Running Head: Content Analysis of Entertainment-Education

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A Content Analysis of Two Medical Drama Series and Their Portrayals of Illnesses and Diseases Chris Watson Queens University of Charlotte

Content Analysis of Entertainment-Education

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Yinjiao Ye and Kristina E. Ward’s article The Depiction of Illness and Related Matters in Two Top-Ranked Primetime Network Medical Dramas in the United States: A Content Analysis is a study that analyzed the portrayal of illness and disease in entertainment television on the United States’ Greys Anatomy and ER (Ye & Ward, 2010). The two television shows are considered to be entertainment-education, which is defined as “prosocial messages embedded in popular entertainment media that can have a positive impact on awareness, knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors” (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 556). This study consisted of a hypothesis and two research questions. The hypothesis stated, “In the two medical drama series, medical frame dominates the portrayals of illnesses and diseases in terms of their representations of causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of the illnesses or disease” (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 558). The independent variable in this study is the “medical frames,” which is described in the literature review. There are five medical frames: medical, social-structure, lifestyle, environmental, and therapeutic (Ye & Ward, 2010). The dependent variable is the “portrayals of illnesses and diseases on the two medical drama series”. In a content analysis, a researcher must select a unit of analysis and he/she must construct content categories. A unit analysis is “the smallest element of a content analysis but also one of the most important” elements and a category system is “used to classify media content” (Wimmer & Dominick, 2010, p. 164 -165). Ye and Ward’s unit of analysis is “a significant, plot-functional individual patient character” (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 559). According to Wimmer and Dominick, “operational definitions of the unit analysis should be clear-cut and thorough; the content for inclusion should be apparent and easily observed” (Wimmer & Dominick, 2010, p.164). Below is the operational definition for Ye and Ward’s unit of analysis:

Content Analysis of Entertainment-Education

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A patient character that was visually shown for a significant period of time in the episode, reoccurring throughout most of the episode or being seen multiple times during a specific episode (in most cases, the time span ranged approximately from 7 to 20 minutes in a 45minute episode), and was critical to plot development. (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 559) This operational definition gives exactly the requirements for a character to be considered in the coding of this analysis. Characters that do not fit this criterion are not included in coding. In this analysis, there are many categories that define the content of the illnesses and diseases for these two medical drama series. Ye and Ward use emergent coding, which “establishes the categories after a preliminary examination of the data” (Wimmer & Dominick, 2010, p. 165). There were six categories in which a unit of analysis was placed; (1) demographics, including gender, race, and age, (2) types of illness/disease, (3) cause of the illness/disease, (4) types of diagnostic method, (5) type of treatment, (6) mention of prevention and type of prevention (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 559). When constructing content categories, researchers must make sure that all category systems are mutually exclusive, exhaustive, and reliable (Wimmer & Dominick, 2010). There were subcategories under each main category in which each unit of analysis, or patient character, was placed into based on content of his/her illness or disease. Types of illness/disease subcategories were based on organ systems, having a total of 14 subcategories. Cause of the illness/disease had six subcategories, which were the five preexisting medical frames. Those illnesses and diseases that did not fit a medical frame were listed in the subcategory “other”, making the sixth subcategory. Types of diagnostic method were based on the “diagnostic methods that the patient character underwent for the identified illness or disease;”

Content Analysis of Entertainment-Education there were six subcategories (Ye &Ward, 2010, p.561). Types of treatment had five categories that were determined by “the type of treatment that the patient character received for the identified illness or disease” (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 561). Mention of prevention and type of prevention had four subcategories. The authors used three undergraduate students to assist them in coding their data. “The coders analyzed 15% of the sample randomly selected via the use of a random digit table. Cases of disagreement were recorded by the two authors, with coding decision based on the majority” (Ye & Ward, 2010, p. 562). In training the authors watched two episodes with the coders randomly and discussed the coding scheme to make sure the coders understood the coding scheme (Ye & Ward, 2010). After watching episodes, based on the emergent coding the authors established, the coders placed the patient characters in their respective subcategories. Wimmer and Dominick state that a content analysis is “popular with mass media research because it is an efficient way to investigate the content of the media” (Wimmer & Dominick, 2010, p. 156). This analysis shows how the content of two medical drama series are portrayed to the real world and real people. Like the other concepts in mass media research that we have discussed, content analysis has certain procedures that should be followed in order to

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successfully interpret findings that will be shared with the communication world. In essence, this exercise has drawn a more vivid picture for me to understand the concept of a content analysis and enhance my knowledge as researcher.

Content Analysis of Entertainment-Education References Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2010). Mass media research, an introduction. (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Pub Co. Ye, Y., & Ward, K. E. (2010). The depiction of illness and related matters in two top-ranked primetime newtwork dramas in the united states: A content analysis. Journal of Health Communication, 15, 555-570.

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