Framing as a theory of media effects

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Abstract

Research on framing is characterized by theoretical and empirical vagueness. This is due, in part, to the lack of a commonly shared theoretical model underlying framing research. Conceptual problems translate into operational problems, limiting the comparability of instruments and results. In this paper I systematize the fragmented approaches to framing in political communication and integrate them into a comprehensive model. I classify previous approaches to framing research along two dimensions: the type of frame examined (media frames vs. audience frames) and the way frames are operationalized (independent variable or dependent variable). I develop a process model of framing, identifying four key processes that should be addressed in future research: frame building, frame setting, individual-level processes of framing, and a feedback loop from audiences to journalists.

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