Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2019

Page updated 25 June, 2019

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2019, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

5. Document analysis and semiology

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Document analysis for what?
5.3 Establishing the nature of documents and categorising them (external analysis)
5.4 Approaches to document analysis
5.5 Evidence of occurrence
5.6 Content analysis
5.7 Qualitative document analysis
5.8 Historical research

5.9 Hermeneutics
5.10 Semiology
5.11 Critical media analysis
5.12 Aesthetics. art criticism, art history

5.12.1 Introduction
5.12.2 Types of image analysis
5.12.3 Sources of images and their uses
5.12.4 Ethnographic type analysis of images
5.12.5 Semiotic analysis of images
5.12.6 Reconstructing iconological meaning
5.12.7 Visual ideology

5.12 Aesthetics, art criticism, art history

5.12.5 Semiotic analysis of images
Semiology is one form of analysis that, as well as words, has been addressed to images and even to fashion (See Section 5.10). Semiological analysis of images is principally iconological rather than the iconographical approach embodied in ethnographic contextualisation and interpretation.

In semiotics, a specific signifier (such as a word) is not a thing but a mental image. Roland Barthes (1967, p. 43), for example,  contends that the signified of the word 'ox' is not the animal ox but its mental image. Thus a semiotic analysis can be applied to any signifier whether verbal or iconic. Roland Barthes'  analysis of the black soldier saluting the French flag is a well-known example of the approach.

(See Section 5.10 for more detail on semiotic analysis.)


Next 5.12.6 Reconstructiong iconological meaning