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Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3 Discourse Analysis


Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3 Discourse Analysis Lecture 6 C.Deighan_at_hw.ac.uk Discourse Analysis If someone told you that they had had a heart attack ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3 Discourse Analysis

Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3 Discourse
  • Lecture 6
  • C.Deighan_at_hw.ac.uk

Discourse Analysis
  • If someone told you that they had had a heart
    attack, depending on who you are, your age, sex,
    social circumstances, occupation, level of
    educational, political views may shape the way
    you construct the meaning of term heart attack.
  • In other words it depends on the socio-cultural

  • If you were a doctor you may describe a heart
    attack in terms of blockage of arteries, and
    cells dying off (e.g in bio medical terms)
  • As a psychologist you may talk in terms of
    psychological challenge or the stress or shock of
    the attack (psychosocial terms)
  • You may describe the attack in terms of the pain
    felt, the emotions felt, or the possible

  • These may be seen as examples of different
    constructions of heart attack.
  • The meanings you construct of heart attack may
    have consequences on the way you would cope in
    the aftermath of one.
  • If you think that a heart attack is caused by
    stress then you would be more likely to avoid
    situations where increased stress is likely to
    occur, if you construct a heart attack as an
    event that occurs as a result of unhealthy living
    you may make changes to your lifestyle.

  • It makes sense that in order to give
    psychological help people who have had heart
    attacks it is important to be aware of peoples
    own construction of the term.
  • Discourse analysis is an approach which affords
    the investigation of how people construct
    meanings of something like a heart attack and
    also how they make use of the meaning, through
    talk and text.

Discourse Analysis (DA)
  • Stems from the premises of Austin (1961) and
    Wittgenstein (1953), Gergen (1973)
  • that language is not a passive reflection of
    reality, but that all speech serves an active
  • and language itself is an active process of
    reality construction.
  • Discourse itself is the site of reality

The construction of anorexia nervosa
  • Can study how the subject of anorexia nervosa is
    constructed historically by examining past texts.
  • Medieval times spiritual starvation.
  • 19th C constructed as womens hysterical
  • 20th labelled women as anorexic and also as a
  • 21st recognition that men affected too, in past
    men more likely to be labelled depressive for
    same manifestation of the problem whereas women
    experiencing same problems more likely to be
    diagnosed with eating disorder.
  • So anorexia nervosa does not have a fixed
    construction dependant on social/historical
  • Different constructions used by health
    professionals and those experiencing AN.
    Sometimes the latter may use the construction of
    the former.

2 types of Discourse Analysis
  • Can approach the data interpreting texts in terms
    of wider social political influences.
  • - This type of DA adopted by Foucault (1971), and
    neo-marxist critical theorists and linked to
    critical approaches such as critical psychology,
    critical public health psychology.

Focus of discourse analysis in psychology.
  • Take the treatment of the subject of identity as
    an example
  • DA examines when and how identities are
    invoked and constructed in conversation.

Discursive Psychology
  • Examines how people carry out psychological
    activities such as
  • Justification (justifying speech acts etc)
  • Rationalisation (providing reason/rationale for
  • Categorisation (how people groups others,
    position self etc)
  • Attribution (how people account for others, self
    in terms of behaviour, views etc.
  • .

Examining the action orientation of talk.
  • What the talk is doing
  • What strategies the speakers are using.
  • How people manage their stake or interest.
  • Using discursive strategies such as disclaiming
    or footing.

Data collection
  • Ideally should be naturally occurring text or
    talk (so questions raised are unsolicited).
  • Problem with ethics problematic to tape
    peoples conversations without their knowledge.
  • However can analyse discourse in the public
    domain such as online open discussions.
  • Semi-structured interviews difficult because they
    tend to influence the orientation of the
  • Group discussions are better, preferably in pre
    existing groups.

  • Transcripts for discourse analysis can be very
    time consuming 1 hour of tape 10 hours of
    transcribing, need to take not of pauses,
    overlaps, changes in emphasis and volume etc.
  • Sample size is often dictated by practical
    considerations such as time available.
  • But do not need to work with vast amount of texts
    for meaningful analysis, but may need to get a
    range different interviews, different contexts.

How to do discourse analysis
  • More than just a methodology, like grounded
    theory it is both an approach and a method.
  • Since it is an approach which views language as
    constructive functional (not a reflection of
    inner cognitive processes)- DA requires different
    questions to be asked.

  • Instead of asking what participants responses
    tell us about their attitudes, thoughts beliefs
    Need to ask what is this discourse doing?
  • Discursive analysis can be described as a
    particular way of reading, since DA requires us
    to adopt an orientation to talk and text as
    social action, it cannot be learned from one day
    to the next and it cannot be followed like a
    recipe (Willig 200144)

Procedure for DA Guidelines (Potter Weatherall
  • Reading Need time to read transcripts. Read once
    without any attempt for analysis to experience as
    a reader the discursive effects
  • Coding Done in light of research question (unlike
    grounded theory where rq may arise later). Need
    to look out for implicit constructions (remember
    we discussed latent categories in content
    analysis not always explicit)
  • Analysis 2 key questions
  • Why am I reading this passage in this way?
  • What features (of the text) produce this reading

  • Need to systematically explore the texts on 3
    dimensions (Potter Weatherall 1987)
  • Context (how the text constructs its objects
  • Variability (how such constructions differ or
    vary across contexts)
  • Construction (terminology used, grammatical
    features, metaphors used, preferred figures of

Interpretative Repertoires
  • Different repertoires are used to construct
    different versions of an event.
  • Newspaper article may refer to young offenders as
    young tearaways (orienting to problems of
    policing) while defending lawyer may describe
    his/her clients as no hope kids (orienting to
    under privileged childhood (Potter Weatherall
  • Different repertoires may be used by one and the
    same speaker, may be contradictory.
  • Need to take account of context to access the
    reasons or functions of the repertoires used.

Writing up
  • Introduction Often consists of discussion of
    limitations of existing research in relation to
    topic. (e.g limitations of cognitive attitude
  • But with more discourse analytic studies emerging
    these will be discussed too.

Writing up
  • Method section should
  • provide some information about the nature of
    discourse analysis both theoretical and
  • Describe data collection technique,
    questions,participants, context.
  • But rather than providing standard demographic
    information (contradicts the approach of DA
    social constructionism), describes the context of
    the interaction being examined.

Writing Up
  • Analysis section often merged with discussion
  • May want to present the analysis in terms of
    interpretive repertoires.
  • Culture as heritage
  • Culture as therapy
  • Smoking as health threat
  • Smoking as rebellion
  • Smoking as economic necessity

Writing up
  • Analysis/discussion could also be presented in a
    way that the discursive strategies form the
    structure disclaiming or footing for instance
  • Most studies will include a combination of
    interpretive repertoires and discursive
    stratagies with excerpts from transcripts.
  • May want to include a conclusion to suggest the
    wider implications of the research findings.

Next weeks lecture (week 7) Talk by Dr Jennifer
  • How do sufferers construct ME (Myalgic
    Encephalomyelitis) and why is this crucial in the
    development of treatment for this condition
    (known medically as CFS or Chronic Fatigue
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