What Is Discourse Analysis?

The qualitative research method is a branch of research that focuses on the use of conversational methods to collect data. It boasts a plethora of tools at its disposal, and discourse analysis is one of its most popular instruments for research and data collection.

Discourse analysis is utilized in several disciplines, including the humanities and social science like psychology, sociology, linguistics, and cultural studies. Want to find out what discourse analysis entails? Its uniqueness, among other methods? Its uses and processes? Read on…

What Is Discourse Analysis?

Discourse analysis may be defined as a method or tool for studying spoken or written language in a social context. Discourse analysts tend to consider the broader discourse context to understand what effect it has on the meaning of the actual sentence.

It is usually referred to as the analysis of language beyond the sentence because it is the study of larger chunks of language and its fluidity. With relation to discourse analysis, analysts usually focus on;

  • The mode of communication for values, assumptions, and beliefs
  • The cultural conventions and rules in communication
  • What effect historical, political and social context has on the use of language
  • The effects and purposes of different types of language

Historical Background of Discourse Analysis

The research on discourse has been ongoing for over three decades. During this time, several perspectives on the subject have been grouped into two categories; The Anglo American and French directions.

Although there are differences in their points of view, they all believed that discourse analysis should explain the preference of particular statements over others and how and to what extent they have influenced social networks.

There are four distinct fundamental paradigms on which the discourse research tool was formed. These are;

  • Social/Sociolinguistic
  • Critical
  • Structural-functional
  • Pragmatic

What Are the Uses of Discourse Analysis?

Because the conduction of discourse analysis entails examining the function of language and the subjective meaning of language in differing social contexts, it can be applied to any instance of oral, written, or non-verbal modes of communication. These nonverbal techniques include tone, gestures, etc.

Discourse analysts aim to obtain a deeper understanding of social groups and their communications style. Suitable materials and publications for discourse analysis include;

  • Conversations and interviews
  • Government and business documents
  • Forums, websites, social media comments and posts
  • Periodicals, books, and newspapers
  • Material used for marketing like an advertisement, brochures, etc.

What Makes Discourse Analysis Unique?

Other more conventional linguistic approaches tend to focus on language mechanics, paying attention to factors like semantics, syntax, morphology, and phonetics. Unlike these methods, discourse analysis emphasizes the contextual meaning of language.

Rather than focus on the smaller, more simplistic units, discourse analysis emphasizes the social aspect of language and its use to garner specific effects, i.e., build trust, resolve conflict, convince, etc.

How to Conduct a Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis takes its interpretation of a statement from both its content and context. Here are the four fundamental steps required to undergo this process properly;

  1. Develop and clearly define the research question and then choose a range of material appropriate for it.
  2. Collate theory and information on the context being researched. Obtain factual details where and when the content was created, the publisher, the author, and who it was disseminated to.
  3. Analyze the content for patterns and themes. Examine the elements of the material like the sentence, words, paragraph, and overall structure about attributes relevant to your research question.
  4. Review results and make your conclusions. Reflect on your results and consider your analysis to reach a conclusion that answers your research question.

check markTo Wrap It Up

Discourse analysis is a mainstay in research processes because of its broad reach and technical approach. Its results usually lead to greater insight into your subject, which is the aim of the research. Ensure to diligently follow its steps so you can draw a favorable and accurate conclusion.

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