Discourse Analysis Worksheet
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Here are some issues you'll want to consider when gathering data for your discourse analysis. You'll want to read through the article at least once before beginning to answer these questions. After reading it once, you may want to read through again, either doing a "backwards outline" of the article (writing the main idea of each paragraph or section next to the paragraph) or summarizing it. Then, once you have a sense of the article as a whole, read and respond to the following questions.
- What is the article's topic? What is the general subject area that it covers? Does it seem to attempt an in-depth approach to the topic or is it more of an overview?
- What is the article's thesis or main idea?
- List the other main ideas of the article.
- Does the article seem important or central to the field? Why or why not?
- Where is the article printed? What kind of periodical is it in? Is it an academic journal, a professional publication (for people in a particular field), or a popular magazine (see "Types of Periodicals" handout)?
- Does the periodical suggest a particular kind of readership (gender, education level, political stance, professional interests, level of wealth, hobbies)? Hint: All magazines, in some way or another, limit their readership to a particular "target group." To find out who that is, don't limit yourself to looking only at your article. Flip through the table of contents to see what else is printed in the periodical. Look at submission guidelines, advertisements, editorials and cartoons as well.
- When was the article published? Is it timely, out-of-date, timeless (a recognized authority on a topic regardless of its publication date)?
- Who is the author(s) of the article, and what do you know about him/her/them? Where is the author employed? What else has s/he written? What kind of authority does he or she seem to have in this subject area?
- Is the language used technical (field-specific) or accessible to a more general readership? If technical terms are used, are they explained? Why or why not?
- Does the article contain illustrations, charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc., to illustrate concepts? Are they professional-looking? Can you follow them easily?
- Does the article include a works cited list or some other form of reference to other works? If one is present, is it short or long? Does it refer to scholarly works or other kinds of works? Are the works referred to current or out-of-date?
- What does the author seem to presume readers wish to know more about? What assumptions does the author seem to share with his/her audience? Provide specific examples of these.
- Based on the information above, do you feel you are part of the target audience for this article? If so, why? If not, why not?
- Is the text broken into sub-sections? If so, indicate the headings for those sections. Is the text organized in a way that is field-specific?
- How does the writer develop his or her ideas? Does the author compare or contrast? Use statistics or other numerical evidence? Use anecdotes? Develop by example? Tell a story? Appeal to authority (other sources) or to his or her own character/expertise? Describe a process? Evaluate?
- Explain to the best of your ability why the text is organized and developed the way it is. What does the writer do first, second, third, etc. Why? Does the organization seem primarily driven by content, the writer's argument, or audience expectations?
- What does the author emphasize or spend the most time on? Why?
- Look back at the introduction and thesis of the article. What seems to have prompted this article - a disagreement within the field? New research findings?
- Consider the audience section of this worksheet. What might that particular audience want/need to hear about on this topic?
- Is it clear from the article what the writer's position is? Where and how does the writer's position become clear? Does the writer state it in his/her thesis? Is it clear only by implication?
- What does the writer expect readers to do after reading this?