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.

      • danil

        Hi Florian, I’m Danil, from Indonesia, currently working on research related to political discourse. I would really appreciate if you could provide me any information related to political discourse using Vandijk’s apporach’s Sociocognitive. Thanks for your kindness. All the best for u.
        Lookingforwards to hearing from u soon.


        • Florian Schneider

          Hi Danil,
          If I understand you correctly, you are looking for authors who discuss Van Dijk’s work, right? I am not sure whether there is one single article that covers his work in general, but you might be interested in the various papers that have cited him or reviewed specific books of his. Here’s a short selection you might find helpful: There might be others that you can get to via a targeted web search for articles with the tag “Teun Van Dijk”.

          • Danil

            Many thanks indeed Florian, So sorry, It has been very longtime since I’ve never looked over your reply. I’v searched for Van Dijk’s analysis model and got several books. One more thing, I’m and some friends have planned to organize a conference on Critical Discourse, we would really appreciate if you could be one of the key note speakers. We’ll inform you the exact time of the program. Cheers. All the best



          • Florian Schneider

            Thanks Danil, glad I could be of help.

        • Danil

          HelloFlorian, I’v made contact with u several times and found your comments and suggestion were very helpful for me. I would really appreciate if you could help me with definitions and short examples of some terms used in Critical Discourse particularly which are introduced by van Dijk: Context models, mental models, experience models, event models. I got confused with their differences. Looking forward to hearing from u . Many thanks indeed Florian.


          • Florian Schneider

            Hi Danil,
            I’m afraid I’m not familiar with van Dijk’s writings on these concepts. You’ll have to check his work and see what definitions he himself provides. Sorry to not be of more help. Let me know what you find out.

          • Danil

            Thanks any way Florian. You have been so helpful. I’ll try to find out the meanings of these stuff.



      • Joshua

        Hi Florian,
        I am a student of political science at stockholm university in Sweden. I have not had a clear answer from this question “Discuss what material could be included in the study when using discourse analysis (apart from the attached document). Motivate why the material you suggest should be included. I answered this question two years ago but need some clarification.

        • Florian Schneider

          Hi Joshua,
          I’m not sure I can answer your question. This seems like a course assignment, so I assume your instructor had specific things in mind, based on what you’ve been doing in class. It’s hard for me to know what these were. Have you taken a look at my other blog post on setting up a discourse analysis? It includes the kind of questions one should ask while getting ready for such a project. I imagine some of these might connect with what you are expected to write:
          Good luck with the assignment.

  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!

    • nada

      Dear Lauren,
      I am international students in the UK and I also have assignment about discourse analysis
      excuse me can I have a look to your assignment, please

      Best wishes,

  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!

    • hi sir i am a master student from algeria , first thank you for the article it was realy helpful , second, i am working on female stereotypes in proverbs , since i have a collection of proverbs to analyse my teacher adviced me to ask you how to do so;would you please give me some pieces of advice analyse them .

  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:

          • D CHEN

            Hi Florian,

            Sorry for replying late. Thank you so much for providing so many useful resources for my research. I selected English texts as my resources to apply CDA (because I don’t need to translate it).

            Many thanks for your suggestions.

            D Chen

  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!

  38. fariha

    dear,i find ur work fairly impressive and research topic is ‘influence of cartoons on children’a critical discourse analysis from fairclough’s perspective.the main areas of investigation will be power relations,culture,violence,sexuality and other themes other than gender roles..kindly help me with useful tips

  39. Cat Shannon

    Hi, what’s the difference between this and a Critical Discourse Analysis?

    Thanks, it’s been really useful, and thankyou for the advice for using Tagxedo,


  40. Bartek

    Thank you for taking the time to do this and for sharing it publicly. As a distance MA student with no prior knowledge about CDA or guidance on my degree program, this is like discovering gold. It gives me a sense of direction that Fairclough’s texts do not offer, but can certainly be adapted to work around.

  41. Jackie

    Great effort, really informative. I have been reading about DA for monthes. Books, papers, attending courses…etc. I understand the concept and the theoretical debates, but couldn’t find any sufficient guid to explictly declare a step by step approach! Thank you very much.

  42. Prema Nair

    Thanks Florian. You are an angel. God bless!

  43. Marco Caboara

    Hi Florian,
    I am linguist used to analyze Classical Chinese Texts in terms of syntax and phonology, but I am now co-teaching a course on Critical Discourse Analysis at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong and I would like to lead my students in conducting analyses of the media discourse about Occupy Central and related issues (opinions about police violence, disruption of public order etc). Op-eds in the South China Morning Posts are an easy start, but I would be interested to cover cantonese newspapers. My students told me that, for example, now most of the pro-occupy central talk in mainstream chinese-language newspapers (except for the pro-occupy Apple Daily) takes place in the sport sections. Would you have any practical suggestions, beyond the ones you gave in the main section, about features that might be different in analyzing Chinese rather than English texts?
    Many thanks for your very effective summary and best regards

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Marco,

      Great subject. Have you had a chance to look at this post on discourse analysis and foreign languages ( Aside from the more generic things I have tried to collect there, on this topic I would look at the structure of the text and the way papers employ vague phrases to remain ambiguous (the gritty opinions are usually packaged between intros and conclusions full of standardized phrases, and they are rarely concrete – lots of metaphors and analogies, in my experience). You could also let students look at word-groups and their connotations – particularly the nouns, considering how common noun-phrases are in Chinese. Just a few thoughts. Hope this helps – have fun with this topic! Very exciting.



      • Marco Caboara

        Dear Florian,
        many thanks for the suggestions! Yes, I had a look at the post on discourse analysis and foreign languages, I just needed something more specific to get started. If enough students will be motivated to pursue this topic, we might present something at the Hong Kong Linguistics Forum this December, and have more questions in the process- I’ll keep you updated.

  44. Thanks for this! A great how-to guide for students! Well done!


    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks Todd, that’s very kind. :)

  45. Andrew

    thanks for ur teachings,what if am doing a reseach on newspaper’s language?

  46. baz

    Hi, can anyone help me or advise me how to answer this question please? is compute based analysis of texts and discourse a help or a hindrance? I very appreciate your time and effort. Thanks

    • Florian Schneider

      I don’t think any methods is ever really a “hindrance”, but whether something is useful or not depends on what questions you want to answer. For qualitative issues, like the rhetorical strategies in a particular speech or publication, you probably won’t need computational approaches. But when you are examining large amounts of texts, and when you want to see how words or word categories play out quantitatively, computational methods can be a big help. I would always suggest considering a mix of methods that fits your project, for instance using computational corpus analysis to get a bird’s-eye view of your sources and then deploying qualitative methods to explore detailed examples.

  47. Feny Anggeria

    can somebody tell me how can discourse analysis and sociolinguistics work together towards language power?

  48. Radha Bathran

    Hi Florian
    It is a great work by you, i regret i found it only now. i am working on CDA and violence against women. your post is very useful
    Thank you

    • Florian Schneider

      Glad to hear it, thanks Radha.

  49. Dalia hammoud

    Thnx for a very enlightening explanation. I’m thinking of analysing newspapers headlines in relation to a specific event to examine the ideology of the newspapers. I understood that CDA is in a way a must for that topic. Now I have 3 theories that I can’t make up my mind which is better: Fairclough, van Dijk and richardson. Can u advise me which one would be the best? I appreciate ur help.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Dalia, thanks for the question. Do you think the three theories would have to be mutually exclusive? If you had to pick one author, I’d probably say focus on Richardson, considering your focus on newspapers. That said, Fairclough’s Marxist take, van Dijk’s strong empirical work, and Richardson’s concern about news media could potentially be connected. I would definitely mention all three in your write-up of the project, to be honest.

  50. Kwabena Owusu-Ampratwum

    this will be so helpful with my course work and dissertation topic. I would need some advice on how to code my dissertation, I want to analyse UK and US newspaper to find out if their reports on Ebola in Africa were factual or was geared towards scaremongering. I would be grateful if you could contact me my email so I share with you the details and get your opinion on my work. Thank you

  51. Tatiana

    Beste heer,

    Hartelijk bedankt voor uw artikel, ik had nooit beter kunnen vinden wat discoursanalyse betreft! U redt a.h.w een studente in nood.

    Laat ik me even voorstellen: ik ben studente aan de Vrije Universiteit Brussel, departement Toegepaste Taalkunde. Dit academiejaar schrijf ik mijn bachelorproef over de openbare toespraken van Benito Mussolini. Ik beperk me tot vier toespraken, omdat ik daarvan ook en vertaling maak. Het is dan uiteraard de bedoeling dat ik hiervan ook en grondige analyse maak, die ik zonder dit artikel waarschijnlijk nooit tot een goed einde zou kunnen brengen.

    Vriendelijke groeten,

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Tatiana,
      Briefly in English: thanks for your comment. I’m very glad that these materials helped you. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the BA thesis works out well! Sounds like a great topic.
      All the best

  52. Alelign A.

    Hi Dear Folrian,
    I would wonder if the feasibility-non-feasibility discourses of Eclectic CDA theories (frameworks/models)-blended from Fairclough, Chilton, Wodak, van Dijk, van Leeuwen, Foucault, etc. are applicable. I mean, is it applicable to use blended CDA in analysing hegemonic contestations and balance-equipoise for history texts?
    Alelign A.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Alelign,
      If I understand you correctly, you are wondering whether it’s alright to mix different approaches to discourse analysis in order to figure out how domination and resistance work in history texts, right? If that’s the case, then I don’t see why not. I’m very much in favor of being eclectic. After all, what matters is the questions you have. Which specific approaches to draw from to get your answers should then always follow from those questions. Also, there is a lot that the authors you mention have in common, which means you have a rich set of sources to draw from if you want to get a handle on your topic.
      Best – Florian

  53. lamia

    Could you explain form me more about MEDIUM ? please.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Lamia,
      I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking how to figure out whether a discourse is affected by the type of medium it is communicated in? When I use the word medium above, what I mean is the “container” or “conduit” through which a message gets communicated. Your television is a medium, as is a newspaper. One important question to keep in mind is how the things that are being communicated might rely on the specifics of the medium. If I broadcast a message on TV, I can use very different communication strategies than if I write the same message down. I’ll be able to combine sound, images, and spoken words, for example. If I use the medium of the newspaper, I can use different scripts, different headers, and the layout of the page to add meaning to the written word. So an important work step is to ask: how does a specific text use the affordances of its medium to get a point across? That’s what I have in mind above when I mention McLuhan. If you are interested in such debates about how the medium matters to the message (or how the medium might even be more important than the message), you might want to check out McLuhan’s work. I can also recommend Noel Carroll’s book “The Philosophy of Mass Art” or Friedrich Kittler’s “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” (the latter is not easy to ready, though).
      I hope this answers your question.

  54. Desmond Ekeh

    Dear Florian,
    Thank you so much for this material. It is very helpful. My background is not much of language but I plan to use Discourse to analyse my research work which is about the rhetoric of ‘Transformation Agenda’ used by my country’s party in government. The party uses it as a political programme for developing the country. Just like Obama would say ‘Change’ for instance. Just trying to figure out how my research question will sound like.


    • Florian Schneider

      Hey Desmond,
      This sounds like a good starting point. In fact, the idea of change could potentially become the basis for your coding strategy: you could try to isolate the various statements that the government makes regarding change, and you could then examine in detail how the speakers/writers conceptualize “transformation”. I suspect it might be interesting to then ask how such a concept relates to views of “modernity”, particularly to ideas of “progress”, but you’ll of course have to decide what makes sense, based on your sources. All the best of success with this exciting project!

  55. dear sir, firstly I thank you so much for this fine material for students like us. secondly, i want to inquire about CDA on web newa. i want to do MA thesis on BBC website news articles about the particular case of War on terror, Women rights and politics in Pakistan. how many topics should I choose among the three?how many articles should I work? and how should i apply CDA on the selected news articles and their headlines?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi David,
      This is a pretty big question. I’m not sure I can answer all of it, and I would definitely recommend you talk to your supervisor about what he or she thinks is sufficient for your specific degree requirements. I think that analyzing BBC web news would make for a good study, provided you are able to justify why you are picking the BBC (as apposed to any other major news service). Your study will, effectively, be a study of BBC reporting – which is interesting, but which won’t allow you to generalize too much (e.g. what UK news is generally like, or even what all English-language news on these subjects are like). As long as this is clear, you could potentially have a strong case here. I would, however, limit an MA thesis to one topic. Three different issues seems like a lot, and such an approach would probably be more appropriate for a PhD. I would narrow down what you are looking at and pick only one theme. I would also decide on a time frame, so that you are not swamped with articles. If you had to look at all BBC news articles on the “War on Terror”, for example, I imagine you would only be able to get a grip of the sources using quantitative methods like corpus analysis. Depending on what you want to look at, less could very well be more. At any rate, examining the headlines is surely a good start, but I would also look at the structure of the various texts, as well as detailed statements that get made on specific (sub)topics. Also, it might be good to check what images accompany the texts. Just a thought.
      I hope these comments are useful, even if they are admittedly rather cursory. Do make sure to check with your supervisor to clarify what makes sense for your specific project.

  56. Long

    Dear Florian,
    It is very lucky to meet you and your website when I considering to start the discourse analysis assignment. I am a Chinese student who is currently studying in UK, to be honest, I have studied and reviewed all kinds of article concerning the CDA for several days, but until now, I am still have no idea what is discourse analysis and the purpose of the analysis. I was trying to follow the steps you summaried for beginer, but I just could not decided what should I write and what contents should be included in my article. I do not know whether it is because Chinese and western mindset are different. Moreover, often I found myself could not follow and understand what the author trying to say in the English artile (even 8.0 in reading in my IELTS test). I guess it is the main reason for spending several days in reading but no determination yet.
    My assignment requires 3500 words, I do not worry too much if I get started, but I just do not know how to start. I guess it would be much helpful if I could read some short examples of this kinds of article.
    Forgive me if my wrtting cofused you, i hope you could understand my meaning. Writting in English and English thinking is really a headache for me…….Help me. Thank you.
    Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!


    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Long,
      I sympathize with how difficult it is to get a hang of discourse analysis. It’s already hard for native speakers, but having to do all this in a foreign language is a daunting task. I don’t have a lot of good advice, other than to check what analysts have done in your own language. I can recommend the colleagues at Zhejiang University. Shi Xu, for example, has been doing some great work there, and some of the analyses he and his colleagues have published are in Chinese. Take a look at his website: I hope you’ll find what you are looking for there. In addition, you could also look at some of the journals in the CNKI database. There should be quite a lot on 话语研究. Also, on the more general side, Oxford University Press’ “Foucault – A Very Short Introduction” has been translated into Chinese. Might be worth checking out, if only to get a grasp of the basic premises. I hope this helps!
      All the best

      • Long

        Dear Florian, thank you very much for all the help. I will read more articles to further deepen my understanding on discourse analysis. At the moment, I am thinking to analyze a recent XI Jinping’s speech during a national event, by using the rhetoric theory and analyze the use of ethos(do not clear about yet), pathos (use of certain “we” “Chinese people” pronouns, and words that emboies the aspiration and sympathy) and logos (argumentaiton, claims and historical data) in that speech. Is it a discourse analysis? One of the marking criteria is we should have clear theory framework and methodology, can I say the Aristotle’s rhetoric theory is my framework? I was get the idea from another english article who analyzed Obama and G. Bush’s speech, and i believe it will be safe for me to follow their method to analyze my own data. I will not copy the words, but the idea and the way of their analysis. I am not sure whether this is a cheating/plagiarism. Your help would be highly appreciated if you could give me any comments on my this tentative thoughts. thank you.

        • nada

          Dear Long,

          I am also international student in the UK and I also have a discourse analysis assignment. I am really struggling with writing this essay
          please if you have found any good articles or advice help me please

          Best wishes,

        • Florian Schneider

          Hi Long,
          A bit of a late reply, but I hope it’s still useful: what you describe sounds very doable, though you should probably justify why you think Aristotle’s rhetoric theory applies to a cultural context that has a different tradition of political communication (it should be possible to make your case, for instance if you can argue that a particular model of rhetoric has become ubiquitous as an outcome of globalization, or if you want to make the case that what Aristotle described somehow tapped into the universality of certain human communication patterns). As for using someone else’s methods, that is perfectly alright, but you need to point this out and reference the work. Once you do that (and as long as you mark all original text as proper quotes) you are in no danger of plagiarizing. As for your other comment on translation, you should of course provide your readers with translated fragments of the speech, particularly of the parts that you use to make your case, but it is important to analyse the original phrasing. Once you translate, the text becomes your work, not that of Xi Jinping.
          Hope this helps.

          • Long

            Hi Florian, almost finished my assignment on CDA, just come to say thank you! All the best!

  57. Long

    By the way, it seems there is no official English translation for this speech yet. Is it OK if I translate by myself and then analyze the English version?

  58. Marx

    Hello Florian,
    Thank you very much for this fruitful articles. I am now working on Micheal Foucault Archaeology of Knowledge, especially focus on theory of statements. I do want to ask you a question and learn your opinions. How do you think Foucault theory/concept of statements contribute to political discourse analysis. In what respect do you believe that it is useful in political discourse analysis. That would be very nice if you can shortly share your opinions with key points. Thank you in advance.

    • Florian Schneider

      Sorry for only replying this late, but you’ve raised a very big question, and I had to re-read some of the Archaeology of Knowledge to see if I can answer it. I’ll try to do so briefly (at the risk of massive oversimplification – the “Archaeology” is, after all, quite a dense work). If I understand Foucault correctly, in its most simple definition, a “statement” is anything that someone says or writes, or as he puts it: “the atom of discourse” (so in a sense: what I’ve called “discourse fragment” above). More specifically, it is a preposition, composed of signs, that allows a subject to establish a position in a broader social context. And this focus on context is where Foucault’s view is interesting: a “statement” is always intertextual. It emerges from and relates to other statements. This interpretation, at least in my understanding, is also the argument that informs the idea of statements in CDA or in political discourse analysis (though Chilton adds a cognitive science angle that is not explicit in Foucault’s work). So, to be honest, I don’t see any contradiction between Foucault’s arguments and the premises of political discourse analysis. Did this answer your question? I should also point out that while the “Archaeology of Knowledge” is strongly about intertextuality, it is only in his later work that Foucault explicitly discusses intersubjectivity. In “Archaeology”, he is still flirting quite a bit with structuralism. Only later does his focus shift from 1) how subjects use the resources of discourse to make statements to 2) how statements also shape subjects. If you are interested in this shift, I can recommend the book by Dreyfus & Rabinow that I’ve referenced in this post:
      Let me know how your work on the “Archaeology of Knowledge” turns out.
      All the best

      • Marx

        Hello Florian,
        First of all, thank you very much to spending time in answering my question. I really appreciate your effort. I have completed my article, and the answer to this question is that yes !! AK can be useful in analysis of political discourse, but !! it should never be taken as a free-standing approach. Therefore, it should be translated into an appropriate form to provide a theoretical and methodological tools.
        As he stated:
        “All my books . . . are little tool boxes . . . if people want to open them, to use this sentence or that idea as a screwdriver or spanner to short-circuit, discredit or smash systems of power, including eventually those from which my books have emerged . . . so much the better”(Cited in Mills, 1997, p.17).
        Therefore, Foucaultian discourse analysis is not a theoretically informed “attitude” or just another “perspective” in the area of qualitative social research (Diaz-Bone et al, 2007, p.28). Hence, Foucault’s archaeological tools all together constituted a new arsenal for the social scientist who can use these in line with research needs and objectives. Besides giving us a critical line, his project also make new proposals (MacDonnell, 1986, p.83). Therefore, despite some theoretical limitations, a closer look at his work, can lead to the formulation of first steps towards a productive approach of examining political discourses.

        Therefore, the AK with its theory of statements and its contribution is perhaps less to be evaluated in terms of the answers that they offer but rather their potential to be a productive and rich `tool box` to find answers in political discourse. Accordingly, one of the important consequences of Foucault’s archaeology of discourse is to put forward a means of analyzing political discourse (Howarth, 2000, p.55, my emphasis). However, to understand this contribution, as you also mentioned, it is important to trace his shift from archaeology to genealogy to assess the effectiveness of this methodology in analyzing the political discourse. For example, the notion of Problematization, as Wolf postulates, in particular, maintains important insights from archaeology for the analysis of political discourse and formations (Wolf,2013,p.39). Therefore, the aim of his archaeology of ‘political knowledge’ is ‘to show whether the political behavior of a society, a group, or a class is not shot through with particular, describable discursive practice (Foucault, 1972, p.194, cited in Howarth, 2000, p.60). This according to Howarth, this necessitates exploring the way in which the objects, enunciative modalities, concepts, strategies of “political activity” are discursively constructed, and then articulated with specific forms of political ‘behaviour, conflicts, decisions, and tactics) (2000,p.60). Therefore, although AK itself is not enough to analyze the political discourse, when it is combined with other tools it does provide a good way of analyzing political discourses.

        • Mills, S ( Michel Foucault. Routledge, London, UK and New York, NY, 2003.
        • Diaz-Bone, R., Bührmann, A.,D.; Gutiérrez R., E.; Schneider, W.; Kendall, G. and Tirado, F. (2007). The Field of Foucaultian Discourse Analysis: Structures, Developments and Perspectives [52 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 8(2), Art. 30,
        • Howarth D. (2000) `Discourse`, Buckingham: Open University Press
        • Howarth D. (2002) ‘An Archaeology of Political Discourse? Michel Foucault and the Critique of Ideology’, Political Studies, (2002), Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 117-35.
        • Macdonell, D. (1986) Theories of Discourse, Blackwell, Oxford.
        • Dreyfus, H., and Rabinow, P. (1983). Michel Foucault : beyond structuralism and hermeneutics with an afterword by and an interview with Michel Foucault
        (2nd edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press

        • Florian Schneider

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and the resources you’ve been working with. I think we have a very similar view on how Foucault “plugs into” recent approaches to discourse analysis (…the “toolbox” idea probably gave me away…). Glad to see AK was a rewarding study for you. It really is a very rich and thought-provoking piece of literature.

          • Marx

            Thank you Florian, your blog is really very helpful.
            Best wishes.

          • Marx

            Hello Florian, hope you are OK. I was going to ask you a specific question regarding to discourse analysis. I was planing to study a specific ethnic conflict in a particular country by the help of official documents. And my theoretical framework was Foucault’s Archaeology. Basically, I was going to determine the rules of formation of discourses of this specific ethnic conflict and try to show how it has been problematized over the years. However, when I reviewed the literature, I realized that there is too much emphasize on official documents and official discourses. Then I asked myself, social media is full of unofficial discourses in which similar elements of the conflict have been articulated in different ways. After thinking for a while, I thought there might be several methodological difficulties in studying this conflict with the help of discourse analysis and using social media data. What is your opinion? and could you please help/direct me in finding some useful studies in which this way has been conducted? do you think is it feasible? can internal and external validity be achieved ?

          • Florian Schneider

            Hi Marx. I see what you mean, regarding the bias towards “official” sources, and I sympathize with any attempt to bring in other “layers” of discourse. Social media is indeed a very promising avenue, but as you say exploring such online discourses poses certain methodological challenges. The first problem is that if you are looking at discussions in networks like Facebook, then you would need access and consent to study people’s posts – they are, after all, not necessarily public (there is a great paper on the ethical problems of this sort of research that I can recommend: A way around this is to only examine Facebook data on the walls of organizations, e.g. companies, government departments, or NGOs, but you may still have to address questions about anonymity. Another alternative is to look at data in networks that are public, like for instance Twitter. In either case, though, the next problem then is how to collect that data and what to do with it. There are now more and more software solutions for “crawling” web data like this, but I haven’t yet found a tool that really does what I need it to do. Many researchers who do this sort of work have coding skills, so they write their own crawlers. A really good book on this sort of research is Richard Rogers’ “Digital Methods”, just FYI (there’s also great ideas in there on how to “map” social networks – with issues like this, the “relational” data is often just as interesting as the “content”). Finally, when it comes to then analysing content data once you have it, you’ll probably have to do some quantitative sorting before you can get into a qualitative analysis. I use NVivo for this, or Word Smith ( As for studies that examine social media data, I can recommend looking through the past few issues of journals like “New Media & Society” ( or “Information, Communication, and Society” ( These are the kind of academic venues where scholars try to come to grips with questions like these. Hope this helps!

  59. Tiffany

    I. LOVE. YOU!

    That is all. 😀

  60. Hi, I am working on**The role of singing competitions in the (re)production of views about gender: the case of the Voice and I use discourse analysis as a tool but I am really so confused and I didn’t know how to start and what are the things that I should focus on to do my analysis. Please I am looking for your help Florian

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Asmaa, it sounds like your project is less about the kind of linguistic strategies that discourse analyses often examine and more about performance and visual communication. Since you are looking at a televised, staged “event”, I would recommend taking a cue from the sort of work that researchers have done on talk shows, media events, and the like (Katz and Dayan come to mind). In terms of the analysis, I would examine how these programmes are structured, and how aspects like mise-en-scene, camera action, and in particular the role of the moderators and judges shape the way gender is represented. If you need a quick introduction to visual analysis, I have written another blog post on that sort of approach: Also, take a look at what has been published on singing and talent competitions – I suspect that X-Factor, China’s Supergirl, and other similar shows have received quite a bit of scholarly attention. Best – F

  61. sumaira

    Hi florian
    I want to appreciate as you are responding to everyone and showing concern really I luv it so im also daring to ask my thesis work has started, my interest to go for news analysis obout any burning issue but problem that I m facing is related to theory , whose theory I have to take for such analysis,
    loking for ur help

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sumaira,
      When it comes to news analysis, I normally advise students to look at two theoretical concepts: agenda setting and framing. Agenda setting is about how media outlets generally shape what is considered relevant at any particular point in time, through their choices of what to report on (e.g. what to place on the front pages or what to cover in the main evening news on TV). Framing is more closely related to discourse analysis: it’s about how particular communication choices shape the discussion on a topic and guide it along specific lines. For instance, when news media talk about the “war on terror”, then the topic is placed into a framework of military analogies, which lead to very different arguments and conclusions than a frame that evokes problems of economic development, for instance. If you find these kind of distinctions useful, I’d recommend looking into the framing literature to give your discourse analysis a theoretical background that connects to news. Important authors in that field are Robert Entman, Paul D’Angelo, and Jim Kuypers. Does this make sense?
      Best – F

      • sumaira

        what wuld u suggest if my work is about tussle among political leaders on one particular issue and how different news papers portray that.what about fair clough 3D model in this regard……

  62. graceee

    i am indeed happy to find this write up. i know it will be useful to me in my progect work but still confused on what to do abt my topic ” a discourse analysis on journalese: a case of waiting for an angel” by helon habila. pls wat can u say about it. thnks

    • Florian Schneider

      I’m afraid I haven’t read the novel, so I’m probably of very little help here. If I understand your assignment correctly, it asks about how journalism is presented in the novel, right? or does it mean: how does the novel itself make use of journalistic tropes? Depending on what exactly the question is, you would be looking at different things. In the first case, I would go through the book and I would mark all instances in which the author discusses journalism, and specifically the way that journalists write. I would then examine the language carefully to see what position the author presents: what is presented as valuable? what is presented negatively? how do these presentations tie into the overall political thrust of the novel? In the second case, I would examine core passages of the normal and I would analyse how the language that the author uses works. Without having read the book, however, I’d be hard pressed to give any advice on what that analysis would look like. It might be good discussing this further with your supervisor.

  63. Bwalya Chipuma

    kindly help me understand this quote,’ what is crucial within the framework of critical discourse analysis is the realization that the positioning of discourse elements is not a value-free process. Analyzing this process can help us better understand the relationship between the society in which texts are created and in many ways create the society.’ what does ‘not value-free process.’ mean?

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for sharing this quote, though without more information on who wrote it and in what context I can’t promise that I’m understanding this the way it was intended. I would assume the author is trying to point out that communication is never unbiased and objective. Each and every statement we make always caries with it certain assumptions and reflects certain values. Doing a discourse analysis is therefore also an analysis of what those values are, and from what position a statement is being made.

  64. Agoritsa Tsakoumi

    I would like to study discourse and disability. My aim is to examine how the disabled are represented in the media. Could you give me some advice?

    • Florian Schneider

      Have you looked at the work that my colleague Sarah Dauncey has been doing? She’s worked on disability discourses in China. Even if your own work isn’t on China specifically, you might find her articles to be a good entry-point into discussions about disability, identity, and representation:

      • Agoritsa Tsakoumi

        Thank you very much. I’ll contact with her

  65. Ghazala

    Hi, I find this article very useful n got inspired how you guide the researchers. I want to seek guidance about how to do critical discourse anlysis of beauty ads with respect to feminism. My question is that beauty is always represented by women, then what would be my the stand point for my work. I am confused about on which aspect should I focus. kindly recommend me key theorist for such research. Looking for your advice.

    • Florian Schneider

      I think examining gender in advertising is always a good project – loads to explore! I suspect, though, that much like Asmaa above (see my comment) you’ll find it more rewarding to analyse the visuals than the text. The two of course go together, but particularly since you are interested in beauty ads, I would suggest a visual analysis of such adds. I would probably compile the various symbols and visual tropes you come across (including body language of the models, colour schemes, camera angles) and would try to figure out how these elements connect with the written words (e.g. advertising slogans). What ideals of femininity do different campaigns draw from? What feelings and ideas are they trying to sell? What psychological mechanisms do they deploy to draw potential customers in? You’ll have to of course explain why you picked certain brands and campaigns, but if you are able to link that sort of analysis to the work that has already been done on advertising and gender, you should have an intriguing project.

      • Ghzala

        Hi Florian, I ve read your article on visual communication. It had cleared up my concepts about moving visuals. Can you help me which visual theory will work more appropriately? Kress n Van Leeuwen`s visual grammar will be good to analyse the representation of women in TV beauty ads.Kindly do guide me with your valuable advice.
        looking for your guidance.

        • Florian Schneider

          Hi Ghzala,
          Kress & Van Leeuwen are definitely a good way to get at both the “semantics” and the “lexicon” of visual communication. In fact, I use the same metaphor of visual “grammar” in my own teaching, though always with the note that visual materials are not necessarily the same as text. With that in mind: by all means, take a look at more of the two authors’ writings on semiotics. I can also recommend an edited volume by Van Leeuwen that presents a number of very good, short introductions to different visual analysis approaches. I suspect you’d also find good material for your own studies there. It’s called “The Handbook of Visual Analysis”:

  66. Hey Florian, I hope you are doing well. Thank you so much for your help

  67. Thanks for posting this. Clears up a lot of stuff. I’m trying to shove this topic into my brain so I can do something else. I really only need to know a little of what you’ve described here — in wonderfully clear terms. But coming into this area of research… I didn’t even know what to search for. The last three days I’ve gone from Concept to Grammar Tagging to ontologies linguistics semantics sentiment classification, Sentiment analysis, Polarity Shifting, and finally found Discourse analysis — which brings me here. *head hurts* .. so.. I’m really glad you decided to post this. :-)

    • Florian Schneider

      Sounds like quite the journey. Thanks for the kind words.

  68. Hello Florian and again thank you for this great guide. I am right now in the process of starting a project and would like to ask for your advice.

    I am thinking of analysing the discourse of the Munich Security Conference 2015, taking place right now and hosting basically all big actors in Europe and the US. I have an idea of comparing the High Representative’s discourse to that of the Foreign ministers’ of France, Britain and Germany, to find common ground and differences on Russia and the Ukraine crisis.

    An alternative would be to analyse one actor’s discourse over time on Russia. I am looking for the most basic of these two since time is scarce, so briefly put; which is the easiest discourse analysis to conduct, one analysing discours over time or, a comparison of discourse at a certain time of different actors?

    Also, if you have any further (reading) tips on comparative discourse analysis or my specific issue, I am more than all ears.

    Thanks in advance, and again big cheers for this amazing site.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hey! Thanks for the question. I think both projects are doable, but I would probably find the comparison between different actors at one point in time more intriguing, and I suspect this would also be more manageable. If anything, I’d pick statements that appeared before and after the conference, but I would keep the time-frame relatively tight (e.g. one month overall, if that makes sense empirically). A long-term analysis of one actor is a bit more challenging, since you need to contextualize the sources based on what was happening at different times (for the Munich Security Conference topic, you only need to do this once). Also, you’d have to explain why you picked the time-frame you chose, and what makes a good longitudinal analysis (10 years? 20 years? 100?) I normally tell students to only do a historical analysis if they have a lot of time on their hands, and ideally only once they reach the level of PhD – after all, this is the sort of thing that Foucault looked at, and his books are not exactly short treatments of the subject…
      Hope this helps!

      • Hi again and thank you for your response, hope you get the website issue figured out. I just have a quick question regarding your advice to analyse the discourses before and after the security conference – I was more thinking to analyse the discourse during the three days (the audiovisual documentation is extensive). Do you think this would be possible and meaningful?

        More specifically I am planning to analyse the construction of ‘the other’, that being Russia, during the conference. Framework concerning the construction of ‘the other’ given by Lene Hansen in “Security as practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War” – Just in case you’ve heard of it.

        Thanks again!

        • Florian Schneider

          Ah yes, that makes a lot of sense. This way you’ll have a classic ‘synchronous’ analysis – three days should work well (and wouldn’t really qualify as an analysis ‘over time’ anyways, unless you suddenly spot a particularly noteworthy ‘shift’ in the discourse you think you can map). I haven’t read Hansen’s article, but it sounds like that would indeed make a good backdrop for what you have in mind.

  69. Gemechisa

    Hi Florian,
    thanks for this posting! From Ethiopia,now I will’ve planned to work my BA on discourse analysis of L.King’s speech text”I have seen the promised land”. Is it good title for BA? If it is good how to I can write references?
    Thank you!

    • Florian Schneider

      This sounds like a very nice topic. You could simply look at the rhetorical strategies in the text (and arguably you wouldn’t need to call that a discourse analysis – a lot of political speeches have been analyzed that way), or you could place additional emphasis on intertextuality (who and what gets referenced or implied) and on the social context. The latter approach would make for a good discourse analysis, I would think. As for your question, do you mean what literature you should reference? Or do you mean how you should reference the speech throughout your thesis? If it’s the former, you could use any of the sources I’ve reference above as your starting point, plus the journals I’ve mentioned in the comment section – the back issues might include contributions that deal with speeches. I also tell my students to look at this book on the “Lost Art of the Great Speech” ( It’s not technically about how to analyze speeches, but it includes a lot of information you might nonetheless find useful. If your question is more about how to use the source material, I would take a digital copy of the speech and I would create different versions for my analysis, for example one in which I mark the different structural sections in different colours; one in which I mark up all the metaphors; etc. I would place these materials in an appendix, and I would copy particularly illustrative examples from the speech into the main text of the thesis, to underscore my argument. Is that roughly what you were wondering about?

      • Gemechisa

        Thank you very much! I’m happy for your advice & encourage.I apprieciate you,for you got my exact question. Now I understood all of what you adviced me & I’m on way to do my theses.
        Thanks once again!!!

        • Florian Schneider

          You’re more than welcome. Good luck!

  70. patrick


    am writing the CDA of Media Awards using the Van Dijk model but i need clear interpretation of the model. please interpret for me so that i know what information is needed.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Patrick, I’m not sure I can help you with this one. Interpreting a theoretical framework like van Dijk’s and applying it to your own research is part of the research process, so I can’t do this for you. It’s crucial that you figure this out yourself. What I would advise is to check what kind of questions van Dijk asks in his own analyses, and to then see if any of these questions apply to the kind of study you wish to do. You can then critically check whether the way in which van Dijk answers his questions make sense or not for your case. In that way you can also provide a critical assessment of van Dijk’s work and contribute an informed opinion of your own to the discussion.

  71. Paola Cardozo

    Hi there! I’ve read your article and it really did clarify lots of doubts I’ve had about what discourse analysis is and what not. However, i’ve got a question. I’m working on my thesis and my topic is “Discourse analysis of how media portrays Islam as a religion” and I’ll take into consideration mayor news sources like Fox News (which would be at a regional level of audience) CCN (international) and BBC News (which is taken more seriously in comparison to the other two). Anyways, I’m planning on analyzing articles and interviews, now, the question is: how can I analyze both of them without making this such an exhausting and extremely broad work? I’d truly appreciate an advice, my tutor is not helping much, sadly.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Paola, this is a good question. I responded to a similar problem above, in David’s post (see my response from 17 December). In short, you’ll probably have to narrow down your focus by picking a particular time frame. A specific event might provide a good catalyst for studying such discourses: that way you would be able to compare directly what the three news outlets reported on the topic during a short period of time (e.g. a week or two). I would then probably look at the broader discursive strategies that each outlet deploys – a full linguistic analysis of the data seems a bit much. If you need to conduct a more detailed analysis, you would have to select specific representative texts. You could do so by first conducting a quantitative analysis of your materials (e.g. what does word distribution tell you about the sources?) and then select particularly interesting texts for closer examination based on these initial findings. Another good way to select specific articles would be to first sort and categorize your sources, for instance based on the headlines. You could then pick the ones that are most readily comparable or that focus most directly on the theme you plan to study. Does this make sense? Overall, I would advise you to be careful not to pick too much material. I normally tell students to only compare different sources if they have a good strategy in place for limiting the amount of data. Without such a strategy, it might be easier to focus on one outlet only (e.g. the FOX discourse).

  72. Max

    Hi Florian! As others, I think your articles are great! I would value your opinion on my thesis idea. I would like to write on how the late 19th century American Populist discourse on class, race and gender changed in relation to contemporary historical events (such as elections and economic depressions) by using CDA. Thank you very much!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Max,
      This sounds like a great topic. What kind of thesis are we talking about? If this is a PhD project, it might be feasible. Anything smaller, like an MA, and I would advise you to narrow it down much more. Either way, you’d be looking at a lot of materials, not to mention three different themes/variables, so be careful that you don’t end up doing too much. I do like the idea of using historical events to see how they functioned as catalysts for these discourses. By the way, you may want to check a book by my colleague Peter Hays Gries, which deals with popular opinion in America – it is specifically about contemporary foreign policy, and it does not provide a discourse analysis as such, but he uses historical events as well to contextualize where certain views and arguments come from. Might be useful inspiration for your project. Here’s the link:
      Let me know how the project evolves!

  73. Linda

    Dear Florian, your article really sets a great framework for discourse analysis. Thank you!

    I am a PhD student (1st year) in media and my project is about China’s soft power projection (the responsible economic stakeholder thesis) in its transnational media institutions during China’s media going-out period (2009-current). I am thinking to use two international programs hosted by China as my sampling background, the 2010 Shanghai Expo and the 2014 Beijing APEC, since they involve a series of economic events between China and foreign countries, and they can also help me to examine the evolution of media going-out strategy and China’s soft power projection. I would like to seek your advice if discourse analysis is a suitable method for my research because I now cannot decide to use discourse analysis or agenda-building theory, since they both seem to be closely related to my research. I am sincerely looking forward to hearing from you!

    Best wishes!

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Linda,
      This is an exciting topic. “Responsible stakeholder”… I assume you’re also looking into the English School of International Relations? I can see parallels to discussions of China as a norm-challenger or norm-entrepreneur in international society. Definitely a controversial issue. Methodologically, I would think that discourse analysis would serve you well here. I always thought of “agenda-setting” as something that’s connected to discourse, rather than as something that stands apart. Setting the agenda is, after all, about setting the parameters for discourse: which topics people talk about in a particular setting or context (e.g. mass media reporting on an event). So I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive. What I would recommend for two events like this is to also draw from visual communication analysis and from work that examines exhibitions and events. Specifically on the Expo, you might find my own articles interesting (the list of references will give you a good take on who has written on the topic and in what ways). The first article is in an edited volume: “Discourse, Politics and Media in Contemporary China” (edited by Qing Cao, Hailong Tian and Paul Chilton; John Benjamins Publishing, 2014). My chapter is called “It’s a Small World after all? Simulating the future world order at the Shanghai Expo” (pp.97-120). The follow-up article is called: “The Futurities and Utopias of the Shanghai World Exposition” and is available as an Asiascape Ops paper: I’ve also written a post on this website that goes with those articles: I hope these resources are interesting for your project. Let me know how what you find out in your research!

  74. imene farida

    Hi Florian.I am Imene from Algeria. Your articles are great! It will be a pleasure for me to see your opinion on my topic of research .I would like to discover how are women portrayed in Algerian rai songs by male singers.As a research tool I designed a questionnaire searching for the most common songs listened to by people in Algeria and how women are depicted by male singers .I ll analyse the words or expressions singers use to refer to the concept woman. But the problem I m facing is that I do not know how to do that.
    I wish you can help me with your opinion.Thank you !

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Imene,
      Your topic sounds very intriguing. It seems to me that you should get in touch with your supervisor to decide on the exact procedures you’ll use in your study. What I would advise is to first explore the production background of these songs (who are the singers and writers, what kind of economic and social constraints do they work under, etc.) and to then subject the representative lyrics you’ve chosen to a detailed analysis. I suspect that work-steps 4, 7, and 8 above might be particularly helpful in this regard: try to identify recurring themes, then collect all statements on each theme and examine how the language works in each instance to make statements on gender. If you relate what you find back to the production background, and of course to the literature on Algerian music and on gender more generally, then you should have a very exciting study indeed.

  75. Alaa

    Dear Florian ,
    Thanks for the very simple yet helpful tutorial.
    I am writing my graduation project about Carl Schmitt.I read about Schmitt and weimar Germany and I read Schmitt’s legality and legitimacy I was amazed by how some scholars identify Schmitt as a thinker with a Nazi orientation ( the crown jurist of the third reich) while others seem to be more apologetic about his thought and life. One scholar even called Schmitt the Medusa of political philosophy because he sparked so much controversy amongst scholars so i thought I should compare his notion of legitimacy to the one proposed in the Nazi political philosophy. I think this would be very important in order to position Schmitt’s thought during the weimar republic and understand the affinities it has to the Nazi political philosophy. I am thinking of relying primarily on Schmitt’s Legality and Legitimacy and a secondary source about Nazi political philosophy. Do you think that Discourse analysis is the right approach to use for my question? my main hypothesis is that schmitt’s concept of legitimacy was practically the same concept introduced by Nazi jurists.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Alaa,
      It sounds like your project indeed has some proximity to discourse analysis, though you could also call what you have planned a study in history of ideas. The two are arguably related. First and foremost, you’d be looking at how a particular idea or ideological construct has “traveled” from one source to another. Close reading of the primary source materials might already do the job in exploring that issue, and the field of history and intellectual history should provide ample methods and theories on how to proceed. This is not to say that you couldn’t also make use of discourse analysis, but usually approaches in discourse analysis are interested in either (or often both) of the following issues: a) how exactly does language work in the materials, and how do linguistic strategies get deployed to formulate and shape concepts? and b) what role do economic, political, and social institutions play in how a concept gets deployed, in other words: how do social relations and power influence how a discourse (e.g. on legitimacy) gets shaped? If you are interested in either of these dimensions, then adding discourse analysis to your toolbox for this study could be fruitful. Depending on how you phrase your question, however, it may not be essential.

  76. Dear Florian,
    Thans a lot for you help I really appreciate what you re doing !!! thans again

  77. RJ

    Thanks for this highly-informative post, Florian!

    I’ve encountered some peer-reviewed articles that discuss the possibility of using mathematical techniques to analyse discourses. Here’s one example: “Discourse Analysis of Public Debates Using Corpus Linguistic Methodologies”.

    Although there is no larger attempt at formalizing discourse analysis as yet, I think this will soon follow, given the positivist tendencies of contemporary social research. Can you suggest any specific approach to discourse analysis for someone who is comfortable with a purely qualitative research?

    • Florian Schneider

      I agree that quantitative methods will play an increasingly important role in the field – in a way, they already have been becoming more relevant the past decade, due to better technology. Personally, I mainly use quantitative methods as an entry point into large amounts of text. My analyses are largely qualitative – I still think that is where the real “meat” is to be found. In that sense, everything you see in the list of references should fit your bill. Take a look at Chilton, for example, if you want a comprehensive qualitative approach. Similarly Ruth Wodak’s work might also be for you (not referenced above, though). Aside from her own writing, she’s edited quite a number of useful books, like this one: (I imagine ch.1 and ch.2 will be interesting in this context, possibly also 5).

  78. malik

    HI.Mr Florian
    I am writing my graduation project about net-speak and its impact on the academic English language, I plan to analyze a sample of massages taken from facebook, (interaction between friends using net-speak). I will analyze them from the linguistic perspective.
    My question is: am I doing discourse analysis??

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Malik,
      You may be putting the carriage before the horse, so to speak. The important issue is: do you have a question about discourse? If you do, then you can deploy the language analysis you are doing to try and answer it. If you are only interested in the linguistics of online net-speak, then that would not necessarily have to be a discourse analysis. In that sense, I’d have a similar response to the one I wrote to Alaa above: are you interested in finding out how social relations and power influence the use of English language (online and offline)? If that is part of your interest, then by all means: go ahead and give discourse analysis a try.

      • malik

        Hi,Mr FLORIAN
        thank you soo much.

  79. Mohamed

    Hello sir.
    my name is Mohamed and I seek your help, my teacher recommeded that I should ask guidance from you concerning my work which I intend to submit in fulfillment of a master degree.
    I have decided to work on critical discourse analysis, and I am in a bit of a situation here. I intend to analyse two newspaper articles using fairclough’s model of analysis which he introduced in his book language and power 1989. my problem is, I cannot make use of this model and I don’t know how to approach the articles. I would really appreciate it if you could help me with any suggestions.

    thank you.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hello Mohamed,
      Fairclough’s seminal book can indeed be quite the challenge, particularly if you are looking for hands-on, practical advice on how to conduct a critical discourse analysis. That’s probably because so much of Language and Power is concerned with conceptual issues. Personally, I find chapters 5 (and to a lesser extent chapter 6) to be the most practical. Overall, what Fairclough is trying to show, I believe, is that we should understand our social world as in no small part constructed through the way people speak and write, which means we can use linguistic analysis to figure out how that construction process works (essentially what I have described in step 8 above). If you want another source on how to do CDA, I usually recommend this compendium by Wodak and Krzyzanowski: (see also my response to RJ above). It covers a great range of media types and strategies, each with practical examples. Maybe something of that sort would be of help? I hope this answers your question. Good luck with the MA!

  80. hi again, Mr FLORIAN i have dificulties in designing the questions of my questionaire and i which that you can help me please knowing that i am working on the attitudes of young Algerian generation towards gender stereotypes in proverbs thankx

    • Florian Schneider

      It looks like these are really two separate questions (if I understand you correctly): the first is how to analyze stereotypes in proverbs, and the second is how to construct a questionnaire for a survey. On that second question, I would recommend taking a look at chapter 10 in Neuman’s “Social Research Methods” ( See if your library has a copy of the most recent edition, and if not: it’s usually quite possible to get earlier editions at a cheap price (e.g. used). As for your first question, I would try to figure out whether there are recurring patterns in the proverbs you have collected. I would then create categories of stereotypes and would divide the proverbs into these categories. You can then take a closer look at the language within each category to see how the proverbs “work” in each case, and whether there are things that they all have in common. I suspect that you’ll come across quite a few similes and metaphors. If you need help making sense of how metaphors work, there’s two great books on the subject: George Lakoff’s “Metaphor’s We Live By” ( and Fauconnier & Turner’s “The Way We Think” ( Of course, if you are working on a smaller project, then it might be overkill to delve so deeply into theoretical issues. You’ll have to decide how much you want to read in that regard. At any rate, I hope the practical tips above help!

  81. alia

    hi,i’ m working on female teacher interaction,i’m going to use observation and interview tools but i have problemm of how to analyse;i need your help.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Alia,
      I think the answer to your question depends on what exactly you plan to analyse. For instance, if you are mainly interested in the statements that your interviewees make (for instance on a particular issue or topic like “gender differences in class” or “solving conflicts in class”, or some such), then it might suffice to simply compile all the statements on that topic and then check who says what. You may not need a lot of detailed linguistics to do that. On the other hand, if you want to figure out how the interviews themselves played out, then you’d probably be looking into how your interviewees said what they said, and how their communication strategies legitimated what they had to say. You’d have to come up with categories of recurring patterns that you’ve observed (coding – point 4 above), then collect the text fragments that belong to each category, and finally examine in detail how the linguistic elements and rhetorical components contribute to the discussion and its dynamics (point 8 above). Hope this helps.

      • alia

        thanks a lot for your help Mr Florian , it was really useful for my work.

  82. sihemkemouzi

    my name is sihem and I seek your help, my teacher recommeded that I should ask guidance from you concerning my work which I intend to submit in fulfillment of a master degree.l’m doing male and female cyberbullying and l used qualitative approach with participants observation on facebook by trying to analyse the language used there” comments and posts” and translate the because the majority are in arabic so my question is what kind of analysis shall l follow plz add me

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sihem,
      I don’t know if you saw my response to Esther above (August 5, 2014), on the analysis of Facebook discourses – you may want to check out a few of the sources I’ve mentioned there (i.e. the back issues of journals like New Media & Society). On the issue of translation, it’s important to analyse texts in their original language (in this case: Arabic). Any combination of work-steps I’ve described above could apply in this regard, depending on what questions you wish to answer. Once you have done your analysis, you can of course present your results by translating selected quotes from your sources as illustration for your argument (though I would always also provide the original wording alongside my own translation, so that your readers can check whether you translated well). I’m afraid I can’t comment on the difficulties you might encounter working with Arabic, since I regrettably don’t speak the language, but you might also find the following blog post of mine on “Discourse Analysis and Foreign Languages” useful: In it, I mostly discuss issues related to Chinese language, but the introduction and the section about translation choices might nevertheless give you some pointers. Good luck with the MA!

  83. sihemkemouzi

    thanks a lot and actually l’m using the mthod as you tell me . it is pleasure to know you madam

    • thankx a lot for your help Mr Florian , it was really useful for my research

  84. Sanaa

    Hi MR Floran,
    I’m writing my master project on: The influence of Fairy tales on Algerian young girl’s perception of gender roles. So i’m seeking to know if fairy tales have an impact on girls’ views of behaviors and roles performed by male and females. I’m gonna do a qualitative interview with the girls plus group disscussion.
    My question is: Should i do a discourse analyses on a traditional fairy tales , eg: Cinderrela . Or interview and group disscusion is enough. Thank you

    • Sanaa

      Also , I don’t know how to analyse the interview

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sanaa,
      I would probably try not to do too much. I suspect that a discourse analysis of the fairy tales and the interviews / group discussions will be a bit much for an MA project. You can probably make a good case for not going into the actual fairy tales in detail, particularly if you are able to find secondary literature on stereotypes and discourses in that genre (you’ll have to check your library system, but I suspect you’ll find quite a lot). As for the interviews, it depends a bit what you want to achieve. Take a look at my response to Alia from 11 April above. She had a very similar concern, and I would probably give you the same advice.
      Hope this is helpful!

  85. Dean Smith

    good day sir

    I am from South Africa currently doing my honours at the University of Stellenbosch. Two thing:

    Firstly, thank you for an amazing piece of work. I have to make a 15 minute presentation on discourse analysis and your concise description on this methodology helped a lot. Knowing where to start wasn’t the only thing I got from this, but also where to end. hahaha

    Secondly, as I read all the millions of comments and you replying on every single one I want to thank you. Not just for the work, but also for being such a wonderful person and so helpful, taking time to read and help where you can. We definitely need more people like you.
    I have so much respect for you as a person AND your work.

    Thank you again

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Dean,
      Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that you’ve found the website and the discussion forum helpful. That really means a lot to me.
      Enjoy the rest of your studies!

  86. Sanaa

    Hi Sir,
    I’m doing a research on children’s reponces to fairy tales, (the impact of these stories on girls), I’m using a qualitative interview , I also want to ask the girls to write stories to analyse, but i don’t know if i can use this method, and what do we call this method, is it obervation or… ! so i’m a bit confused . Thank you

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sanaa,
      I think it’s a great idea to have kids write their own versions of certain fairy tales – this sounds very similar to “diary studies” in ethnography (or the study of “creative writing”, for that matter). I can imagine that a combination of interviews and creative writing from the students will give you a great amount of useful material, all of which you can analyze using discourse analysis if you so choose. You could, for instance, examine which elements of a story the students emphasise, how they frame the story, how they represent gender and inter-personal relations in their writing, and so on. Again, be careful not to do too much, though. Depending on the amount of students and the number of interviews you are also planning, you may have your hands quite full. This is, after all, only an MA thesis. Also, one last remark: make sure to carefully consider the ethical implications of such research with kids. It’s important to assure anonymity, and of course consent of the parents, and you should make a good case in the thesis that you are not causing your research subjects any distress. All of this is worth discussing with your supervisor before you proceed. Most universities have fixed ethic procedures for research that concerns (and affects) children.

  87. Hellp Mr.Florian,I m Imene I have already asked you for a help concerning my topic of research (The portrayel of women in Algerian modern Rai songs by male artists).In my practical part I planned an open ended questionnaire to see respondents ‘ attitudes about rai music,what are most common subjects and themes that modern rai songs usually cover,and to state some of words or expressions terms do modern Rai singers usually use to describe women in their songs ,and if women are negatively or positively represented in modern Rai by male artists.The last item in the questionnaire i asked them to state some of modern rai songs that are mostly listened to by people.Well in this last item what m i going to do , ??? I m a bit confused concerning my pactical part I would like to have your opinion !!VERY GREATFUL FOR YOUR HELP !!!!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Imene,
      If I understand you correctly, you are you wondering what to do with the answers to your last questionnaire item once you have the responses, right? That very much depends on why you put that item on your list in the first place (you must have had a good reason to be interested in this). You could ask this kind of question at the start (rather than the end) of your survey, and you could then use the information to later look at particularly popular songs in the research. This means you would then have to look at those songs in detail, though. Or you could ask the question at the end as a simple check as to what music the person listens to who just gave you a particular take on Rai songs. There might be differences within the genre, after all, and knowing who comes from what corner of the field may help you interpret their earlier responses.

  88. Thomas

    Hello Florian, thank you very much for posting this. However, I got a huge request. I have to write a seminar paper until April 22nd and I used the CDA analysis as the tool for the Representation of the muslim community in the press. I used the social actors strategies for my analysis, however I am afraid that these analysis categories won’t be enough for my analysis. Do you have a suggestion on how I could improve it?
    p.s. I just have found your article and therefore I am in deep trouble because I need your help in the short term

    • Florian Schneider

      This is quite late before your deadline, and I’m not sure how I can help you. You may have to check with fellow students to see how they solved the issue you are facing. I can only say that studying social actors in texts usually means checking how the protagonists and the antagonists are constructed through language, so which communication strategies the creators of the text used to present themselves and the people/institutions they positively identify with, and how they present the “others”. Is this what you had in mind? If so, you should probably look at the language choices in sentences where such “self” and “other” distinctions are pertinent (see work-step 8 above).

      • Thomas

        Thank you very much for the quick response.
        As I mentioned before I am trying to analyze newspaper articles in order to see how a community is represented, therefore I chose CDA. My professor said that I need categories for the discourse analysis but I do not quite know what he means by that. I also think that point 8 is quite similar to that what I already did( social actors strategies).
        maybe you could know what he exactly means by categories of discourse analysis?

        • Florian Schneider

          He likely means what I discuss above, in step 4: coding categories. As you go through your data, you are looking for recurring patterns that are worth exploring. A systematic analysis is therefore well-served if you collect sections of the data under certain categories or tags and then analyze in detail why these categories might be prevalent in the text, how they relate to other categories, and how the statements on each category work. For example, if you were looking at a US policy document, you might find that it contains a lot of military language, that it keeps bringing up “Russia” or “China” as relevant actors, that it contains ideas related to freedom and liberty, and so on. It might then be wise to create categories for each phenomenon (so: “military”, “foreign nation-states”, “freedom”, etc.) and then see how these themes play out in your materials more broadly. Hope this helps.

          • Thomas

            Hello Florian, I apologize for not answering your question right away but these days have been like hell. Thank you for your support and your help. I have never experienced such a a support on the internet, thank you for that. And it turned out that the way of my analysis was quite good. I wish you all the best and I have to add that everybody (including myself) in this discussion board appreciates what you are doing.

          • Florian Schneider

            Hi Thomas,
            I’m happy that your project turned out well. And thanks for the words of support. This means a lot to me!
            All the best for the rest of yours studies.

  89. Thomas

    Social actors strategies by Reisigl and Wodak*

  90. Ana

    This is incredibly helpful, thank you sir!

  91. yahya

    mr Florian schneider can i have your email i have a term paper and if you dont mind i wanna ask some questions?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Yahya,
      If it’s a general question about method, then I’ll do my best to answer it. I cannot, however, read specific course assignments like term papers and comment on them. These are exams, and as such the point is that you figure them out with the materials you receive in class. If you need help with a term paper, I would suggest you contact your supervisor or instructor at your university. Of course, if you have a question regarding discourse analysis that I can help with, then feel free to post it here or send an email to me through the “contact” section on this website.

  92. Ana

    Hello sir, this is really helpful, thank you :) I’m wondering if you have any publication specifically on methods? Cheers!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Ana,
      I’m glad this is useful to you. I’m afraid my publications on methods like discourse analysis and visual analysis are primarily the posts you’ll find here. Since it’s an academic website/blog, you shouldn’t have any problems citing them like other sources – as long as you are aware that these pieces are not peer-reviewed. The only peer-reviewed publication I have available is on digital methods in Asian Studies (, though that may not be what you have in mind. On visual communication analysis, you can also take a look at the appendix of my book, which discusses the methodology of that project. Otherwise I would recommend citing the blog posts themselves and adding the URL and the date of last access.

      • Ana

        Hi Mr. Schneider, thanks so much, I’ll certainly cite this blogpost as needed. Cheers!

  93. lareen

    Dear Schneider,
    I’d like to work on discourse analysis for my MA these, but am really lost. I don’t know how to start reading and how to find a research gap os a suggested topic. Could you advice and help me?
    Thank you,

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Lareen,
      Sorry for only seeing your comment now. I’m currently still in Asia for research, and somehow the notification didn’t reach me. I don’t know if my advice is still helpful at this time? It’s been four weeks, so you may have moved on, but maybe just this much by way of advice: I would always try to set up a analysis based on something that spikes your interest, rather than based on what has or hasn’t been done yet. I realize we tell students that their work needs to address some “gap” in the literature, but to be honest, I’m not sure this is still a good requirement in 2015: in fields like sociology or political science, thousands (!) of new papers are produced each month (!), so any review of the literature can always only be partial. You’d have to check with your supervisor, of course, but I’d say: pick a theme that you are personally interested in, and for which you would like to figure out how it works in a particular medium or a specific publication (e.g. war reporting on the BBC in the aftermath of a specific event, or how disease prevention is discussed in a set of policy documents in a particular country before and after a health crisis, etc.). Then see if there are any studies related to that topic. This can then give you an idea of what arguments other people have made, regardless of whether they have studied the discourse or not. This step will usually help you generate additional questions or narrow your questions down, but I would always advise keeping your original general question in mind. It is, after all, what sparked your interest in the first place. If you can then get your hands on the primary sources you want to study, and you conduct a discourse analysis with the concerns in mind that some of the literature discusses, you can check whether other people’s arguments make sense when compared to how the discourse is structured.

      As I said, you may already have moved on with your project, but if you want to ask additional questions or want to post an update here, feel free to do so. Again: apologies for the terribly late reply!

      • lareen

        Dear Schneider,
        Thanks for your reply. That’s fine.
        There is no need to apologize.That is very kind of you. I have not moved on yet. I found your comments really helpful. I appreciate that!
        Could you please help me in finding resources to DA to read about.
        Thank you,

        • Florian Schneider

          Dear Lareen,
          Glad I could still help. As for readings, aside from the references at the bottom of the article, you might want to start with the edited books by Ruth Wodak. There is one that introduces different approaches to discourse analysis ( and one that covers the analysis of different sources and media types ( I imagine you’ll find a lot of useful information in those pages.
          Hope this helps!

  94. Moses Magadza

    A brilliant, gripping and helpful post. Indeed, bright, tight and right. Reads like the complete idiot’s guide to CDA. Thanks!

  95. aalia khan

    hello Mr. Schneider

    a very informative blog post…i wanted to discuss the scope and possibility of my research topic that i want to pursue for my PhD research. i want to analyse the manifestos of 5 major political parties in 2013 general elections held in Pakistan. i want to analyse the language of manifestos by using fairclough’s three dimensional model and by using software like Antconc for comparison of these manifestos. kindly guide me that this topic is workable or not? what else i can do to broaden the scope of this topic.
    thank you

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Aalia,
      My apologies for only replying now. As I just wrote to Lareen above, I’ve been away on research myself, and not all posts reached me like they normally would.
      I think your topic sounds very intriguing. Personally, I don’t know enough about the political parties in Pakistan, or the nature of these manifestos, so I can’t comment on how relevant these materials are in the context of Pakistan’s political landscape, but if you believe this will provide you with an interesting entry-point into the political ideologies of the main actors, this could be very interesting. You’d also already have your primary materials lined up, so that’s a big advantage.
      Maybe two quick comments: first, it of course makes good sense to have a particular theoretical framework in mind for a project like this, and if you think Fairclough will help you answer your questions, then by all means draw from his work. I would nevertheless advise you to compare this framework to what others have done, and to treat it as part of a large discourse-analysis toolbox that you can pick from depending on your interests. There might be other useful concepts and ideas out there that also apply here, or you might find that Fairclough’s approach has limitations that you need to address or overcome. All of his should then later be part of your theory discussion, of course, and you may have already worked in this direction. Nevertheless, my advice would be to not narrow your theoretical framework down too early in the project. Second, you’ll have to decide precisely what questions you want to ask of your sources, and you need to figure out whether the five manifestos will indeed provide you with enough material to answer your questions. I could easily imagine, for instance, that the manifestos will provide you with a solid foundation of what the official, ideological “party line” is for each party, but that in and of itself might not be the most interesting question to ask. Would it make sense, for example, to then check which of the main points in each manifesto the parties promoted during the election campaigns, which of them were discussed in the press or in other public forums, or which politicians picked what aspects to talk about in speeches? In such a case, you would have to carefully expand your materials (and be careful to not do too much), but you might be able to connect the official party discourses with broader public discourses, with issues such as agenda-setting and framing in the press, or with their actual instantiation in specific circumstances. Just a thought.
      As always, make sure to run your ideas by your supervisors – they have to be on board with the choices you are making. But do let me know what you decide, and how your project plays out. This sounds like an exciting PhD plan.

  96. lareen

    Thank for your help. I appreciate it!!!
    Thank you,

  97. haidy

    Dear Mr. Florian ,
    This is a v. rich article about discourse analysis and a well written one too . Can you give me some tips about medical discourse analysis , as I am a linguist and going to analysis medical texts , what are the programs and methods I should use and follow?
    Thank you ,

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Haidy,
      Thanks for the kind words. Your topic is a rather specific, and I’m afraid I’m not experienced with medical discourses. What you could try, is to check the back issues of journals like ‘Discourse and Society’ or ‘Discourse and Communication’ to see if anyone else has worked on a topic like yours – their list of references would make for a good point to search further. Similarly, I would check the top journals in health science and take a look at any papers that take a discourse-analysis approach (this is not my field, so I can’t tell you which journals would fit the bill, but I recall colleagues in the UK deploying discourse analysis in health-related research). More generally, if you haven’t already checked Foucault’s work on biopolitics, you might find it useful to do so for your project. He mostly writes about mental health discourse, but his work on ‘managing the self’ may have implications on what you are studying.
      Hope this helps!
      All the best

  98. lareen

    Dear Schneider,
    I am really anxious because am supposed to write my proposal as soon as possible and cannot find the right title and features to discuss. I decided to work on analyzing political cartoons , but I do not know what are the linguistic things that I could work on. I want for example to see how phonemes can help in understanding the message in political cartoons. For exampl, changing /f/ into/v/ in a word would suggest another message. something else I’d like to take your advice to see whether I can make a questionaire toevaluate the reader understanding of the message to see whether the phonological level might enhance the reader’s understanding. I mean how effective the phonological or segmental level? And could this be considered as a contribution filling the research gap in the field.
    Pleas, could you advice me?
    Thank you,

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Lareen,
      This sounds like an interesting project, but it’s a bit outside my own area of expertise. I myself am not a linguist, so I have not studied how phonemes change meanings etc. Personally, if I were to study a visual medium such as comics, I’d probably choose a methodology that focuses on visuality (I’ve written an introduction to that sort of research here:, though there are more specific methodologies for comics that might be helpful). You might find Roland Barthes’ article on the rhetoric of the image interesting, at least as far as the interaction between words and visual elements goes. As for your own question about phonemes and their effects, what you propose sounds highly interesting, though you’d have to read up carefully on how to ‘test’ your materials with a target audience. You could, for instance, take a comic page and then replace the words so that you get two different versions. If you then work with an experimental and a control group, then you could show whether readers later respond differently to specific questions about meanings and associations. It helps to already have experience with experimental design. This can be quite delicate and complicated work. I don’t want to discourage you, but you should check with your supervisor to see what is feasible. I would probably advise my students to stick to a manageable corpus of primary materials and to conduct a detailed analysis on those sources, particularly at the MA level. This, of course, provided that the sources actually promise to showcase phoneme differences in a way that can answer your question.

  99. lareen

    Dear Florian,
    Thank you for your advice. there something important to tell you that my thesis would be in linguistics so that am not sure whether the interaction between words and visual elements would be related to the same field. Does this put my thesis far away from linguistics? something else could I take two sources of the data one from political cartoons and the other from news and see how the linguistic features of both can contribute to the massage?
    Thank you,

  100. Isabelle

    Dear Florian,
    I’m writing my MA dissertation in IR at the moment and using critical discourse analysis. However I’m having a bit of issue with how to structure my analysis, I think I might have a bit too much material. I’m examining speeches by Iran made in the UNGA, and examining perception of masculinity discourses, contrasting Iranian masculinity discourse in these speeches to how they are perceived through a Western masculinity discourse (I.e. the difference in how something reads as masculine in one but feminine in the other) I have atm 20 speeches, while they are not long it’s quite a mouthful anyway. I’ve read your replies earlier about having a lot of material, but wondering if you have any suggestions for me?
    grateful for any replies


    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Isabelle,
      20 speeches does indeed sound like quite a bit of material, but it depends on how detailed your analysis is. For an MA thesis, you might be able to use all of them. I would start by either producing a quantitative overview of the most frequently used words, or I would code the speeches by sections or paragraphs for recurring themes. If you then home in on specific issues, you might not need to analyze everything in every speech: a couple of representative sentences or phrases from each speech might be enough to make your case. Every research project has to make choices about what to include and what to exclude from the study. The trick is to justify these choices well and in a convincing way. You know your materials best, so you need to ask yourself what is or isn’t worth a lengthy treatment in your thesis.
      Hope this is helpful. Good luck with the project!

  101. LARRY ID

    Good job Mr. Schneider,

    Please, I would appreciate it if you can make little input in your own opinion on this topic: ‘Understanding Media Content in the process of Critical Discourse.’


    • Florian Schneider

      This is a complicated topic, and I’m not sure I can give you any simple input on it. I would suggest looking at the various contributions in the book I recommended above, for instance to Lareen: ‘Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences‘. It covers CD from the angle of various kinds of media types and media contents.

  102. Sara

    Dear Sir,
    I manage to work on discourse analysis on Tv shows, but not sure what to do exactly?Can I seek advice?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Sara,
      It depends whether you are planning to do an entirely linguistic analysis, in which case you would have to transcribe what is said and then conduct the kind of work steps described above on that transcript. Personally, I find it fruitful to ask how discourse works in multiple ‘modes’, so not just through language but also through images, sounds, and the arrangement of people and things in space. If you are interested in those sort of questions, take a look at my blog post on visual communication analysis for some ideas. You might find useful inspiration there. I can also recommend the Handbook of Visual Analysis by van Leeuwen and Jewitt.
      All the best

  103. Sara

    Dear sir,
    Thank you, yes I’d like to make a linguistic analysis. Could I add other modes as a linguistic analysis?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Sara,
      If you are primarily interested in linguistics, then trying to also conduct an analysis of communication in other modes may be too much work. I’d probably advise you to simply work with the transcripts, and to add a footnote to point out that there are of course additional non-verbal dimensions to the discourse, but that you are bracketing them in your study. That said, you should check with your supervisor. After all, he or she will have to approve your efforts in the end, so they should be aware of the choice you’re planning to make.

  104. Sara

    Dear sir,
    wow!! thanks

    • Florian Schneider

      No worries. Happy to help. :)

  105. Sara

    Dear Sir,
    I am really confused between the difference between linguistic vs. non-linguistic features of language and verbal vs. non-verbl communication. I tried to google them. in one study i found that linguistic features are metaphors, nominals, verb phrase,etc and the non-linguistic features are color, image,etc. The proble is that i cannot find these on google . So, how could I put thses types as bases for my study?
    Could you help, please?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sara,
      The thing with linguistic/verbal communication is that anything that qualifies as language is ‘linguistic’ (whether written or spoken). ‘Verbal’ is anything that a human being utters – so words (which are linguistic) but also sounds like coughs or sighs (non-linguistic – bus still verbal!). Non-verbal communication mostly refers to things like visual communication, including body-language during a conversation (note, however, that verbal communication is often transcribed into writing to reproduce it in research, in which case the transcription method uses special signs to mark the non-linguistic verbal features like intonation, pauses, emphases, etc.). So you can use the terms verbal/linguist and non-verbal/non-linguistic to narrow down what part of the communication-process you are interested in, and you can use a transcription method that then fits your needs.

  106. Umaira

    Hi Florian
    Your article is of a great help indeed!
    I am striving with my dissertation.I am working on statements and instructions written in different hospitals.I want to use CDA.I have found Fairclough’s suitable as it provides basic framework from linguistic point of view.I need your help.I want to ask can I mix other analytical tools in Fairclough’s Model?? I want to use Van Leeuwen’s social actor presentation at level of text analysis(few features of it) and Carvalho’s Ideological standpoint and surface description of text.Can I do that???
    waiting for your prompt response.

    • Florian Schneider

      Absolutely. I think it is a good idea to combine different methods and conceptual frameworks in order to answer the questions you have. After all, what are the odds that one specific research approach will fit your project perfectly? It seems only prudent to adapt that approach to suite your needs. You’ll of course have to justify the choices that you make in this regard, but I see no problem with bringing together the work of different authors.

      • Umaira

        Thank You :) You are a great help!

  107. joseph

    Hello Florian, I’m using Positivism as lens to analyse some climate change articles. Will you call this discourse analysis and can I use your suggested tools/approach?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Joseph, interesting topic, but I’m a bit confused about what you mean by ‘positivism’. Positivism is usually a broader epistemological framework (so: a set of ideas related to how we can know things about the world around us). Its major claim is that we can make statements about reality and then check them with scientific methods to verify whether they are true. Positivism is all about explaining the world, and as such it contrasts with other frameworks, like hermeneutics (which is about understanding the world) or critical theory (which is about judging the world). Discourse analysis is a research method, and as such you can use it in a positivist way, but it can also be used in a hermeneutical or critical way. It depends what you do with it. So the short answer is: yes, you can formulate hypotheses and then test them, using discourse analysis. Not sure whether this is what you were planning to do, but if it is, you can deploy the tools I’ve outlined above. Hope this helps.

  108. Dana Oswald

    I think that discourse analysis may help me demonstrate how language is used to distinguish between insiders and outsiders within the discipline of archaeology. I am particularly interested in how the use of language differs between amateur and professional archaeologists in conversation, analysis of material culture, and publications. Finally, I want to explore how the professionalization of archaeology within the academy has entrenched this divide through language, especially the creation of specific terms and types of discourse–practical versus theoretical. Are you aware of anyone using discourse analysis in this manner?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Dana,
      This sounds like a fantastic topic. I am not aware of anyone looking at archaeology in this way, though that does not mean it hasn’t been done at all. It might be worth checking the history of science to see if this has been part of their focus at all. In terms of discourse theory, your ideas are very close to the conceptual arguments that Foucault makes (and he has looked at various sciences to explore precisely such questions). You may have already looked at his work. In a practical sense, much of what you describe is indeed the focus of discourse analysis, and you might find Paul Chilton interesting here. He discusses communication strategies in detail, and I recall this also includes how in-groups and out-groups are constructed through language. Let me know what you find! This is very exciting.

  109. sara

    Hi Dear,
    Actually, I am working on analyzing caricature am not sure which theory I can apply to my analysis. I want to analyze the rhetorical devices used so which theory would suit that and what title could I give to my project?

    • Florian Schneider

      Have you looked at research in visual analysis? It’s possible that you’ll also find van Leeuwen’s work on social semiotics useful. You could also check what theories about humor have to say about caricatures more generally. The work by John Morreall is very good in this regard, and the edited volume he brought out on that topic is a good introduction.

  110. Emu

    Hi, I wanted to ask your suggestion for discourse analysis method in a research on ethnocide in specific region which involves the future role of the youths. Which specific areas should I be most careful about and what could be the procedure?

    Thanks in advance


    • Florian Schneider

      This is a difficult question. I’m not sure what you mean by the future role of the youths. Overall, your project will depend on your source materials and what you hope to find out. If you are planning to explore language practices, I’d check how protagonists and antagonists are established through communication, and what metaphors or analogies get used.

  111. George

    Hello! Thank you very much for such a useful post! I am conducting currently a research for my MA thesis about the graffiti protest language in the central Athens during the crisis. I have a satisfactory data corpus of 1500 pictures and also I have conducted 8 interviews with the graffiti protest artists. I am applying visual semiotics and multimodal discourse analysis in my paper. Could you give me some tipps?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi George,
      This sounds like a fantastic project, and you clearly already have the materials and your approach sorted out. I’m not sure how I can still help at this point: I would have also recommended a visual semiotics approach. If you haven’t done so already, take a look at my post here on this website on visual communication analysis – I suspect, judging by what you write, that it will be too basic for you at this stage, though. The only advice I have is to not try and do too much. This sounds like a lot of material for an MA thesis, so you will have to carefully narrow done what your analysis will actually focus on. Other than that, this sounds very promising. Let me know how it turns out!

      • George

        Hello Florian,

        Thank you for your kind words! I know that the material that I have already collected, including my photographic corpus and the interview data, are quite a lot for an MA thesis. That’s why I sorted my data out in distinct thematic coding categories considering their thematic frequency and then, I decided to analyze indicatively some instances of each category.
        The point is that I have applied the visual semiotic approach and I tried to connect it with the multimodal approach, as it is introduced by Kress & Van Leeuwen (Grammar of Visual Design). Do you think that it is a good way to approach the graffiti language? Also, I saw in your post you recommended to me that the main think that I should do is to include the part “Questions to ask of an image.” I realize that I have already done it.


        • Florian Schneider

          Hi George,
          I normally recommend Kress & van Leeuwen for studies like this, so you are clearly working in a good direction. What you describe in terms of sorting the materials also sounds very sensible, so it looks like you’ll have a good set of ‘data’ that you can justify using in the end. In short: it sounds like you are all set to dig into your materials and write this all up. I’m sure this will be great.

          • George

            Thank you very much Florian! I will let you know if anything makes me confused.


  112. sara

    dear SIR,
    I managed to combine an analysis on both the use of acronyms and visual image since I saw works on particles and images…Could that be!!!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sara,
      I’m not entirely sure what you mean – do you mean that there’s already been research on a topic that is similar to yours? Because that would be a good sign. It would indeed seem plausible that other scholars would look at how specific rhetorical devices or grammatical elements work in conjuncture with images. If you find work like that, I would recommend following its example.

  113. Clemence

    Hi Florian,

    Thank you for this very informative post!
    I am currently writing my BA dissertation on left-wing terrorism in the 1970s and early 80s in Italy and France, focusing on two specific organisations (e.i Red Brigades and Action Directe) and I have set as my main objective for this paper to investigate into the internal factors, which could help explain these organisations’ escalating use of political violence over time.

    As I understand that a discourse analysis can allow one to understand how “specific actors construct an argument, and how this argument fits into wider social practices” and also can demonstrate “what kind of statements actors try to establish as self-evident and true”, I was thinking that I might be able to use such method to analyse carefully selected communiques and theoretical reflections written and published by the Red Brigades and Action Directe organisations to analyse how the themes, structure and type of language contained in such textual productions changed over time and how specific statements might have impacted wider social practices, which in this case, given the type of subculture that clandestine organisations create for themselves, would refer to the impact the framing of these texts had on the organisation’s mentality, on its members’ approach to the use of violence and on their vision of the enemy.

    If you can, I would greatly appreciate if you could tell me whether or not you think that would be a feasible approach for my dissertation.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Clemence,
      This sounds like a very cool project, but also one that is quite ambitious. You’ll have to be careful not to do too much. I could easily see this topic working out at the level of an MA or even a PhD. Make sure to check with your supervisor what is feasible and what is expected of you by your institute. For instance, I love the idea of tracking changes over time, but this can be very labour-intensive work. You’ll have to present a rationale for drawing up your time-line, you’ll have to justify which moments in time you will study, and then you’ll have to go over quite a bit of text, comparatively, to make your case. If you think the topic easily lends itself to something like this (e.g. if there has been good work on ‘periods’ of activity that you can easily use for your own study), then by all means: go ahead and try your hand at such a comparison. Personally, I would probably advise my own BA students to establish what the situation was like at a specific point in time, particularly if they are looking at more than one source (not to mention: different languages). You could still compare, for instance between two specific organizations in France and Italy, respectively, but to then _also_ compare over time might end up being too much work. That said, what you have outlined here sounds very promising, particularly the idea of studying the discourse on violence and/or on who the antagonists are. Discourse analysis should be a great tool for this sort of thing. I wish you much success with this project, and of course: have fun!

  114. sara

    what I meant is that there are scholars in linguistics who worked on a pragmatic analysis on the phrasal verbs in cartoons. what I would like to look into is Abbreviations or acronyms functions in image to see how the message is built by both or the attiudes of the one who made it,,,would it sound as a good ideas?

    • Florian Schneider

      Ah, I see. I’m not a linguist myself, so you’ll have to talk to your supervisor to be sure, but what you describe sounds perfectly plausible to me.
      Best – F

  115. Chris

    hi Florian, I am doing my MA research on a Discourse analysis of newspaper editorials on the Charlie Hebdo attack, using the US, Uk, Middle East and African newspaper editorials.(a total of 12 papers in all; 3 grom each region). Please can you give me your opinion on how to apply DA to such a topic?

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Chris, this sounds like a very promising project, and you have a manageable set of materials, which is good. What I would do, is first code the materials (step 4 above) and then see how much of step 8 might help you in your analysis. Twelve articles isn’t too much, so you should be able to code each sentence, or at least each paragraph, and then go into the text to find out what language each publication uses to frame the topic. I would in particular check who the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in the stories are, and what statements are presented as self-evident. Also, I would check how different topics get connected in the texts, e.g. migration, religion, violence, freedom of speech, etc. If you are then able to connect the different discursive practices back to the institutional background of each publication, that would be a very interest thesis. But do make sure to check with your supervisor where he or she would like your focus to lie on this. At any rate, hope this helps!

  116. Nora

    So glad I found this! you’re a natural at this stuff!
    I am attempting a discourse analysis of medical text (chapters from text books) and published clinical guidelines to understand how childhood is constructed in these texts. ofcourse I would be using latest editions and updated guidelines.
    So in this case, do I also go about understanding for example the backgrounds of the authors of the text book? (in this case practicing clinicians/academics)? What else would you recommend in terms of establishing the context?
    Also, when the researcher arrives with an “agenda” , in this case I have apriori assumptions about the discourse I will find which is basically a discourse that is not aligned with the new sociology of childhood. How does this affect my analysis.

    Thank you Florian!

    • Florian Schneider

      Well, how strongly you want to explore the institutional background of your texts (including the autobiographical details of the authors) depends a bit on your specific research interests and questions, as well as on how much time you have for your project. It seems to me that you are mostly interested in the texts themselves, in which case it might be asking to much to try and interview the authors or track down their CVs to infer how their life stories affected what they write. I would take a brief look at the institutional settings in which they work and publish, and I would keep an eye out for moments where this might be reflected in the materials, but I would otherwise concentrate on the texts themselves. As for your own agenda, every researcher has expectations as to what they will find or not, so you could simply make these expectations explicit at the outset. You could even phrase your expectations as a hypothesis. What is important, however, is that you actively look for examples from your data that runs contrary to your expectations. If you can convincingly show that you have done so, then arriving at a conclusion that is in line with your expectations does not disqualify your work. Just try to be honest about your own views and fair/balanced in how you assess your materials.

  117. Isabelle

    Dear Florian!

    I tried to read all the questions, but in the end there were far too many, so please forgive me if this question was already put. I read Reiner Keller, Foucault and (long time ago) Jäger, but I felt that many texts were not very explicit on what practical work steps they would recommend in order to analyze a certain text. Furthermore I found it very hard to distinguish discourse analysis from critical discourse analysis, even tho Keller claims that the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse (SKAD) differs from CDA. Furthermore your way of conducting CDA reminds me of Mayrings’ qualitative content analysis. So I was wondering if you could emphasize the differences between CDA, DA, SKAD and qualitative content analysis.
    Thank you for your enlightening article!
    I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
    Kind regards from Austria,


    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Isabelle,
      You are right to be frustrated: the distinctions between different DA approaches are often not clear, and most authors indeed don’t provide practical advice for students. That has in part been my motivation for putting together this post. As for the difference between various kinds of discourse analysis, I’ll try to keep it short – the topic would deserve a full blog post in its own right. First off, I am not very familiar with SKAD, so I can’t comment on Keller’s work here. I find it useful to see ‘discourse analysis’ as a broad category of approaches to communication, each of which concerns itself with the socio-psychological dimensions of communication practices. All discourse analysis approaches own something or other to linguistics, but the difference there is that discourse analysis is interested primarily in semantics and their social contexts and implications rather than in phonetics, phonology, or morphology. Within discourse analysis, you then get a sizable range of different approaches, some of which focus on specific realms of communication (e.g. political discourse analysis), others drawing from specific theoretical frameworks (e.g. post-Marxist approaches). CDA is one such discourse analysis approach, and it distinguishes itself by looking primarily at how language (and communication) interacts with ideology. In this, CDA stands in the tradition of the Frankfurt School and its Critical Theory. The aim in CDA (at least originally) is to unmask power relations and explore how dominance and resistance work through language.
      I usually tell students to think of any ‘science’ (that is: Wissenschaft) in the way that Habermas does: as either interested in explaining something (analytical), understanding what something means (hermeneutics), or evaluating and judging something (critical). In that sense, there are discourse analyses that are more analytical, for instance those that applying more formal approaches from socio-linguistics to establish how language works in a particular text. I myself was originally trained more in an arts and humanities context, meaning that hermeneutics have played a big role in how I make sense of communication analysis, and this is probably why you recognize the connection to Mayring, whose hermeneutic coding model I use extensively. CDA falls in the third category, which is probably why Keller sets himself and his work apart from such approaches. I imagine he is more interested in analytical DA than in critical DA (but you would have to ask him). In any case, no approach falls squarely only in one category (analytical, hermeneutic, critical), and most authors will position themselves between these categories. Nevertheless, the focus can help us understand what the intentions and the methods of a specific approach are.
      So, in short, all approaches to discourse analysis have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to the assumption that language interacts with social practices, and that we can study communication to understand how worldviews are reflected in and constituted through communication practices. They differ, however, in their emphasis of analytical, hermeneutic, and critical elements, with CDA traditionally being more in the critical theory corner than other approaches. The story of course gets even more complicated when you look at the individual authors and their work (not all CDA is the same, for instance), but I hope this very brief explanation helps. As you can probably tell, I am also perpetually struggling to make sense of DA and of who is arguing what in the field…
      All the best

      • Isabelle

        Dear Florian!

        Thank you very much for putting it in a nutshell! I admire your ability to get to the heart of the problem!
        Thank you for your help! It helped me a lot!

        Kind regards from Vienna,

  118. sara

    I’m doing a phd research on political discourse, I’d like to get the trail of Nvivo, but couldn’t, the website is always unaccessible.

    Can u pleaaaaaaaaase help

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Sara,
      I’m not entirely sure what you mean – are you trying to get the 14-day trial software and the website is down? I myself don’t work for QSR, so I can’t help you there. You could try their forum ( or their support department (, or you could contact your university department and see if they can acquire NVivo for you (…most universities have a subscription, so you’d have to talk to your uni’s IT people or the library personal to see how you can get access – that might be the best way to test the software). Sorry to not be of more help.

  119. Cherrie

    Hi, i am writing a paper on an aspect of discourse in social life to demonstrate how persuasive power is conveyed through language.

    I need to define a topic which is suitable for me to do the paper. And i found two topic that i am interested in. First one would be “The influence of Discourse on Animal Industries”, the second one would be “The influence of Discourse on animal adoption”.

    I am so confusing about which topic is better for my paper. Because i am afraid of it is not clear enough to express the message and there is a limitation on adoption that a few discourse theories and concepts could talk about it.

    Thank you.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Cherrie,
      I’m not sure I can help you, since I don’t know enough about these two topics, or what the limitations are that you are confronted with. Maybe a more general comment will help: I would always try to find a case that has a good range of data and that promises to answer the question you have. The question of how ‘power is conveyed through language’ is very general, so you’ll have to narrow that down and make it a question specifically about animal discourses. Once you’ve clarified for yourself what you hope to explore, you’ll (hopefully) be able to establish which of the two topics is more feasible. This may not have to mean that other authors have written a lot about the subject (it would in fact be great research if you were the first to examine a topic like that in this way), but you do need to have access to a good body of texts that you can then analyse. You know the two topics better than I do, so ask yourself: which lends itself better to explore how different actors use their institutional power to shape the discourse on animals?
      Hope this is helpful. Good luck with the project!

  120. Eni

    Thank you so much for this very useful article. It does help me a lot to understand what the DA is.

    Best regards,

    • Florian Schneider

      Glad you found this useful. Thanks for the positive feedback!

  121. sara

    Dear Florian,
    I need an approach that is suitable besides the semiotics for the analysis of the linguistic and visual modes of cartoons. Could you help please?

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Sara,
      I’m not an expert on other approaches to comics, but you could take a look at some of the contributions in Jaqueline Berndt’s edited book ‘Comics Worlds and the World of Comics: Towards Scholarship on a
      Global Scale’ ( There should be a lot of inspiration in there that could help you.

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