Critical Discourse/Discourse Analysis

  • Jane M. Ussher
  • Janette Perz
Reference work entry


Discourse analysis (DA) conceptualizes language as performative and productive, central to the construction of social reality and subjectivity. This chapter examines two identifiable, but overlapping, schools of DA, discursive psychology (DP) and Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA). DP draws on the practices of ethnomethodology and conversations analysis and focuses on the action orientation of talk and text in social practice: what is the text doing, rather than what does the text mean, or “what is the text saying?” Analysis focuses on “interpretive repertoires” or “discourses”: sets of statements that reflect shared patterns of meaning. Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA) originates within poststructuralist theory, influenced by the philosophical work of Michel Foucault. Within FDA, language is deemed to be constitutive of social life, making available certain subject positions, which influence and regulate subjectivity and experience – the way we think or feel, our sense of self, and the practices in which we engage. FDA is thus concerned with identifying discourses, the subject positions they open up (or disallow), and the implications of such positioning for subjectivity and social practice, rather than the form or structure of interaction within talk or text. Following discussion of a range of DP and FDA research studies, a detailed example of feminist FDA is provided, including steps of analysis, based on a study of women’s accounts of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). It is concluded that there is no one correct method of DA, as multiple methods have been identified, and practitioners interpret and present analyses in a range of different ways.


Foucauldian discourse analysis Discursive psychology Feminist discourse analysis Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) Discursive practices 



Sections of this chapter draw on an earlier publication by the authors: Ussher, JM & Perz, J. (2014) Discourse Analysis. In: Poul Rohleder and Antonia Lyons (eds) Qualitative Research in Clinical and Health Psychology. London: Palgrave MacMillan (p. 218–237)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Translational Health Research Institute, School of MedicineWestern Sydney UniversitySydneyAustralia

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