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Winter Method School: Researching the Public Sphere: Methods for Computer-aided Content and Discourse Analysis

From 16 to 20 November 2010 the JMCE held an international Winter Method School at Freie Universität. The theme was 'Researching the Public Sphere - Methods for Content and Discourse Analysis'.


For a detailed report of the five-day event, please, click here.


The Method School’s aim was to highlight the state of the art in the field and discuss which research questions can be tackled by which computer-aided content and discourse analysis. Large-n content analyses have become popular, as content data such as news media articles, parliamentary debates and governmental reports are increasingly accessible in a digital format. Some of the new approaches go beyond counting single terms in documents, and seek to understand the structure and the context of the content analysed. Several approaches have entered the stage at which it becomes possible to combine quantitative and computer-aided qualitative coding. The Method School, therefore, offered an introduction into some of the most widely used software packages in the field, but also introduce the basics of content and discourse analysis. Besides introductions by specialists in the field, the programme included intensive group work, practical sessions using traditional and new computer software and possibilities for students to bring in their own research ideas and approaches.

The target group of the Method School was early doctoral students (first two years) with a research interest in the public sphere and no or limited prior knowledge in the field of content and discourse analysis. The participants came from political science, international relations, sociology, cultural anthropology and communication sciences. All in all, 21 participants took part in the method school. Many participants either worked on a PhD in Germany or were German nationals. However, besides German nationals, the inclusion of participants from Armenia, Brazil, Italy, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, and the USA ensured an international atmosphere.