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Analyzing Talk in the Social Sciences

Analyzing Talk in the Social Sciences
Narrative, Conversation and Discourse Strategies

November 2015 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Talk is one of the main resources available to qualitative researchers. It offers rich, meaningful data that can provide real insights and new perspectives. But once you have the data how do you select an appropriate means of analysis? How do you ensure that the approach you adopt is the best for your project and your data?

The book will help you choose strategies for qualitative analysis that best suit your research. It walks you through key decisions, provides actionable game plans and highlights the advantages and challenges of the main approaches. It is packed full of real examples designed to showcase the different tools you might use to meet your own objectives.

Each section of the book focuses on one popular strategy for analyzing talk-based data:

  • Narrative Analysis
  • Conversation Analysis
  • Discourse Analysis 

Taken together these sections will help you to fine-tune the link between your primary research question and your methods; to ensure that your theoretical stance fits with your methods; and to reason through your analysis in a way that will be recognizable to the intellectual communities of narrative, conversation, or discourse analysts.

This book is both starting point and map for any social scientist looking to strategically and purposefully analyse talk data.


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Broad Strokes Approaches to Narrative Analysis
Chapter 3: Fine-Grained Analyses of Meaning
Chapter 4: The Interview in Narrative Analysis
Chapter 5 : The Basics of Conversation Analysis
Chapter 6: Conversation Analysis Approaches to Social Categories
Chapter 7: Institutional Talk-in-Interaction
Chapter 8: The Interview in Conversation Analysis
Chapter 9: Foucauldian Discourse Analysis
Chapter 10: Critical Discourse Analysis
Chapter 11: Garden-Variety Discourse Analysis
Chapter 12: The Interview in Discourse Analysis
Chapter 13: Conclusion

This book is an absolute treat. Its engaging style, its comprehensive content, its clear logic, its brilliant use of examples and above all its enormous value to qualitative researchers of all stripes add up to me wishing it had been available years ago!

Jo Brewis
School of Management, University of Leicester

Its strength lies in its unique perspective, appropriate use of examples, comprehensive yet concise synthesis of existing literature, and grounded summary of analytic strategies.

Pengfei Zhao
Indiana University Bloomington
Canadian Journal of Sociology

A pleasantly readable and remarkably helpful guide that offers as much to experienced researchers as it does to novices. It clearly presents the “how’s” of narrative, content and discourse analysis while simultaneously dealing so thoughtfully with the “why’s” of these approaches. 

Dorothy Pawluch
Director of the Honours Social Psychology Program, McMaster University

This is a marvelous book. Qualitative social scientists analyzing "talk data" will benefit immensely from the astute discussion of discourse, narrative, and conversational analysis strategies. So too will quantitative researchers seeking a clear overview of this expanding methodological field. 

Harvey Krahn
Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta

The authors are attentive to all aspects of the interview, and identify a generally unaddressed and possibly major flaw of the qualitative method by discussing how memories are altered in retrospect and collective, not just individual, in character

Ivonne Küsters
Soziologische Revue

A rewarding read as it crystallizes the differences and similarities among three popular approaches to analyzing talk data; it synthesizes key terminology, assumptions, relevant studies, intellectual traditions, and theoretical developments from a variety of fields. It will provide essential analytical skills and resources for faculty advising research, guided by narrative analysis, conversation analysis, and discourse analysis, and readers curious about these analytical approaches.

Andrea E. Lypka
The Qualitative Report

A helpful and much-needed guide. Meticulous attention is given to the consistency of ontology, epistemology, analytic strategy, and the criteria of rigorous analysis. Its strength lies in its unique perspective, appropriate use of examples, comprehensive yet concise synthesis of existing literature, and grounded summary of analytic strategies.

Pengfei Zhao, Indiana University Bloomington
Canadian Journal of Sociology

The main merit of this book is that it demonstrates how the choice for each of these strategies is related to ontological (what can be known) and epistemological (how we know) principles. The authors succeed with brilliance in order to untangle these Gordian knots for novice researchers by conveying the concrete application of relevant analytical concepts in a very clear way. Thanks to the accessible, pleasant writing style, anyone who wants a general overview of the most common methods in Na, CA and DA, can read this work smoothly from start to finish.

Melissa Ceuterick
Department of Sociology, University of Ghent

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