Examining emotional expressions in discourse: methodological considerations

  • Elizabeth Hufnagel
  • Gregory J. Kelly
Original Paper


This methodological paper presents an approach for examining emotional expressions through discourse analysis and ethnographic methods. Drawing on trends in the current literature in science education, we briefly explain the importance of emotions in science education and examine the current research methodologies used in interactional emotion studies. We put forth and substantiate a methodological approach that attends to the interactional, contextual, intertextual, and consequential aspects of emotional expressions. By examining emotional expressions in the discourse in which they are constructed, emotional expressions are identified through semantics, contextualization, and linguistic features. These features make salient four dimensions of emotional expressions: aboutness, frequency, type, and ownership. Drawing on data from a large empirical study of pre-service elementary teachers’ emotional expressions about climate change in a science course, we provide illustrative examples to describe what counts as emotional expressions in situ. In doing so we explain how our approach makes salient the nuanced nature of such expressions as well as the broader discourse in which they are constructed and the implications for researching emotional expressions in science education discourse. We suggest reasons why this discourse orientated research methodology can contribute to the interactional study of emotions in science education contexts.


Emotions Discourse analysis Climate change Ecology Science 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MaineOronoUSA
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA

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