Discourse Toolbox

Submitted by admin on Thu, 09/01/2016 - 12:46

I have extracted some of the main ideas from the discourse, CDA and dispositive sections and put them together to form a toolbox. (It may be easier to read this section, and then if you are interested to go on to the others !) I then used this to analyse elements of the UK’s Food and Agriculture policies. http://www.discoursetoolbox.co.uk is the link for my website, and http://www.food.woodlands-web.com/ for the companion site about the food aspects of the project.

This may seem like another gimmick, but it is more serious and more effective than that, because

  1. It is securely founded on the academic disciplines of Discourse, Critical Discourse Analysis, and Text Analysis. I give brief summaries of these fields and how the toolbox has been derived from them
  2. It is an attempt to go beyond the debating, commentating and campaigning which fill the mass media. The Discourse Toolbox gives an potential to develop agreed and definitive answers to questions like "What are they thinking of to say that ?" and "What are they really saying ?".
  3. The Discourse Toolbox forms part of an array of techniques, together with Context Analysis, Organisational Analysis and The Dispositive which give the opportunity for Triangulation. A process of triangulation using several approaches can be essential to validate information and generate full understanding. Finally there is the Integration section where an overall conclusion can be reached.

The examples are from my project on food policy in the UK

  1. The chosen discourse strand - a detailed examination. In my example. I examine a single document - the UK Government 'aims and objectives' strand for environment, food and rural affairs (2001). This strand can be examined for the discourse themes, planes, positions, synchronic and diachronic factors. I describe these theories in greater detail here, and describe more of the nature and mechanisms of discourse here. Larger corpora of material can also be examined. In particular there is the Repetition of a Major Theme
  2. Relationship with other discourses. For example, my text refers to society, economics and food in a variety of ways, and forms a relationship to these other discourses which can be analysed, including the Representing Interests analysis which I have done, and the way in which Strands can be Entangled
  3. The Author(s). Who is the author of the text, and what is their identity ?
  4. The Reader(s). Including the Imaginary Reader that the author has in mind
  5. The Actor(s). Who (if anyone) are mentioned as able to take action, and how are they referred to (and what does this reveal about the way the author thinks ?)
  6. Actions and Threats of Action. Are any actions promised by the authors, and are any actions expected or threatened from any other source ?
  7. The dispositive. For more about the dispositive, see here
  8. Power dynamics. Who has power in this general field, and how is it expressed and referred to ?
  9. Global Trends. Some authors have developed hypotheses of global trends, such as the 'new managerial discourse', or the 'new politics'. Can these or any other ideologies or paradigms be detected in the passage. In my chosen text, there are clear signs of the "new Government" discourses.
  10. Internal Syntax and Dynamics. Is the text a Site of Struggle, or are any other Patterns operating within it, such as Unnecessary Repetition. This section also includes the Situation Analysis
  11. Presentation and Structure. Are there any interesting factors in the physical presentation of the text - colours, typefaces, location in other documents, etc.
  12. Ideational. How is the thought of the author transformed into the message s/he has communicated. What can we infer (guess) about the what the author was trying to do ?
  13. Purpose. What is the overall purpose of the text ?