Qualitative research usually evaluates human life’s intangible aspects, such as language and its meaning. Qualitative research investigates the opinions of people and their choices. In the same vein, discourse analysis is an approach that delves deeper to understand the creation of meaning. Our choices, opinions and comprehension of meaning through language are subjective interpretations. Similarly, language is also not a neutral phenomenon. Language derives its meaning from the social, political and historical context. For that purpose, discourse analysis is a useful qualitative approach for an in-depth understanding.
Discourse is a form of verbal and written communication that occurs among people in daily life. Language and context are interconnected, and their mutual synchronization shapes meaning. Language encompasses all forms of verbal and written communication, signs and symbols. Lingual studies investigate the meaning of words, but discourse focuses on the context. Discourse interprets the language in its social, political and historical context. Language’s social, political, and historical context is pertinent to understanding the underlying meanings. So, it is essential to grasp the concept of discourse analysis and which tools are necessary to conduct it. This article by a top dissertation writing service will discuss the fundamentals of discourse analysis and its pros and cons as a research study.
Definition of Discourse Analysis
Discourse analysis examines the use of language in social, political and historical contexts. Researchers utilize this strategy to understand the intrinsic meaning of language. Discursive studies highlight what people say and how and why they say it. The researcher analyses the texts, signs, symbols, written and spoken language to extract the underlying meaning.
The meaning of words is not just literal, but they signify thoughts peculiar to specific contexts. For example, words used in different languages and dialects to define objects differ. Discursive studies can reveal interesting insights about the particular meaning of a word by examining it in its social context. In a nutshell, language is not an isolated phenomenon. There are no fixed meanings. The creation of meaning acquires its character by situational factors such as belief systems, social practices, political and economic factors.
Application of Discourse Analysis
Discursive studies are common in qualitative research. Discourse analysis has multi-disciplinary applications. It is a technique that encompasses the following.
- Content Analysis
- Narrative Analysis
- Conversational Analysis
- Rhetorical Analysis
- Interactional Sociolinguistics
- Applied linguistics
- Ethnography of Communication
- Cognitive Psychology
How to do Discourse Analysis?
Following are the fundamental steps to conduct discursive analysis.
Formulate the research questions relevant to the topic and find the relevant material.
Before analyzing the different materials for discursive studies, try to understand the origin of that material and its context. You should examine the material from the social, political and historical frame of reference. It is vital to comprehend that in what circumstances the content was produced. Mark every source as per its country origin, social and political environment and historical conditions. It is crucial to know who published those sources and why they did so. It would help to integrate all of the sources in their broader context to fit into the bigger picture.
It is crucial to question the collected material from every possible angle. You can ask the following questions.
- What is the background of the author?
- What is the institutional and personal background of the author?
- What are the political views of the author?
- Who is the target audience of a particular paper?
Organize Your Sources
It helps to organize your sources in an orderly fashion. You can do the following things for that purpose.
- Highlight the critical features of collected studies and mark the themes
- Organize the sources in a way that makes it convenient to use them for analysis
- Use headers, lines, and figures to track the essential features
The coding method of each word, sentence and paragraph as per the specific attributes is helpful.
Inspect the structure of the text
- Analyze the structural aspects of the text
- Identify themes, discourses and arguments and look for counterfactual arguments if there are any
- Try to understand the role of introduction and conclusion in building cohesion and arguments of the entire text
Get More Specific
After examining the macro features of the collected texts, you should analyze the individual statements and their attributes. You can identify the discursive fragments in the text. As mentioned earlier, the coding method helps group the statements under different discourse strands. The specific analysis of statements and their attributes help the research to identify the meaning or the truth that the text establishes.
Analyze the Impact of External Factors
Our surroundings have a profound impact on establishing the narratives and their meanings. At this stage, you know the context of the texts, but it is pertinent to know their impact on the entire text. You can ask the following questions.
- What is the impact of context on the arguments?
- What is the impact of knowledge taken from other sources?
- What is the significance of intertextuality in building the entire narrative or arguments?
In this step, you have to interpret the meaning of entire texts. You can divide it accordingly.
- What is the meaning of all these texts?
- Group all of the results to understand what the discourse is about
- Draw interpretations after chiselling the macro and micro features of the text and fit them in a broader perspective
- Shed light on the role of cultural, linguistic, social, political, economic and historical factors in generating that discourse
Advantages of Discourse Analysis
- Discursive studies reveal the context of knowledge creation and help to scrutinize and dissect the established truths
- More open to embracing the notion that reality is subjective
- Useful to examine the intrinsic meaning of texts
- It helps to understand the importance of language and how its usage can initiate change
Disadvantages of Discourse Analysis
- Time consuming and exhaustive
- There are no limits to the study since no amount of data is enough to understand how language establishes truth in different contexts
- Very broad in its approach, and some academics criticize it by saying that it is just a deconstructive reading of texts that does not answer specific questions
Discourse analysis is beneficial to understand the hidden meanings and their significance. It relies on intertextuality and uses an inter-disciplinary approach that is helpful to understand diverse human experiences. These studies dissect the socially and politically informed truths and the inequalities that arise from discourse. Discursive studies open up new avenues of study and delve beyond the limitations of the text.