Analysis of health communication texts: UK press coverage of debates about assisted dying

Clive Seale


Conventionally, social researchers analyse media messages by reading text and coding it. This is time consuming and restricts many studies to small samples. Nowadays very large amounts of text are available in electronic form, offering potential insights into the health messages they contain, but which appear daunting to the analyst with limited resources using conventional methods. I explain and illustrate methods for the computer-assisted analysis of media texts, using specialised software (Wordsmith Tools and Wordstat). These allow the analyst to provide a statistical overview of the key features of texts, to compare them (looking at change over time, for example) and to select illustrative quotations that epitomise the trends identified. 


media texts; data analysis; computer assisted analysis; keyword analysis; text mining

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Seale, C. (2005). Portrayals of treatment decision-making on popular breast and prostate cancer web sites. European Journal of Cancer Care, 14(2), 171–174. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2354.2005.00544.x

Seale, C. (2006). Gender acommodation in online cancer support groups. Health, 10(3), 345–360. doi: 10.1177/1363459306064495

Seale, C. (2008). Mapping the field of medical sociology: A comparative analysis of journals. Sociology of Health and Illness, 30(5), 677–695. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2008.01090.x

Seale, C., Boden, S., Lowe, P., Steinberg, D., & Williams, S. (2007). Media constructions of sleep and sleep disorders: A study of UK national newspapers. Social Science and Medicine, 65(3), 418–430.

Seale, C., & Charteris-Black, J. (2008a). The interaction of class and gender in illness narratives. Sociology, 42(3), 453–469. doi: 10.1177/0038038508088835

Seale, C., & Charteris-Black, J. (2008b). The interaction of age and gender in illness narratives. Ageing and Society, 28(7), 1025–1043. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X0800737X

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Seale, C., Charteris-Black, J., & Ziebland, S. (2006). Gender, cancer experience and internet use: S comparative keyword analysis of interviews and online cancer support groups. Social Science and Medicine, 62(10), 2577–2590. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.11.016

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