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Critical Discourse Analysis Term Paper


Discourse analysis analyses the form, structure and content of information. Valentini, Romenti & Kruckeberg (2016) explain that some elements of communication that are analyzed through this methodology include grammar, words and language, as well as their reception and perception by the audience. Its application has proven valuable in analyzing large sets of data that are otherwise hard to evaluate using other methodologies. Its cost effective nature also makes it highly preferred for scholars with limited financial capability. However, this method is highly laborious to master and apply. First is the need to determine suitable theoretical foundations for analysis, need to code data as well as the intense analysis process. The findings may also be subjective as there is no definitive way of conducting research to ensure consistent results. However, discourse analysis is the most suitable method for analyzing the effects of politics on public opinion trends in social media.

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Identifying a Theory
The pilot study aimed to examine the application of Discourse, Text, and Speech analysis to understand how politics affects the trend of public opinion in social media. The first step of the pilot study was to locate the theoretical framework that situates the research question. According to Saraisky (2016), it is imperative to understand the rationale as to why discourse, text and speech analysis is vital to answering the selected question. The conceptual framework for the study draws from the literature review to develop a foundation to guide the discourse analysis process. The study will follow Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis method that consists of three dimensions. It will undertake a textual, Meso and Macro analysis. Thus, the study will analyze written texts and other content such as images and videos.

The sample size is not a fundamental issue in discourse analysis. Bukhari&Xiaoyang (2013) explain that deviations in linguistic patterns can emanate from analyzing a small group of people. Thus, large sample sizes may make the task unmanageable other than contribute to the right outcomes. Therefore, the samples of the study are the introductory video speech delivered in 2015 by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on their facebook pages. The speeches were made on different occasions with each candidate presenting their reasons on why they were running for presidency.

Research design and methodology
The chapter justifies the use and selection of discourse analysis as a research approach. It outlines the reliance on the research question and considers the strengths and weaknesses of this method for analysis. The chapter also explains the steps used to obtain a sample of empirical data used for the study.

Research Strategy
The study evaluates the effect of various political speeches and how language choices affect public opinion. Chilton (2004) explains that acts of speech invite responses from the audiences. Thus, discursive analysis presents the researcher with the opportunity to evaluate these opinions through social media.

Methods and Procedures
The pilot study sought to evaluate how politics affects public opinion trends in social media. The pilot study specifically analyzed political rhetoric of politicians’ posts from 2015 to 2016 in preparation of the United States elections. Limiting the analysis to a given period fosters a thorough analysis of posts and limits the content to be evaluated. The face book texts of politicians were analyzed depending with their popularity. Therefore, the study analysed Donald J. Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s texts, images and videos posted in their facebook pages at the time.

The pilot study happened in three stages. The first was tracking the posts of these political figures from 2015 to November 2016. The second step was the description of the posts using metaphors, vocabulary and terms. Finally, was the interpretation of the posts considering the background of the politician, their environment, and the manner in which the messages were delivered.

The search terms, “politics” “political campaign” and “social media” were used. Random sampling was applied by utilizing Nexiswhich generated too much data. As a result, contemporary data was acquired even though the study sought to utilize current political texts and speeches. Griffiths &Elwyn (2004) suggest the need to consider purposeful sampling instead of random sampling as it generates useful findings for the study as a means of avoiding this problem. It is also necessary to confine the research to specific dates or main political events that might have shaped public opinion to avoid the generation of numerous invaluable data. A researcher should maintain an analytical and critical mindset during data analysis to determine which texts are instrumental for the research.

Results and Discussions
The pilot study focused on the face book posts of the two contesting presidential candidates as relayed through their facebook pages. Through a facebook post on the 12th of April 2015, Hillary Clinton announced that she would be running for the position of president in 2016. She relayed her candidacy through a video that she posted on her page by stating, “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.” Several months later, Donald Trump also declared his interest for the position of US president while at the Trump Tower. Through a facebook video on the 16 June 2015, he stated, “Sadly the American dream is dead,” Trump said at the end of his speech. “But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”

These posts resulted to several public opinions from their supporters and non supporters. One trump supporter by the name Bob Jackson stated, “I’m proud to be white again. Go Trump and may God be on your side.” Another post by David Colin read, “The only good Trump supporter is a dead supporter.” In reacting to Hillary’s presidential bid, a non- supporter posted, “The problem is we have a rigged election and Hillary is going to flood us with us with Muslims. I hate to say it but if she wins, and it looks like she will, it’s over, time for a revolution.”

Analysis and Interpretations
The chapter outlines the research findings on the effects of politics on public opinion as portrayed through social media. The research question sought to facilitate an understanding of how speech acts reveal different realities. Fairclough’s method of discourse analysis is applied in interpreting the data. Particular attention is diverted to textual, discursive and social-cultural practices. Among the areas that were evaluated are the linguistic and discursive practices that demonstrate speech acts and their effects on social media users. Others are the variations in political speech and whether there are changes in political discourse.

The researcher evaluated the politicians and public responses for cultural references. After determining the context of political speech and texts, there was the need to determine how it informs an argument. Among some of the issues that the researcher evaluated in the text was its knowledge of other subject matter with an ability to influence public opinion. The goal of this process was to determine the importance of inter-textuality in assessing the present argument. The term “American” was evaluated to develop an understanding of the politicians and public’ cultural inference.

The pilot study also evaluated the structure of the text. After preparing materials and coding discourse strands, it was imperative to analyze the structural features of the text. The purpose of the analysis was to determine whether specific sections deal with one discourse or whether the strands textually overlap. The step allowed the researcher to collect and examine discursive statements. In future, the researcher should consider a consolidation of statements with a specific code and then evaluating what they say in regards to the specific discourse strand. Several micro features in Hillary and Trump’s speeches were analyzed. These are the use of repetition and its implications. For instance, Hillary repeats the word, “champion” in her speech. Conversely, Trump repeats the word “America” , while the anti trump supporter repeats the word, “ supporter.”

The study also sought to evaluate the linguistic and rhetorical mechanisms that are used in the political statements to influence public opinion. Politicians use metaphors to create a relationship between several ideas. For instance Trump states, “Sadly the American dream is dead. But I will bring it back if I am elected president.” Conversely, Hillary alleges that “the deck is still stacked in favor of those on top.” The anti-trump supporter also alleges that the “only good supporter is a dead supporter.”

The creation of separate codes for different categories of the digital files ensued. Eisenhart & Johnstone (2008) opine that a close evaluation of the verbs, nouns, and adjectives of this rhetoric will also foster the determination of common features. Grammatical elements were also analyzed to determine the subjects and objects of the political statements. The study evaluated grammar for regularities by assessing the use of pronouns such as “we” or “I”, as well as the protagonists and antagonists. According to Elwyn& Griffiths (2004), evaluating the adjectives and adverbs offers insight towards texts on specific groups of people and aids in explaining why they form a given public opinion on the subject.

The study also examined political texts to decipher their use of rhetoric and literary figures. The text was evaluated for similes, allegories, idioms, and proverbs among others to understand how they are deployed in constructing the politician’s argument. Their effect on fostering various relations with the readers and public were also analyzed. Other analyses that the researcher considered are forms of direct and indirect speech applied in the texts and speeches. Modalities in the text were also highlighted by inferring to specific statements such as “could or should” to assess the sense of urgency exhibited in selected speeches and texts.

Overall, the obtained data should reveal how politics affects the public’s opinion in social media

Developing a Coding Scheme
A previous literature review of research on the media informed the research question and development of the coding system. According to Bukhari &Xiaoyang (2013) it is imperative to minimize media bias by developing broad categories before commencing the data coding process. One of the ways the pilot study did this is by conducting a literature review and carrying out preliminary readings of text samples to understand important variables before finalizing the codebook process. After reading several scholarly theoretical and empirical literatures, a list of coding variables was developed. Selected media articles were then scanned to determine if the initial list resonated with popular findings and whether other important themes had been excluded in the scheme. New discoveries were integrated. All the aspects of the research design right from theory to the conceptualization process were specific to the research question. Three aspects of the code sheet for an analysis of how politics affects the trend of public opinion in social media were applied. These are generally descriptive, framing and standing categories. Each of the three coding aspects provided large volumes of data that were used for qualitative and quantitative analyses. The coding process connected theory to operationalization and highlighted the quality of political information that can affect public opinion in social media. The political text was then analyzed to determine whether it contained any of the coded themes. The coding process relied on various tools. Some of the ways this was done is by highlighting the multiple parts of the text using different colors. Text sections were also highlighted using a word processor. In future, the researcher should consider using software that simplifies the process to save time. One such application isNVivo, which has already built in coding mechanisms that can be customized for use.

Through the pilot study, the researcher gained several insights that will be instrumental while conducting the actual research process. First is the need to use definitive categories for coding. Mogashoa (2014) explains that broad categories should be broken down to smaller subcategories to facilitate ease during the coding process. It is also imperative to note down any additional themes as they can constitute additional strands of discourse. The list is then revised to reflect the findings of the study. It then reviews results to what is referred to as evolutionary coding since it revolves from theoretical considerations to an operational list derived from empirical data.

Limitations of the study
Discourse analysis is one of the most challenging techniques to master. There is a lack of clear guidelines from literature evaluating the topic. There is a host of philosophical and sociological, linguistic analyses that do not delineate proper procedures on implementation. Anyone using this methodology for research is likely to err as they operate from an unknown point. These challenges pose a significant problem for novice researchers as there isn’t one definitive approach for conducting analyses. Such a researcher is confronted with several options to choose from making it difficult to conduct the methodology. During the pilot study, the researcher had to choose from the various types of methodologies since every tradition has its epistemological position, procedures, and concepts as well as its understanding of analysis. Therefore, it was difficult to determine which theory and tradition works best for the study as there are no suggestions on which approach should apply when and where. Consequently, it is likely that the theoretical foundation employed for this is incorrect or unsuitable for the research. However, the researcher is unable to identify the best approach as there is no guide in doing so.

Another problem with discourse analysis is its subjectivity. Ayars (2018) posits that different speech acts may be interpreted differently by researchers. Morgan (2010) further reiterates that the subjective nature of this method emanates from the variation in texts. A key issue is the researcher’s strategic choice on the texts to analyze. Before conducting the study, the researcher had a preconceived idea that they sort to prove. The assumption is that politics affects public opinion and these views are later disseminated by the public using social media. Thus, the researcher was operating with an underlying assumption that encouraged the interpretation of the text. The problem with such assumptions is that they may result in different interpretations and the creation of new ideologies. Acting with the knowledge of specific political events and speeches, it is likely that the researcher presented their opinion of these issues to pass as public opinion. Thus, the conclusion of the study cannot be termed incontrovertible. As a result of this subjective nature, it is necessary for researchers to be self-critical and independent.

Strengths of the Study
A major benefit of using discourse analysis of the study is the lack of financial resources required to conduct research. It is necessary fora researcher to apply their critical thinking skills and discourse analysis of texts.

The researcher reveals creative expressions in terms of repetition and how these are used by politicians to influence public opinion in social media trends. Thus, creative expressions are common place in political rhetoric as they highlight politicians’ ideas on issues.

The methodology also evaluates subjective pronouns and their role in creating intimacy between the politician and recipients.

Overall, the use of discourse analysis for the pilot study enables the research to consider several dimensions of political rhetoric and its influences on the public through social media. Its consideration of various issues and how they shape the public’s relationship with politicians makes it the best methodology for this research.

A Critical Evaluation of Discourse Analysis
Discourse analysis examines the structure, form, and content of information. Among the critical things analyzed through the study are grammar and words and how they are received and interpreted by the public/ audiences. The application of pronouns, nouns, and verbs within a given discourse is fundamental to the analysis just as is the tone and content. Elwyn& Griffiths (2004) espouse that discourse analysis is imperative to research as it admits the effects of discursive actions on social contributions.Through discourse analysis, researchers can apply semantic and grammar within a political, cultural and social context. It also analyses the broader implications of language. An underlying belief of using this methodology is that it emanates from the position of power, one where the controlling force can persuade and manipulate social groups and individuals. Thus, discourse analysis reveals ways in which this influence is applied by specifically exposing how acts of speech affect readers and the audience. The research method emanates from the assumption that language is a means to relay an action and function. It also postulates that people apply language to communicate their account of the social world and that one on one interaction exists between words and their meaning. However, it is easier to explain the critical tenets of discourse analysis other than to apply it in research (Tenorio, 2011). The design of this method is dependent on the researcher’s perception and project deliverables. Nonetheless, deliverables vary depending on the linguistic features that are being explored to the dominant themes’ in a researcher’s discourse. Depending with the approach a researcher prefers, they are required to reflect on social realities to understanding the construction of accounts and their functions. Therefore, discourse analysis is a highly diverse methodology that is based on various quality criterions. These are the need to be intelligible when offering interpretations and explanations. Consequently, the process of collecting, evaluating and explaining multiple data should be recognizable. According to Huckin, Andrus & Clary-Lemon (2012), a fundamental criterion is that the findings should be accessible and readable for the social group for which it is meant. Trustworthiness can also be improved through triangulation techniques which apply a host of background information, analyze various empirical data and techniques of analysis.Most importantly, the value of findings in discourse analysis relies on inter-subjective validity. Thus, there should be a considerable level of openness and interchangeability between various data sets, as well as researcher intervention, and interpretations.

In comparison to other methods of textual analysis, discourse analysis relies on an inductive-deductive approach. In principle, it does not restrict the spheres of application but demands transparency and information availability around the phenomenon. However, discourse analysis may also employ techniques from content analysis such as codification but without a strict quantification of the research findings. One characteristic that distinguishes content analysis from discourse analysis is that the former is highly subject oriented. However, unlike other methods, discourse analysis works with a range of texts and analyzes their relationship with one another. While several variants of discourse analysis are known, several forms of research only adopt Fairclough’s approach as it is considered a highly developed theory and method for communication research. Fairclough’s approach to research analysis assumes that discourse alters and reproduces knowledge, social relations and identities and is shaped by other pre-existing social platforms. Therefore, the application of this theory for research enables the researcher to analyze the various dimensions of discourse for effective results.

According to Bondarouk &Ruël (2004) discourse analyses are based on five characteristics. First is that discursive practices harness the construction of social reactions and identities. Second is the effect of discourse on the social world and the various relational methods. The third is the need to analyze language within its social bracket, and the fourth is that discursive practices result in unequal power relations. Finally is the role of discourse in harnessing social relationships and in attaining positive change. The various traits of discourse analysis show that it is relevant to research as it admits the influence of discursive practices in forming social constructions. Through sources analysis, researchers can examine grammar and semantics in social, political and cultural terms.

According to Morgan (2010), a fundamental problem with the methodology is that discourse researchers advocate for various methods of analyzing texts and speeches. Various discourse researches have shown that the methodology is highly subjective and open to bias. Thus, the method lacks a critical dimension to it. Among the ways that researchers are required to avoid this limitation is by putting forth transparent assumptions.

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