Temporality in Discourse: Methodological Challenges and a Suggestion for a Quantified Qualitative Approach


  • Julian Hamann University of Bonn
  • Lisa Suckert Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies




temporality, discourse analysis, visualization, methodology, capitalism


Though most sociological discourse analyses are concerned with inherently temporal research objects, temporality is rarely acknowledged from a methodological perspective. In this article we address this gap by making the methodological consequences of temporality systematically explicit. In doing so, we attempt to initiate an important methodological debate in the field of sociological discourse analysis. As a first contribution, we specify four main methodological challenges posed by temporality to discourse analytical research processes: a sequential model of reality, entities that fluctuate and move, connections that relate entities over time, and the inherently comparative nature of diachronic analyses. We argue that qualitative approaches to discourse analysis are well equipped to deal with the first three challenges. However, they can easily be overwhelmed by the wide scope of diachronic comparative analyses. Building on these insights, we propose a quantified qualitative approach to diachronic discourse analyses. We show that quantifying tools that visualize discourse are beneficial in the final stages of qualitative interpretation. To this end, we explore the potential of word clouds, co-occurrence networks and discursive fields of correspondence for visualizing change and stability and thus accounting for temporality. Both the methodological challenges and the visualization tools are illustrated by drawing on an exemplary study on the changing nature of critiques of capitalism in the context of the recent economic crisis.


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Author Biographies

Julian Hamann, University of Bonn

Dr. Julian HAMANN is postdoc at the Department of Science Studies of the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, University of Bonn, Germany. His research is concerned with various arenas of the production and (e)valuation of academics and academic knowledge. Drawing on the sociology of social sciences and humanities, higher education studies, the sociologies of knowledge and culture, and in particular the sociology of evaluation, his work touches on topics like disciplines, careers, subjectivity, and social inequality. He is currently leading a project funded by the German Research Foundation on professorial appointment procedures.

Lisa Suckert, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

Dr. Lisa SUCKERT is senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Bamberg, which she received for her work on moralized markets. Lisa SUCKERT's main research interests are economic sociology and research on capitalism. Current research projects are centered around future expectations and economic crises. Her empirical work is based on mixed method approaches and theoretically inspired by field theory and économie des conventions.




How to Cite

Hamann, J., & Suckert, L. (2018). Temporality in Discourse: Methodological Challenges and a Suggestion for a Quantified Qualitative Approach. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 19(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-19.2.2954



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