Introduction to Discourse Analysis

Assist. Prof. Özgür Avcı

Although the history of discourse analysis can be traced back to the ancient discussions on classical rhetoric, it emerged as a systematic area of academic research in the 1970s, and since then, there has been an ever increasing interest in the theories of discourse and discursive analysis within social sciences as well as humanities. As a challenge to the premises of positivism, according to which language is (or can be) objective, discourse analysis offers a subjectivist/interpretivist alternative to the study of social, cultural and political practices by emphasizing the role of discourse in how the so-called ‘reality’ takes shape.  With this emphasis, various issues including, but not limited to, language, identity, knowledge, power, and hegemony have drawn more and more attention from the academia in the last few decades.

This introductory course to discourse analysis targets students of social sciences or humanities, especially those at the graduate level, and also independent researchers studying particularly within the areas of political science, sociology, media and communication studies. It does not assume any prior knowledge about discourse analysis on the part of the attendees, although a basic level of experience in doing academic research would be a plus. We will start out with the basics: What are different conceptions of ‘discourse,’ and what does studying discourse add to our knowledge of social actions and relations? In this first, theoretical part of the course, we will discuss on different ontological and epistemological paradigms in order to make clear what assumptions and expectations drive discourse-analytical approaches vis-à-vis the alternative positions in the philosophy of science. In the second, rather practical, part, we will turn our focus to the issues of formulating research questions, collecting, storing, organizing and coding data, analyzing data and drawing conclusions, and finally, reporting the results within the framework of discourse research. Throughout this phase, the attendees will be provided with empirical examples, and they will also be given the opportunity to share the problems they try to overcome in their own research projects, if there are any. In this course, we also aim at introducing the attendees to a qualitative data analysis software, MAXQDA, which can be of a great help in carrying out all these tasks.