Summary and Evaluation

This section reviewed nine influential text analysis strategies in psychology. The selected approaches span a broad spectrum of methodological and theoretical orientations. How should a researcher decide which one to use? The most immediate question is whether the options are restricted to computerized solutions or whether the burden of manual coding appears tolerable (Smith, 1992; Weintraub, 1981). Another question concerns what kind of analysis a researcher is interested in. The four-dimensional framework was introduced to help with this question.

Over and beyond this, however, other characteristics of the programs also help determine the most appropriate solution for a given research project. Several of the reviewed approaches emerge from psychodynamic theorizing. For researchers whose interest lies in this area, the solutions offered by Gottschalk (1995), Martindale (1990), Weintraub (1981), or Mergenthaler (1996) are good choices— with the Gottschalk-Gleser Method having the strongest clinical focus, Martindale's Regressive Imagery Dictionary being particularly useful for the analysis of literature, and Mergenthaler's TAS/C being the ideal tool for the analysis of therapy protocols. DICTION (Hart, 1984) assesses psychological variables at a comparatively abstract level and—because of its background in communication research—seems most useful for the study of political communication and persuasion. For researchers interested in basic grammatical text features (e.g., pronouns, articles, prepositions) or low-level psychological constructs (e.g., emotional, cognitive, or social processes), LIWC (Pennebaker et al., 2001) offers an extensively validated solution. The General Inquirer (Stone et al., 1966) also captures a wide variety of psychological parameters and, in its most recent version, includes an operationalization of Semin and Fiedler's (1988, 1991) Linguistic Category Model. Finally, LSA (Landauer et al., 1998) is a powerful text analysis tool that is not word count based and has applications in modeling cognitive processes such as knowledge representation, coherence, and perspective taking.


The final section of this chapter steps back and reflects more broadly on the potentials and pitfalls of text analysis as a scientific method. The discussion revolves around three major questions: The first question asks what makes text analysis an attractive method for psychology. The second question looks at text analysis from a measurement perspective and asks to what extent is verbal data psychometrically good data. The third question is fueled by the apparent paradox that on the one hand, the vast majority of existing text analysis programs are word count based but that, on the other hand, simple word count solutions often appear overly simplistic and fraught with problems. How far can we go with simply counting words?

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