DREaM Event 2: Andy McKinlay

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Slides to accompany Professor Andy McKinlay's workshop session "An introduction to discourse analysis" presented at DREaM Event 2.

For more information about this event, please visit http://lisresearch.org/dream-project/dream-event-2-workshop-tuesday-25-october-2011/

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DREaM Event 2: Andy McKinlay

  1. 1. Introduction to discourse analysis Andy McKinlay Professor of Social Psychology The University of Edinburgh
  2. 2. <ul><li>One answer is: plain curiosity </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, most of us hope that in answering questions we are curious about, we are going to find out things that are of benefit to people in general – this is what separates out academic research from the finance-oriented research of commerce and industry </li></ul>Why do research? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  3. 3. <ul><li>We might be interested in research for a variety of other reasons. </li></ul><ul><li>Research provides evidence for future planning (e.g. ‘Does this new approach work or not?’). </li></ul><ul><li>Research communicates our ideas to others in a persuasive way (e.g. Not just ‘I think that ....’ but ‘I can show that ....’). </li></ul><ul><li>Research often throws up new and unexpected ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>Research allows others to become engaged in actively examining ideas (e.g. as research participants). </li></ul><ul><li>Research can have strategic benefits (e.g. contacts with fund-raisers or colleagues in other areas). </li></ul>Why do research? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  4. 4. <ul><li>First, the bad news: I can’t tell you what research questions you ought to pursue </li></ul><ul><li>After all, YOU are the experts in LIS! So you have to decide what questions you want to pursue, and you have to decide who you are going to approach as participants to help you answer it: will it be other LIS professionals? Will it be clients? Will it be local authority administrators? Will it be the general public? </li></ul>What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  5. 5. <ul><li>Now the good news. </li></ul><ul><li>I can tell you how you about some processes you could follow to come up with research questions. </li></ul>What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  6. 6. <ul><li>Here are four different processes to come up with a good research question </li></ul><ul><li>Observation </li></ul><ul><li>Theory </li></ul><ul><li>Contingency </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul>What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  7. 7. What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 OBSERVATION When my mother was in her eighties and spent some time in hospital, I happened to observe that some nursing staff were very good and supportive of her, but others seemed rather off-hand. So I began to pose myself the question: are there two different sorts of nurses’ attitudes to the elderly?
  8. 8. What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 THEORY There is a theory in social psychology that we see ourselves, e.g. in relation to our gender or nationality or health, in terms of ‘social identities’ . The theory says if a social identity gets switched on, this forces us to think of ourselves in terms of being male or female, or Scottish or English, or healthy or sick. But I and my research colleagues began to pose ourselves the question: is that really true, or do we sometimes resist this sort of thing by categorizing ourselves in a more subtle way?
  9. 9. What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 CONTINGENCY When I first started out in my career, there was no such thing as the ‘personal computer’. And there was definitely no such thing as ‘chatting’ via computers. But nowadays, lots of kids know how to use MSN chat or other types of online chat to keep in touch with their friends. When these sorts of systems were first developed, I posed myself the question: is ‘talking’ to people via these new fangled chat programmes the same as or different from talking to people face to face?
  10. 10. What is the research question? DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 COMMUNICATION You don’t have to come up with research questions all by yourself. Sometimes good questions arise out of discussion you have with colleagues. In fact, some of the best research questions come out of discussions you have with people who are outside of your own discipline. A while ago I got to know a bunch of engineers who told me about broadband telecommunications. I never really understood the engineering side, but it did make me pose a question to myself: could broadband be used to help people with disabilities?
  11. 11. What is the research question? Communication Of course, you can also get ideas from other researchers in your own area. Here are some research paper titles drawn in just one year (2011) from just one LIS research journal: Library & Information Science Research DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  12. 12. What is the research question? ‘“ If it is too inconvenient I'm not going after it:” Convenience as a critical factor in information-seeking behaviours’ ‘ Public libraries: A meeting place for immigrant women?’ ‘ Student perceptions of the information professions and their master's program in information studies’ ‘ Library anxiety among Polish students: Development and validation of the Polish Library Anxiety Scale’ ‘ Representations of youth in local media: Implications for library service’ ‘ Gracious space: Library programming strategies towards immigrants as tools in the creation of social capital’ ‘“ I did not realize so many options are available”: Cognitive authority, emerging adults, and e-mental health’ ‘ Users' perceptions of university library websites: A unifying view’ ‘ Asking and sharing information in the blogosphere: The case of slimming blogs’ DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  13. 13. What is the research question? The sorts of research questions that we might find in these papers: Understanding users’ behaviours Users’ perceptions of the library Role of the library in the community and wider society Student perceptions of the profession Developing measurement scales The media and the library/information science The role of ‘e-Provision’ and the impact of ‘e-Technology’ including social networking PLUS: Any other research question that you are personally interested in! DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  14. 14. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 The essence of answering a research question is that we use an appropriate research method to collect relevant data and then analyze those data somehow. The results of those analyses are then used to provide the answer to the research question.
  15. 15. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 The LIS workshops are going to explore a range of methods for gathering data and them analyzing them. Today I want to focus on just one approach: using qualitative data and analyzing them though a process called ‘discourse analysis’.
  16. 16. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 By ‘qualitative data’, I mean evidence that is gathered by looking directly at what people say, either in spoken or written form. So quantitative data differ from qualitative data because in qualitative approaches there is no attempt to turn what people say (or think, or believe etc.) into numbers.
  17. 17. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Suppose, for example, you had a research interest in how staffing within a LIS organization impacts upon levels of service. One thing you may want to find out about is what different people think about current staffing and, in particular, whether staffing should be expanded. You could approach that question by gathering either quantitative or qualitative data.
  18. 18. How to answer research questions <ul><li>Quantitative data </li></ul><ul><li>How many managers said ‘Yes’ and how many said ‘No’? </li></ul><ul><li>How many staff? </li></ul><ul><li>How many users? </li></ul>DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011
  19. 19. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Qualitative data &quot;There's nothing that depresses me more than going into a library and being confronted by a computer and someone in authority who isn't going to deliver the citizen-focused services I think should be on offer. I won't have this. Libraries can't go on being merely traditional. That's why we should consider volunteers. In Manchester, I celebrated a scheme recently to get young people working as volunteers in libraries in ways that are of great benefit to them and the customers. That could be a blueprint.“ (Margaret Hodge, Culture Minister, March 2010)
  20. 20. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 One thing we can notice right away is that it is harder to get a ‘picture’ of how the qualitative data can help us to answer a research question, because the discourse produced by Margaret Hodge is complex whereas the graph seems to show a nice clear image of what is going on.
  21. 21. How to answer research questions DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 However, researchers who rely on discourse analysis argue that the simplification you get from reducing responses to numbers often hides complexity that we ought to be paying attention to. And they argue that discourse analysis techniques allow us to explore those complexities so that we can use what people have said (or written) in order to answer the research question. So as one means of how to answer research questions, I want to turn now to discuss discourse analysis.
  22. 22. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Before you can analyze discourse, you need to find it. Here are three sources of discourse data (always bearing in mind the ethical dimension of research). Media (e.g. radio; television; internet; newspapers) Documentary sources (e.g. official documents; promotional materials; formal records of events) Do-it-yourself (e.g. recording naturally occurring talk such as meetings or mealtimes; interviews; focus groups)
  23. 23. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 If the data involve spoken rather than written discourse, the researcher has to record what is said (unless the data are already in recorded form). The next task is to transcribe the recording. The reason for this is that discourse is very complex, and it is often difficult to perform appropriate analysis without seeing the data written down. (And, anyway, the researcher will want to provide written examples in the research report.)
  24. 24. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 So now you can see that each of those sources has advantages. Media sources are easy to obtain and easy to record. Written media and documentary sources (including written internet data) do not require transcription. Naturally occurring talk requires recording and transcribing, but it is ‘real’ talk in a ‘real’ context. Interviews, focus-groups etc. require both recording and transcribing but unlike other sources, the discourse will be focused exactly on your research question.
  25. 25. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 If you are going to use interviews or focus groups, you have to pre-prepare by organizing a list of interview questions or focus-group issues that people will discuss. Most researchers ‘pilot’ interview questionnaires and focus-group materials before they gather data.
  26. 26. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 If you are going to use interviews or focus groups, once you have settled on your interview or focus-group questions/issues you have to identify the people who will be your participants, i.e. your interviewees or focus group members. Sometimes the nature of the participants is determined by the research question, on other occasions ‘anyone will do’. But some discourse analysts do try to make sure that the participant sample is ‘balanced’ in some ways. Most discourse analysts do not use ‘randomized’ samples but instead rely on ‘convenience’ samples.
  27. 27. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 In interviews and focus groups, the researcher normally begins by explaining the study to the participants, describing the interview process itself (how long etc.), offering a chance for participants to seek clarification, obtaining ‘informed consent’, and then starting the interview itself with one or two ‘easy’ factual-type questions as ‘icebreakers’.
  28. 28. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 The rest of the interview or focus group discussion involves questions/issues that are relevant to the overall research question. They should not be ‘leading’ or ‘closed’. They should be organized thematically so that they ‘make sense’ to interviewees or focus group members. In discourse analysis studies, usually all participant are asked the same questions. Remember the idea is to get participants to talk, not you! In between these questions, the interviewer can use ‘probes’ (e.g. ‘uhuh?’, ‘how do you mean?’) to elicit further information. The interviewer may use structuring statements (e.g. ‘OK, moving onto the next question ....’) to ‘control’ the interview.
  29. 29. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 The interview or focus group normally ends with the researcher thanking participants and offering contact details and the opportunity for participants to receive anonymized results.
  30. 30. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Once you have the (transcribed) data, the next task is to analyze them. Most discourse analysts begin this process by reading through the entire corpus of data several times, and then ‘homing in’ on particular examples of the data where what is said (or written) seems especially relevant to the research question. This is sometimes called the ‘first-pass’ analysis.
  31. 31. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Once you have an extended set of examples of discourse, all of which seem in some way relevant to the research question, the next task is to analyze these in detail. To see what that process is like, we have to look at how discourse analysts think about discourse.
  32. 32. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 According to discourse analysts: Discourse is contextual Discourse is rhetorical Discourse is action-oriented Discourse is construct ed Discourse is construct ive Let’s look at each of these in turn.
  33. 33. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Talk always arises in some sort of social context . But although what is said in talk is influenced by its context, it is not determined by it. For example, the fact that talk occurs in the context of a doctor’s office does not mean that it has to be medical discourse. Or: just because a police officer and a citizen are talking does not mean they are discussing crime. So categorizations and identities such as doctor and patient or police officer and citizen are not necessarily analytically relevant to understanding a particular interaction just because the context is a doctor’s surgery or a police interview room.
  34. 34. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Of course, in everyday life people do treat particular contexts as being associated with certain social norms (i.e. social rules). For example, we normatively expect that doctors offer advice and that it is police officers, not suspects, who ask questions. So although contexts don’t completely determine what is said, in everyday life we all have normative expectations about what will be said in a given context. This is of interest to discourse analysts because often, when such norms are breached, participants display this in what they say next.
  35. 35. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Video: ‘I was your boss ...’
  36. 36. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 In talk, claims or descriptions are often produced in a context where alternative or competing versions potentially might be offered. Discourse analysts view talk as rhetorical because talk is often designed to take account of, or even ‘pre-empt’, these potential alternative or competing descriptions or claims.
  37. 37. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 So, for example, a description of someone might be designed so as to resist potential attempts to disqualify that description as being produced as a consequence of the speaker’s stake or interest in producing that description (e.g. ‘You are only saying that because you are jealous ...’). Or, if such a claim is made, speakers may rhetorically design their response to undermine that claim.
  38. 38. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Video: Steve Bell talks to George Osborne
  39. 39. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Discourse is used to perform actions and carry out social practices in the whole range of practical and interactional tasks arising in social life (e.g. work, leisure, relationships, social interactions). Discourse analysts capture this aspect via the notion of action orientation .
  40. 40. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Even if discourse is ostensibly factual or descriptive, speakers produce such discourse in order to perform particular social actions. So some social actions (e.g. blamings, invitations) may be ‘obvious’, but others (e.g. displaying ‘neutrality’ in providing a description) may be less obvious, but still count as actions that are being performed.
  41. 41. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Discourse analysts are interested in how talk is construct ed . They are interested in how specific words, metaphors, idioms, rhetorical devices, descriptions, accounts, stories and so on are drawn on and built up as we use discourse to perform particular social actions.
  42. 42. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 How, for example, might a story be construct ed to present a speaker’s conduct as caused by that person’s particular psychology (e.g. ‘It is because you are stupid ...’)? Or, on the other hand, how might someone construct a story so that that conduct is presented as mundane or everyday or caused by external factors?
  43. 43. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Video: Sarah Palin
  44. 44. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Discourse analysts are also interested in how discourse becomes construct ive - how different versions of phenomena are constructed in discourse.
  45. 45. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 How are versions of different features of the local situation constructed ? How are broader social structures outwith the immediate situation constructed (e.g. how are groups of people who are portrayed as different from the speaker constructed)? How does discourse construct the broader historical context in which the immediate situation and broader social issues are located? And, in each case, how is that construction being used to perform a particular social action?
  46. 46. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Discourse analysts try to explain how these different versions are assembled and then stabilized so as to present these versions as factual and independent of the producer. And the analyst will focus on the question of which practices these constructions are a part of, and on the question of how these constructions perform the social actions in which the speaker is engaged.
  47. 47. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Video: ‘I’ve got a few friends who are quite upper class ...’
  48. 48. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Workshop example
  49. 49. Discourse analysis DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Workshop example feedback session
  50. 50. Closing comments DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 One way to answer research questions is to gather and analyze qualitative data. Discourse analysis is one way to analyze this sort of data. It emphasizes the importance of context, rhetoric, action-orientation and construction.
  51. 51. Closing comments DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011 Qualitative data allow the researcher to explore the complexities of how people actually think about an issue. Using qualitative data allows participants to have a direct ‘voice’ in the research. People who read the research often find it helpful to see examples of what people actually say – it lends vividness to the research results.
  52. 52. DREaM Edinburgh Workshop, 25 October 2011

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