Posted by: swhee1er | April 17, 2014

What’s (in) a frame?

One of the issues Mike and I will raise in today’s presentation seems at first to be quite elementary: What constitutes a frame? Despite repeated calls by researchers for more methodological rigor in framing analysis, a consistent schema for categorizing frames continues to elude them. For example, some analyses merely use structural frames, like economic consequences, or content frames, like ethno-nationalism, as the basis for their findings.[1] In Images of China, Li employs these frames too, but she uses “syntactical, script and rhetorical” (2012, p. 178) structures as well. Other studies follow neither the simple structural approach, nor Li’s more nuanced approach, choosing instead to produce their own dedicated set of frames.

There is no denying that employing the sort of investigative “Taoism” implied by the last method has its advantages, as it allows the researcher to alter theories to fit facts, and not the reverse. Unfortunately, it is also bound to make scientists queasy, as the definition of what constitutes a frame will vary from analysis to analysis, making it less likely that the researchers are measuring the same thing. Does the strength of frame analysis lie in its current methodological flexibility, or should researchers impose a morphology or taxonomy on frames in order to better systematize the process?

[1] Koenig, T. (2006). Compounding mixed-methods problems in frame analysis through comparative research. Qualitative Research, 6(1), 61–76. doi:10.1177/1468794106058874

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