Discourse analysis

Discourse analysisDiscourse analysis involves an ‘analysis of the ways in which discourses – which can be read in texts and talk – constitute the social world (Mason, 2006). Developed from linguistics, literary criticism, semiotics, discourse analysis looks at meaning behind ‘text’ or implied meanings’. Discoure analysis situates a text within a context and unpacks what people are implicitly trying to do in a text. It is largely concerned with language, but text can also refer to images, film...The methodology assumes that words and images do not depict reality, but create reality, that words are chosen to have an effect to readers
Unlike grounded theory, discourse analysis works with prior assumptions, since existing knowledge about society informs the analysis.
Discourse analysis can mean different things, since many strands developed over the years. It is therefore important to define how the term is used. Some see discourse analysis as method rather than a research framework or strategy. Indeed there is some overlap between linguistic phenomenology and discourse analysis.
Critical discourse analysis explores how texts serves the interest of powerful groups and how discourse achieves power. Discourse analysis can also examine the blending together of different texts. This assumes that knowledge and meaning are produced through interaction with multiple discourses (Starks and Brown 2007, p 1373).


Language is itself meaningless – a system of signs but agreed meaning generates meaning. Words are not determined by what they represent, they are chosen to have an effect (same for images and photo). Language thus reveals background assumptions and has to be examined within the context in which it is produced.

Data collection and methods

Written and spoken texts, images. Method involves examining how language is used to accomplish certain objectives and positions in relation to others . Involves deconstruction of data to show how texts sustain particular ideas about social life, to find out what a text is trying to do and how this is achieved (Denscombe, 2010). Discourse analysis is generally qualitative, but can be empirical and quantitative, e.g. linguistic study of texts scrutinised as separate from their author.


Denscombe, Martyn (2010). The Good Research Guide. (4th ed).Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill
Lazaraton, Anne (2002). ‘Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Discourse’, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics Vol 22, pp 32 – 51
Lazaraton, A. (2009). 'Discourse analysis'. In J. Heigham & R.A. Croker (Eds.). Qualitative research in applied linguistics: A practical introduction (pp. 242-259). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Potter, J. and Wetherell, M. (1994). ‘Analysing discourse’, in A Bryman and R.G. Burgess (eds). Analysing qualitative data. London: Routledge
Woofit, R. (2005).Conversation analysis and discourse analysis: a comparative and critical introduction .London: Routledge