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CODING AND ANALYSIS OF DOCUMENTARY MATERIALS

FROM COMMUNIST CHINA*

BY PAUL WONG

The methods of survey analysis are adapted to an analysis of documentary materials. The

author contends that the two major types of content analysis-qualitative and quantitative are indispensable. Both should be used in conjunction with each other.

In this paper the argument is made that the utilization of a qualitative-quantitative mode of analysis may yield valuable insights on the social, economic and political developments in Communist China. The method of coding involved in the qualitative-quantitative mode of analysis is discussed. Concrete examples are drawn from a content analysis project currently in progress at the University of California at Berkeley.' Finally, several specific hypotheses encountered in the content analysis project are presented to demonstrate the utility of the qualitativequantitative mode of analysis.

DISPARITIES IN THE AVAILABILITY OF DATA

The most important source of empirical data on Communist China comes from documentary materials such as the People's Daily (Jih-min Jih-pao). Researchers spend long periods scanning through Chinese Communist documents and other potential sources of data. The difference between “Datum" and "material” must be maintained and clarified. By material is meant a document in its original form such as an editorial in the People's Daily. Materials are transformed into data by some scheme of categorization. Materials are, therefore, the sources of data. Data are generally at a higher level of abstraction than materials, and are, in general, more applicable for scientific investigation. Indeed, one of the shortcomings of research on Communist China has been the failure to transform materials into data before using them for scientific investigations.

There are disparities in the degree of availability of data for the three different but highly correlated dimensions of the Chinese Communist social system that is, the political, social and economic dimensions. It is proposed here that an effort should be made to collect systematic data on economic, social and political structure and dynamics on Communist China on both regional and national levels. In so doing, the gaps or disparities in the availability of data would diminish. Furthermore, a general analysis of some problems employing data from all three dimensions would become possible.

*Excerpts from "Coding and Analysis of Documentary Materials from Communist China,” Asian Survey, VII, No. 3 (March 1967), pp. 198–211. Reprinted with the permission of Asian Survey.

A SYNTHESIS OF QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE ANALYSES

Experienced researchers have the capacity to "read the lines" to analyze overt meanings as well as "between the lines" to ascertain less obvious implications and inferences. At the same time, it is essential to raise the question of objectivity. Qualitative treatment of documentary materials is indispensable, but it is argued here that the reliability and validity of qualitative analysis can be increased and its importance and value enhanced by means of a quantitative analysis of the same materials and then synthesizing the results achieved through both approaches.

It is particularly in the coding and classification of documentary materials from totalitarian or closed societies that quantitative content analysis can make a lasting contribution. To some extent, this is a consequence of the fact that many methods of social science research are not applicable to closed societies. Quantitative content analysis was used extensively during W.W. II to study Nazi propaganda, but there was a period of about ten to fifteen years thereafter during which there was a decrease in the number of projects using content analysis methods. The reasons for this decrease were: (1) manual coding and analysis placed a serious limitation on the amount of materials which could be treated in any single project; (2) traditional content analysis involved essentially the inspection of univariate distributions (technically called “marginals”), or, at most, bivariate distributions (technically called "zero-order" relationships). Many researchers felt that the analysis of marginals and zero-order relationships did not provide an adequate explanation of the empirical phenomena in which they were interested; and (3) the lack of foundation support on content analysis projects.

In the past five years, there has been a reemergence of interest in content analysis, facilitated by the rapid development in data processing facilities and computer applications in the social sciences. In the area of content analysis, the development of social-psycholinguistic dictionaries has made possible the machine coding of original materials-especially in English but even in some foreign languages. Due to the extraordinarily complicated structure of the Chinese language, machine coding of original documents is not yet feasible. But recent development in optical scanning devices indicates that it is likely that machine coding of original Chinese documents will be possible before too much longer.

The present project may be regarded as an intermediate stage between traditional content analysis and machine content analysis in that the coding is done manually but the analysis is done entirely by high-speed electronic computers. Already in the pilot study, 2,316 articles or cases have been coded. In the larger study, more than 35,000 cases will be coded, making it the most extensive systematic content analysis ever attempted on a single polity.

The inclusion of diverse but systematic queries in the coding schemes means that an analysis of a total society will be possible. Although a manual coding system is used, this also has some advantages in that it facilitates the inclusion of both rigidly structured and open-ended items in the coding schemes. In this manner, some significant but unforeseen information will not be lost. One major methodological assumption in this study is that an article or speech in a newspaper is similar in many ways to a human respondent. The researcher can literally “ask” the article both structured and open-ended questions; the answers to these questions may be coded in the same way as a respondent's answers to interview questions in survey research. A major difference between a survey interview and coding of content materials is that whereas in the former the human respondent is asked to answer questions about social background and attitudes toward various subjects for most of which he has answers, in the latter the coding scheme tends to include a great number of items which only inquire about their presence or absence.

Methods of survey analysis are to some extent applicable to content analysis. I have in mind especially the method of “elaboration” developed at Columbia University.Essentially, the method of elaboration attempts to ascertain the validity of a relationship between two variables by controlling other variables. The relationship between two variables is called a bivariate or zero-order relationship. In controlling each additional variable in the same table, the order is raised by one. If used carefully, the method of elaboration may be of immense value in content analysis; it may also make possible the application of content analysis for explanatory purposes.

The crucial point raised in this paper is not that qualitative methods should be rejected. On the contrary, qualitative considerations, in principle, should temporally precede quantitative considerations, although not infrequently ex post facto hypotheses are discovered after the analysis of quantitative data. In effect, a synthesis of the two methods should be attempted, particularly in the area of research on Communist China. This synthesis may perform one or more of the following functions: 1. Compare and contrast the results obtained from the two analyses,

and thus facilitate the validation of research findings. 2. *o provide fresh insights and hypotheses for the quantitative

analysis, and vice versa. 3. To synthesize hypotheses suggested by current research literature

and hypotheses suggested by quantitative analysis. In this respect, quantitative analysis performs an explanatory function-that is, it helps in providing a systematic framework upon which a logical

explanation of some aspects of the total social system can be based. 4. From this synthesis of ideas and the systematic framework resulting

from it, new hypotheses may be derived for further research. 5. Through quantification, an immense amount of documentary mate

rials can be transformed into data, which may be used for secondary analyses.

6. Criteria for distinguishing the difference between “manifest content"

and "latent meanings" can be provided.

METHOD OF DATA COLLECTION

The content analysis project on Communist China covers a number of time periods. A great deal of attention is naturally given to the People's Daily, the official organ of the Communist regime. In addition, a number of other newspapers have been selected to study internal variations, including geographical and ideological variations. The examples presented in a later section of this paper relied only upon data collected for May, August, and December in 1957. The data consist of headlines of the People's Daily appearing in the People's Daily Monthly Index. In sum, 2,316 headlines of articles were coded, and constitute the "cases" for this paper. The sample consits of all headlines appearing in every fourth daily edition of the People's Daily. For this content analysis study, two general coding schemes were devised. In this paper, only a minute portion of the results obtained by means of the first coding scheme are presented for the purpose of illustration.

The coding schemes were developed on the assumption that newspapers, or any medium of mass communication, are subject to internal and external influence and are sensitive to such influence. In Communist China in 1957, newspapers were, on the whole, effectively controlled by the regime. The People's Daily as the official party and governmental organ, functioned in propagating the official policies of the regime, in eliciting mass participation, and as an agent of social control. One can, therefore, classify the news items appearing in the newspaper and on the basis of this information make inferences concerning the conditions of the system. In this respect, one assumes that the newspaper, as a product of the system, at the same time plays a role in shaping the system. What appears in the newspaper is of tremendous value in studying conditions of society, especially in Communist China—a relatively "closed" society from which interview data connot easily be obtained.

An important aspect of the coding schemes is the classification of subject matter categories appearing in the People's Daily. After experimenting with different methods of classification, we decided to use, by and large, the same categories as those appearing in the People's Daily Monthly Index. This classification may be regarded as the Chiniese Communist elite's “perception of the situation.” The number of items devoted to specific subject matters may be regarded as an index of the amount of attention focused on these subjects by the leadership. Aside from the subject matter categories, we have also included geographical, individual, organizational institutional, and other social, economic and political categories.

Our data were coded in such a manner that the same data may be analyzed in several different ways by using a different "unit of analysis": 2. The person as the unit of analysis. For every case we include all the

1. The headline or article as the unit of analysis.

information about the person together with the information about the headline or article in which the person's name appeared. Note that since a person's name may be mentioned in different articles (contexts), the data offer an opportunity to study specific persons under varying contexts. In this manner, we may be able to examine how, for example, a Central Committee member is related to dif

ferent policies. 3. The organization as the unit of analysis. This is similar to the

explanation given for the person as the unit of analysis. In addition, we may use groups of persons as the unit of analysis—for example, Central Committee members in comparison with non-members. Also, we may use type of organizations as the unit of analysis—for example, political in comparison with non-political organizations.

ARTICLE AS THE UNIT OF ANALYSIS

In this section, we will report on some empirical findings using the headline as the unit of analysis. We have a total of 2,316 cases. The headline as the unit of analysis is not to be confused with individuals mentioned in the headline as the unit of analysis. In the former case, our interest lies in characterizing the content of the headline; in the latter case we want to characterize the individuals in terms of two sets of data. The first set of data refers to the socio-political-economic background of the individuals, which are more or less constant in a given period. The second set of data relates the individual back to the content of the headlines to ask questions such as in what type of news content is the individual most likely to be mentioned. Analysis using the individual as the unit may be considered as a study of leadership structure and decision processes. Analysis using the article as the unit may be regarded as a study of the Chinese Communist's "definition of the situation." In this respect, the two analyses supplement one another in facilitating an interpretation of the Chinese Communist world view and domestic outlook. The analysis on organizational structure and processes adds a third dimension to the interpretation.

INDICES OF IDEOLOGY

Definitions: Schurmann's definition of ideology as the manner of thinking characteristic of an organization has been followed. The pervasiveness of ideology in Communist China cannot be denied. Although ideological discussion and education permeate every level and aspect of life, the number of references to ideology in the 1957 issues of the People's Daily used for this study was not great. This was not surprising, given the fact that every reference to ideology in the People's Daily had to be considered authoritative.5 To an experienced Western observer or a Chinese “sensitized” to the Chinese Communist documents, the appearance of even a single term such as lilun (roughly translated as theory) is of

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