How to Do a Discourse Analysis

How to Do a Discourse Analysis

A toolbox for analysing political texts

Discourse analysis is a useful tool for studying the political meanings that inform written and spoken text. In other posts, I have provided a quick video introduction to the topic, and have discussed the ideas behind discourse theory, the main questions that students and researchers will likely ask as they set up their discourse analysis project, and the things that are worth keeping in mind when working with East Asian language sources. In this post, I offer a handy set of tools for doing a text-based, qualitative discourse analysis. The idea of a discourse toolbox comes from Siegfried Jäger, but I have expanded his approach based on my own experience and the works of other discourse analysts such as Paul Chilton (2004) and Norman Fairclough (1994).

You can go through the whole list of work-steps and tick each item off in turn, which is a good way to practice these methods. However, if you are conducting a specific research project, I would recommend adapting this toolbox to your own needs and tailoring it to fit your concerns. At the end of this post, you will also find a few comments on the limitations of this toolbox plus a list of literature that you can turn to if you want to learn more.

Getting technical: discourse analysis in ten steps

So you have formulated a research question, have collected source material, and are now ready to roll up your sleeves and dig into your sources. But how do you make sure that you have covered all your bases and that you will later be able to make a good case for yourself and your work? Here are ten work steps that will help you conduct a systematic and professional discourse analysis.

1) Establish the context

Before you start chiselling away at your source material, jot down where the material comes from and how it fits into the big picture. You should ask yourself what the social and historical context is in which each of your sources was produced. Write down what language your source is written in, what country and place it is from, who wrote it (and when), and who published it (and when). Also try to have a record of when and how you got your hands on your sources, and to explain where others might find copies. Finally, find out whether your sources are responses to any major event, whether they tie into broader debates, and how they were received at the time of publication.

2) Explore the production process

You have already recorded who wrote and published your sources, but you still need to do a more thorough background check. Try to find additional information on the producer of your source material, as well as their institutional and personal background. For example, if you are analysing news articles, take a look at the kind of newspaper that the articles are from (Jäger 2004: 175): Who are the author and the editorial staff, what is the general political position of the paper, and what is its affiliation with other organizations? Are any of the people who are involved in the production process known for their journalistic style or their political views? Is there any information on the production expenditures and general finances of the paper? Do you know who the general target audience of the paper is? In many cases, media outlets themselves provide some of this information online, for instance in the “about” sections of their websites. In other cases, you will find such information in the secondary academic literature. Don’t hesitate to write the editors an email or call them up: personal interviews can be a great way to explore production backgrounds.

Once you have established the institutional background, take notes on the medium and the genre you are working with. Some scholars go as far to argue that “the medium is the message” (McLuhan 1964/2001), or in other words that the medium in which information is presented is the crucial element that shapes meaning. While I am skeptical of such extreme technological determinism, I do agree that the medium matters: reading an article online is not the same as reading it in a printed newspaper, or in a hardcover collection of essays. Make sure to identify the different media types in which your source appeared, and to also be clear about the version that you yourself are analysing.

For instance, the layout of a newspaper article and its position on the page will be different in a print edition than in an online edition. The latter will also offer comments, links, multi-media content, etc. All of these factors frame the meaning of the actual text and should be considered in an analysis. This may also mean that you should think about the technical quality and readability of your source, for instance by looking at paper quality (or resolution for online sources), type set, etc. You should also take notes on the length of your source (number of pages and/or words) and any additional features of the medium that might contribute to or shape meaning (such as images).

Finally, ask yourself what genre your source belongs to. Are you analysing an editorial comment, and op-ed, a reader’s letter, a commentary, a news item, a report, an interview, or something else? Establishing this background information will later help you assess what genre-specific mechanism your source deploys (or ignores) to get its message across.

3) Prepare your material for analysis

In order to analyse the actual text, it is wise to prepare it in a way that will allow you to work with the source, home in on specific details, and make precise references later. If you are working with a hard copy I would recommend making a number of additional copies of your source material, so that you can write on these versions and mark important features. If you haven’t already, try to digitize your source or get a digital copy. Then add references that others can use to follow your work later: add numbers for lines, headers, paragraphs, figures, or any other features that will help you keep your bearings.

4) Code your material

When you code data, it means that you are assigning attributes to specific units of analysis, such as paragraphs, sentences, or individual words. Think of how many of us tag online information like pictures, links, or articles. Coding is simply an academic version of this tagging process.

For instance, you might be analysing a presidential speech to see what globalization discourse it draws from. It makes sense to mark all statements in the speech that deal with globalization and its related themes (or discourse strands). Before you start with this process, you need to come up with your coding categories. The first step is to outline a few such categories theoretically: based on the kind of question you are asking, and your knowledge of the subject matter, you will already have a few key themes in mind that you expect to find, for instance “trade”, “migration”, “transportation”, “communication”, and so on. A thorough review of the secondary literature on your topic will likely offer inspiration. Write down your first considerations, and also write down topics that you think might be related to these key themes. These are your starting categories.

You then go over the text to see if it contains any of these themes. Take notes on the ones that are not included, since you may have to delete these categories later. Other categories might be too broad, so try breaking them down into sub-categories. Also, the text may include interesting themes that you did not expect to find, so jot down any such additional discourse strands. At the end of this first review, revise your list of coding categories to reflect your findings. If you are working with several documents, repeat the process for each of them, until you have your final list of coding categories. This is what Mayring (2002: 120) calls evolutionary coding, since your categories evolve from theoretical considerations into a full-fledged operational list based on empirical data.

How the actual coding process works will depend on the tools you use. You can code paper-based sources by highlighting text sections in different colours, or by jotting down specific symbols. If you are working with a computer, you can similarly highlight text sections in a word processor. In either case, the risk is that you will not be able to represent multiple categories adequately, for instance when a statement ties into three or four discourse strands at once. You could mark individual words, but this might not be ideal if you want to see how the discourse works within the larger sentence structure, and how discourse strands overlap.

A real alternative is using other types of software. If you have access to professional research programmes like NVivo, then the software already has built-in coding mechanisms that you can customize and use. There is also open-source software available, for instance the Mac programme TAMS, but I have not tested their functionality. However, even if you only have regular office tools at your disposal, such as Microsoft’s Office or a Mac equivalent, there are at least two ways in which you can code material.

The first is to copy your text into an Excel table. Place the text in one column and use the next column to add the coding categories. You’ll of course have to decide where the line-breaks should be. A sensible approach is to place each sentence of your original text on a new line, but you could also choose smaller units of text.

Another tool that provides coding assistance is Microsoft OneNote 2010, or the Mac equivalent Growly Notes. In OneNote, you can right click anywhere in the text and select “tag” to assign a category to any sentence. You can also customize your tags, create new ones, and easily search and monitor your coding categories and activities. The downside is that you can only tag full sentences, not single words or phrases, but depending on your intentions, this may not be a crucial drawback.

5) Examine the structure of the text

Now that you have prepared your materials and have coded the discourse strands, it is time to look at the structural features of the texts. Are there sections that overwhelmingly deal with one discourse? Are there ways in which different discourse strands overlap in the text? See if you can identify how the argument is structured: does the text go through several issues one by one? Does it first make a counter-factual case, only to then refute that case and make the main argument? You should at this point also consider how the headers and other layout features guide the argument, and what role the introduction and conclusion play in the overall scheme of things.

6) Collect and examine discursive statements

Once you have a good idea of the macro-features of your text, you can zoom in on the individual statements, or discourse fragments. A good way to do this is to collect all statements with a specific code, and to examine what they have to say on the respective discourse strand. This collection of statements will allow you to map out what “truths” the text establishes on each major topic.

7) Identify cultural references

You have already established what the context of your source material is. Now think about how the context informs the argument. Does your material contain references to other sources, or imply knowledge of another subject matter? What meaning does the text attribute to such other sources? Exploring these questions will help you figure out what function intertextuality serves in light of the overall argument.

8) Identify linguistic and rhetorical mechanisms

The next step in your analysis is likely going to be the most laborious, but also the most enlightening when it comes to exploring how a discourse works in detail. You will need to identify how the various statements function at the level of language. In order to do this, you may have to use additional copies of your text for each work-step, or you may need to create separate coding categories for your digital files. Here are some of the things you should be on the lookout for:

  • Word groups: does the text deploy words that have a common contextual background? For instance, the vocabulary may be drawn directly from military language, or business language, or highly colloquial youth language. Take a closer look at nouns, verbs, and adjectives in your text and see if you find any common features. Such regularities can shed light on the sort of logic that the text implies. For example, talking about a natural disaster in the language of war creates a very different reasoning than talking about the same event in religious terms.
  • Grammar features: check who or what the subjects and objects in the various statements are. Are there any regularities, for instance frequently used pronouns like “we” and “they”? If so, can you identify who the protagonists and antagonists are? A look at adjectives and adverbs might tell you more about judgements that the text passes on these groups. Also, take a closer look at the main and auxiliary verbs that the text uses, and check what tense they appear in. Particularly interesting are active versus passive phrases – does the text delete actors from its arguments by using passive phrases? A statement like “we are under economic pressure” is very different from “X puts us under economic pressure”… particularly if “X” is self-inflicted. Passive phrases and impersonal chains of nouns are a common way to obscure relationships behind the text and shirk responsibility. Make such strategies visible through your analysis.
  • Rhetorical and literary figures: see if you can identify and mark any of the following five elements in your text: allegories, metaphors, similes, idioms, and proverbs. Take a look at how they are deployed in the service of the overall argument. Inviting the reader to entertain certain associations, for instance in the form of an allegory, helps construct certain kinds of categories and relations, which in turn shape the argument. For instance, if I use a simile that equates the state with a parent, and the citizens with children, then I am not only significantly simplifying what is actually a very complex relationship, I am also conjuring up categories and relationships that legitimize certain kinds of politics, for instance strict government intervention in the social sphere. Once you have checked for the five elements listed above, follow up by examining additional rhetorical figures to see how these frame the meaning of specific statements. Things to look for include parallelisms, hyperboles, tri-colons, synecdoches, rhetorical questions, and anaphora, to name only the most common.
  • Direct and indirect speech: does the text include quotes? If so, are they paraphrased or are they cited as direct speech? In either case, you should track down the original phrases to see what their context was, and what function they now play in your source material.
  • Modalities: see if the text includes any statements on what “should” or “could” be. Such phrases may create a sense of urgency, serve as a call to action, or imply hypothetical scenarios.
  • Evidentialities: lastly, are there any phrases in the text that suggest factuality? Sample phrases might include “of course”, “obviously”, or “as everyone knows”. A related question then is what kinds of “facts” the text actually presents in support of its argument. Does the text report factuality, actively demonstrate it, or merely suggested it as self-evident? One of the strongest features of discourse is how it “naturalizes” certain statements as “common sense” or “fact”, even if the statements are actually controversial (and in discourse theory, all statements are controversial). Be on the look-out for such discursive moves.

9) Interpret the data

You now have all the elements of your analysis together, but the most important question still remains: what does it all mean? In your interpretation, you need to tie all of your results together in order to explain that the discourse is about, and how it works. This means combing your knowledge of structural features and individual statements, and then placing those findings into the broader context that you established at the beginning. Throughout this process, keep the following questions in mind: who created the material you are analysing? What is their position on the topic you examined? How do their arguments draw from and in turn contribute to commonly accepted knowledge of the topic at the time and in the place that this argument was made? And maybe most importantly: who might benefit from the discourse that your sources construct?

10) Present your findings

Once you have the answer to your original question, it is time to get your results across to your target audience. If you have conducted a good analysis, then you now have a huge amount of notes from which you can build your presentation, paper, or thesis. Make sure to stress the relevance, and to move through your analysis based on the issues that you want to present. Always ask yourself: what is interesting about my findings, and why should anyone care? A talk or a paper that simply lists one discourse feature after another is tedious to follow, so try to focus on making a compelling case. You can then add evidence from your work as needed, for instance by adding original and translated examples to illustrate your point. For some academic papers, particularly graduation theses, you may want to compile the full account of your data analysis in an appendix or some other separate file so that your assessors can check your work.

Mind the limitations:


Discourse analysis offers a powerful toolbox for analysing political communication, but it also has its pitfalls. Aside from being very work-intensive, the idea that you only need to follow a certain number of steps to get your results can be misleading. A methodology is always only as good as your question. If your question does not lend itself to this sort of analysis, or if many of the steps I list above do not apply to you, then come up with an approach that suits your project. Don’t be a methodologist: someone who jumps at a set of methods and applies them to everything in a blind fit of activism. Always remain critical of your own work.

This means being mindful of the shortcomings in your approach, so that you do not end up making claims that your material does not support. A common mistake is to claim that a discourse analysis shows what people think or believe (or worse: what entire societies think or believe). Discourse analysis is a form of content analysis. It is not a tool to analyse the impact of media on audience members. No amount of discourse analysis can provide adequate evidence on what goes on in people’s heads.

What we can learn from a discourse analysis is how specific actors construct an argument, and how this argument fits into wider social practices. More importantly, we can demonstrate with confidence what kind of statements actors try to establish as self-evident and true. We can show with precision what rhetorical methods they picked to communicate those truths in ways they thought would be effective, plausible, or even natural. And we can reveal how their statements and the frameworks of meaning they draw from proliferate through communication practices.


Chilton, Paul (2004). Analyzing Political Discourse – Theory and Practice. London: Arnold.

Fairclough, Norman (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Jäger, Siegfried (2004). Kritische Diskursanalyse. Eine Einführung. (Discourse Analysis. An Introduction). 4th ed., Münster: UNRAST-Verlag.

Mayring, Philipp (2002). Einführung in die Qualitative Sozialforschung – Eine Anleitung zu qualitativem Denken (Introduction to Qualitative Social Science Research – Instruction Manual to Qualitative Thinking). 5th ed., Basel: Beltz Verlag.

McLuhan, Marshall (1964/2001). Understanding Media. New York: Routledge Classics.

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  1. Kate

    Thank you!! :)

    • Florian Schneider

      No worries at all. Glad if it helped.

  2. Lauren

    This is gold! I didn’t know how on Earth to start my discourse analysis assignment until I came across this. It has been a life saver. Wish my tutor had taken the time to break it down like you have. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks Lauren, it’s good to know that this was useful in your studies. Good luck with the assignment!

  3. Patricia E. O'Connor

    Wonderful, cogent, concise description of methodology. My students are thanking you!!

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for the kind words, Patricia. I really appreciate it.

  4. whoa!!! thank yuh
    i av learnt alot not jus the discourse analysis.
    ur such a life saver

    • Florian Schneider

      That’s very kind of you Khadijah. Glad I could help.

  5. Elena

    This is the most clear and helpful post about discourse analysis I’ve ever read!
    Thanks a lot for sharing.

  6. Katie

    Yes, excellent. Many thanks.
    Reading all the Fairclough and Foucault in the world doesn’t resolve practical issues like how to cite the analyzed content. Does it belong in works cited? Footnotes? Appendix? I can’t seem to find a natural fit for my research.

  7. Florian Schneider

    This is a good question, Katie. The answer depends on how detailed your analysis of the materials is. I have seen undergraduate studies that cite longer sections in the main body and then list the source in the bibliography like any other materials. In some cases, particularly if the project analyses several texts, it may be good to have two sections in the list of references: one for “primary sources”, one for “secondary sources”. Personally, I like to see the materials that were analysed in an appendix (and then listed in the bibliography alongside the secondary sources). For graduate or post-graduate work, it might even be worthwhile expanding such an appendix to include practical work steps, visualisation of the data, or different rounds of coding on the same document. That way the reader (or examiner) can check the thought process behind the research. Just an idea. Hope this helps!

  8. Putri Nafisah

    How to do a discourse analysis by finding the cohesions and the coherences in the article?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Putri, I am not sure I have understood your question correctly – do you mean: how can we study the structure of a text? If that is the case, I would try to identify what each paragraph or section does (e.g. does it functions as an introduction, an argument, a counter-argument, an example, a conclusion?) and would try to establish how the author transitions from one section to the next. You could also go into more detail and check what conjunctions or rhetorical tools the text deploys to provide a sense of flow (for instance, if I write: “Discourse influence language. So it also influences politics”, I have linked two separate claims in a way that is by no means self-evident). Some of the literature that I’ve provided in the list of references includes more sophisticated examples than I can provide here, but I hope these brief notes already help.

  9. Ilze

    Many thanks from Latvia!
    I have struggled with discourse analysis for about month now and no one could actually tell me what’s it about and how exactly to do the analysis. This really was a lifesaver for my bachelors degree research. Thank You a lot!

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks Ilze, I’m glad you found this useful. Good luck with the BA!

  10. Tina Bass

    Well done, Florian. This is very professional and very helpful. I am teaching discourse analysis to undergraduate business students and now I don’t have to create my own video.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Tina, thanks for the encouraging words. Hope your students enjoy the introduction and video.

  11. Robyn

    Thank you so much. This is so clear and useful for unpicking political text to illuminate power structures and motivations.

  12. Heidi

    Hi, this article is so useful!
    I am currently conducting discourse analysis of a television travel documentary and was wondering how the stages can be adapted to fit this? Obviously I cannot transcribe and code the hour long programme, so do I therefore transcribe sections which I feel to be most significant and code these?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Heidi,
      This is a good question, and depends a bit on the length of the material and what you are trying to achieve. For cases where you are not interested in a shot-by-shot analysis, I would recommend creating a sequence protocol, and then coding those sequences. I recently did this with a colleague of mine to analyse a lengthy Chinese documentary, and it’s a good way to keep track of the content at a macro-level. You can then “zoom in” on specific sequences and examine them in more detail where it’s useful and necessary, for instance shot-by-shot, or transcribing what was said.
      I’ve written a bit more about this here:
      The section on “working with moving images” in particular might be of interest to you.
      Best – FS

  13. leonard makombe

    Thanks a lot for the great work. I am doing a research on how Twitter was used in Zimbabwe during the 2013 elections. I have collected more than 80 000 tweets over 51 days. My question now is: With such a huge dataset, is it possible to do a proper CDA?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Leonard,

      This sounds like a fascinating data set, and I do think it is possible to do a discourse analysis on large amounts of text. However, I would only rely on quantitative tools to highlight keyword distribution and check the general thematic structure of the text corpus. I’d always then follow up by looking at representative (or outlying!) examples in more detail for the qualitative part of the analysis.

      By the way, it might also be interesting to see how the people who post these tweets are connected on Twitter, and what kind of networks consequently provide the foundation for the discourse you’re looking at. I can recommend the work by Richard Rogers over at the University of Amsterdam on how to get a handle on such digital methods questions. Oh, and then there’s the very tricky question of reproducing your results without singling out the various posters – if you haven’t read it yet, I can recommend Zimmer’s article on this issue ( Just FYI. :)

      Good luck with this fascinating project! Do let me know what you find.

      Best – F

  14. Nassy

    Hi. i found this article very helpful. Thanks a lot! I’ve got an assignment on media political discourse. Please, i want to know if making use of critical discourse analysis will be an excellent way of analysing a newspaper article.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Nassy,
      This all depends on the kind of questions you have regarding the newspaper article. If you are trying to find out what it’s position on a specific issue is, and how the author uses language to establish that position, then a discourse analysis might be worth a try. If you are only looking at a single article, though, I’d be careful not to overstate how that piece contributes to broader discourses. That would require either a wider study, or more information on how relevant this particular article is. As with any other subject area, the success of a paper very much hinges on the research question. The selection of methods (for instance: discourse analysis) should follow from that.
      All the best

  15. Mau

    Hi, thanks a lot for this article :) I am actually doing my dissertation on the role of media in environmental protection- using renewable energies…i’m using discourse analysis to analyse newspaper..but i’m a little bit confused..should I separate the analysis of my themes from the grammar part or I mixed both? :s
    Thnks in advance

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Mau, thanks for the question. I think it depends on the kind of dissertation you are writing, and the level of linguistic detail you plan to go into. If you are working on a research MA or PhD, and have a lot of data, then it might indeed be a good idea to write a chapter that collects and discusses recurring grammatical features in the texts, and to then follow this up with a chapter that discusses what discursive positions are constructed through the language (with examples, of course). To be honest, I myself like it when a thesis tells a story, so I would be tempted to combine these two things: you could structure your thesis according to the different themes you are analysing, and then use the grammar parts as evidence and illustration. In a case like that, you could also provide the more technical details and any primary sources in an appendix, so you can readily reference your analytic work without having to reproduce every minute bit in the main text. So as you see, it’s a matter of preference. I would check with your supervisor to see what makes most sense for your case, and whether your examiners have a preference in this regard. You are, after all, writing for a specific audience… Hope this helps! Best- F

  16. Josh

    Hi Florian,

    Your material is very clear and helpful. Are these methods okay to use for interviews that have been written up at masters level.
    Many Thanks Josh.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Josh,
      Discourse analysis is definitely a great way to process interviews – provided you are looking for the (often subconscious) communication choices your interviewees make to get their point across, and if you want to know what kind background knowledge and assumptions informs their views. It’s often quite revealing to see how interviewees tie their arguments together with wider social discourses and the argumentation patterns you’d find there (e.g. the news, academia, work conversations, etc.).
      What I normally do is create a protocol of the interviews (using either my own paraphrasing or rough transcripts), and after coding the meaningful segments I look at specific parts in detail. This can then also include transcribing those parts in a way that marks hesitations, intonations, and other such qualities of the spoken word (Paul Chilton has provided some useful annotation advice for this).
      As you might imagine, this can be a lot of work. So if you are mainly on a “fact finding” mission and are trying to figure out how the topic “works” that your interviewees discuss, then I probably wouldn’t recommend a full discourse analysis based on transcripts: simple protocols might be the better way forward.
      I hope this helps you decide how to approach those materials – good luck with the MA!
      Best – Florian

      • Josh

        Hi Florian,

        Thanks for the replay and advice, this sounds really good. I think I’m going to use some other material as well such as a short film. So mix the discourse analysis with the visual analysis that you have also clearly presented. Could I call this a multimodal discourse analysis? I think the wider context filters through in the interviews and the short films quite well, I also think this is physically impacting on society and possibly playing into Foucault’s ideas about Govenrmentality. Would you recommend analysing some of the physical impacts as well?

        In relation to Paul Chilton is there a link to an example of how to transcribe in a way that marks hesitations, intonations, and other such qualities of the spoken word?

        Many thanks in advance Josh.

        • Florian Schneider

          Hi Josh,

          I am always in favor of including other types of media, and seeing how a discourse works in different “modes”, so this sounds promising. I would be careful to call something a “multimodal” analysis, though: I think the word fits best when you systematically look at how the medium contributes to the discourse. So if you are analysing camera angles, mise-en-scene, editing, etc. in combination with what is said in the film, then the term applies. If you are mainly commenting on the content of the film in relation to your interviews, then I might try to find another word (or point out in a footnote that you are not conducting a full-fledged “multimodal” analysis, and then suggest further reading on that kind of research approach).

          As for “physical” impacts, I find it fascinating to see how discourses crystallize into institutions and then inform such things as buildings, urban planning, use of physical violence, etc. Is that what you have in mind with “physical” impact? That would be the sort of question Foucault indeed looked at. My advice here would be to include such issues if you have good data, and to otherwise note such impacts in the intro/conclusion of your thesis. A risk here is that you might end up doing too many things at once, so be careful that you still narrow down your main analysis enough. This, of course, depends entirely on the kind of thesis you are writing.

          As for the transcription advice, I couldn’t find Chilton’s notations online, but I have reproduced some of them in the figure in this blogpost: As you’ll see, the full list of notations is on page 206 of his book “Analyzing Political Discourse”.

          Let me know how your analysis proceeds!

          Best – Florian

  17. Michele

    Hi Florian,
    Firstly, this post on discourse analysis is incredibly helpful so cheers for that!
    I’m embarking on my MA dissertation and am doing a critical discourse analysis. I’ve focused on one online newspaper and its coverage of immigration, but am feeling overwhelmed by the amount of data generated. I was wondering if you could recommend how many articles to study, as CDA is so intense, would 2 or 3 be ok?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Michele, I agree that a full discourse analysis of a large number of texts is almost impossible for anything smaller than a research MA or PhD thesis. There are three ways you can still make a contribution in an MA thesis, but without overwhelming yourself. The first is to consciously phase out certain analytic aspects, for instance by choosing to not explore all linguistic features of the texts in detail. In that case, you’ll have to find a good justification for your choices, and should probably point out at the end what follow-up research would now be necessary as a next step. The second option is to chose materials that are particularly representative. If you have evidence that a particular newspaper article kicked off a huge debate, or that a specific policy document is of paramount importance (e.g. a state-of-the-union address, etc.), then you may not need more materials – you should, however, then point out what limitations this particular “window” into the discourse has. Thirdly, you could take a classic hermeneutical approach by starting with one text, qualitatively mapping out the discourse and its features there, and then moving on to a second text, a third text, and so on, until you are no longer finding any major new discursive features. I believe Jäger recommends such an approach. If you narrow your topic down well enough at the outset, you may indeed be in a position to justify using only a handful of texts rather than a large corpus.

      • Michele

        Thanks Florian, this is really helpful. I’ve decided to do a general analysis of headlines from one month of the newspaper I’m using, focusing on elements of structural feminism and critical discourse analysis, and then shall do a more detailed breakdown of 3 of the most relevant articles. Do you think that would be okay, as long as my limitations are explicit?

        • Florian Schneider

          This sounds very cool – I personally like approaches that take a bird’s-eye view first (through headlines in newspapers, structure of TV series seasons, etc.) and then pick a representative sample for detailed analysis, based on that initial work. This could work nicely. Let me know how it shapes up! Best – F

  18. D CHEN

    It’s a good article to teach people how to conduct one discourse analysis. I learn much from it when I designed my research.
    I just have one question, is it suit for analysing the official documents like rules, laws, regulations etc.?
    I think it is good for assessing news, but I’m not sure if it can be applied to some official papers.

    • Florian Schneider

      Discourse analysis can definitely be used on policy documents. It is indeed easier to analyse news articles, since they are often rather explicit about their “discursive position”, but legal texts also appeal to certain categories, draw from assumptions, and establish self-evident truths. The important thing to keep in mind is that a legal document is a specific genre, and that different genre conventions consequently apply. I know Fairclough has looked at official documents, and you’re likely to also find such studies in the established journals as well (e.g. Discourse & Society), so I’d recommend taking a look at such examples for inspiration.

      • D CHEN

        Hi, Florian,
        Thank you for your suggestion.
        I have read Media Discourse written by Fairclough. His ‘three-dimensional method of discourse analysis’ is more suitable for my dissertation. I find it’s difficult to apply the theory without any comparison. In addition, due to the translation, I find it’s hard to conduct it to Chinese documents. Could you mind to tell me how you deal with this situation?
        Thanks a lot!

        • Florian Schneider

          Translation into different contexts is of course an issue, particularly with the more theoretical aspects of discourse analysis (Fairclough is a good example here). You could check what Chinese authors are writing on the subject. Shi Xu from Hangzhou’s Zhejiang Daxue is a pretty big name in that regard, and he’s been criticizing discourse analysis for being a “Western” method that needs to be revised for use in China. I don’t particularly agree (see my discussion here:, but as you can see a straight-forward application of Fairclough to a foreign context deserves critical reflection. Maybe Shi’s work, or that of his students, can provide the comparison you are looking for?
          In addition, I’ve written a bit about how to do a discourse analysis in practice when using foreign scripts, but I’m not sure this answers your question:

  19. Louise

    Hi Florian, this is a great article, and is one of the first I read that really explains the process clearly. I’m looking for some advice, however, as I’m writing about improving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and I’ve decided to conduct a discourse analysis on the Treaty, the IAEA statute and political speechs made by America as well as non-Western orgs such as the NAM or the Arab League on the subject, to compare discourse between the two sides and how to bridge the gap. Is this too ambitious? How many documents do you recommend for a decent analysis, and of such variety in genre?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Louise,
      This does indeed sound quite ambitious – I assume you are writing an MA thesis? You may want to take a look at my comment above, on Michelle’s project. She had similar concerns about narrowing down her material, and I suggested three different options to her on how to handle that challenge. In your case, you may have to make a choice: you could use one of the two sets of texts (official IAEA documents vs. speeches) as background and the other to do a detailed analysis. For instance, I think doing a discourse analysis on the actual Treaty and the IAEA statutes makes good sense, and should be doable at the MA level. On the other hand, if you want to cover speeches, I would probably recommend taking a quantitative approach first, for instance using WordSmith ( or some similar tool. You could then “zoom in” on specific features of the discourse and discuss those in more detail. Otherwise you might end up with a lot of speeches, particularly on a topic such as this one, that you may not be able to assess in detail at a qualitative level. Unless of course you are doing a PhD, in which case this sounds like the kind of work that would make a good doctoral thesis.
      I hope this helps!

      • Louise

        Thanks Florian, I’m looking into WordSmith now. After reading your response for Michele as suggested, would you recommend Fairclough over, say, Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, for such a project? What would you say are the benefits of CDA?

        • Florian Schneider

          Hi Louise.
          I’m afraid it’s not all that easy to draw a clear line between different approaches to discourse, such as Foucauldian analysis, CDA (e.g. Fairclough), political discourse analysis (e.g. Chilton), or discourse-historical analysis (e.g. Wodak). They often overlap and draw from each other, and many of the distinctions are subtle theoretical differences (for instance how “constructivist” the respective author is) rather than completely different methodological approaches. For a good introduction of how Fairclough aligns himself with Foucault’s aims, I can recommend this short text:
          To answer your question, I think you could make a distinction at the methodological level between studying 1) primarily and in great detail the linguistic features of a discourse, 2) the socio-historical context of the discourse (and its development over time), and 3) the strategic communication choices and social practices of different actors at a particular point in time (e.g. framing, self-other representations, etc). Most discourse analysts will look at all three, and if you want to read a good article that covers all of these angles for the Scottish case, I can recommend this piece by my colleague Johnny Unger for inspiration:
          For an MA thesis I think it would be fair to emphasise one of these levels of analysis, as long as you also acknowledge the others. You could, for instance, provide the socio-historical context in your introduction and could then explore how different actors frame the issue, building in examples from the language as you go along. Your limitations/future research section in the conclusion could then point out how more detailed linguistic analysis and historical tracing of the discourse can shed light on additional questions you have raised in your thesis. Just a thought.

  20. Jalton

    Hi Florian. Thank you very much for putting this website up. I am currently writing a proposal for a PhD dissertation on energy policy formulation and have been wondering about a specific kind of discourse analysis — argumentative discourse analysis (M. Hajer). There seems to be a dearth of resources about it, especially as a method. I surmise that it emphasizes certain dimensions of discourse compared to the “conventional” discourse analysis which generally explores/examines text (linguistic), the rhetorical component, as well as context (socio/historical). I was wondering if you were kind enough to offer suggestions or tips (perhaps even some general “red flags”). Many thanks and more power to you.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Jalton,
      Sorry for keeping you waiting – you caught me during the Easter break.
      Thanks for pointing out Hajer’s work, which I think has a lot in common with the issues I’ve discussed here. At the risk of doing his work injustice, it seems his argumentative discourse analysis (ADA) is very much interested in the structure of texts and conversations and in the rhetorical and argumentative strategies that people deploy. For instance, he’d be interested in classic argumentative fallacies such as appeals to authority or begging the question, which I agree are very useful when examining arguments. I particularly like the fact that he places a strong emphasis on how people perform their role in social interactions, which is something my colleagues and I are also interested in. In that sense, I don’t think ADA stands in opposition to other forms of discourse analysis – it simply draws attention to specific aspects of communication and would probably fit very nicely into the “toolbox” I’ve put together above.
      There are of course also differences, for instance in the way Hajer writes about “discourse coalitions” when talking about groups that share similar discursive positions – a context in which I would probably use a network approach – but these distinctions are rather subtle. I would have to talk to him and his colleagues to see where we potentially disagree. My guess would be that I place a tad more emphasis on agency whereas he might be a bit more interested in structures. At any rate, something I find highly valuable is his definition of “dominant” discourse, which you’ll find here: (under “influence of discourse”).
      Not sure whether I’ve helped or muddied the waters further… let me know what your PhD research uncovers, and what sort of approach you ended up adopting. The project sounds fascinating.
      Best – F

      • Jalton

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is very much appreciated. I have taken the time to go through all the “nooks and crannies” of this website and what a rich source of ideas and methods it truly is! I hope that one day, I get to attend one of the conferences and workshops which your organization is organizing (since my other research interest also touches generally on the socio-political dynamics of the digital media, representation vis-a-vis Filipinos/Philippine culture and nationalism). Keep in touch :)

        • Florian Schneider

          Thanks Jalton, I appreciate the feedback. Hope you’ll get to join us at one of our future events – sounds like your work would fit right in. Let’s do indeed stay in touch!

  21. Mihn

    Dear Florian,

    Thank you for the helpful breakdown of such a complex task! I’m also working on a PhD, dealing specifically with larger discourse concepts of nationalism, economic development and globalization in east Asian developmental states (SK, Taiwan, etc.).

    I rely heavily on Jessop’s Cultural Political Economy (CPE) approach as well as Fairclough’s CDA, and I would like to investigate the shifting of discourse with concepts such as re-contextualization (such as competitiveness of economies to the concept of national identity, etc.) The problem I have is coding the samples. I have narrowed down my codes but the relation between larger concepts such as discourse of globalization/nationalism and smaller ones [branding as advancing in international division of labor] seem somewhat arbitrary. I know this totally depends on the research question, but how I can I work coherently without becoming muddled with the infinitely interconnection relations between these concepts?

    I appreciate your reading this!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Mihn,

      Sorry for the late reply, but only just got back from a trip. Getting the amount of work you put in right is indeed a big challenge. I think there’s three things you could do, but I’m not sure how much each option applies to your case. Nevertheless, maybe you’ll find some of these ideas useful:
      The first is to use “evolutionary” coding to come up with a long and comprehensive list of categories, which you then apply to your materials, but that you don’t necessarily all examine in the thesis. The work might be more arduous now, but if you plan to use the materials after the PhD as well, for follow-up work, then this might be a good option for you. It sounds to me like this is the direction you are already headed in. In the thesis, you can then look at specific discourse strands only, but note that they of course intersect with other issues as well (and point to the appendix for the comprehensive list). Making choices as to what is most important is part of a PhD project, so I doubt anyone would fault you for not covering every conceivable discursive connection.
      The second option would be to come up with a two-step coding process: the first part would work at the macro-level, and would use units of your materials that are fairly large (so: full texts, full pages, or at the very least full paragraphs). You can create a table and then list all the relevant units, followed by all the various codes you have decided to use for that section, and maybe also deploy quantitative tools to then help you get a grasp of that material. The second step would then be to select segments from that first “bird’s-eye-view” step that are particularly important to your project, and to go in and do the detailed coding and qualitative analysis there.
      The third option would be to state at the start that you are only interested in two or three main concepts, and to radically narrow down your set of categories. Whether or not this is feasible (and to what extent it is advisable) is something I can’t comment on, but a decision you would have to make together with your supervisor, based on your materials.

      Sorry for not having better advice – this is a very difficult question. Let me know how you decided, and how the project worked out!

      Best – F

  22. Joanne

    This brilliant! While many say there is no set of methods in DA, this gives us a great starting point to assess and use on our specific studies. Thanks a million, you have summed up hours of reading!!

  23. Gayadini Madho Kandage

    Dear Florian, I found these information very very important.I’m doing a phd on disasrer communication. I’m looking at how communication channels,specially social media have been used to build community resilience to natural disasters. I wish to do a discourse analysis on interview data, with disaster managers and communication managers. This is a comparative study about Sri Lanka and New Zealand. I think this data analysis method fits with my objective, I need to see how the meaning of being resilient is build through the communication channels in these two countries. I appreciate your thought.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Gayadini, sounds like a great project. I particularly like that you’ll be checking up on “resilience” discourses. I would keep my eyes open for concepts that your interviewees link to that idea, and for the argumentative strategies they use to make sense of disasters and (personal) responsibilities. To me, the whole “resilience” story is decidedly neo-liberal, since it transfers the burden of being prepared for risks and reacting to crises to local communities, households, or individuals. Would be fascinating to see whether this impression holds in the two cases, and what the nuanced variations might be.

      Coincidentally, my colleague and I have just published an article on PRC disaster discourses in the Journal of Contemporary China (2014, vol.23/88). The study is not a linguistic discourse analysis, and does not examine resilience, but it looks at visual discourses in official and popular culture, which might nevertheless be interesting for you: All the best – F

  24. Daniela

    Dear Florian,
    Thank you so much for your helpful article, if before I had only confusion in my head now is everything clear!Now I have a start point. I am dealing with my MA thesis on discourse analysis, more specifically discrimination in discourse about Romanian people in an Italian newspaper I’ve chosen. Till now I have 9 articles, I guess is too much; last Thursday I had a presentation with my two supervisors and they told me I’ve done too much linguistic analysis, and I shall focus more on microparts that I consider extremely important and proceed with the discouse analysis supported of course by the linguistical analysis. The problem is that there is no direct discrimination against Romanians expressed in the articles I’ve chosen and they told me I shall focus on the suggestions and inferences that come from the report, the ones I understand the journalist is reporting, or is in some way influenced by others/society/rules of the newspaper, somehow what shall I do is to read between the lines. Do you think I can apply your whole explanation from above to my case? I have difficulties dealing with this. They told me that even if I don’t prove at the end the Romanians are discriminated in that newspaper (it may be possible to prove or it may be not) it is sufficient for the requirements of the MA to know how to handle with discourse analysis. Do you have any suggestion to tell me how to deal with this? Do you think 3 or 4 articles would be enough for 100-120 pages?

    Thank you and greetings from Denmark!

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Daniela,

      I am not particularly familiar with the MA regulations in Denmark, but I would say that following a supervisor’s advice is always a good call. For an MA thesis, I can completely understand that they want you to contextualize your sources in wider social practices, and that providing a few key examples at the linguistic level is sufficient. Personally, I am satisfied when students demonstrate that they can pose a clever question, select materials that promise to address that question, and then try to use an academic method on those materials. If the results don’t cover the whole issue in all its complexity, that is usually quite alright, particularly if the thesis recognizes these shortcomings and can give suggestions for further study. You are, after all, not writing a PhD thesis…

      Take a look at my discussion above with Louise and with Mihn – they had similar concerns about the scope that a discourse analysis at that level can realistically cover.

      What I would probably do in your case is take all nine articles and go through them rather coarsely, noting the main themes that characterize that particular debate. I would then go back to particularly representative or simply very noteworthy examples to show how these features manifest themselves in the language and the argumentative strategies, but I would state clearly that your goal is not to conduct a full linguistic discourse analysis (…something that future research could explore in more detail). I would then focus on the image of Romanians that gets constructed in the articles, and the social/production context within which the articles make their case. If you end up finding that there is no stereotyping in your materials, that is in itself also a finding.

      Hope this helps! Good luck with the thesis. Regards – F

  25. Daniela

    Dear Florian,
    Thank you so much for your detailed answer! I will definitely follow your suggestion! I really appreciate the help you offer within this blog!
    Best regards,

  26. Alex

    Dear Florian,

    I have to say your article is very enlightening. I am required to do genre and register analysis (Tenor, Field, Mode) as part of my MA (Linguistics and Translation). We call this source text (ST) analysis and we are required to carry it out before translating the ST. To be honest with you, I am only doing this analysis as it is an essential part of the end of the year project as translation theories and register analysis are completely useless when it comes to the actual act of translating. This is why I fail to see the point behind engaging in such an activity. However, after reading your article and watching the introduction, I am beginning to understand the idea behind DA. How does register analysis fit in DA? Is it possible to analyse register without doing the whole shebang (DA)?

    You said in your article that ‘Passive phrases and impersonal chains of nouns are a common way to obscure relationships behind the text and shirk responsibility’. How is one supposed to know these analytical clichés? My analysis might lead me to find many passive phrases but I would never be able to make the connection you made. Why is it so difficult to find actual lengthy examples of discourse analysis?

    Many thanks in advance Florian.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Alex,
      I think it makes good sense to consider register when analysing discourse, particularly where speakers (or writers) shift the level of formality they use in order to cater to different audiences. But it would very much depend on the case and the research question. If you are looking only for this particular element in a discourse, I could completely understand if you excluded many (or even all) of the steps I’ve outlined above. You would basically be looking specifically for contractions, elliptical phrases, etc. to draw your conclusions. As always with discourse analysis, I would only use the tools that help you do that, and would exclude the others.
      As for the conclusions that are worth drawing from language use, this is very much a matter of context. For instance, not every passive phrase obscures who the actors are in a sentence, but it isn’t far fetched to conclude that a text that painstakingly omits any reference to agents creates a certain impression of how the issue at hand works. I would always check what a particular linguistic choice achieves in a particular setting. As for good examples of discourse analysis, my personal favorite is the German book I reference above (by Siegfried Jäger), but there are plenty of good examples in English as well. Fairclough’s collection of essays is a classic, and it does include a few practical chapters. You could also check the journals Discourse & Society and Discourse & Communication – as with all academic journals, you’ll get a mixed batch of articles, but some of those analyses might serve as inspiration. The editor Teun van Dijk also has a website that includes additional resources:
      Hope this helps!
      All the best

  27. Saira A. Khan

    Dear Florian,

    Its an amazing article in breaking down the complex process of DA into tangible doable steps. I came across it while trying to figure out how to do a CDA of news interviews televised during prime time on news channels, im recording from public and private channels in the Pakistani context.
    I had set out thinking initially when I developed my PhD proposal, that I would do an analysis of how the presenter/ anchor of the political talk show (I term it a talk show due to the infortainment aspect of these televised political interviews) frames the topic in the initial opening and check the closings to see if he maintained his original idea about the topic or the course of the debate or discussion. later one of the experts from the field suggested I need to see what patterns of control are exhibited in the intervening part as well.

    Now that I’m recording the actual shows I’m confused and want to fine tune my focus, but there is just too much going on that i want to look into and at the proposal stage i made such wide ranging questions that I’m at sea with my analysis.
    where to begin? how to begin? Your suggestions seem so interesting. I was wondering what kind of suggestions you would give somebody who had thought at the proposal level that they had everything down and figures and now find that all aspects need to be re-thought.

    Thanks for your article once again and thanks for any suggestions you might give to me.

    Warm Regards

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Saira,
      I think it is quite normal that a project changes between the early proposal stage and the actual analysis. In fact, that is a good sign: it shows that your analysis of the materials is defying many of the assumptions you and others previously had, and that this now necessitates difficult re-thinking of the topic. Personally, I would always try to start by structuring my materials at a “macro” level, for instance by looking at the different elements that a talk show uses. I would then try to figure out what features are particularly prominent in each element, and I would then build my methodology based on that. So, for instance, if recurring elements of the show are videos that introduce the guests, then I would think about doing shot-by-shot analyses of various such videos. If there are talk rounds in which a host moderates a discussion, I would take a look at how the host frames that discussion, and how he or she intervenes to guide the discourse in certain directions. These are just examples, of course, but maybe they already help a little bit. Again, I don’t think that re-working your research approach in light of the materials is a weakness – if you are open about that process (and, ideally, write a research protocol to keep track of how your choices evolved throughout the project), then it can very much be a strength. It shows that you are doing your job.
      All the best

  28. I needed to thank you for this good read!! I definitely loved every bit of it.
    I have you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…

  29. Rose

    loads of thanks :)

  30. Chloe

    Dear Florian,

    I have been reading the various links on Discourse Analysis that you have put together in your website, and they are awesomely helpful! I am in research of help and guidance because I intend to pursue a PhD on Linguistics, and I plan to focus on sociolinguistics, pariculary DA.

    Right now in my country, the Philippines, there is much excitement, drama, action going on in our politics, with some of our Senators, who previously were showbiz actors, are being jailed and surrendering themselves due to plunder, and all sorts of corruption. I don’t know but I am appalled by all these political happenings in my country for the last few months and the recent years. ( I have been away since May 2012.)

    I plan to use the online posts articles of the ABS-CBN, a major TV network, and the online version of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a top national broadsheet, as a source for my discursive statements, and the “surrender” of Senator Bong Revilla last week as the discursive event. All these lead to the Napoles scam, which I think is an octopus of controversy besetting my beloved country.

    In relation to work, another idea I have in mind is DA as applied to Tourism… Macau, as they say, is the Las Vegas of Asia, and there many interesting things going on here too in terms of tourism. That is the area I might be really see relevance, because in terms of Macau politics, I am not well-versed as I have just settled here during the Chinese New Year. I have an interest on this topic because I teach in a tertiary school offering solely tourism courses.

    I would need your opinion about this and your advice on how to go about my Preliminary Proposal, as this is the requirement for admission to a graduate school I have chosen in Hong Kong (I teach here in Macau).

    Do you think one of these will be interesting topic for a PhD study?

    I hope this is not too much to ask, but your thoughts on my query are highly appreciated.

    Thank you and keep up the good job you are doing! These are immensely valuable!

    Best regards,

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Chloe,

      Both of these topics sound doable, and I’m sure each would make for a good PhD thesis. I could imagine that the Philippine politics topic would be more timely, and you clearly already have thought about the methodology and your sources. It looks to me like this is a project you can easily write up in about 2000 words. The main challenge will be to stay as unbiased as possible. One of the reasons I don’t research German politics, for instance, is that I am not confident I would be able to keep my personal views out of my analysis. On the other hand, who would be more qualified to take apart the recent developments in the Philippines than someone who knows the country intimately but is now studying it from a distance? This could work very well. (…one other thought: have you considered looking into social media discourses on the subject? would be interesting to see how the discourse plays out beyond the official broadsheets and TV channels).
      As for the Macau topic, if you decided to go this way, you could interview officials from the tourism board as well as professionals in the industry to see how they market Macau as a brand. Those interviews, together with promotional materials (videos, web content, etc.), would make for a great set of sources that you could conduct a discourse analysis on.
      Hope this makes sense. Good luck with the project!



  31. Jennybeth


    This is very nice. But is there any way I can ask for an example of this steps? :) Thank you.

    • Florian Schneider

      You’re right, it would be nice to provide more examples. Sadly, I don’t have anything concise available at the moment. I’ll keep my eyes open. For now, my advice would be to look at some of the leading journals in the field and see what inspiration you might get from their articles. Discourse & Society and Discourse & Communication are two of the most famous outlets.

  32. Rohullah


    This is a great article. I don’t study linguistics myself but this was still helpful in getting an understanding of DA.

    My wife is currently struggling with coming up with a topic for her term paper using Critical Discourse Analysis, she wanted to do an analysis on the strife in Palestine but doesn’t know where to start. I will have her read over this article and hopefully it will be helpful for her. My main issue is that I would like to be able to offer her some assistance so I’m doing research on how CDA works.

    If at all possible, could you explain how one should go about analyzing online news articles which cover the war; and possibly where the best sources could be for this material.

    Also any examples of work done by you or others on similar topics would be greatly appreciated.

    I look forward to your response as soon as possible as her paper is due on the 29th of july, its only 12 pages so a couple days of works is all that’s necessary for the write up but the information gathering is where the real problem lies.

    Thanks again

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for your questions! I just saw your wife’s deadline is tomorrow – sorry for the late reply, but I’m abroad on research at the moment and don’t always see the notifications on time. I don’t have any good advice on where to find news articles on Palestine, since I myself am not working on issues in the Middle East, but I would always recommend also looking at the medium itself alongside the actual (often written) discourse. There’s an interesting paper on how to analyse websites that I would normally have recommended (I was thinking of John Knox’s 2009 paper “Punctuating the Home Page: Image as Language in an Online Newspaper”, which appeared in Discourse & Communication 3/2, 145-172), but it’s probably a bit late for that. I hope the paper goes well!

  33. Daniela

    Dear Florian,

    I am struggling with my Master thesis on the discrimination of Romanians in an Italian newspaper. I’ve found a very interesting article, but is mainly an interview, and the interesting discourses to analyze are expressed not by the journalist who asks the questions, but by the head of the police, in direct reported speech. How can I carry out the analysis on an interview if the journalist is not so present? thank a lot!

  34. Esther

    hello Florian, your article was so enriching. I am presently working on my MA dissertation and the topic is A discourse analysis of language use on social media. I actually want to concentrate on facebook, could you tell me on how exactly to go about it. Thanks as i anticipate your favourable response

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Esther,
      Studying Facebook is a difficult subject, since the functioning of social media brings with it all sorts of analytic and ethical questions. For instance, you’ll have to justify which FB pages you’ll be analysing and why. If you use the posts of people you have “friended”, then this raises ethical questions about their consent. If you use FB feeds from official institutions or enterprises, you can side-step that problem, but you’ll still have to justify your choices, of course. Then there’s the question whether you are focusing first and foremost on language use or whether you are willing to take into account the specifics of the medium. For instance, does your analysis look at “likes” and “shares”? Does it take into account what appears on someone’s wall and why? These may seem like trivial issues, but things gets complicated (and often quite technical) very quickly when you ask how the technical features of FB or the various social linkages of users or FB’s largely invisible algorithms end up shaping discussions. I don’t have good answers for how to deal with these issues, but you might want to take a closer look at the research that scholars are currently doing on FB and other social media. Good sources for this are the academic journals New Media & Society as well as Information, Communication & Society.
      I hope this helps! Good luck with the project.

  35. Amuuts

    Thanks for such a practical and helpful guide. But sir, are these linguistic and rhetoric mechanisms all that one needs in doing a Critical Discourse Analysis of texts also (say a religious or political text)? If no, please what are the linguistic and IDEOLOGICAL devices one needs to do a CDA analysis of political interviews in particular, especially using Fairclough’s approach?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Amuuts, thanks for the kind words. As for your question, I wonder whether I understand you correctly: you are asking how to move beyond the linguistic and rhetorical features of texts and explore how they tie in with broader worldviews, right? The reason I ask is because the term “ideology” gets interpreted in vastly different ways. Fairclough is fairly Marxist about his use of the term (so he sees ideology as false knowledge), but other scholars at times use ideology either as a synonym with discourse or to signify a systematic framework of thought, carried by discourse (I would subscribe to that last definition). Either way, exploring the ideologies that communication practices relay is a core part of discourse analysis. So to explore the ideologies that get promoted through a text like a speech, you could isolate all statements on a specific subject, check whether they are part of a system of interlocking assumptions or beliefs, and then see whose interests these assumptions serve. It would also make sense to compare such statements to those in other sources, to see whether a speech perpetuates a particular ideological view (e.g. neo-liberalism or socialism). More generally, I would first recommend taking a look at the scholarship on ideology and to define what you mean by the term (and how you think ideology connects with discourse). Good sources for this are Terry Eagleton’s book ‘Ideology: An Introduction’ and Raymond Geuss’ ‘The Idea of a Critical Theory’, just FYI.

  36. Amuuts

    Thanks for your prompt response sir. But to be more specific, my research has to do with “Ideological Projection in media interviews with selected political party leaders” and I intend using Fairclough’s cda approach as my theoretical framework. My confusion now is that I’m not clear with Fairclough’s analytical tools (the ideological devices in the interviews) like the way van Dijk has listed his in several materials I have consulted. could you please help to itemise Fairclough’s analytical tools or would you advice I change my intended framework?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Amuuts,
      I’m afraid I can’t help you itemize Fairclough’s analytical tools. You would have to get in touch with him. The reason I drew up the steps for this article was that I felt many CDA frameworks were not very explicit on what practical work steps they would recommend to study a text. This, to some extent, also goes for Fairclough, if you ask me. If going over Fairclough’s work does not answer your questions, then it might indeed be better drawing from someone else’s writings, or coming up with your own tools.

  37. Jing

    It is really concise and useful. Thanks a lot!

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