Discourse analysis is the analysis of both written and spoken language in relation to its social context and refers to the way that different types of language construct meaning. The emergence of discourse analysis can be traced back to the work of French theorist Michel Foucault who considered discourses as statements that are recognised as meaningful within society and then reproduced through said discourse. Fundamentally, discourse analysis is considered valuable as it seeks to establish how and why certain social ‘scripts’ or systems are attributed significance and therefore helps us better understand the world around us. Discourse analysis also provides a tool to analyse the role of language in reinforcing and producing such social value systems and material realities. In this sense, “language does not explain the world as much as produces it” (Dunn and Neumann, 2016: 2).
Discourse analysis typically begins with the close reading and rereading of texts. Rereading of texts enables the analyst to notice small details and systematic patterns within the data which can highlight patterns, variability, and consistencies (Albertin et al, 2016). Following this stage, it is possible to develop hypothesis around how certain linguistic forms operate in that context. Whilst discourse analysis is embedded within a wide constructivist theoretical framework, the analytical approach applied will vary according to the epistemological context of the research.
Discourse analysis methods are employed within a wide range of fields however are commonly used within linguistics, sociology, anthropology, education, and social psychology, to name a few.
Newcastle University is home to the Critical Discourse Group which “aims to address issues concerning the relationships between language, politics, media and culture.” Find out more here.
An example project that utilises discourse analysis can be found here.
Courses or Relevant Research
Albertin Carbó, P., Vázquez Ahumada, Andrea., Dorado, A.D., (2016). "How do I do Discourse Analysis?" Teaching Discourse Analysis to novice researchers through a study of intimate partner gender violence among migrant women, Qualitative Social Work., 15(3), pp. 363-379.
Dunn, K., and Neumann, I., (2016). Undertaking Discourse Analysis for Social Research. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.