Session: Using Critical Discourse Analysis in Social Work Research (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

226 Using Critical Discourse Analysis in Social Work Research

Saturday, January 18, 2020: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement (RD&M)
Claire Willey-Sthapit, MSSW, University of Washington, Sarah Jen, University of Kansas, Heather Storer, Ph.D., University of Louisville and Odessa Gonzalez-Benson, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Critical discourse analysis (CDA) examines the relationship between language use, social practices, and power in society (Chambon, 1999; Fairclough, 2015; Gee, 2014). Through CDA, researchers can identify the ways in which language and practice influence societal understandings of groups or identities, social relationships, and norms that celebrate particular notions of social goods such as health, justice, or knowledge (Chambon, 1999; Gee, 2011). In turn, these understandings-or discourses-both facilitate and constrain opportunities for social action and subjectivity (Chambon, 1999).

Critical discourse analysis has emerged as a promising and relevant methodology within social work research. Social work researchers seeking to use discourse analysis contend with tasks specific to the method, including: 1) providing a rationale for the use of discourse analysis, 2) choosing from a wide array of discursive theories and analytic strategies, and 3) communicating the implications of their studies for social work practice and policy.

The purpose of this roundtable is to provide an opportunity for researchers at any stage of a CDA research project, from conception to dissemination, to pose current questions to a supportive and knowledgeable group. To this roundtable, the presenters bring our own experiences having completed CDA studies that utilized diverse critical theories, engaged a variety of texts, and incorporated different analytical decisions. In the first stage of the roundtable, each of the presenters will briefly describe our own CDA projects, including our research questions, motivations for the project, and critical decision points in the process. We will share examples of challenges from different stages of the projects and present strategies to address them.

The majority of the roundtable will be devoted to group discussion. We will ask participants to share about their projects, motivations, a current challenge or decision they face, and what feedback they would like to elicit from the group. Depending on group size and interests, we will tackle these questions either in one large or in small facilitated group discussions. We will close the roundtable by soliciting feedback on the session, ask participants what elements they found most helpful, and present options for ongoing engagement.

This roundtable was developed in response to a stimulating and well-attended workshop at SWRR 2019, in which we presented and facilitated an exercise to illustrate the fundamentals of critical discourse analysis. In that workshop, several participants expressed interest to discuss their potential or on-going projects in greater depth. Based on this apparent need, we anticipate that the proposed roundtable will produce a rich, nuanced, and useful conversation for participants at any stage of their research.


Chambon, A. S. (1999) Foucault's approach: Making the familiar visible. In A. S. Chambon, A. Irving, & L. Epstein (Eds.), Reading Foucault for Social Work (pp. 51-81). Columbia University Press: New York.

Fairclough, N. (2015). Language and power (3rd Ed.). Routledge, New York.

Gee, J. P. (2014). An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method. New York, NY: Routledge.

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