Many papers submitted to this journal are rejected because they do not,
or insufficiently, engage in what we call 'discourse analysis', a
requirement that is the first on which all articles are being evaluated.
We are aware that there are many ways of "doing" discourse analysis
(conversation analysis, narrative analysis, etc.), and that also
different scholars may have different opinions about what is or is not
(good, adequate or simply acceptable) DA.
But still, there are some criteria most discourse analysts will
recognize, so that they can tell apart discourse analysis from
other kinds of analysis (like content analysis, or social analysis), or
indeed from no analysis at all.
One such criterion is the special attention paid to STRUCTURES of any
kind. That is, couched in terms of some THEORY, analysis may focus on
--for instance-- structures of expression (sounds, image, movement,
etc., including those of words, word order or sentence structure), on
the one hand, and structures of meaning and (inter)action, on the other.
Thus, structures of meaning may involve such diverse ones as overall
topics and their organization in text or talk, local patterns of
coherence between propositions or the functions of propositions in a
sequence, as well as implication or entailment, presupposition,
vagueness, allusions, more or less detailed descriptions, the ways acts
or actors are being described, and so on.
Similar observations hold for the analysis of action and interaction in
talk, for instance in terms of turn taking, interruptions, hesitations,
pauses, or the overall organization of a conversation
(beginnings/endings, conventional categories that appear in a specific
type of talk, such as greeting and leave taking at the beginning and
end of a conversation, or formulas being used when opening or closing a
session or meeting, but also typical categories of telling a story, and
so on). Indeed, many other forms of (inter)action may thus be
identified in discourse, such as promises and threats, agreements and
disagreements, mitigating and exaggerating, attacking others or
defending oneself, and so on.
Such attention to 'structure', 'form', 'organization', 'order', or
'patterns', is characteristic of virtually all contemporary approaches
to discourse or conversation analysis. Some of these approaches are
very sophisticated and detailed, and may be very technical -- as is the
case of much work on the grammatical structures of sentences and
sequences of sentences in discourse, or studies of narrative or
conversational organization. Contributions to this journal should of
course be aware of the current literature about the different
types of structural patterns text or talk may exhibit.
Note that such a "structural" analysis need not be limited to "fixed"
or "abstract" structures, but may also focus on the more 'dynamic'
aspects of discourse organization, such as the mental, interactional or
social STRATEGIES participants engage in. Thus, we may analyze the
abstract structures of a story or news report, but also moves and
strategies of credibility enhancement, persuasion, impression
formation, derogation, legitimation, and so on. And each of such more
global strategies that may characterize a discourse as a whole, may
again be analyzed in smaller, functional components, that is, in terms
of moves, as we also know from a game of chess. For instance, a
journalist may locally enhance the credibility of a news report by
recurring to the semantic moves of mentioning numbers or statistics or
quoting credible sources.
And finally, especially in a more psychological perspective, an
analysis may not only focus on structures or strategies but also on
PROCESSES, such as those of production and comprehension of discourse,
the activation of knowledge or opinions during such processing, the way
discourse or its meanings are represented in memory, or how mental
models of events are formed or activated during production or
comprehension. Such a process analysis may very well be combined with
an analysis of structures or strategies. Indeed, processes involve
structures or strategies of mental representations.
In other words, typical of discourse analysis is an explicit,
systematic account of structures, strategies or processes of text or
talk in terms of theoretical notions developed in any branch of the
In practice this will usually mean attention for structures that are
not trivial or irrelevant in interaction and communication or that are
so obvious that any native speaker may observe them. A scholarly
article observing only such 'obvious' properties of discourse
loses much of its point of providing new insights. This is admittedly a
very subjective criterion, but all scholarly journals and
publishers use it in judging a paper or book. That is,
descriptions of structure, strategy or process should also be at least
somewhat interesting, new or original.
This also means that merely summarizing, paraphrasing or repeating
(fragments of) talk or text, something any reader may also do, is NOT a
form of discourse analysis for this journal.
The same is true for merely commenting ABOUT (the contents of) a
fragment of discourse without any regard for structural or dynamic
properties, even when such comments may well be relevant in a social
The majority of
papers submitted to this journal are rejected for this reason: They do
not go beyond repeating, paraphrasing, summarizing or (merely)
commenting upon a fragment of text or talk.
In other words, all comments on fragments of text/talk should be framed
in terms of theoretically based categories of structure or strategy,
and hence presuppose knowledge of classical theories as well as new
developments in the field.
For examples of such analyses the best recommendation is to carefully
read some other papers contributed to this journal. There are also many
introductions to discourse/conversation analysis which discuss the
kinds of structures and strategies referred to here, such as Teun A.
van Dijk (Ed.), Discourse
studies. 2 vols. (London, Sage, 1997).
Authors who want to contribute a paper and are not familiar with
contemporary discourse analysis, are recommended to have their paper
read first by a local discourse analyst. Another option is to invite a
discourse analyst to be the co-author of a paper.
Especially (but not exclusively) for authors in
discursive psychology the following article of the Loughborough Group
is relevant: Discourse Analysis means doing Analyisis, by Charles
Antaki, Michael Billig, Derek Edwards and Jonathan Potter.