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Analysing Political Discourse I: Theories, Concepts and Research Designs

Course Dates and Times

Monday 29 July – Friday 2 August

09:00–10:30 & 11:00–12:30

Michal Krzyzanowski

Uppsala Universitet

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a theoretical and empirical approach to research on dynamics of contemporary political change.

It highlights key approaches in CDA, especially its so-called ‘Viennese’ or Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA), widely recognised for its systematic and empirically funded work on national and supranational politics in Europe.

The course presents CDA as theory and practice, in the context of various linguistic and social-scientific approaches to text and discourse studies, and developments in social and political theory.

You can take this course and Analysing Political Discourse II independently of each other, or as a single two-week module (strongly advised).

Week 1 – Analysing Political Discourse I (SD102A)
Devoted to theoretical and analytical groundwork. I will introduce history and development of text and discourse studies as well as to CDA and its relationship to other approaches in discourse analysis. You will become familiar with research design in CDA/DHA as an example of qualitative research practice.

Week 2 – Analysing Political Discourse II (SD102B)
You will learn the key steps and categories of CDA/DHA-inspired analysis. You will improve your analytical skills 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. You will be presented with a series of applications of CDA/DHA in various analyses of contemporary politics, policy and political institutions.

ECTS Credits for this course and, below, tasks for additional credits.

2 credits Attend all classes, participate actively in, and complete, all in-class assignments, as an individual and in groups.

3 credits As above, plus write a short (2,500 words max) take-home paper related to selected theories and concepts in CDS/DHA, with relevant short examples of your application / analysis (scope, topics and format to be discussed with the Instructor). Paper must be emailed to the Instructor by 17:00 CET on Monday 10 August 2020.

4 credits As above, plus write a take-home paper in academic journal format (6,500 words max; 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 must be emailed to the Instructor by 17:00 CET on Friday 28 August 2020, two weeks after the end of the Summer School.

Instructor Bio

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.


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 analysing social and political change across social and political sciences.

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis as an approach to research dynamics of contemporary political change. It outlines key theoretical foundations, methodological premises and analytical pathways in CDA. In doing so, it highlights 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 (DHA) – and other discourse-based approaches widely used in social and political studies, the course highlights advantages of CDA/DHA research as, inter alia, a systematic approach to analysis or its clear relation to the levels of pre-analytical theorising and post-analytical interpretation.

The course also aims to clarify several widespread misconceptions and misinterpretations of CDA. Because CDA is often approached as simply a ‘method’ rather than a coherent approach with a distinct theory and methodology, this course aims to show a variety of theories, methods and analyses deployed in critical-analytical explorations, including those at the intersection of qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Also, because CDA is also often regarded as a homogeneous approach, the course aims to discredit such criticism, showing CDA as a heterogeneous research tradition that consists of several schools which, while sharing general principles (on, for example, 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 because it is geared towards teaching you how to analyse political and related discourses from a critical-analytic as well as discourse-historical perspective. For this reason, whether in lectures or the related discussion, or in hands-on analysis workshops, the course aims to show the practical application of theories, methods and analyses. These will be related to studies of a wide array of genres including those from within the political field itself (e.g. parliamentary and other speeches, party programmes, etc.) as well as 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.

You can take this course and Analysing Political Discourse II independently of each other, or as a single two-week module (strongly advised if you want to acquire a thorough theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as in-depth analytical skills in CDA).

Day 1
We start with a series of sessions introducing critical discourse studies and their relationship to other approaches in text and discourse analysis, both in linguistics and in social sciences more broadly. The opening lecture discusses the key developments that contributed to the development of critical-analytic approaches in text and discourse studies.

Day 2
The morning lecture 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 points to similarities and differences between various strands of CDA and highlights the common ground of critical-analytical research traditions.

We begin a series of sessions devoted to concepts and theories in CDA and other, especially social scientific, approaches to text and discourse studies. The noon session and tomorrow’s morning session look at the key approaches to analysing discourse as practiced in linguistics and related social sciences (e.g. sociology or anthropology). The sessions present their varied, micro/macro positioning of discourse in the course of socio-political analysis.

Day 3
We continue our look at the key approaches to analysing discourse as practiced in linguistics and related social sciences. In the afternoon, we discuss 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, and 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).

Day 4
A two-part lecture 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. We then tackle criticisms of DHA in different social sciences. The focus is on key DHA concepts: ideology, power, critique, discourse, interdiscursivity and recontextualisation. We pay special attention to the DHA-specific notion of ‘discursive strategies’ from the perspective of their role in self- and other-presentation, legitimation and pre-legitimation, and in political and other identity-building processes.

Day 5
The morning lecture focuses on a general placement of CDA and wider Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) including the DHA within the landscape of contemporary qualitative research methods. We discuss the key features of 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.

We close with an individual consultation hour (noon session) during which you can discuss your research projects with me. This session is for those taking only SD102A (Week I). If you are taking SD102B (Week II) or both weeks in succession, we will run individual consultations at the end of Week II.

The aim of this course is to transfer and generate knowledge from discussions and interactions between the instructor and participants.

I expect you to ask critical questions, complete all obligatory readings, participate in all in-class tasks and discussions, complete out-of-class assignments, and relate the knowledge gained to your current and future research.

You should be familiar with selected aspects of social theory, especially those relevant for the discourse-analytic approaches we will discuss (see outline for details).

You should also be open to new, interdisciplinary qualitative methods of research in social and political sciences and interested in 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.

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)

3 Session 1

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

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)

It is your responsibility to complete these readings, ideally prior to the course.

Software Requirements

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

Rooms should be equipped with an up-to-date PowerPoint projector compatible with externally VGA-connected laptop (MS Windows/Office and Apple OSX), and Sound System allowing playback of sound/multimedia files from the laptop/PC.

Hardware Requirements

Please bring your 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).