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Discourse Analysis – A Definitive Guide With Steps & Types

Published by at August 14th, 2021 , Revised On August 29, 2023

What is Discourse Analysis?

Discourse analysis is an essential aspect of studying a language and its uses in day-to-day life.

It aims to gain in-depth knowledge about the language and identify its association with society, culture, and people’s perception.

It is used in various social science and humanities disciplines, such as linguistic, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics.

Aims of Discourse Analysis

It focuses on

  • The clear, in-depth meaning of the language.
  • The uses of language and its effects.
  • The association of the language with cultures, interpersonal relationships, and communication.
  • Various components of the language like vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, tone of voice, fonts, and written form.

Uses of Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis is

  • Used to study the language and its applications in texts and contexts.
  • It focuses on the entire conversation and real text instead of constructed or artificial text.
  • It helps linguists to know the role of language in improving the understanding of people.
  • It enables teachers to learn many language strategies to teach students writing/speaking skills better.

Materials Used in Discourse Analysis

The material includes

  • Biographies
  • Encyclopedia
  • Documents
  • Newspapers
  • Literature
  • Periodicals
  • Oral statements/conversations
  • Social media posts
  • Textbooks
  • Articles

Types of Discourse

Type of discourse Definition Example
Argumentative discourse The author or speaker tries to convince his reader/audience that his perception and argument are right. They use various logical and fact-based statements and targets the audience’s sense of reason. Essays, lectures, and prose.
Narrative discourse The writer or speaker tells the story to convey his thoughts interestingly. Stories, Plays, and folklore, etc.
Description discourse A writer or speaker tries to portray the exact picture of the incident, place, person, or object through his words so that the audience can imagine the real picture of what is being discussed. Novels and poetry.
Expository discourse A writer or speaker informs the audience about a certain topic. Definitions, laboratory reports, book summaries, encyclopedia, instructions, etc.

What to Analyse?

Elements of the Discourse What Does it Include?
Vocabulary It includes analysing the meaning of words and phrases and the association between the words and the speaker’s context, text organisation, modality, etc.
Grammar It focuses on grammatical terms like clauses, parts of speech, active-passive voice, use of questions, etc.
Genre It’s a way of using the language for various purposes and its relationship with social context (a news item, interview, fiction, non-fiction, educational and literary genres)
Non-verbal communication It includes variation in the communication speed, pitch of the voice, intonation, stress, rhythm, pausing, and phrasing of the speech.
Structure It includes analysing the text’s structure and organisation, including sentences, paragraphs, and their context.
Culture It includes an in-depth study of communication by using theories of cultural interaction and its codes.
Discursive statements It includes arguments, perspectives, thoughts of the writer/speaker.
Literary figures It includes (idioms, similes, metaphors, allegories, proverbs)

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How to Conduct Discourse Analysis?

While conducting discourse analysis, you need to focus on the following points.

  • Purpose of the writer
  • The context of the speech/passage
  • Type of the language used.
  • The organisation of the text

You need to interpret the meaning and context of the discourse based on the available material and resources. There are various methods to conduct discourse analysis, but we are discussing the most basic method below.

Step1: Develop a Research Question

Like any other research in discourse analysis, it’s essential to have a research question to proceed with your study.  After selecting your research question, you need to find out the relevant resources to find the answer to it. Discourse analysis can be applied to smaller or larger samples depending on your research’s aims and requirements.

Example: If you want to find out the impact of plagiarism on the credibility of the authors. You can examine the relevant materials available on the topic from the internet, newspapers, and books published during the past 5-10 years.

Step 2: Collect Information and Establish the Context

After formulating a research question, you can review the literature and find out the details about the source material, such as:

  • Who is the author?
  • What is the year and date of publication?
  • What’s the name of the publication?
  • What country and place is it from?
  • What language is used?
  • How and where did you find it?
  • What’s the name of the publication?
  • How can others get access to the same source?
  • What kind of impact did it make on its audience?
  • What’s the association between discourse material and real life?

These questions enable you to construct a strong evidence-based theory about your study.

Example: While investigating the history and origin of a particular religion. You also have to research the political events, culture, language of the people, and their association with society.

Generally, details about the publication and production of the material are available in the about section on their online websites. If you don’t find the relevant information online, don’t hesitate to contact the editor or publication via email, phone calls, etc. 

Step 3: Analyse the Content

In this step, you should analyse various aspects of the materials such as:

  • Vocabulary
  • Sentence structure
  • The organisation of the text
  • Inter-relationship between the text
  • Layout and Page quality (if you are using offline materials)
  • Links, comments, technical excellence, readability, multimedia content (if you are using online material)
  • The genre of the source (a news item, political speech, a report, interview, biography, commentary, etc.)

The analysis of these elements gives you a clear understanding, and you can present your findings more accurately. Once you have analysed the above features, you should analyse the following aspects:

  • The structure of the argument
  • The role of the introduction and conclusion of the material
  • The context of the material
  • Patterns and themes
  • Discursive statements (arguments, perspective, thoughts of the writer/speaker
  • Grammatical features (use of pronouns, adjectives, phrases, active or passive voice, and their meaning)
  • Literary figures (idioms, similes, metaphors, allegories, proverbs)

Step 4: Interpret the Data

Now you have all the information, but the question that arises here is: 

What does it all mean?

To answer this question, compile all your findings to explain the meaning and context of the discourse.

Step 5: Present your Findings

It’s time to present your results. Throughout the process, you gathered detailed notes of the discourse, building a strong presentation or thesis. You can use the references of other relevant sources as evidence to support your discussion. Always try to make your paper interesting to grab the attention of the reader.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Discourse Analysis


  • It provides a way of thinking and analysing the problem.
  • It enables us to understand the context and perception of the speaker.
  • It can be applied at any given time, place, and people.
  • It helps to learn any language its origin and association with society and culture.


  • There are many options available as each tradition has its own concepts, procedures, and a specific understanding of discourse and its analysis.
  • Discourse analysis doesn’t help to find out the answer to scientific problems.



Frequently Asked Questions

Discourse analysis examines language use in context. It studies how communication shapes and reflects social meaning, power dynamics, and cultural norms. By analyzing spoken, written, or visual language, it unveils hidden ideologies, identities, and social structures within various contexts.

About Alvin Nicolas

Avatar for Alvin NicolasNicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He is a content manager at ResearchProspect. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.