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How We Do It

We apply rigorous social science methods to study how people understand social issues and develop evidence-based techniques to explain those issues more effectively.

Strategic Frame Analysis® is our proprietary approach to communications research and practice.

It’s not the two focus groups and a pop-up survey that you might do as research for a marketing campaign.

We integrate a set of rigorous, multi-disciplinary, multi-method, iterative processes that emphasize empirical testing. And we do that by pulling the best insights—and some of the world’s leading thinkers—from across the full spectrum of cognitive and social sciences.

Some of our methods were developed here at FrameWorks. Others are common social science research techniques. All are backed by rigorous testing.

While not all projects will involve every method, every framing project will employ at least some of the following activities.

  • Field story analysis that identifies the key ideas that a field wants to communicate to be able to communicate – a set of fundamental principles and concepts that they want to advance in public thinking and understanding.
  • Cognitive interview analysis that applies principles from psychological anthropology and cognitive linguistics to understand the prior understandings and implicit assumptions that people use to think about an issue.
  • Conceptual analysis that explores the gaps between the ways that those in a field understand issues and the way the public understands those issues.
  • Content analysis of news media that documents the ways that television, radio, online, and print news sources frame important social issues.
  • Field frame analysis that provides an in-depth look at the field’s current communications and framing practices.
  • Frame development that identifies a set of candidate frames – such as explanatory metaphors, values, or messengers – that have the potential to shift thinking in productive directions.
  • On-the-street interviews, a rapid-response interview technique that explores how candidate frames affect how people reason about an issue.
  • Survey experiments, which determine how particular frames affect knowledge, attitudes, and policy preferences.
  • Peer discourse sessions and persistence trials to explore how frames are taken up and used in group conversation and which have the best chance of entering the public discourse.
  • Usability trials that evaluate how members of a field apply frames in order to refine recommendations and build tools for communicators.

Founder and Board member Susan Nall Bales on FrameWorks methods.

“As we began to delve into different methods, we were always trying to be really practical. What is the toolkit of methods and approaches that we can deliver to the field and feel comfortable with?”
Susan Nall Bales