Content Analysis Process

I sought an easy way for students to conduct rudimentary content analysis using Microsoft Word and Excel.


  1. Open Microsoft Word and a web browser.  
  2. Identify primary documents you wish to analyze. Find the online text using a search engine (I like Google), or the links below. 
  3. Use your mouse to highlight the text portion of your document. (Note: documents in .pdf must be saved as text.)
  4. Copy the selection.
  5. Paste the selection into Microsoft Word.  From now one you will work with Word.
  6. Go to the Word Toolbar, select "Tools," then Word Count.
  7. Copy the data. You may want to enter the data into a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel.
  8. Now begin to query the data by looking for words or phrases. On the Toolbar, go to "Edit" and then "Find." A box entitled "Find and Replace" will appear.   Click on the "Replace" tab. Select the "More" option on the left side of the bottom row.  Make sure that you have selected Search "All." Type the word you have chosen into the line labeled "Find what."
    [Note: Under the default option, Word will replace any string of characters even if it appears within a word.  For example "government" would replace "government," "Government," "governments," and "Governments" or any other extension of the word unless you choose "options" and select "match case" and/or "find whole words only." You may want to use the default option if you are looking for themes such as "free" instead of just "freedom."]
  9. Click on the "Replace all" button and make sure that you have searched the entire document (not just to the end of the document).
  10. Word will tell you how many replacements have been made.
  11. Record the word you have "replaced" and the number of replacements.

After collecting your data, you will probably want to chart the information.

See examples of student-generated charts using the assignment below:

Students were asked to identify three "policy" speeches to get a better sense of U.S. government concerns over time. They chose George Washington's Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, and Dwight Eisenhower's speech on the military-industrial complex. They applied the content analysis methods outlined above.

After analyzing these data, the students chose to add Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech as a different, comparative dimension. Students then charted the frequency of the selected words both as a word count and as a percentage of the speech.