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Technical Document Content Analysis

By Expert Author: Jesse Ross

Content Analysis has been described as the summarisation and quantitative analysis of messages which relies on the scientific methods (such as inter subjectivity, reliability, validity, attention to objectivity) and is not limited to the types of variables that may be measured or the context in which the messages are presented or created. In the case of Technical Writing and Content Analysis, the analysis is applied to published information which is produced to describe the functionality and architecture of a product which is either currently under development or actually in use.
As the authors of technical manuals, such as engineers and scientists, may not often be professional technical writers, more often than not they then pass it on to a professional technical writer for the purposes of proofreading, editing and formatting.
These professional writers are also able to conduct Technical Content Analysis, thereby ensuring the reliability, validity and objectivity of the technical documents which will later be distributed to a mass reading audience. It has also been suggested that when human coders are used during the process of Technical Document Content Analysis, the reliability of the process becomes translated to what is known as 'Intercoder Reliability' (the amount of correspondence or agreement among two or more coders).
According to Dr Klaus Krippendorff, professor for Cybernetics, Language, and Culture at the University of Pennsylvania, every form of content analysis must address several key questions. Firstly, the data being analysed and how it is defined as well as those concerning the target audience of the technical documents, such as addressing the context relative to which the data is being analysed (for example whether it will be used by office workers at desks or in manufacturing plants, or during quiet an unproductive months or in the middle of a company crisis).
The methods of Content Analysis enables a researcher to include large amounts of textual information as well as systematically identify its properties (such as the frequency of most frequently used Key Words in Context (KWICs) by locating the more important structures of the content of the Technical Documentation). The most common forms of such Technical Documentation include patents as well as data sheets and lists of components which are used to summarise the performance of the invention itself. Such documents also provide enough technical detail so that a design engineer is then able to integrate certain components or parts into an overall system.

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