Content analysis in social and environmental reporting research: trends and challenges
Journal of Applied Accounting Research
Purpose - The present study comprehensively reviews the use of content analysis in social and environmental reporting research. It explores how the relevant literature has evolved over time and particularly how recent developments have affected the validity and reliability challenges that researchers face when executing the method. Design/methodology/approach – The paper combines a quasi-systematic review of the literature employing content analysis (examining a sample of 251 studies published over the last 40 years in a wide array of journals with interest in the field), with a largely interpretive meta-analysis, using an index, considering the research questions asked and frameworks used as well as the specific content analysis decisions. Findings – A number of issues of concern in the use of the method are identified, mainly over comparability and reliability of coding schemes. Potential explanations are developed and methodological refinements that could enhance the usefulness of content analysis methods in social and environmental reporting research are subsequently proposed. Originality/value – The paper contributes to the literature by offering a critical and comprehensive review of the method’s theoretical underpinnings and application in social and environmental reporting research, and by describing changing patterns in content analysis, in order to help build a more secure foundation for future work.
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Volume 16, Issue 2, 14 September 2015, Pages 166-195