A Discourse Toolbox by George McNamara

We use words to speak or write. However, they can express more of our thoughts than we expect - we often call this "reading between the lines". When we examine a set of words, there is always a risk that we will slip into commentary or campaigning - I have tried to develop a set of techniques that go beyond this, which try to develop agreed and definitive answers to questions like "What are they thinking of to say that ?" and "What are they really saying ?".

I have created a Toolbox of techniques to do this based on the theoretical field of Critical Discourse Analysis. There are 15 groups of tools in the Toolbox, and, as an introduction, I have used some of the tools from the toolbox to analyse a UK Government Food Policy text. Worked examples of using the tools are given in the orange box:-

Lobby Influences
The Imaginary Reader
A Site of Struggle
Situation Analysis
Repetition (of "sustainability")
Links and Entanglements


A summary of the complete Toolbox is given Here

As a sample text, I have used the UK Government Aims and Objectives for 2001 from the Ministry of Agriculture. The full text is given Here, with links to the tools used.

I have created a companion website where the main focus is on UK food policy, where these and other tools have extracted the information.

The toolbox has been particularly developed so that lobby and other groups can understand more fully the situation of Governments and businesses, so that they can communicate better with them rather than going into a polarised or oppositioinal dynamic.

For those new to discourse, I have written brief essays on the theoretical basis of the Toolbox, in the blue box below:

Discourse Theory
Critical Discourse Analysis
The Dispositive
Context and Event Models
The Discourse Toolbox is mostly based on the first two, Discourse Theory and Critical Discourse Analysis. However, further sets of tools can be generated from Context and Event Models, and from the Dispositive. A process of triangulation using several approaches can be essential to validate information and generate full understanding

These tools have great potential for the systematic examination of problem texts, and I have created a proposed full methodology for the in-depth study of policy and similar texts.
I you want to commission a study, please contact me by email at george@woodlands-web.com, or phone me.

Please contact me if you are interested in using my services.
(0044)(0) 1372-749803

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