Philip J. Stone

  • User's Manual for the General Inquirer

    Philip J. Stone and Cambridge Computer Associates

    The purpose of this manual is to describe, from a user's point of view, the operational characteristics and requirements of the computer programs which constitute the General Inquirer content analysis system. It is intended to serve as a companion volume to an earlier work, The General Inquirer, in which the originators of the system treated theoretical and methodological issues of content analysis research, presented an overview of the system, and gathered reports of studies conducted with the system in diverse research fields. In supplementing the earlier volume, the manual provides instructions for preparing the data to be processed, choosing among the system's many processing options, and actually operating the programs on the IBM 7094 and 1401 computers.

    The approach adopted by the author is one of unremitting attention not only to the details of data preparation and processing but also to the operational contingencies among these details. The General Inquirer is a system of remarkable scope and flexibility; it is also a highly unified system. This means that decisions made by the investigator at an early stage of processing may have their major impact at a much later point. A user's manual worthy of the name should specify the options at the investigator's disposal and at the same time disclose all the implications of each possible choice. This manual is uniquely thorough in detailing such interrelationships.

    The intended audience of the manual included not only the investigator engaged in content analysis research but also the operations personnel who may assist him. Specifications are organized according to the expected needs of each group, but no knowledge of data-processing methods or terminology is assumed except for general information presented in the companion volume.

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  • The General Inquirer

    A Computer Approach to Content Analysis

    Philip J. Stone, Dexter Dunphy, Marshall S. Smith, and Daniel M. Ogilvie

    The General Inquirer is a unique set of procedures for identifying, in a useful and meaningful way, recurrent patterns within the rich variety of man's written and spoken communications. Using the computer to implement analysis procedures, the General Inquirer provides a remarkably flexible common referent for testing the hypotheses of different investigators. It provides investigators with explicit procedures that can be exchanged, applied to one another's data, discussed, argued, and revised, thereby generating new hypotheses and insights.

    The system is programmed to accept actual text, look up words and phrases in dictionaries, assign descriptors, check for specified descriptor patterns, count occurrences, and retrieve sentences with specified characteristics. Beginning with studies of small-group interaction, the applications of the General Inquirer to content analysis have ranged over a wide variety of fields, including clinical psychology, social psychology, personality structure, cross-cultural comparisons, political science, survey research, business marketing, and, in initial explorations, literary analysis.

    In the first section of the book, the concept of content analysis is introduced and defined and the rationale are presented. The second section offers example applications carefully selected from five years of research experience to illustrate different theoretical orientations, text problems, and research designs. These orientations vary from simple word and phase counts to tests for complex thematic sequences – from short simple sentence completions to the range of complexity found in therapy protocols, political speeches, cultural folktales, suicide notes, autobiographies, field reports, diplomatic notes, editorials, and samples of psychotic writing. The research techniques vary from producing simple graphs to the complexities of factor analysis or interaction effects in analysis of variance.

    The supreme virtue of the General Inquirer method devised by Dr. Stone and his associates is that it keeps conceptual issues in the foreground and refuses to give undeserved prominence to the computer. Dr. Stone is thoroughly justified in insisting that the problem of inference should receive top billing in any appraisal of results or evaluation of future alternatives. The General Inquirer gives promise of providing a means by which a particular investigation can be conducted in the light of accumulated knowledge about content analysis without losing the possibility of adding detail as required to revise, respecify, or generalize the dictionaries and programs at hand.

    Although computers are essential to this approach to content analysis, technical details are relegated to a separate User's Manual in the belief that the real issue and excitement of content details but in the basic deigns and issues of the research strategy itself. The evolution of the system and changes planned for the future are also discussed.

    This first full discussion of computer-aided content analysis should prove as valuable as it is fascinating to all students of human behavior and indeed to anyone confronted with the task of organizing and making sense out of the spoken and written word.

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    • Paperback $9.95