Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, Researching the Real World, available at
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A Guide to Methodology

6. Conversation and discourse analysis

6.1 Introduction to discourse analysis
6.2 Conversation analysis
6.3 Genre analysis

6.3.1 Introduction
6.3.2 Aims of genre analysis
6.3.3 Methods of genre analysis

6.4 Pragmatics
6.5 Discursive psychology
6.6 Interactional sociolinguistics
6.7 Ethnography of communication/speaking
6.8 Narrative analysis
6.9 Critical discourse analysis
6.10 Summary and conclusion

6.3 Genre analysis

6.3.2 Aims of genre analysis

Having identified notions of genre, what is it that genre analysis attempts to do?

There are various ideas of what genre analysis should do. One view is that genre analysis identifies typical patterns of speaking practice and investigates their systematic relation to aspects of the social structure. This idea is rather more structuralist than a similar but conservative view that suggests genre analysis identifies how linguistic features are chosen by expert users of the genre such that it accomplishes their communicative purpose and, further, explains the social and psychological context of these choices. Whereas the first notion sees genre analysis foregrounding social determinants, the second emphasises the primacy of the genre community.

Fang's (2012) view is that:

genre analysis emphasizes the psychological process of the text construction. Through the presentation and analysis of the regular organization together with other linguistic features of a text, genre analysis offers a deeper explanation of relationship between the form and the function.

Other suggestions focus on the narrow methodic practices and identify the aim of genre analysis as the identification of the moves and strategies of a genre and the allowable order of the moves. (Discussed in 6.3.3). In similar vein, it is suggested that the aim of genre analysis is to investigate the social and linguistic conventions associated with a particular genre.

Often the aims of genre analysis are specified in relation to particular concerns such as teaching the structure and variations of a genre to show that most understandable writing is based on some set of conventions.

Initially, genre analysis tended towards linguistic description of specific genres. With more input from sociology and other disciplines, this shifted, as Bhatia (1993) showed and advocated, 'from mere surface oriented pure linguistic description to a deeper functional explanation of genres' (Nielsen, 1997, p. 208), in short from thin description to thick description. 'Thus the main goal of genre analysis is not to find out how genres are written but why they are written the way they are' (Nielsen, 1997, pp. 208–09).

Dudley-Evans (2000) also suggested that, influenced by the sociology of science, genre analysis has developed to study the concept of a discourse community (Miller, 1994) and researched the actuality of such communities (Swales, 1998).


Next 6.3.3 Methods of genre analysis