Content Analysis is the systematic description of form and content of written, spoken, or visual materials expressed in themes, patterns, and counted occurences of words, phrases, images, or concepts
Content Analysis is Day 17 of 100 Days of UX, an exploratory effort to survey the 100 methods of design outlined in Martin and Hannington's Universal Methods of Design. For 100 consecutive days, I learn one new method a day and write about it.
Content analysis is useful for distilling lots of unstructured qualitative data (narratives, video recordings, ambiguous images, etc) into digestible bits of knowledge.
The primary approaches to content analysis are a inductive and deductive. With the inductive approach, the content is allowed to naturally reveal its themes, while with the deductive approach, the themes and patterns are predetermined (usually based on some theoretical framework) and the content is only allowed to speak through those themes.
The deliverables of content analysis are usually word counts or a listing of the themes.