What is Textual Analysis

Textual analysis is a research methodology that can be described as an interpretation or understanding of the structure, content, and other characteristics of a text.  “Text” can be in the form of a book, transcribed interview, essay, document, email, newspaper, movie, building, etc. Within this context, the text is everything that contains information. When we do a textual analysis, we try to come up with the most likely interpretations of the text. However, there is no such thing as “perfect interpretation.” In certain situations, among dozens of different variations, some are more probable than others. Textual analysis can be done in:

  • Culture and Media Studies
  • Literature studies
  • Social sciences studies

Textual analysis of culture and media examines a variety of aspects and messages in paintings, drawings, statues, buildings, films, television shows, or social media. This method allows us to get or at least try to get the meaning behind specific conversations, words, images, characters represented in different forms of culture and media platforms mentioned above. For instance, you can look at a social media post that is aimed at customers of a specific product and do content analysis, a form of textual analysis. Content analysis lets researchers find distinct patterns in the words, sentences, or images customers used to give feedback on the goods they buy. This way, researchers can decide if the response is positive or negative and what can be done to increase the satisfaction rate.

Researchers carry out textual analysis in literature studies to interpret the intentions behind a novel, story, poem, or any other literary work. What researchers usually do is to look not just for the obvious meaning but also for the “hidden message” that might be present in those works. By comparing context, words, and sentences used in works of different authors of the same period, we can find similarities between them. This comparison might give us an idea about the message authors intended to send through their work.

With the assistance of textual analysis, social scientists analyse interview transcripts and survey data to identify potential trends. To give an example, they look at a survey (with open-ended questions) on a given product and see which portion of consumers recommend it to others. It gives them a chance to determine why the rest are not satisfied with it. On a similar note, interview transcripts contain valuable information for studying socio-economic issues faced by people of diverse cultures around the world. This means it is possible to do a textual analysis of those interviews to resolve the problems mentioned earlier.