Thematic Content Analysis

Thematic content analysis is used here as a summary label for a number of approaches that have been developed in the context of motivational psychology (Smith, 1992). Generally, these approaches have human judges identify critical thematic references in a text. Ratings are made either each time a theme occurs or as global ratings reflecting the prevalence of a theme across an entire text. In either case, the analyses are based on standardized coding systems that define a psychological construct by specifying rules for when a certain theme is and is not considered indicative of the construct. Judges undergo extensive training until a predefined degree of agreement is obtained. Smith's (1992) Motivation and Personality: Handbook of Thematic Content Analysis contains detailed descriptions of 14 different coding systems. The following section highlights three conceptually distinct approaches that have been extensively applied in psychology.

Scoring motive imagery from TAT protocols. Murray's (1938) work on the TAT has had a profound effect on researchers interested in implicit aspects of human motivation. In a typical study, participants write brief stories about ambiguous black-and-white pictures. The essays are then scored for the presence of motive-relevant themes in participants' imagery. Whereas the original work by McClelland and Atkinson (1948) focused on how an aroused hunger motive surfaces in TAT fantasies, the main body of research has evolved around a small number of social motives. Various scoring systems are available for the need for achievement, the need for power, the need for affiliation, and the need for intimacy (for details, see Smith, 1992).

Recently, Winter (1994) integrated the different existing scoring systems into a unified manual that allows the simultaneous coding of achievement, power, and affiliation/intimacy imagery. According to this system, themes including improvement concerns such as "she wanted to find a better solution" are considered achievement imagery, whereas attempts to influence others (e.g., "he tried to convince him of the importance of this project") or references to status (e.g., "he impressed his friends with his new sports car") are interpreted as expressions of a need for power. Affiliation and intimacy themes are merged into one category and include both statements about friendships ("the two college friends were glad to see each other again") and intimate relationships ("they were young and in love"). A motive score is calculated by adding imagery scores across all stories and correcting for verbal productivity. More than 50 years after its development, TAT-based need assessment has recently experienced a surge in scientific attention (Schultheiss & Brunstein, 2001; Tuerlinckx, De Boeck, & Lens, 2002; Winter, John, Stewart, Klohnen, & Duncan, 1998).

Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations. Peterson and Seligman developed Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations (CAVE; Peterson, 1992) as a text analysis technique to complement questionnaire-based assessments of causal attributions. CAVE allows the scoring of any text document for the author's explanatory style.

The CAVE procedure involves two steps. First, all causal explanations in a text are identified. Trained scorers then rate each explanation on three dimensions (internality, stability, globality). Whereas "I can't go to the wedding because I have to go to a conference" is rated as not at all stable, "I didn't get the job because I am a woman" reflects a highly stable attribution. Similarly, "I did well on the paper because the assignment was easy" is considered highly external, whereas "I didn't get the job because 1 am too young" refers to a highly internal

Overview of Nine Influential Quantitative Text Analysis Approaches in Psychology

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Conceptual Classification

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