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Visual Analysis in Politics Research

Course Dates and Times

Monday 6 – Friday 10 February 2023
Minimum 2 hours of live teaching per day
09:30 – 12:00 CET

Erik Bucy

Texas Tech University

This course provides an in-depth introduction to the theory, methods, and application of visual communication analysis in politics. You will first learn relevant concepts for studying visual politics, followed by different approaches to sampling and visual analysis at the descriptive level. The course then covers the use of visuals in inferential and interpretive study designs, using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Purpose of the course

Gain a developed understanding of:

  • why visuals matter in politics
  • how to analyse systematically visual and nonverbal elements of news, political events, and leader behaviour
  • what research questions are appropriate to answer with visual techniques
  • how different methodologies can be leveraged to incorporate visual dimensions of news and politics into study designs.

Instructor Bio

Erik P. Bucy is Regents Professor of Strategic Communication at Texas Tech University, where he teaches and conducts research on visual politics, nonverbal communication, and public opinion about the press.

He is the co-author of Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (with Maria Elizabeth Grabe) and is widely known for his studies on the influence of visuals in news and politics.


Key topics covered

Although highly memorable and persuasive, visuals are the overlooked element of media and communication in political analysis. This in-depth introduction to visual analysis will allow you to see the relevance of visual and nonverbal communication in your own work, and pave the way to understanding and integrating specifying multimodal study designs.


A review of relevant concepts and theories that inform visuals analysis. On the visual side, these include framing, priming, and information processing; and, on the nonverbal side, emotional appropriateness, expectancy violation theory, and social dominance. We also discuss the relevance of visual literacy and evolutionary theory.


We begin with two analytical challenges: identifying visual frames in different sets of images and coding patterns of nonverbal behaviour in video footage of leaders. We review coding approaches for each data type (visual frames and nonverbal behaviour) and introduce quality control practices, such as variable definitions, codebook development, and intercoder reliability.


We examine qualitative research, derived from open-ended responses to visual frames, across several different policy contexts, including environmental issues, attitudes towards refugees, and public health misinformation. We discuss techniques for performing theme analysis of qualitative data.


We move to quantitative research based on visual data, first showing how to use visual variables as outcomes in descriptive content analyses. We then consider how to repurpose the same data as predictors in inferential study designs, including experimental and time series models.


We turn to the future of visual politics research, exploring the possibilities of computational techniques capable of parsing both still images and video. A brief review of the field identifies relevant conferences, journals and other outlets for work in visual politics.

How the course will work

The course will proceed as a traditional, in-person seminar with lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and student questions-and-answers. To gain the most from this course, read the assigned articles in advance of each class, and practice coding techniques and other modes of analysis after they are introduced each day.

Basic understanding of content analysis and social scientific methods, including surveys, experiments, and focus groups. Preparation for the course requires 5–10 hours of assigned reading.

Each course includes pre-course assignments, including readings and pre-recorded videos, as well as daily live lectures totalling at least three hours. The instructor will conduct live Q&A sessions and offer designated office hours for one-to-one consultations.

Please check your course format before registering.

Online courses

Live classes will be held daily for three hours on a video meeting platform, allowing you to interact with both the instructor and other participants in real-time. To avoid online fatigue, the course employs a pedagogy that includes small-group work, short and focused tasks, as well as troubleshooting exercises that utilise a variety of online applications to facilitate collaboration and engagement with the course content.

In-person courses

In-person courses will consist of daily three-hour classroom sessions, featuring a range of interactive in-class activities including short lectures, peer feedback, group exercises, and presentations.


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc.). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.