Mallouli essay: Quantitative frame analysis for media & communication students

Sofiene Mallouli, University of Sfax, Tunisia

“The Framing of North Africans by U.S. Print Media during Operation Torch in World War II” (Sofiene Mallouli and Michael S. Sweeney, Journalism History, March 2019) is an attempt to look at historical news articles from a different perspective. By relying on Framing Theory tools, the study has been able to handle the selected data in order to come out with raw findings for interpretation.


One of the objectives targeted by the paper has been to make use of a quantitative instrument (a Concordancer : NOOJ) in order to handle a corpus of newspapers articles that date back to the early 1940s. One of the main claims of the study is that the software could help look differently at semantic framing and that its use is recommended for academic and pedagogical purposes.

Thus, the relevance of this essay will be to present the way the Framing Theory can be integrated in a media and communication course. The relevance of this pedagogical implication is to try to innovate the way texts, in all possible subjects, are handled quantitatively.

Framing news has been a frequently-tackled area of interest for many scholars. The chief concern of this research has been the ways news have been used and encapsulated in media discourse. Methodologically speaking, there has been a debate on the way frames are explicitly talked about. Many scholars have tended to leave the reader in the dark as to the empirical package within which frames have been detected. Some scholars opted for qualitative instruments; others for the quantitative.

The concept of framing can be used in multiple courses, including media, political science, discourse analysis, communication, and, with a bit of flexibility, literature and other human and social sciences. The question to be raised here is how these concepts and instruments can be pedagogically integrated in a media & communication class. Specifically, this essay targets a media & communication class at a graduate level. Its main objective is to try to change the way(s) texts of media have been handled and analyzed. This change cannot by any means put into question the validity of qualitative instruments; it rather sustains the findings qualitatively reached.

Suggested course units

Media vs. multi-layered pressure

It is important here that students understand the media are not ideology free institutions and that there are many constraints facing the job of a journalist. These challenges and constraints can be technical, political, economic, social, personal, professional, etc.

Media influence and impact: reality vs. fiction

The extent to which news media can influence their audience has been one of the hottest issues for a long time in media and communication scholarship. Students, in this context, will be provided with a list of readings that trace the main tendencies of media influence. Students will discuss these readings and try to see whether media are still as influential as before.

The way the impact of news media is linguistically packaged

The impact of media on people has provoked a relevant inquiry as to the way media construct the message (auditory, visual, written) so that it can affect its audience. Many studies have experimented with different qualitative instruments to investigate the way(s) this influence is packaged in terms of language.

Framing as an influence-constructing tool

Framing news has been frequently adopted by journalists. Apart from the linguistic package it requires, framing an issue in a certain way requires journalists to be politically-correct with the intertwined web of interests and lobbying of the media institution he/she belongs to. The job of the researcher/student is to try to find a way to uncover the mechanics of framing.

NOOJ Software as a tool to help handle texts and provide sustainable data for interpretation

Traditionally, texts are analyzed via qualitative instruments where students, whatever specialty they are doing, stick to a toolkit that helps them decipher the content of the text and interpret it. What this essay suggests is that technology can have a say in framing analysis. In fact, making use of NOOJ would allow students to look at the text from a completely different perspective; no more linear reading of the text. This software allows students to upload the text and handle it, which, among other things, would analyze the text semantically and syntactically. It can also provide the students with the syntactic structure of the text, the inventory of the words used and their frequencies, and it also allows them to search for specific words/expressions in the text and contextualize them so that the student can see the way the issues under study are framed.

Frame detection and analysis procedure

This class is project based. Students will be required to choose one issue of their own to be processed by NOOJ and interpret the findings it yields. They then will be introduced to the software so that they can be exposed to the way they can process their data. Thirdly, they will be required to process their chosen corpus with NOOJ in order to detect the frames used and the way they are linguistically, rhetorically, and discursively packaged and try to interpret the findings.

Readings and Resources

Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), 21.

Robert M. Entman, “Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm,” Journal of Communication 43, no. 4 (1993): 52.

Daniela V. Dimitrova and Kyung Sun Lee, “Framing Saddam’s Execution in the U.S. Press,” Journalism Studies 10, no. 4 (2009): 536–50.

Caroline Hughes and Vanessa Pupavac, “Framing Post-Conflict Societies: International Pathologisation of Cambodia and the Post-Yugoslav States,” Third World Quarterly 26, no. 6 (2005): 873–89.

John D. Duckworth and Patrice M. Buzzanell, “Constructing Work-Life Balance and Fatherhood: Men’s Framing of the Meanings of Both Work and Family,” Communication Studies 60, no. 5 (2009): 558–73.

Brigitte Nerlich and Nelya Koteyko, “Carbon Reduction Activism in the UK: Lexical Creativity and Lexical Framing in the Context of Climate Change,” Environmental Communication 3, no. 2 (2009): 206–23.

Andreas R. T. Schuck and Claes de Vreese, “Reversed Mobilization in Referendum Campaigns: How Positive News Framing Can Mobilize the Skeptics,” International Journal of Press/Politics 14, no. 1 (2009): 40–66.

Qingjiang Yao, “China’s Official Framing of Religion and Its Influence on Young Chinese Students: A Partial Testing of the Process Model of Framing in a Special Media Environment,” Asian Journal of Communication 17, no. 4 (2007): 416–32.

Chris Wickham, Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400–800 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Thomas Koenig, “From Frames to Keywords to Frames: Quantifying Frame Analysis,” in Where Method Meets Technology, edited by Sharlene Hesse Biber and Raymond Maietta (London: Sage, 2005).

Holli A. Semetko and Patti M. Valkenburg, “Framing European Politics: A Content Analysis of Press and Television News,” Journal of Communication 50, no. 2 (2000): 93–109.

Diana C. Mutz, Paul M. Sniderman, and Richard A. Brody, Political Persuasion and Attitude Change (The University of Michigan Press, 1996).

Francesco Sobbrio, “Indirect Lobbying and Media Bias,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 6, nos. 3-4 (2011): 235-274.

Iskander De Bruycker and Jan Beyers, “Balanced or Biased? Interest Groups and Legislative Lobbying in the European News Media,” Political Communication 32, no. 3 (2015): 453-474.

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