Discourse Analysis

My first discourse analysis was similar to an approach I have applied before. Identifying keywords, terms and phrases in each sentence is also utilized when developing an index, found at the back of a book. Analyzing an item or sentence and expressing the “aboutness” of it is part of this process. The goal of indexing is to provide a detailed and accurate road map that links items and terms, as well as identifying themes. Discourse analysis is similar. Online activities and communications leave a textual trace as participants interact through verbal language that is placed in discussion threads, chats, and messages (Herring, 2004). Computer mediated discourse (CMDA) draws on theoretical assumptions of linguistic discourse analysis. Reoccurring patterns are present in online communication that can be identified by a researcher (Paulus, 2005).

Herring (2004) provides the steps of the CMDA approach, which were identified during this first analysis. The first step, and one of the more challenging for me, was brainstorming questions. Based on the textual communication provided and limited background details, questions were developed. Themes emerged from this informal process. The next phase of this analysis was easier. Key words or key terms were identified for each sentence of the provided data. The number of terms and phrases varied for each participant’s response depending on the depth and length of each. Another challenge was the limitations of the program used to organize the analysis of the data. The next phase of our analysis will include discourse with peers for comparing and developing categories.

Paulus (2005) used CMDA in an exploratory study analyzing approaches that small groups of online students use to complete tasks and collaborate. Chat and forum transcripts were analyzed and unitized into functional moves. A functional move is a speech segment or speech act, a particular portion of a message (Paulus, 2005). The researchers coded the functional moves as either conceptual or non-conceptual. Conceptual moves address the understanding of the learning theory, the assigned readings in the course. Non-conceptual moves relate to course logistics, social and technical issues students discussed during the course. These coding categories were explained and listed in the article. The use of CMDA was a small part of the exploratory study, and the description of the steps was limited. While the use of research using CMDA is limited, this article did not provide the depth I was looking for to learn the process.

Herring, S. C. (2004). Computer-mediated discourse analysis: An approach to researching online behavior. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. H. Gray (Eds.), Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Paulus, T. M. (2005). Collaborative and cooperative approaches to online group work: The impact of task type. Distance Education 26(1), 111-125.

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