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Early and Seminal Studies
This is an illustrative, rather than exhaustive, review of content analysis in political research.

Whereas the term "information retrieval" is from the computer era, "content analysis" was done manually long before computers. The U.S. government sponsored extensive efforts at content analysis of enemy messages during World War II. Shortly after the war, various scholars involved in that work published a landmark study:
Lasswell, Harold D., Nathan Leites, and associates, Language of Politics: Studies in Quantitative Semantics (New York: George W. Stewart, 1949).
In one form or another, content analysis has long been used to test sweeping statements about politics that can't be easily verified. More than four decades ago--without the benefit of computers--one scholar sought to determine whether American foreign policy went through "cycles," as often claimed.
Klingberg, Frank L. "The Historical Alternation of Moods in American Foreign Policy," World Politics (January, 1952), 239-273.
See his later work: Frank L. Klingberg, Cyclical Moods in American Foreign Policy (Lanham, MD: University Press of American, 1983)
A landmark computer program for content analysis, called "The General Inquirer," was developed at M.I.T. in the early 1960s. Athough it may not have been the first program for content analysis, it was the most influential. Originally designed to run on huge mainframe computers, versions are still running today on desktop machines.
Stone, Philip J. et al. The General Inquirer: A Computer Approach to Content Analysis: Studies in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Science. Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press, 1966.
Most of what you or I say trails off into thin air, but presidential parlance tends to be captured for history (as Richard Nixon sadly learned). Formal presidential speeches, such as Inaugural Addresses and State of the Union messages, have been converted to computer files. Hart analyzed presidential speech for style, not content.
Hart, Roderick P. Verbal Style and the Presidency: A Computer-Based Analysis. Orlando, Florida: Academic Press, 1984.
Style of speech is important, as Clinton taught and Dole learned in the 1996 presidential campaign. But what the person says is important too, and it is a main objective in content analysis. Moen's analyzed Reagan's speeches for what he said, not how he said it.
Moen, Matthew C. "The Political Agenda of Ronald Reagan: A Content Analysis of the State of the Union Messages," Presidential Studies Quarterly, 18 (Fall, 1988), 775-785.
Laura Olson, an NU undergraduate political science major (class of '89), analyzed all presidential speeches from Harry Truman through Ronald Reagan, noting the frequency and nature of their religious references.
Olson, Laura. "Ronald Reagan and the New Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian Right," Paper prepared for Political Science C27, March, 1989.
(Laura was so excited with her research that she spared the nation from having another lawyer and went to graduate school at Wisconsin, getting her PhD in 1996 for a dissertation on religion in politics. She teaches at Clemson University and published Filled With Spirit and Power: Protestant Clergy in Politics in 2000.)
Attention to now has been on presidential speeches, but content analysis is usually applied to texts that were never spoken. That fits the nature of party platforms. Zvi Namenwirth used the General Inquirer to analyze all major party platforms from 1844 to 1964. Later, he joined with Lasswell in a similar study.
Namenwirth, J. Zvi, "Some Long- and Short-Term Trends in One American Political Value: A Computer Analysis of Concern with Wealth in 62 Party Platforms," in George Gerbner et al. (eds.), The Analysis of Communication Content (New York: Wiley, 1969), pp. 223-241.
Namenwirth, J. Zvi and Harold D. Lasswell, The Changing Language of American Values: A Computer Study of Selected Party Platforms (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, Comparative Politics Series, Number 01-001 (1970).
Gerald Pomper analyzed U.S. party platforms without using computer methods, but his research was quantitative and did use computer methods of statistical analysis. Richard Rose did comparable research on British parties, whose statements of principles are called "election manifestos" rather than "party platforms."
Pomper, Gerald, with Susan S. Lederman, Elections in America: Control and Influence in Democratic Politics, 2nd Ed. (New Yok: Longman, 1980).
Richard Rose, Do Parties Make a Difference? 2nd Ed. (Chatham, NJ: 1984).
During the 1980s, a group of European scholars undertook the Comparative Manifesto Project, a cooperative effort to do a content analysis of all party manifestos since the end of World War II. Here is the first major publication from the project and a citation to a recent publication from this on-going project, which now covers parties in 20 countries from 1945 to 1985.
Budge, Ian, David Robertson, and Derek Hearl (eds.) (1987), Ideology, Strategy and Party Change: Spatial Analyses of Post-War Election Programmes in 19 Democracies. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
Pennings, Paul, and Hans Keman (2002), "Towards a new methodology of estimating party policy positions," Quality & Quantity 36: 55-79.
Content analysis has been especially prominent in the analysis of social change, done by researchers in sociology or communication studies. See:
Wayne A. Danielson and Dominic L. Lasorsa, "Perceptions of Social Change: 100 Years of Front-Page Content in the New York Times and The Los Angeles Times," in Carl W. Roberts, Text Analysis for the Social Sciences: Method for Drawing Statistical Inferences from Texts and Transcripts (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associations, 1997), 103-115.
Finally, mention should be made to the recent work by Gerring, who analyzed the platforms of the major U.S. parties from 1828 to 1996.
Gerring, John. Party Ideologies in America, 1828-1996. Cambridge University Press, 1998.