Session: Employing Critical Discourse Analysis Methods to Advance Social Work Research and Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

169 Employing Critical Discourse Analysis Methods to Advance Social Work Research and Practice

Friday, January 18, 2019: 5:15 PM-6:45 PM
Continental Parlor 8, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement (RD&M)
Claire Willey Sthapit, MSSW, University of Washington, Heather Storer, PhD, University of Louisville, Sarah Jen, PhD(c), University of Washington and Odessa Gonzalez Benson, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Grounded in postmodern, poststructuralist, and constructionist epistemologies, critical discourse analysis (CDA) examines the relationship between language use and power structures in society, enabling an examination of inherently political constructs such as status, solidarity, and distribution of social goods (Fairclough, 2015; Gee, 2014). CDA also allows researchers to identify specific functions of language including the development of identities, constitution of social relationships, reification of political ideologies, and privileging of particular sets of norms, beliefs, and systems of power (Chambon, 1999; Gee, 2011).

CDA can thus be a powerful tool for social work research, in critically unpacking the construction of everyday social practices through an analysis of language-in-use in text and spoken conversation (Chambon, 1999; Gee, 2011; Greckhamer & Cilesiz, 2014). However, the wide array of theoretical literature conceptualizing discourse and power and the many methodological and disciplinary approaches to CDA can be dizzying to researchers setting out to use CDA approaches. These theoretical and methodological challenges beg the question: within the context of social work research and practice, what does CDA have to offer and how might it be applied? The primary aims of this workshop are to: 1) present theoretical foundations, 2) describe a breadth of methodological approaches, and 3) provide participants opportunities to explore applications of CDA for their own research. To illustrate the contributions CDA can make to social work research and practice, we will reference our professional experiences navigating CDA projects related to domestic violence, refugee policy, bisexual identity formation, and the construction of culture in international development literature. First, we will explore epistemological foundations of CDA, particularly emphasizing the meaning of discourse and its relationship to power. Using examples familiar to social workers, we will demonstrate how discourse constructs identities, establishes norms by which individuals and groups are judged, and shapes fields of possible action and feeling. We will provide a menu of available theoretical foundations for CDA by discussing our projects' conceptual grounding in critical theory including Foucauldian, post-colonial, and feminist scholarship.

Second, we will describe key methodological considerations, including the variety of “texts” available (e.g., spoken word, conversations, social media, print media, etc.), inductive vs. deductive analytical approaches, and within and across-case analysis. We will share concrete analytic tools used in our own research as well as strategies for publishing manuscripts.

Third, we will invite participants to engage in a group exercise, in which they will explore a text for possible objects of analysis, conveyed social norms, constructions of identity, actions that can be taken, and social relationships produced between actors. We will conclude by engaging participants in a discussion of how CDA might be useful for their own work, the challenges and strengths of CDA, and how this analysis could be incorporated alongside other research methodologies. Participants will leave this workshop with both theoretical insights and practical tools to advance the social work knowledge base.

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