Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Subject Matter and Content

Content and subject matter refer to areas of creating forums for teaching and sharing knowledge.  The words content and subject matter are synonyms and at first would seem to be the same.  However, there is a subtle difference in the exact understanding of these words in context.  Content, in academic circles, refers to areas of learning and the knowledge within those areas.  Subject matter, on the other hand, is more finely described as the actual knowledge and learning to be imparted.  Seeing these two disciplines through an artists eye adds another dimension.  In the artistic, creativity world subject matter is referred to as the actual subject.  The content is the message that the artist may want to impart.  This message could be symbolic, emotional, or an imagery based on abstract representation of the subject matter.


All About Subject Matter?

The subject matter, generally speaking, is the topic or item that is written about or talked about.  It is the subject of discussion or the subject of knowledge being imparted.  Subject matter may refer to the content of a book or a film, the topic under discussion.  People in educational circles, with knowledge in a particular subject, will impart their knowledge as the subject matter of a lecture or a course.  Subject matter for an artist is the object the artist has chosen to draw or paint.  The actual item used in a still life composition or a scene for a landscape.  The subject matter can also be a person in a portrait. This would be known as the visual image.  Subject matter would be more closely aligned to what something is about.  It is the literal knowledge or ideas to be discussed and understood.

What is the purpose of subject matter?

  • Subject matter communicates ideas and imparts knowledge.
  • It needs to be authentic and contribute basic ideas, principles and concepts.
  • Subject matter is useful to the students or learners who are receiving the information.
  • It must be suited to the group of people gaining from the knowledge imparted.
  • Subject matter needs to be balanced between extending the learner and the learner’s ability levels to absorb the content of the subject.
  • The quantity of the subject matter needs to be suited to the learning platform.


All About Content

Content has a broader significance than subject matter.  However, content will still embrace subject matter within its overall picture.  The artists view of content and subject matter helps understand this broader aspect of the difference between these two words.  Content shows the artist’s point of view with the overall piece of artwork.  Content transmits the deeper meaning and the message behind the artist drawing and painting.  Content contains subject matter.  Content enables the subject matter to be presented in a manner that can be put forward to those who wish to learn from the content.  Content helps to tell stories, share emotions and visions.  Content holds the meaningful aspect of the knowledge to be imparted.  In educational circles content areas refer to different disciplines of learning.  Content areas would be divided into mathematics, language arts, sciences and social studies.  Modern systems of education have broader content areas like STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Each of these areas have content and the content is supported by subject matter. 

What is the purpose of content?

  • Content defines an area of learning within a curriculum or discipline of education.
  • Content brings ideas and themes to a film or piece of writing withing a movie or a book.
  • Content embraces knowledge and skills in an academic area.
  • Content lists the areas or chapters of a book in a contents section used with page numbers to refer to parts of the book.
  • Content allows the artist to share emotions and themes through the art work he creates.


Differences between Subject Matter and Content

In Education

The two terms seem interchangeable in educational circles.  The content of a subject being the subject matter to be imparted.  The subject matter being the specific knowledge to be shared within the content for the students.  Teachers and lecturers have their strengths in the subject matter they are qualified to teach.  These educators use their expertise in subject matter to put across the necessary information to the students.  Content is probably a broader collective and the area that gathers a particular type of subject matter.  However, content can just be the areas created for the learning of certain educational disciplines.  The subject matter falls into these categories.  In education subject matter and content are closely connected.

In Art

The difference between content and subject matter in art is a little clearer to understand.  The subject matter being the actual item or person to be painted in the medium of choice.  The subject matter can range from still life objects to people and places or a combination of several subjects.  There is a wide choice of materials to use for the painting and the medium could be sculpture or carvings.  The content revolves round the mood of the artist and the theme behind the painting.  Mood may be portrayed with different uses of the medium in the painting and the way the subject matter is used to convey the content or meaning of the art work.  The content is therefore the message and feelings expressed through the artwork.

In literary arts

The subject matter would be to the actual literal writing.  The purpose of the book to share a message of fiction or non fiction.  In the case of non fiction the subject matter would be researched and validated information.  The topics may not interest everyone, but would be useful for study of a particular subject.  The content often refers to the whole book and is shared via a contents page.  The content page lists the chapters and the page numbers.

In communication

The content area will influence what is spoken about.  A content area on creative writing for example would have subject matter relevant to learning and understanding how to write.  The purpose for the conversation or lecture on writing would be to encourage knowledge and skill associated with that discipline in learning.  The subject matter in any area of conversation draws people together because the group of people are connected to the same content.

In business

Business agreements, in particular patents, have content communicating the information surrounding the agreement.  The subject matter is the actual object, the invention being discussed, or the object under the conditions of the agreement.

Content Vs.  Subject Matter: Comparison Table


Summary of points concerning Content and Subject Matter.

  • Definition of the concepts

It is difficult to define each of these concepts without seeing them as synonymous with each other.  Comparing content with subject matter in specific areas of their use, like art or creative writing, helps to clarify the concept.

  • Practical viewpoint

In practical terms preparation of content and subject matter would help define the two ideals.  As the artist prepares a creative piece of work, the objects selected and the medium used, become the subject matter.  The mood of the picture and the motive for the creation would form the content of the art work.  In this way, a practical understanding of the two concepts puts subject matter and content into perspective.

  • Academic viewpoint

Academically the use of these two concepts would affect the curriculum they are part of.  The content will embrace the overall perception of a course or curriculum.  The themes, the purpose, the role in the students learning will be part of the content.  The subject matter would be the actual topics and knowledge imparted within the course. 

  • Artistic viewpoint

The use of materials and objects to create an art work are considered to be the subject matter.  The content is reflected in the mood and the purpose behind the art and the intent of the artist.


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References :

[0]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Content_is_like_water.png

[1]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kim_Arcand_Subject_Matter_X_Podcast_Image.png

[2]Bellis Mary. April 13th 2017. Meaning of Subject Matter. Www.thoughtco.com/subject-matter-meaning. Pub. Dotdash publishing family.

[3]De Ocampo Vincent. Aug. 30th 2016  Curriculum content or subject matter. Www.slideshare.net Bulcan state uni. Pub Linkedin learning

[4]Heggart Keith. May 1st 2016. How important is subject matter for teachers. Www.edutopia.org. Pub. George Lucas Educational Foundation.

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