experience of the views of the public. I want to try to access their attitudes, motives and feelings towards tactics used in advertising. In order to do this, I will need to use either structured or unstructured questionnaires and interview techniques. Instead of asking set questions and tallying the answers up, I will tailor the questions to relate to the interviewee's responses.

Reasons I have chosen personal interviews because they take a lot less time and are likely to be more efficient than postal interviews or questionnaires. By filling in the answers myself, people are more likely to agree to participate as it takes less effort on their part. However, by filling in their answers there is a possibility of bias on my part because I will be interpreting their views. Sampling I will look to interview several of my fellow Sixth Formers in order to get a young person's view.

Using sixth formers will allow me to do some of the interviewing quickly because they will be easily accessible. I do not have any specific system of sampling. My choice of interviewees will be mainly random, although the over-riding factor of interviewee choice will be availability. I will attempt to interview some of the people in my free periods. These people will be available to me and naturally I will not have free periods with all the people in the Sixth form.

The number of interviews I carry out will be fairly small because of the shortage of time but enough to gain a good understanding of the general view. Context Women are discriminated against in many ways, from what activities they can take part in, to what occupation they work in. Men have historically dominated women, often controlling what they say or do. In the past, a wife's role and responsibility was to care for her husband and children. Women were 'meant to be' in the home.

Nowadays, things have changed. Women are gaining their own dominance. They are getting higher status jobs, they are often the main breadwinners and have broken free, for the most part, from their traditional roles. However, the inequality still remains. This inequality is often reflected in advertising and mass media.

The media, especially in advertising, can be blamed for portraying men and women in stereotypical 'gender roles'. These gender roles appear in advertising, which is focused on people of all ages. Advertisers influence the parents of children by showing what is acceptable and unacceptable to each specific sex. They show that boys tend to prefer violent things, outdoor activities and action figures like 'Action Man'. Girls on the other hand tend to prefer calm quiet activities like tea parties and to play with dolls like 'Barbie'.

This type of suggestion begins to define the role of gender in advertising. When advertisers focus on influencing adults, they seem to play on emphasising stereotypes of what men and women should be and act like. Gender and sex are used to sell products. Erving Goffmann's book 'Gender Advertisements' gives a good example of this. It states that for products like perfume, you see a 'bottle with the soft touch of women's hands'. This is in contrast with products for men, which are shown in a rough way. This is a stereotypical view because not all women are soft and fragile, just as not all men are rough and rugged. My research will be trying to seek out these portrayals. I will be looking to show the gender-based advertising in the media today. When conducting my research, I will be looking to identify these examples of the use of gender.

The media portrayal of women has been a focal point in recent years. Women tend to be shown as either a sex symbol or a domestic worker, and this has come under attack. It has been argued that women are rarely shown in better occupational positions than men. For example, the man would be shown as the doctor and the women his nurses. Courtney and Lockerets argue that until 1997, women were still shown as working persons in the house. They were not able to make important decisions and the women are dependent and need men's protection. According to Dominick and Rauch (1972) TV advertisements in particular have traditionally treated women in a stereotyped way.

They state that 75% of all adverts using females were for products for use in the kitchen or bathroom. Twice as many women were seen with children than men and 56% of women were judged to be (only) housewives. Recently, advertisers have begun to change the way they use women in advertising. Through my research I will show the changing roles of women and their relation to men by finding examples of this and the extent to which they are used.

In research conducted by Bretl and Cantor (1988), males and females occur approximately equally as primary characters in adverts. However, males were shown more often in occupations of a higher status than females and more likely to be depicted away from home and out of doors. Manstead and McCulloch (1981) found similar things in their research. They found that males were portrayed as having expertise and authority, while women are shown as consumers and not very knowledgeable about the reasons for buying a product. In the past, it was rare to find a woman shown as a leader on television. Nowadays, television producers make a greater effort to level out the inequality of status.

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Content Analysis. (2018, Jul 11). Retrieved from

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