A Tour Through Content Analysis

By: McKenna Mollner

Hello! My name is McKenna “McK” Mollner, and I’m a rising senior at Mary Baldwin University. During the school year I study Economics and Biology. This summer, I’m working out of Staunton, Virginia as part of the REU ANEW 2021 virtual cohort. While working at the Mountain Lake Biological Station with a professor from my university after my freshman year, I got to witness REU students at work. Witnessing the incredible learning experience and work of those students inspired me to find that for myself. So, I applied to REU ANEW: One Health. The interdisciplinary nature of the work being done by the One Health Initiative was one of the largest draws for me.

This summer, I’m working under Dr Sandra De Urioste-Stone conducting a quantitative content analysis on Covid-19 and tourism. Content analysis is a method of research that reveals themes or concepts in media. These studies can be used to examine and understand the perception of the issue being studied. Through studying newspaper articles that discuss Covid-19 and tourism, I’m looking to reveal common themes in articles and how these articles may have affected readers’ perception of risk. These things are especially apparent through changes in article frequency and content.

I came into this project with no experience in quantitative content analysis, so every single day has been a learning curve. From establishing my overarching question to determining my article criteria, each day has taught me something different. Now, at a little over halfway through our ten weeks, I’ve just finished assembling my sample data set. From here, I will begin what’s called coding! In content analysis, each code indicates a theme. By keeping track of what codes are present in what articles, a researcher can convert the articles into data that can be analyzed. Building my data set has been frustrating, but by necessity the fun parts of research require the tedious. Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed the process! Between getting to know my mentor and the others in my cohort, I’ve learned and laughed a great deal. The cohort, and our mentors, are all so supportive and excited for both our current work and our futures. As a rising senior, my future looms closer and closer. With the support and advice of my mentors, it has seemed much less daunting. This experience is expanding my toolkit, and with it, my confidence.

McKenna Mollner