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Discourse Analysis: discussions, debates, resources

I prefer having a bit of diversity among study resources, hence, I searched for some podcasts on discourse analysis. Two particularly useful podcasts have been made available on the Podbean channel ‘discourse and pragmatics, by enrodney where you find a lecture on Mediated Discourse Analysis and another one on The Ethnography of Speaking .

The Speech Accent Archive is a great research tool – but also useful for actors who want to learn a particular accent (certainly not mutually exclusive…and certainly recommended for Daniel Day-Lewis who adopted an Austrian rather than an Italian accent for Nine (2009) which makes him sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Transcription symbols have been provided by John W Du Bois, University of California Santa Barbara in a file that compares symbols and their function and meaning in terms of transcription categories.

Conversation analysis by Charles Antaki, Loughborough University, – in particular lectures 3, 4 and 5 offer valuable summaries of applied key concepts such as adjacency pairs, preferreds and dispreferreds as well as turn-takes .

Nick Llewellyn, University of Warwick, has made interesting and useful tutorial available, the material focuses on transcription of video footage .

Emanuel Schegloff, University of California LA, illustrates a number of detailed talk-in-action sequences which feature overlapping talk, micropauses and aspirations as well as intonations – all transcripts are made available as audio, this is a major plus, especially for those unfamiliar with a specific accent.

The Open University, UK, D843 course forum (i.e. communal area shared by system users) is a bit hard to find as the post-graduate course on discourse analysis does not provide a tutor-moderated forum (as common) but only a group run by students. This kind of forum is not linked to the Studenthome where students could find it easily but is embedded on a deeper level. Here is the chain of clicks required to navigate through:

Option 1:
Go to Open University studenthome > Links > OU Mailbox and discussion forums server
> Directory > search for OUSA D843 – create mail to
Go to Open University studenthome > Links > OU Mailbox and discussion forums server > OU Student Association > OUSA signpost – D843

I recommend making the effort as there are comprehensive archives dating back to 2007, they contain discussions and resources – I am sure this will also be an efficient tool in the exam preparation. We recently discussed the meaning of reality as constructed within discourse as well as what constitutes relativism in DA.

Then there was discussion around correct referencing in Harvard style – I shared my favourite online Referencing Guide because the PDF is comprehensive and very well structured.

With regard to relativism I had come across Mette Haagen’s study: Indian Organ Trade; From the Perspective of Weak Cultural Relativism (2005) which uses discourse analysis in order to investigate the impact discourses of human rights and inequality poverty have on the understanding of the existence of the Indian organ trade. It is a fascinating read and a significant topic – explored over 30 pages.

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Research Design: methodology in question

One of the blogs I follow on a regular basis is Jeffrey Keefer’s Silence and Voice which is currently concerned with some issues related to research design and formulating of research questions in the wider context of auto-ethnography as methodology and identity construction as the subject of interest. Recent posts I found very interesting and commented on are the one on broader research design questions and the one on auto-ethnography and reflexivity which are worthwhile having a think over – they provide very good ground for some reflection on dilemmas and politics entailed in the underlying epistemological questions of research-related decision-making.

I am fascinated by the way crowd-sourcing can work in academic blogging, it’s a great way of engaging broader audiences and gaining some insights from outside immediate areas. I like and do value the fact that academic bloggers, busy with studies and work, research and other things, take the time and effort to reflect publicly online, open up to questions and critiques – and respond to comments and ideas. Personally, I enjoy the challenge to think about issues and see whether I can contribute some ideas and to what extent I need to improve on gaps and communication of insights.

Jeffrey’s research made me recall some podcasts featuring Stuart Hall et al. debating questions related to identity construction. They form part of the Open University’s post-graduate course D853 Identity in Question which I studied in 2008 – the interviews cover Lacanian Theory, Language Approach, subjectivity and legal definitions of personhood as well as some comments on Michel Foucault’s genealogical perspective. They last 2 to 9 minutes and deliver some great food for thought. I also came across James Schirmer’s paper on Scribd which I recommend as thought-provoking read in this context The Personal as Public: Identity Construction/Fragmentation Online

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Discourse Analysis: study material, references

I have received online access to all material for Discourse Analysis (key theoretical, philosophical, and methodological debates), the Open University’s post-graduate course in the Social Sciences programme. It’s a 16 week course at 30 credit points and will be my second last course towards the MA degree, with 3 assignments to be submitted electronically and an exam in April 2010. All material has been provided right at the start of the course in PDFs – which can be edited by help of mark-up. Below the links to the study material on Amazon (look inside feature) and material from previous years (PDFs are not editable) which vary only in terms of dates from the current presentation.

There is also a specimen exam paper delivered online but not made accessible to the public by the Open University, further a number of exam papers from previous years available on the OUSA Online Store for purchase. Moreover, preparation notes, a guide for submitting electronic assignments (time of submission will change in December from 12am to 12noon) and the assignment booklet itself.

Further required readings:

  • Fairclough, N. and Wodak, R. (1997) ‘Critical discourse analysis’ in van Dijk, Teun A. (ed.) Discourse as Social Interaction, vol. 2, London/Thousand Oaks/New Delhi: Sage, pp. 258–84.
  • Locke, A. and Edwards, D. (2003) ‘Bill and Monica: memory, emotion and normativity in Clinton’s Grand Jury testimony’, British Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 42, part 2, pp. 239–56.
  • Pomerantz, A. and Fehr, B.J. (1997) ‘Conversation analysis: an approach to the study of social action as sense making practices’ in van Dijk, Teun A. (ed.) Discourse as Social Interaction,vol.2, London/Thousand Oaks/New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. 64–91.
  • Potter, J. (2005) ‘Making psychology relevant’, Discourse and Society, vol. 16, no. 5, pp. 739–47.
  • van Dijk, Teun A. (1992) ‘Discourse and the denial of racism’, Discourse and Society, vol. 3, no.1, pp. 87–118

why I love the way people find their way to me

Today someone had searched for ‘peer review makes me cry’ – and ended up on my blogpost ‘statistics makes me cry…’. Sweet. I love this. Search engines hold the key to secret thoughts, sentiments and moods – how often do I take a look at the statistics of my blog and smile? Yes, I resort to the very same strategy. Whenever the initial search produces rather poor results, I find myself typing entire sentences, in a sort of let’s-see-what-the-machine-makes-of-this mood. Surprisingly often I am presented with very interesting links I would otherwise not have found.

Tagging, categorising and other lablling practices are often subject to temporary and arbitrary, individually shaped, highly selective patterns – or no recognisible patterns at all. What’s beneath the keywords and the hunt for information that responds to my fragmented questions is then, perhaps, a more empathetic approach. I take a step back, focus on what I actually really look for or feel in that very moment, and here we go: someone else thought it at an earlier point. And blogged or twittered or videoblogged about it.

It’s a moment when the machine becomes more human…an illusion, I know. But I love it, this kind of imagined and part-real connectivity.

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Research Methods – the useful material

Following on from my previous two posts, here is a list of very useful material I recommend for studying Social Research Methods including

  • research strategies and design,
  • literature review,
  • ethics and politics of research
  • sampling,
  • qualitative and quantitative methods,
  • as well as data analysis,
  • writing up social research and presentation of findings.

BRYMAN, A. (3rd ed.) (2008) Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Resource centre including Flashcards, Multiple Choice Questions etc. as well as some hands-on Excel data analysis/tutorials. More useful links in relation to each chapter to external sites: weblinks by chapter. The book is also listed on Amazon, where you can search inside: Bryman’s Social Research Methods on Amazon.

DE VAUS, D. (5th ed.) (2002) Surveys in Social Research. Abingdon: Routledge.
de Vaus’s Surveys in Social Research on Amazon. This edition comes with a massive number of weblinks which de Vaus has listed on his site. Further de Vaus links, site set up by an OU student: who publishes under Ariadne and also some handy notes related to the OU’s DT840 study guide .

LEE, Carl et al. , Central Michigan University.
Tutorials and Movie Clips (based on SPSS 9.0 and 10.0) with transcripts

LEVESQUE, Raynald in Montreal, Canada SPSS tools

OpenLearn SPSS is a step-by-step online tutorial which covers adding variables, obtaining descriptive statistics, correlation, independent t-tests, and paired samples t-tests.

ROWNTREE, D (1981) Statistics without Tears: An Introduction for Non-Mathematicians. London: Penguin Books.
a classic on Amazon, search inside.

SEALE, C. (ed.) (2004) Social Research Methods – A Reader. London: Routledge.

SOPER, Daniel offers a free calculator for multiple regression as well as a great overview of numerous concepts on his Free Statistics Calculators site which is an excellent online support source for last minute revision, pop-up windows will save you time.

TROCHIM, William M.K. Social Research Methods is another incredibly helpful site. Well structured and illustrated.

SPSS Version 15.0 Learning Module includes T-tests, Chi-square tests, correlation, ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) as well as a detailed, well-structured discussion and explanation of Regression among their SPSS Webbooks.

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Research Methods – DT840 and beyond, review of course books

As announced in my earlier post on Research Methods and Skills
I am providing here a brief review of the books which present the set books in my current post-graduate course on research skills and statistics, i.e. the Open University post-graduate course DT840 (DTZY840). The assessment (5 assignments and an exam) is based on the following materials:

LE VOI, M., Sapsford, R., Potter, S., Green, A., Redman, P. and Yates S. (2008) DT840 Course and Study Guide. Milton Keynes: The Open University

POTTER, S (2nd ed.) (2006) Doing Postgraduate Research. London: Sage.
This set book by Stephen Potter – OU Professor, specialist in transport strategies, and course team members – is available on Amazon. There is also a companion which contains related links and chapter excerpts: Potter companion on Sage which, unfortunately, appears to be neglected: 3 listed links out of 4, supposed to connect to ethical frameworks, turn out to be broken. Some of the course assessment is based on the online sources which you will need to find elsewhere. I have listed ethical guidelines in a separate box on the right hand within this blog.

SAPSFORD, R. (2nd ed.) (2007) Survey Research. London: Sage.
Also this one is available on Amazon, interested readers can: search inside. The reviews on Amazon are throughout very negative and the reviewers have gone into great detail with their substantiated critique. It’s helpful to read them and keep in mind the following problems with the material:

  • Lack of a glossary
  • Minimalist link list and Index
  • Key concepts such as triangulation not mentioned
  • Discusses online research settings only very briefly, insufficient
  • References to chapters/figures/boxes/tables rather than to pages
  • 1st edition had attracted equally negative reviews
  • 16 pages contain substantial errors: in formulae, explanations of concepts, tables are wrongly labelled etc. Luckily the OU provides a list of corrections, but it’s not comprehensive and you will need to constantly check and correct.
  • Carelessly compiled bibliography: referencing appears to follow random systems and lacks consistency (the OU prefers Harvard referencing style also in this course).
  • Unclear structure with a wordy approach

[N.B. To make matters worse: NO previous exams available – as common for the majority of courses on OUSA site, yet 1 exam specimen paper is delivered by OU.]
Here is a site which lists Sapsford’s content without providing any evaluation: Sapsford content, overview by OU student.

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Andy Field’s Discovering Statistics using SPSS – a student review

As mentioned before in my post on Research Methods and Skills here is a review of the book by Andy Field that has proved to be most helpful in my current post-graduate statistics course:

FIELD, A (3rd ed.) (2009) Discovering Statistics using SPSS. London: Sage.

For this 820 pages oeuvre there is a companion available with a number of student resources such as multiple choice questions and a flash card gloassary. Field’s companion on Sage
I got the edition which includes a 13 months student licence for SPSS Version 17.0.

Here are a number of reviews on Amazon . It is the most user-friendly, smart-structured, and accessible as well as entertaining Statistics book I have come across. If you are a busy student with more than a commitment to studies, try this. Field is doing a fantastic job in providing an all-you-need volume which does not step into the trap so many other authors seem to be unable to avoid. All those who believe they can fragment statistics and provide either the maths only, or the SPSS only or some statistics chunk food that leaves you unsatisfied as you still don’t understand how to apply findings to a case other than the model discussed.

Field’s book provides a 16-pages glossary, 7-pages references, index plus an appendix which contains the following:

  1. Table of the standard normal distribution
  2. Critical values of the t-distribution
  3. Critical values of the F-distribution
  4. Critical values of the chi-square distribution

There is a separate chapter about SPSS, the environment, the viewer, the SmartViewer, the syntax and more. A list of mathematical operators, Greek symbols and English symbols comes in very handy, so does the brief maths revision
EasyMaths .

Each chapter highlights at the end the important terms which is very useful for revision. There are self-tests, references for further reading and interesting real research as well as areas which explain either ‘strange dialogue boxes’ (in SPSS and how to make sense of them) or concepts (such as degree of freedom).

The chapters are structured in a clear manner, the language is clear and terms are explained throughout so that you won’t have to flip nervously through several books at the same time and do the work a smart author and editing team would have done for you. Formulae and tables produced in SPSS are displayed in a logical manner, for instance the dialog box to be selected in SPSS is followed by a scatterplot which in turn is illustrated by SPSS outputs. The latter are also explained in detail so you know what they actually mean, how to write them up in a conventional way, how to analyse them and how to interpret the outcome. Key terms have been printed in red and the SPSS dialogue boxes also come in colour.

Recoding, for instance, is explained for those using the recode function in SPSS but also for those who do a lot of recoding, there is the syntax and a related file on the CD. There is a number of data sets available to play with, Field has chosen to provide areas such as the impact of Viagra on a person’s libido (getting those on board who are tired of jobs in postoffice.sav or the little inspiring government statistics on traffic) in order to explain ANOVA (analysis of variance).

Field’s Statistics Hell is also very useful and offers:

  • Lectures on frequency distributions
  • Handouts: SPSS: t-test, frequency distributions and correlation

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