Articulate iconographic analysis


Margarida Maria Rocha BernardesI; Antonio Marcos Tosoli GomesII; Érick Igor dos SantosIII; Fernando Rocha PortoIV

INurse. Doctoral student and Master in Nursing from the School of Nursing at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Nurse for the Municipality of Resende. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Email:
IINurse. PhD in Nursing from the Anna Nery School of Nursing, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Associate Professor, Department of Medical-Surgical Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil, Email:
IIINurse, Doctoral student and Master in Nursing from the School of Nursing at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing of the Federal Fluminense University Rio das Ostras Campus. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Email:
IVNurse, Phd in Nursing from the Federal University of  Rio de Janeiro, Post PhD in Nursing from the University of São Paulo. Associate Professor, School of Nursing Alfredo Pinto, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil, Email:

ABSTRACT: This study is a theoretical essay whose object is the use of content analysis (CA) and discourse analysis in iconographic studies. Our aim was to carry out an evaluation of these articulate techniques and propose the development of iconographic analysis (IA). Among a variety of data analysis techniques, IA, including photographic, CA and DA has been adopted by qualitative researchers from many fields. Results suggest that this kind of essay could provide support to new studies in which researches may use articulate iconographic analysis (AIA) to deepen knowledge on a particular imagery phenomenon. This essay intends to fill the gap in imagery studies of great importance to scientific investigation.

Keywords: Nursing; eidetic imagery; memory; methods.



This study is a theoretical essay whose object of reflection is the use of content analysis (CA) and discourse analysis (DA) techniques in iconographic studies. It aims to analyze the relationship of these techniques with the iconographic analysis (IA), proposing a new technique for image analysis.
The use of the picture in nursing studies are significant proposition and validation of innovative analysis techniques, mainly by the lack of methodological tools to account for the specificities of imagistic documents.

Among the techniques of qualitative data analysis, the IA (inserted photo), the CA and DA have been widely used by researchers1-7.

The CA, in the analysis of qualitative data as a set of research techniques whose scope is the demand by meanings present in a document. In addition, as regards the union of techniques for the analysis of different types of communications6.

In turn, the creation of DA was intended to replace the traditional CA8. The discourse is understood because of meanings about people that participate the non-united interactive language process itself, in the case of a discursive process in which they can divide and analyze different circumstances4.

The AI works with images printed on different loci, enabling the gathering of collections that are available to subsidize reflections and discussions on relevant topics, with images appearing as non-verbal language. The AI there is possibility to emerge graphic representations of reality that cause returning to the past.


There are different types of analysis that apply to the proposition on screen.

Content Analysis

The CA may be performed in the analysis of data written, audio or video, from tests, observations, research or secondary data.  The CA seeks to find regularities in the linguistic expression or breaks intending to compose cognitive assets on the subject studied. The CA allows access to the discursiveness of individuals and groups in explicit content or not, present in the analysis of daily verbal or written communication. It must be operationalized in an objective and systematic manner, resulting in specific system of codes that can sort messages relevant to the content. Subsequently they are selected variables with which the researcher wishes to work, serving the different disciplines and objectives, since everything that can be transformed into text is likely to be analyzed with this technique7.

The CA of messages has two functions that may or may not be dissociated, which are the heuristic capacity and management of evidence. In the heuristic capacity, it is encouraged to attempt to exploit the content, increasing the viability of the discovery. Now in the administration of evidence there is the aspect of provisional appearance of hypotheses, in the form of questions or statements6.

For historical iconographic studies, analysis of best relationships are especially suitable structural because in this usually is inserted into the image emblematic of something that can be analyzed. Some studies1,2,9, through recorded and filmed  interviews conducted with nurses from the Brazilian Army who served in World War II, presented practical examples of the CA development application. 

Discourse Analysis

It removes the meanings of texts with the aim of clarifying what the text means. This technique considers that language is not transparent, and it is not search through the text to find a real sense of the other side. To produce answers, it does not work with the text as simple illustration or as a document of something already known in another place. Knowledge is produced by the text itself, which sees itself as having significant and symbolic materiality with semantic thickness and conceiving in its discourse4.

The French school of DA was established as space for ruptured issues created by the relationship between the fields of linguistics, Marxism and Psychoanalysis, especially about the reflection on writing. This is the speech that makes emerge within itself the idea of travel, of course, run by, movement, looking for cover the language and making sense within the social work of construction of man and his history, being the language considered as a producer of human senses4.

This technique features insertion in the field of linguistics and communication. It specializes in analyzing ideological constructs inserted into text, which can also be used in media vehicles. It aims at understanding the social production of senses exercised by historical subjects through the materiality of language. Gradually the media has become the privileged object of investigations of discourse analysts. It is noteworthy that the closeness between DA and media studies, aiming to understand the discursive movements for the production of identitiess10.

Enunciation emerges as a real unity of discursive or written communication, with a significant wording so that one can understand what is said or not. Enunciation, while a symbolic figure, is understood in a spatial context and temporal of the subjects in their discourses, proclaiming the external organization at the heart of the ideology, because results from factors external/internal to the subject that it produces5.

The discourse can be understood as the articulation of ideological processes of linguistic elements. The inflection point as ideological confrontation would be the language that cannot be studied outside of society, because its processes are historical, social, and came to be structured as speech in a world of signs that serve as a stronghold of thought or instrument of communication, not being neutral, innocent or natural. Therefore, the embodiment of the place where the manifestation of ideology happens8,11.

The iconographic studies that bring the discourses of the interviewees on images presented are pertinent to match the discourse in this reporting past events that evoke their social and historical memories. In this type of study, generational memories are present in which memory in association phenomena can be developed, especially regarding historical memor12.

This technique covers dimensions of verbal and non-verbal plans. In studies conducted with non-verbal expressions, the understanding of this type of expression is replaced by verbal language.

To analyze the processes of expressive images in different vehicles of the media, the image is expressed ideologically in a variety of ways, and can be read while not even being verbalized. There are some properties such as the representativeness of the sample. For example, guaranteed by a reference to the image that will sustain the likelihood of reading them, reaffirming its language status.

The images inform and communicate, turning into speech and making visible the work of interpretation, result of the effect that occurs between the image and look. The study of the image, appearing as discourse produced by nonverbal, open probabilities that are not normally addressed in the most repetitive analysis13. When the event involves images, he may or may not become clearer, for those involved in the assessment of what they want to make public.

The iconographic work

The image is divided into two domains, namely material, understood as visual representations - drawings, paintings, prints, photographs and film, television, and holo infographic (signs) images - and the immaterial, which are mental images, such as visions, fantasies, imaginations, diagrams, models and mental representations. Both do not exist separately, since they are connected in their genesis14.

It is necessary to understand the analysis of images by the logic of thought, as there is verbal or mathematical thought. This is because the image has its own imagistic discourse, which leads to methodological isolation15.

To perform the analysis of images it is necessary to collect them, systematize them and understand their characteristics, which will enable the consolidation and enlargement of images for other forms of iconography. The images seen emerges from the memory, by multiplying possibilities of memories of a chronological time16. This is relevant because we are subjected to daily movements of interpretation and reinterpretation of media messages, which, at the transfiguration, intersecting immemorial senses. What emerges from the media echoes the other motifs that bind images and words that come from different places of society10.

Some authors17, while seeking to understand the elements of the images as representations of nursing professionals, understand to be important to emphasize that these are movements of past times, but walk in all directions to provide substrates to people about information, which has not totally disappeared.

If the images are press photos, they appear as objects of material culture and play a role in the public space configuration. One may then ask, what would be the implications of the publication of a picture that talks about objective facts in the vision of the social subjects that interact with them and participate in their circuit? It is believed, also, in the photo as the object that belongs to the material culture, and its existence depends on diverse factors that may not even make it public18.

Selecting photos for a study is a complex job, and care should be taken as a starting point, the search for pictures that have important historical or social significance. The researcher, to select, results in helping in the recovery of social memory. It is believed that primary and basic condition for a successful imagery research is the existence of relevant primary sources for exploitation by researchers when the preparation of such studies.

Iconographic, content and discourse analysis and techniques

Researchers who work with IA have been analyzing and describing images in their scientific studies. In the text on screen, the proposal was to focus on the techniques of CA and DA and assess whether both can maintain links with the IA. To take as a basis the descriptions of images, it is possible to infer that the AIA can be the result of the interweaving between CA, DA and IA. It appears that the proposals contained in these techniques can be complementary to each other when the description and analysis of the images studied.

In this sense, the AIA matrix analysis, so called in this test, has as characteristic to be composed of four items related to the image as authors of area19,20. They are: identification data containing location of collection, name of the magazine illustrated, year of publication, number of copies, page where is the image, the date of publication of the copy of the magazine, title or headline that accompanies the photo; data for the plan of expression with credit the photographic image, image text, caption, summary of the text, picture type, format, plan, direction, and location of the image on the page; data for the plan and analysis of content containing location depicted, people portrayed, theme of the image portrayed, personal attributes and landscape, and data for the analysis of discourse with words, feelings, ideologies, meanings of image, memory and representation.

In order to clarify the genesis of methodological path traveled was prepared a schematic illustration in which CA and DA appear in confluence for the IA, potentiating and enriching it. The movement of interweaving of the three techniques, there emerges another technique, the AIA, resulting from the union of the ideas proposed by each of the three techniques are already consecrated in scientific research, as shown in Figure 1.

This merger may have as a result a new syncretic knowledge. It builds positive potentiation of imagery and descriptions as negative the complexity of doing this interlinking to generate a good iconographic analysis result.

The scheme, which is the AIA, signals to researchers on the urgency of caution when performing this technique. Initially it is necessary to stick to CA, which brings the contents of the practice, socioeconomic implications, the precise temporal and historical issues of everyday life of the actors represented in that frozen moment. Subsequently they should focus its reasoning in DA with the struggles that develop in non-verbal discourse, opening up possibilities for understanding the visual elements such as operators of speech.


To demonstrate this technique has analyzed photographs are used by researchers in the nursing field2-3,21,22 . Didactically, they were inserted into the DA and CA acronyms studied the images, which do not necessarily constitute the prerogative of the future research employing this analytical device.

The next photo was taken during World War II. The woman, from a social and cultural prerogative of time to be exclusively devoted to the family area, faced several struggles to break boundaries, incorporating a feminine universe historically male grouping in the Armed Forces. See Figure 2. The picture conveys the context that is described below.

The photo has a woman in the center (CA) with seemingly tense countenance (DA), looking at the ground (CA). She is dressed in dark clothing and hair pulled back (CA). Her forearm resting on the arm of the chair with the hand down (CA), leaving the photographic plate exposes her discouragement (DA). Beside her a uniformed nurse, and their head with a military coverage (CA). The left arm of nurse rests on her legs, and on her hand, one can see a ring (CA), with the nails painted with dark nail polish (CA). The corresponding pulse, a clock (CA). Its expression is quiet (DA), his eyes are directed to the objective of the camera, cracking a smile (CA). The postures of photographed are discordant (DA), revealing the smile of the nurse contrasting with the physiognomy of nonconformist woman (DA). The scenario is apparently the interior of a residence and, at the bottom of the composition a wooden piece furniture (CA).

The third figure is the statue of Anna Nery. The body of the statue is covered by a long dress (CA). The body hexis is of a woman standing with the left arm extended downward and the right flexed with the hand at the height of the heart (CA), which is reminiscent of the position that some people use at the time of implementation of the national anthem (DA). The absence of object representations in the statue showed an image of Brazilian woman and patriot (DA). Her body hexis with the hand on the chest (CA) can be understood as an act of good citizenship, which requires deference (DA). See Figure 323.


The content analysis and discourse have been applied and have the potential to grouping in studies of iconographic nature, contributing to leverage existing knowledge derived from images in various media, establishing itself as a powerful source of production and reproduction in modeling social memory. However, it is up to the researcher decide the course methodology applicable to the object of study.

In iconographic studies focused on factual aspects that relate to the ideological context, social or religious, occupying the organization situation description, of the provisions of objects and people, it is urgent that we apply the CA. In iconographic studies that make social reconstructions, allowing the emergence of subjectivity of the images, is required for DA.

This text is, therefore, to a first approximation the analytical device of the AIA, which makes necessary the development of replication for ratification or refutation of the propositions outlined. It is expected that the AIA can subsidize new studies, enabling the deepening and extension of the analysis of certain iconographic phenomenon. This proposition may come to fill the gaps in imagistic studies.


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