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Analysing Political Discourse I: Theories, Concepts and Research Designs

Michal Krzyzanowski

Uppsala Universitet

Since 2020 Michał has held the Chair in Media and Communication Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Michał is a leading expert in critical discourse studies. His key areas of interest are political, policy and organisational communication as well as media and journalism. He is particularly known for his work on right-wing populism, anti-immigration rhetoric as well as for his research on neoliberal discourses and dynamics of democracy in the context of socio-political transformations.

Michał is also widely recognised for his work on methodological innovations in qualitative research, including discourse-ethnographic analysis of organisational and journalistic practices or discourse-conceptual analysis of dynamics of policy and political discourse.

Read Michał's full biography on the Uppsala University website.


Course Dates and Times

Monday 30 July - Friday 3 August

09:00-10:30 / 11:00-12:30

Prerequisite Knowledge

Note from the Academic Convenors to prospective participants: by registering to this course, you certify that you possess the prerequisite knowledge that is requested to be able to follow this course. The instructor will not teach again these prerequisite items. If you doubt whether you possess that knowledge to a sufficient extent, we suggest you contact the instructor before you proceed to your registration.

Students attending the course be familiar with selected aspects of social theory, especially those relevant for the discourse-analytic approaches discussed during the course (see outline for details).

Students should also be open to new, interdisciplinary qualitative methods of research in social and political sciences and should be interested in both synchronic and/or diachronic analyses of contemporary national and supranational politics in Europe and beyond, also in relation to other fields such as media, institutions, policy-making, etc.

Short Outline

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as both theoretical and empirical approach to research on dynamics of contemporary political change. The course aims to highlight key approaches in CDA and especially its so-called ‘Viennese’ or Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA), widely recognised for its systematic and empirically funded work on both national and supranational politics in Europe. The course presents CDA as both theory and practice and does so at the background of various linguistic and social-scientific approaches to text and discourse studies as well as at the background of developments in social and political theory. The course takes place in a 1+1 format so both weeks can be taken independently or as a one 2-week module (highly advisable). The first Week of the course is devoted to theoretical and analytical groundwork with students being introduced to history and development of text and discourse studies as well as to CDA and its relationship to other approaches in discourse analysis. Students are also made familiar with research design in CDA/DHA as example of qualitative research practice. During Week two, students become familiar with key steps and categories of CDA/DHA-inspired analysis. They also further their analytical skills while using various analytical categories and paths and different types of empirical material analysed in a series of in- and out-of-class individual and group assignments. They are also presented with a series of applications of CDA/DHA in various analyses of contemporary politics, policy and political institutions.

Tasks for ECTS Credits

  • Participants attending the course: 2 credits (pass/fail grade) The workload for the calculation of ECTS credits is based on the assumption that students attend classes and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, classes.
  • Participants attending the course and completing one task (see below): 3 credits (to be graded)
  • Participants attending the course, and completing two tasks (see below): 4 credits (to be graded)

For 3 credits, participants are required to write a short (2500 words max. all inclusive) take-home paper related to selected theories and concepts in CDS/DHA, with relevant short examples of their application/analysis (scope, topics and format to be discussed with the instructor at the beginning of Week I). Paper to be submitted to the instructor at at the latest by 17:00 CET on Monday 06/08/2018 (i.e. Day 6 of the Summer School).

For 4 credits, participants will need to complete the task as for 3 credits, and write a take-home paper of an academic journal format (6500 words max. all inclusive; scope and topics to be agreed with the instructor) presenting application of CDA/DHA in contemporary political research in the area of your choosing. Paper to be submitted to the instructor at at the latest by 17:00 CET on Monday 06/08/2018 (i.e. Day 6 of the Summer School).

Long Course Outline

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a way of carrying out social research with a focus on ‘discourse’ i.e. on text and other forms of semiosis analysed in their contexts of use, production and reception. CDA has become extremely popular in recent years as one of the key largely qualitative approaches to social and political change used across the variety of social and political sciences.

By offering comprehensive introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis as an approach to research on dynamics of contemporary political change, this course wishes to outline key theoretical foundations, methodological premises and analytical pathways in CDA. In doing so, the course wishes to highlight those aspects of critical-analytic studies which make them particularly useful to interdisciplinary and context-related explorations of contemporary politics. By showing similarities and differences between CDA – and especially one of its major traditions known as the Discourse-Historical Approach (or DHA) – and other discourse-based approaches widely-used in social and political studies, the course wishes to highlight such advantages of CDA/DHA research as, inter alia, systematic approach to analysis or its clear relation to the levels of pre-analytical theorising and post-analytical interpretation.

The course also aims at clarifying several misconceptions and misinterpretations of CDA that are widespread in social- and political-scientific research. For example, as CDA is often approached from a limited perspective i.e. as just a ‘method’ rather than a coherent approach with a distinct theory and methodology, the course wishes to show a variety of theories, methods and analyses deployed in critical-analytical explorations including at the intersection of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Also, as CDA is also often viewed as a homogeneous approach, the course wishes to discard such criticism while showing CDA a heterogeneous research tradition that consists of several schools which, while sharing general principles (on e.g. the relation between language and power, ideology), differ in their theoretical and methodological ontology as well as their analytical pathways and foci.

However, the major aim of the course is practical as it is geared towards making students familiar with the ways of analysing political and related discourses from a critical-analytic as well as discourse-historical perspective. For this reason, whether within lectures or the related discussion or hands-on analysis workshops, the course aims at showing the practical application of presented theories, methods and analyses. These will be related to studies of a wide array of genres incl. those from within the political field itself (e.g. parliamentary and other speeches, party programmes, etc.) as well as from within the related fields of policy-making and administration (regulations, policy documents, etc.) or of media and its representations of politics (reporting, interviews, debates, etc.). The analyses of those genres will be guided by such DHA principles as, inter alia, ‘interdiscursivity’ or ‘recontextualisation’ which allow for relating discourses produced synchronically and diachronically as well as across different contexts and within different texts and genres.

The course takes place in a 1+1 format so both weeks can be taken independently or as a one 2-week module (the latter option is, however, strongly advised if students wish to acquire a thorough theoretical as well as practical knowledge as well as in-depth analytical skills in CDA).

The first part of the Course (i.e. Week I) starts with a series of sessions devoted to introducing critical discourse studies and their relationship to other approaches in text and discourse analysis, within both linguistics and the wider social sciences. The opening lecture on Day 1 is devoted to discussing those key developments within linguistics and other social sciences that contributed to the development of critical-analytic approaches in text and discourse studies. The morning lecture on the Day 2 looks in detail at Critical Discourse Analysis. Further to discussing its central concepts such as text, discourse or context, it also introduces the main trends – or approaches – in CDA. It does so from the point of view of pointing to both similarities and differences between various strands of CDA and to highlighting the common ground of critical-analytical research traditions.

Day 2 also opens a series of sessions devoted to concepts and theories in CDA and other, especially social scientific, approaches to text and discourse studies. On the one hand, noon session on Day 2 and morning session on Day 3 look at the key approaches to analysing discourse as practiced within linguistics and related social sciences (e.g. in sociology or anthropology). The sessions present their varied, micro/macro positioning of discourse in the course of socio-political analysis. On the other hand, the afternoon lecture on Day 3 discusses relationships between CDA and social theory. The latter is considered from the point of view of its key influences in/on CDA, especially with regard to, inter alia, theories of Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, or Pierre Bourdieu, as well as in a wider context of parallel developments in social-scientific approaches to discourse (such as e.g. the ‘Discourse Theory’ of Laclau & Mouffe or Grounded Theory, Content Analysis, Hermeneutics, etc.).

The two-part lecture on Day 4 introduces key premises and central concepts of the DHA before discussing it from the point of view of its contribution to the interdisciplinary connections within/beyond CDA as well as tackling criticisms thereof within different social sciences. The focus throughout the lecture is on the understanding of the key concepts used in the DHA: ideology, power, critique, discourse, interdiscursivity and recontextualisation. A special attention is paid to the DHA-specific notion of ‘discursive strategies’ discussed from their point of view of their role in self- and other-presentation, legitimation and pre-legitimation, or in political and other identity-building processes.

Finally, the morning lecture of Day 5 focuses on a general placement of CDA and wider Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) including the DHA within the landscape of contemporary qualitative research methods. The lecture is hence devoted to discussing the key features of a CDS/DHA research from the point of view of such standard qualitative methods as interviews, ethnography and text/document analysis. The lecture also focuses on issues related to possible research designs in CDS/DHA and to hypothesising and constructing research questions as well as conceptual puzzles in research projects founded on CDS/DHA.

Week I closes with an individual consultation hour (within noon session on Day 5) during which students can individually discuss their research projects with the instructor. This session is especially for Students taking only Week I of the course (NB: there will be further opportunities for individual consultations in Week II - for students taking both weeks or Week II only).

Please note that the major aim of the course is to transfer and generate knowledge from discussions and interactions between the instructor and participants, and among the students. All students are therefore expected to fully participate in the course (i.e. be present, ask critical questions, complete in time all obligatory readings, actively participate in all in-class tasks and discussions as well as in out-of-class assignments, relate obtained knowledge to their current/future research, etc.).

Day Topic Details
1 Session 1

Foundations of Text and Discourse Studies: Linguistics and Beyond (Lecture)

2 Session 1

Critical Discourse Analysis: Key Concepts and Approaches (Lecture)

Session 2

Getting Started: Participants and Their Research, Interests, Projects and Expectations (Discussion)

Session 2

CDA vs. Other Approaches to Discourse Studies I (Lecture)

Wednesday Session 1

CDA vs. Other Approaches to Discourse Studies (Lecture/Discussion)

Wednesday Session 2

Theoretical and Analytical Concepts in (Critical) Discourse Studies – Contributions of Social Theory & Social Research (Lecture/Discussion)

Thursday Session 1

The Discourse-Historical Approach in CDA (Lecture)

Thursday Session 2

Analytical Procedures & Research Design in CDA/DHA: A Qualitative Research Practice (Lecture)

3 Session 1

CDA vs. Other Approaches to Discourse Studies II (Lecture/Discussion)

Friday Session 2

Entry & In-Depth Analysis in CDA/DHA: Relationships and Key Analytical Categories (Workshop)

Session 2

Theoretical and Analytical Concepts in (Critical) Discourse Studies – Contributions of Social Theory & Social Research (Lecture/Discussion)

4 Session 1

DHA: The Discourse-Historical Approach in CDA (Lecture – Part I)

Session 2

DHA: The Discourse-Historical Approach in CDA (Lecture – Part II)

5 Session 1

CDA/DHA as a Qualitative Research Practice: Research Design and Analysis (Lecture)

Session 2

Individual Consultations to Discuss Student Research Projects (Max. 5 projects / 20 min each)

Day Readings

Session 1:

  • Krzyżanowski, M. (2010). The Discursive Construction of European Identities. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. (esp. Chapter 2: Dimensions of Analysis, pp. 29-67).
  • Meyer, M. (2001). Between, Theory, Method and Politics: Positioning of the approaches to CDA. In: R. Wodak and M. Meyer (Eds.)(2001). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage, pp. 14-32.

Session 2:

  • Shiffrin, D., D. Tannen and H. Hamilton (eds.)(2001). Handbook of Discourse Analysis. London: Blackwell.
  • Foucault M. (1981). The Order of Discourse. In: R. Young (ed.) Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 48-78.
  • Forchtner, B. (2011). Critique, The Discourse Historical Approach, and the Frankfurt School. Critical Discourse Studies, 8(1), 1-14.

Session 1:

  • Wodak, R. (1996). Disorders of Discourse. London: Longman. (esp. Chapter 1: Introduction: Orders and Disorders, pp. 1-34).
  • Fowler, R. And G. Kress (1979). Critical Linguistics. In: R. Fowler, B. Hodge, G. Kress and T. Trew. Language and Control. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 185-214.

Session 2:

  • Krzyżanowski, M. & B. Forchtner (2016) Theories and concepts in critical discourse studies: Facing challenges, moving beyond foundations. Discourse & Society 27(3), 253-261.  
  • Bell, A. (2011). Re-constructing Babel: Discourse analysis, hermeneutics and the Interpretive Arc. Discourse Studies 13: 519 – 568.
  • Egan-Sjölander, A. (2011). Introduction: Comparing Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse Theory. In: A. Egan-Sjölander and J. Gunnarsson-Payne (eds.) Tracking Discourses: Politics, Identity and Social Change. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, pp.13-48.
  • Titscher, S., M. Meyer, R. Wodak and E. Vetter (2000). Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis. London: Sage (Chapter 5: Content Analysis, pp. 55-73 and Chapter 6: Grounded Theory, pp. 74-89).
  • Forchtner, B. & C. Schneickert (2016) Collective learning in social fields: Bourdieu, Habermas and critical discourse studies.  Discourse & Society 27(3), 293-307.

Session 1:

  • Reisigl, M. and R. Wodak (2009). The Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA). In: R. Wodak and M. Meyer (Eds.). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. 2nd Revised Edition. London: Sage, pp. 87-121.

Session 2:

  • van Leeuwen, T. (2007) Legitimation in Discourse & Communication. Discourse & Communication 1(1): 91–112
  • Krzyżanowski, M. (2014). Values, Imaginaries and Templates of Journalistic Practice: A Critical Discourse Analysis. Social Semiotics 24:3, 345-365.
  • Krzyżanowski, M. (2010). The Discursive Construction of European Identities. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. (esp. Chapter 3).
  • Wodak, R. (1999) The Discursive Construction of National Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Session 1:

  • Krzyżanowski, M. (2010). The Discursive Construction of European Identities. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. (esp. Chapter 2: Dimensions of Analysis, pp. 29-67).
  • Ten Have, P. (2004). Understanding Qualitative Research and Ethnomethodology. London: Sage (Chapter 1: Qualitative Methods in Social Research, pp. 1-13)

Please note that it is students’ sole responsibility to obtain access to readings, ideally prior to the course.

Software Requirements

No specialist software will be used except for Power Point, Acrobat Reader etc.

Hardware Requirements

Participants will need to bring their own laptop.


Key Sources:

Krzyżanowski, M. 2010. The Discursive Construction of European Identities. A Multilevel Approach

to Discourse and Identity in the Transforming European Union. (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Wodak, R. and M. Krzyżanowski (eds.)(2008). Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences.

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Other Sources:

Blommaert, J. Discourse: A Critical Introduction. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Discourse & Society. 19. pp. 783-828.

Fairclough, N. Discourse and Social Change. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992).

Galasińska, A. and M. Krzyżanowski (Eds.)(2008). Discourse and Transformation in Central and

Eastern Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Johnstone, B. Discourse Analysis. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).

Krzyżanowski, M and F. Oberhuber. (Un)Doing Europe: Discourses and Practices of Negotiating the

EU Constitution. (Brussels: PIE – Peter Lang, 2007).

Reisigl, M. and R. Wodak. Discourse and Discrimination. (London: Routledge, 2001)

Schiffrin, D., Tannen, D., Hamilton, H. (eds.). The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. (Oxford:

Blackwell, 2001).

Triandafyllidou, A., R. Wodak and M. Krzyżanowski (Eds.)(2009). European Public Sphere and the

Media: Europe in Crisis. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

van Dijk, T.A. Prejudice in Discourse, (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1984).

van Dijk, T.A. Ideology. A Multidisciplinary Approach. (London: Sage, 1998).

Weiss, G. and Wodak, R. (eds.). Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity in

Critical Discourse Analysis. (London: Palgrave, 2007).

Wodak, R. and Chilton, P. (eds.). New Agenda in (Critical) Discourse Analysis. (Amsterdam:

Benjamins, 2007).

Wodak, R. and Meyer, M. (eds.). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. 2nd Revised Edition.

(London: Sage, 2009).

Additional Information


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.