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

Julian Hamann, Lisa Suckert


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.


temporality; discourse analysis; visualization; methodology; capitalism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-19.2.2954

Copyright (c) 2018 Lisa Suckert, Julian Hamann

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