Discourse Research


Discourse research encompasses a range of theoretical and disciplinary traditions, including approaches based in Michel Foucault’s theoretical writing, sociolinguistic approaches, critical discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and discourse analysis in social psychology. The specific focus of this entry is discourse research that analyses language data as evidence of social phenomena. The entry divides the field of discourse research into three overlapping areas: discourse research as the study of social context, the study of social practices, and the study of a social subject. The entry outlines the premises of each area and the issues it raises, citing major sources and also examples that indicate the variety of recent research within the field, including the critical focus of many discourse research studies. A section on language data reviews some widely used analytic concepts, including “discourse” and “interpretative repertoire,” and key debates around the social nature of language, including the connection between the discursive and the extra-discursive, and the status of the analyst in interpretive research. A later section describes the most common sources of language data. Finally, the entry considers the continuing contributions of discourse research to social research more generally. It introduces three different areas that are often presented as developments of discourse research: narrative research, psychosocial research, and visual research methods.

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