Discourse Analysis

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Online Source: Useful if slightly dated - language of the 1980s and 90s - How does discourse analysis resonate differently today? Please find the whole text here. It seems it comes from the University of Texas. (There's a problem with the site and the provenance isn't clear.)

  • Difficult to give a single definition of Critical or Discourse Analysis as a research method. - Can be characterized as a way of approaching and thinking about a problem. - Neither a qualitative nor a quantitative research method, but a manner of questioning the basic assumptions of quantitative and qualitative research methods.
  • Does not provide a tangible answer to problems based on scientific research - enables access to the ontological and epistemological assumptions behind a project, a statement, a method of research, etc. Will reveal the hidden motivations behind a text or behind the choice of a particular method of research to interpret that text. - Nothing more than a deconstructive reading and interpretation of a problem or text (while keeping in mind that postmodern theories conceive of every interpretation of reality and, therefore, of reality itself as a text. Every text is conditioned and inscribes itself within a given discourse, thus the term Discourse Analysis).
  • Not provide absolute answers to a specific problem - instead enables us to understand the conditions behind a specific "problem" and make us realize that the essence of that "problem", and its resolution, lie in its assumptions; the very assumptions that enable the existence of that "problem" - makes certain assumptions explicit - allows us to view the "problem" from a higher stance and to gain a comprehensive view of the "problem" and ourselves in relation to that "problem". Provides a higher awareness of the hidden motivations in others and ourselves and, therefore, enable us to solve concrete problems - not by providing unequivocal answers, but by making us ask ontological and epistemological questions.
  • Discourse Analysis is generally perceived as the product of the postmodern period. Other periods or philosophies are generally characterized by a belief-system or meaningful interpretation of the world, postmodern theories do not provide a particular view of the world, other that there is no one true view or interpretation of the world. In other words, the postmodern period is distinguished from other periods (Renaissance, Enlightenment, Modernism, etc.) in the belief that there is no meaning, that the world is inherently fragmented and heterogeneous, and that any sense making system or belief is mere subjective interpretation Postmodern theories, therefore, offer numerous readings aiming at "deconstructing" concepts, belief-systems, or generally held social values and assumptions.
  • Critical thinking, however, is older than postmodern thought, as the following quote by John Dewey illustrates. Dewey defined the nature of reflective thought as "active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends" (Dewey, J. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1933. Page 9). When critically evaluating a research project or text, one should, therefore, not limit oneself to postmodern theories.
  • Types: numerous - Jacques Derrida's "Deconstruction"; Michel Foucault's Genealogy and social criticism and analysis of the uses of discourse to exercise power (such as his analysis of how "Knowledge" is created in our societies and with what purpose or effect); Fredric Jameson's Marxist analysis of Postmodernism itself would provide another interesting reading on the dominant discourse of our time; as would Julia Kristeva's or Helene Cixous' Feminist interpretations of current social practices. Numerous other theories or "readings" exist...


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