Discourse Analysis Worksheet
These are some of the issues you'll want to consider when gathering data for your discourse analysis. Read through the article at least once before beginning to answer these questions. After reading it, 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, respond to the following questions.
- What is the article's topic? What is the general subject area that it covers?
- What is the purpose of the article? Is it to introduce a new idea, present research, make an argument, provide an overview on a topic, or something else entirely? How can you tell?
- What is the article's thesis or main idea?
- Who is the author of the article, and what do you know about him or her? What kind of authority does he or she have in this subject area?
- 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? 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.)
- Is the language technical (field-specific) or accessible to a more general readership? If technical terms are used, are they clearly explained?
- Does the article include a works cited list or some other form of references?
- Based on the information above, who do you feel the target audience is? What "discourse community" is addressed here? Why do you think so?
- How does the writer develop his or her ideas? Does the author compare or contrast? Use statistics or other numerical evidence? Use personal anecdotes or stories? Develop by example? Appeal to authority (other sources) or to his or her own character/expertise? Describe a process? Evaluate?
- Explain why the text is organized and developed the way it is. What does the writer do first, second, third. Why? What does this suggest about audience?
- How would you characterize the voice of this article? Is it formal or informal? Is it humorous or serious? Do you detect any sarcasm or irony? How does the author's choice of voice function to promote his or her purpose?
- How does sentence shape or rhythm contribute to your sense of the voice?
- Does the author refer to him or herself using the first person ("I")? Is the voice personal or more distanced and objective?
Now, based on your answers to the questions above, write an essay in which you make a claim about
- who the intended audience of this essay is and
- what some expectations of that audience are (judging from choices the author has made in writing this essay).
You might choose to focus on one or two of the four areas listed above. Use textual examples to support your claim.