The four main research methods, at least in the social sciences, are experiments, surveys, ethnographies and textual analyses.
A researcher who does textual analysis is a researcher who studies a particular text or set of texts. A text is a communication artifact. A text could be written, visual, electronic, etc. Examples of a text are an email, a news broadcast, a film, a recorded conversation, an advertisement, a speech, an editorial cartoon or a song.
There are two main types of textual analysis. One is more quantitative and the other is more qualitative research.
Content analysis is "a form of textual analysis used to identify, enumerate, and analyze occurrences of specific messages and message characteristics embedded in relevant texts" (Frey, et al.)
An example of content analysis would be a researcher who studies post 9/11 editorial cartoons to determine how the enemy is portrayed in the cartoons by categorizing and counting up the occurrences of certain types of portrayals.
Rhetorical criticism, on the other hand, is more qualitative.
Rhetorical criticism: "research involving the description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of persuasive uses of communication" (Frey, et al)
Notice how rhetorical criticism focuses on persuasive texts, texts that potentially influence an audience.
There is a long history to rhetorical criticism from ancient times to modern times.
A person doing rhetorical criticism may study, for example, campaign speeches or advertisements to analyze how the text attempted to persuade and how effective it was in persuading.
Check out below the older Pepsi radio ad. What are the ways in which the commercial attempts to persuade? What about their choice of words. Also, how effective are they?
So, campaign speeches and commercials are persuasive texts and thus they are texts that could be analyzed using rhetorical criticism. However, what about songs? Are songs texts that could be rhetorically critiqued? Some songs? All songs?
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