Z642: Content Analysis for the World Wide Web

Semester: Fall 2014
Instructor: Susan Herring
Time: Monday 5:45-8:30 p.m.
Office: LI 037
Place: LI 030
Phone: (812) 856-4919 (voice mail)
Section: 14298
Email: herring 'at' indiana 'dot' edu

Instructor's Office Hours: M 4:15-5:15 p.m. and by appointment
Class Facebook group: Z642: WebCA

Required Readings:

Most of the readings for this course are available on the web (live links are included in this syllabus). The others will be on Oncourse.

1.    Course Description

Content Analysis is an established social science methodology for analyzing meaning and structure in written documents; it can also be used to analyze images and sound. The World Wide Web is a multimodal, networked means of document delivery that is the most important source of content in the world today.

In this course, you will learn about and apply methods of Content Analysis -- defined both narrowly and broadly -- to diverse types of content communicated through HTML documents on the web, including text and graphics, video, interactivity features, and links. The methods are both qualitative and quantitative. They can be used to analyze genre characteristics, aesthetics, usability, "stickiness," credibility, persuasion, bias, and cultural differences associated with the presentation of information on the web, as well as many other phenomena. In particular, we will consider how Content Analysis can be adapted to analyze "Web 2.0" content, such as content collaboratively produced on wikis, social network sites, microblogging sites, and social bookmarking sites.

The course is structured around presentation of methods and hands-on web data analysis. Each student selects a website or sites for analysis, according to their interests. For example, students with interests in a particular content domain (e-commerce, online instruction, news, politics, health information, gender issues, etc.) or web genres (blogs, wikis, social network sites, online dating sites, music downloading sites, social bookmarking sites, etc.) may focus on them in their choice of data for analysis. After each method is presented in class through the readings and lectures, students apply it to their data. The students' findings are then shared with the class through oral presentations, and written up in short reports. At the end of the semester, students write an original research paper describing a web genre or other collection of sites of their choice. As relatively little research of this type has been carried out so far, it is likely that each student project will create new knowledge about the web. If it is well done, your research in this course can lead to opportunities for conference presentation and/or publication.

No previous knowledge of Content Analysis is required. Students do not create websites as part of this course; rather, the focus is on creating knowledge about the web through descriptive empirical research. This knowledge, in turn, may have implications for web design and/or content development that extend beyond the course.

2.    Course Objectives

Specifically, as a result of completing this course, you should gain:

3.    Student Requirements

Readings. Students are expected to read the assigned readings before each scheduled class meeting.

Website analysis. Each student will select a website (or sites) for the purpose of analysis throughout the course. The sites should contain content that the student finds personally interesting and/or that relates to their professional goals. These data will be used to train the student in applying Content Analysis methods. They may also be used, supplemented with additional data, for the final research paper.

Reports. The results of applying the methods introduced in the course to the selected data will be presented in four oral and four written reports, where the written reports are on the same topics as the oral reports. The oral reports should be brief (5-6 minutes) and may be supported with simple PowerPoint displays and live internet demonstrations. (**A good rule of thumb is one PowerPoint slide per minute of presentation time.**) The written reports should record the findings presented in the oral reports, incorporating feedback from the class and the instructor, clearly and concisely (3-4 pages, excluding appendices). Guidelines for each report will be made available one week before the scheduled oral report presentation date.

Research paper. At the end of the semester, each student will write a 4000-7000 word research paper (excluding references and appendices) analyzing website content selected by the student. This research may make use of the data already analyzed during the semester, or it may supplement or replace those data with new data (with the instructor's approval). However, it should NOT just be a compilation of the written reports, nor should it apply all the methods covered in the course to a single dataset. Rather, the paper should be focused and organized around a question or set of related questions, and the method(s) selected should be appropriate to address those questions. A 500-word written proposal describing the web genre, sites to be analyzed, methods to be employed, and including a minimum of 3-5 references is due in the 11th week of the semester. In the last week of the semester, the results of each student's research will be presented to the class in a formal (conference-style) oral presentation (approx. 12-15 minutes, depending on how many students are enrolled in the course). The written paper should follow the formal conventions for a publishable-quality research article, including footnotes and citations of scholarly work in APA (American Psychological Association) style. For examples of APA conventions, see articles in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1083-6101).

Facebook group. There is a private Facebook group for this course. Students are expected to check it at least twice between class meetings, including the afternoon before class for last-minute announcements and reminders.

4.    Grading

Your grade for the course will be calculated as follows:

Participation 20%
Oral reports (4 x 4%) 16%
Written reports (4 x 6%) 24%
Oral presentation of term paper research 10%
Term paper 30%
Total: 100%

Grading policy:

Academic honesty: Most of your activity in this course will involve producing original research. However, in writing about your research, and especially in your final paper, it may be necessary to reference previous work. As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, cite the source! In accordance with the policies of Indiana University, plagiarism, copyright infringement, and other types of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated.

5.    Tentative Course Schedule

Note: All links have been checked and are working as of 8/13/14. If you find a broken link in this schedule, let the instructor know. It is also greatly appreciated if you can locate an alternative source for a reading and post the URL for it on the class Facebook group!


Week 1 (8/25): Introduction to Content Analysis. Selecting websites to analyze for this course.


  1. Bauer, M. (2000). Classical content analysis: A review. In M. Bauer & G. Gaskell (eds.), Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound (pp. 131-151). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. [Oncourse]

  2. White, M. D., & Marsh, E. E. (2006). Content analysis: A flexible methodology. Library Trends, 55(1), 22-45. [Oncourse. The PDF file contains the entire volume; scroll down to access the article.]

  3. Useful background reading on the history and technical aspects of the Web: Berners-Lee, T. (1996). The World Wide Web: Past, present and future. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/1996/ppf.html




Week 3 (9/8): Web archives. Methodological issues in analyzing the web.

In class: Describe a website you have selected that exemplifies the type you would like to analyze in this course


  1. Lyman, P., & Kahle, B. (1998). Archiving digital artifacts: Organizing an agenda for action. D-Lib Magazine. http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july98/07lyman.html
  2. Schneider, S. M., & Foot, K. A. (2004). The web as an object of study. New Media & Society, 6 (1), 114-122. http://faculty.washington.edu/kfoot/Publications/Web-as-Object-of-Study.pdf

  3. McMillan, S. J. (2000). The microscope and the moving target: The challenge of applying content analysis to the World Wide Web. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(1), 80-98. http://web.utk.edu/~sjmcmill/Research/research.htm

  4. Herring, S. C. (2010). Web content analysis: Expanding the paradigm. In J. Hunsinger, M. Allen, & L. Klastrup (Eds.), The International Handbook of Internet Research (pp. 233-249). Berlin: Springer Verlag. [Oncourse]
Hands-on: Check out the history of 2 webpages on the Wayback Machine: http://archive.org. How has web design evolved in the past decade?


Week 4 (9/15): Web genres and feature analysis.

In preparation for the 1st report: Select 5-6 websites of the same genre


  1. Crowston, K., & Williams, M. (2000). Reproduced and emergent genres of communication on the World-Wide Web. The Information Society, 16(3), 201-216. [Oncourse]
  2. Bates, M. J., & Lu, S. (1997). An exploratory profile of personal home pages: Content, design, metaphors. Online and CDROM Review, 21(6), 331-340. [Oncourse]

  3. Herring, S. C., Scheidt, L. A., Bonus, S., & Wright, E. (2004). Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of weblogs. Proceedings of the 37th Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-37). Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society Press. [Oncourse]


Week 5 (9/22): Feature analysis (cont.). Interactivity and website credibility.

1st oral report: Identify and analyze the frequency of the features in your 5-6 site sample that characterize that genre of web content


  1. Kenney, K., Gorelik, A., & Mwangi, S. (2000). Interactive features of online newspapers. First Monday, 5(1). http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/720
  2. Chou, C. (2003). Interactivity and interactive functions in web-based learning systems: A technical framework for designers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(3), 265-279. [Oncourse]

  3. Rains, S. A., & Karmikel, C. D. (2009). Health information-seeking and perceptions of website credibility: Examining Web-use orientation, message characteristics, and structural features of websites. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 544-553. [Oncourse]

Look over:

  1. http://credibility.stanford.edu/guidelines/index.html


Week 6 (9/29): Link analysis.

1st written report due: Feature analysis


  1. Foot, K. A., Schneider, S. M., Dougherty, M., Xenos, M., & Larsen, E. (2003). Analyzing linking practices: Candidate sites in the 2002 U.S. electoral web sphere. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8 (4). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2003.tb00220.x/full

  2. Robertson, S. P., Vatrapu, R. K., & Medina, R. (2009). The social life of social networks: Facebook linkage patterns in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. In Proceedings of the 10th International Digital Government Research Conference, Puebla, Mexico, May 17-20. http://www.itu.dk/people/rkva/docs/2009-dgo-SocialLifeofSocialNetworks.pdf
  3. Thelwall, M., Sud, P., & Wilkinson, D. (2012). Link and co-inlink network diagrams with URL citations or title mentions. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63 (4), 805-816. [Oncourse]


Week 7 (10/6): Link analysis (cont.). Social network analysis.

2nd oral report: Link analysis

Guest lecture: Guo Zhang Freeman


  1. Herring, S. C., Kouper, I., Paolillo, J. C., Scheidt, L. A., Tyworth, M., Welsch, P., Wright, E., & Yu, N. (2005). Conversations in the blogosphere: An analysis "from the bottom up." Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos: IEEE Press. [Oncourse]
  2. van Zoonen, L., Mihelj, S., & Vis, F. (2011), YouTube interactions between agonism, antagonism and dialogue: Video responses to the anti-Islam film Fitna. New Media & Society, 13(8), 1283-1300. [Oncourse]


  1. Adamic, L. A., Buyukkokten, O., & Adar, E. (2003). A social network caught in the web. First Monday, 8(6). http://firstmonday.org/article/view/1057/977


Week 8 (10/13): Image analysis.


  1. Bell, P. (2001). Content analysis of visual images. In T. van Leeuwen & C. Jewitt (eds.), Handbook of Visual Analysis (pp. 10-34). London: Sage. [Oncourse]
  2. Kapidzic, S., & Herring, S. C. (2011). Race, gender, and self-presentation in teen chat profile photographs. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01561.x/full

  3. Schwalbe, C. B. (2006). Remembering our shared past: Visually framing the Iraq war on U.S. news websites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12 (1), article 14. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00325.x/full

  4. Schmid-Isler, S. (2000). The language of digital genres. A semiotic investigation of style and iconology on the World Wide Web. Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos: IEEE Press. [Oncourse] [short]


  1. van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Semiotics and iconography. In T. van Leeuwen & C. Jewitt (Eds.), Handbook of Visual Analysis (pp. 92-118). London: Sage. [Oncourse]


Week 9 (10/20): Image analysis (cont.). Cultural differences.

2nd written report due: Link analysis


  1. Barber, W., & Badre, A. (1998). Culturability: The merging of culture and usability. Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Human Factors and the Web, June. http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/marycz/hfweb98/barber/

  2. Würtz, E. (2005). A cross-cultural analysis of websites from high-context cultures and low-context cultures. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(1), article 13. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.tb00313.x/full

  3. Zhao, C., & Jiang, G. (2011). Cultural differences on visual self-presentation through social networking site profile images. Proceedings of CHI 2011. [Oncourse]
  4. Callahan, E., & Herring, S. C. (2011). Cultural bias in Wikipedia articles about famous persons. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(10), 1899-1915. http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/callahan.herring.2011.pdf


Week 10 (10/27): Video analysis.

3rd oral report: Visual CA and semiotic/iconographic analysis of images on five sites from one genre


  1. Freeman, B., & Chapman, S. (2007). Is YouTube telling or selling you something? Tobacco content on the YouTube video-sharing website. Tobacco Control, 16, 207-210. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2598506/
  2. Puhl, R. M., Peterson, J. L., DePierre, J. A., & Luedicke, J. (2013). Headless, hungry, and unhealthy: A video content analysis of obese persons portrayed in online news. Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, 18(6), 686-702. [Oncourse]

  3. Hesse-Biber, S., Dupuis, P. R., & Kinder, T. S. (1997). New developments in video ethnography and visual sociology—Analyzing multimedia data qualitatively. Social Science Computer Review, 15, (1), 5-12. [Oncourse]


Week 11 (11/3): Theme analysis.

3rd written report due: Image analysis


  1. Rosson, M. (1999). I get by with a little help from my cyber-friends: Sharing stories of good and bad times on the Web. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 4(4). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1999.tb00102.x/full
  2. Shuyler, K. S., & Knight, K. M. (2003). What are patients seeking when they turn to the Internet? Qualitative content analysis of questions asked by visitors to an orthopaedics Web site. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 5(4), e24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1550571/

  3. Dimitrova, D. V., Kaid, L. L., Williams, A., & Trammell, K. D. (2005). War on the Web: The immediate news framing of Gulf War II. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 10(1), 22-44. [Oncourse]


Week 12 (11/10): Language analysis (computerized text analysis).

500-word description of final research project due (see under Student Requirements at beginning of syllabus)


  1. Lowe, W. (2002). Software for content analysis - A review. http://kb.ucla.edu/system/datas/5/original/content_analysis.pdf
  2. Cohn, M. A., Mehl, M. R., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2004). Linguistic indicators of psychological change after September 11, 2001. Psychological Science, 15, 687-693. http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~mehl/eReprints/Sept 11 Livejournal.pdf

  3. Huffaker, D. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2005). Gender, identity, and language use in teenage blogs. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(2), article 1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01561.x/full

Look over:

  1. http://matthewlombard.com/reliability/


Week 13 (11/17): The challenges of Web 2.0: Wikis.

4th oral report: Theme analysis


  1. O'Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0? Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
  2. Lam, S. K., Uduwage, A., Dong, Z., Sen, S., Musicant, D. R., Terveen, L., & Riedl, J. (2011). WP:Clubhouse? An exploration of Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. WikiSym’11, October 3–5, 2011, Mountain View, CA. http://grouplens.org/system/files/wp-gender-wikisym2011.pdf

  3. Pfeil, U., Zaphiris, P., & Ang, C. S. (2006). Cultural differences in collaborative authoring of Wikipedia. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(1), article 5. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00316.x/full




Week 15 (12/1): The challenges of Web 2.0 (cont.): Multimodality.

4th written report due: Theme analysis


  1. Herring, S. C., & Demarest, B. (2011). Mode choice in multimodal comment threads: Effects on participation and language use. [Oncourse]
  2. Hull, G. & Nelson, M. E. (2005). Locating the semiotic power of multimodality. Written Communication, 22(2), 1-38. [Oncourse]

  3. Bateman, J., Delin, J. & Henschel, R. (2006). Mapping the multimodal genres of traditional and electronic newspapers. In T. Royce & W. Bowcher (Eds.), New directions in the analysis of multimodal discourse (pp. 147-172). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [Oncourse]


Week 16 (12/8): Oral presentations of term paper research.


Week 17 (12/16): Written term paper due by 10 p.m., TUESDAY, December 16.


Last updated: October 19, 2014