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Narrative analysis &

Discourse analysis
Doing Qualitative Research, 80E80100
Saija Katila
Recap: last session
• Ethnography: Focus on practices
• Practical issues in doing field work

• Action Research
Today’s agenda

• Narrative Analysis

• Discourse Analysis
Perspectives to data

Text as a source of information


Text as a focus of study

Narrative analysis, i.e. narrative inquiry
• Origins in literary theory and narratology
• Firmly established within the social sciences since the
1990s, even later in organization studies
• Part of the ‘linguistic’ or ‘narrative’ turn in the social
• The study of any narrative texts
• Can be done from different onto-epistemological starting
points (not positivist, post-positivist)

• Can be treated as a form of data, a method of

analysis, a combination of these or as an ontology!
Narrative analysis – some philosophical

Narrative knowing and storytelling in everyday life:

• Human understanding and knowledge are based on ‘narratives’ on

a fundamental level
• Order of events and sequencing matter, so do individual
experiences and emotions and the richness of description
– Persuasiveness
• Alternative and complementary to logical scientific ways of knowing
• Also our identities are narrative by character
Events, story and narrative

Sequence of events
Action within the frame

Interpretation of the events
Cultural storylines

Performing the story
The social conditions of narrating
• A beginning, a middle, and an end?
– A representation of (a series of) events/action

• Sequence, temporality, point

I was a good student. I got into Aalto University.
I got into Aalto University. I was a good student.
• Sequence matters!

• Plot and characters

• Evokes emotion
Antenarrative and storytelling

• A prior version of a narrative (Boje, 2001)

– Dynamic, non-static story

• Human culture as an ongoing process of storytelling and

story revising

• Stories in organizations are rarely final and coherent

Narrative data

• (Narrative) interviews and conversations

• Oral histories, biographies, and family stories (SKS)
• Journals and autobiographical writing
• Letters
• Blogs
• Field notes
• Narrating using photographs, memory boxes, personal
• Also narrative-like data can be used and you can still be
conducting narrative analysis
Narrative analysis (Riessman 2004)

• Analysis of meaning or narrative thematic analysis

– Focus on content and sequence
• What is said / not said?

• Structural analysis
– Focus on language and linguistic practices
• How the story is told?

• Analysis of interactional context or dialogic analysis

– Focus on co-construction of narratives
• Why, when, to whom, in what context?
Analysis of narratives vs. narrative
• Analysis of narratives
– Analyzing the plots, structures, story types of narratives

• Narrative analysis
– Analyzing and organizing empirical data on an event, action etc.
In a way that constructs one or more narratives that will be
interpreted and discussed
Church’s strategy work as a narrative practice.
Struggle over strategy work and the content of

Laine, Pikka-Maaria; Katila, Saija & Pontus

Salmi (2016, submitted)
Narrative analysis
• Objective: How strategy work at church is done narratively
(ontological approach)
• Research question: What kind of cultural narratives produce strategy
work at church?
• Positioning in literature: Strategy as practice – 1) within the literature
limited understanding of the role of narrating in strategy work. 2) not
studied how the narrating about the content of strategy and strategy
work simultaneously reproduces cultural understandings as well as
actor identities. 3) no studies where the whole staff participates in
strategy work
• Data: Strategy process of one parish 2013-2015.
– 21 interviews (all parish members)
– Field notes of strategy workshops, project steering group meetings
– All written material concerning the strategy process

Laine, Pikka-Maaria; Katila, Saija & Pontus

Salmi (2016, submitted)
Results: Identification of 6 cultural narratives that emerge as set of 2
competing narratives. The narrative struggle is presented in three
narratives high-lighting the cultural narratives.
– Participatory strategy work vs. traditional strategy work
– Technical rational knowledge vs. local knowledge
– Customer orientation vs. spirituality

• Narrating strategies is a dynamic play of power and resistance

where actors reproduce stabilized strategy narratives and resist
them by telling other kind of narratives. While telling strategy
narratives participants are doing identity work.

• Stabilized cultural narratives of strategy inhibit shared future

planning and utilization of professional as well as local knowledge
regardless of apearent participation.

Laine, Pikka-Maaria; Katila, Saija & Pontus Salmi

(2016, submitted)
Why do narrative analysis?
• Organizational narratives are ‘the main mode of knowing and
communicating in organizations’ (Czarniawska,1998)

• As a source of empirical data, it may be more interesting to read and

analyze narratives that focus on personal experience

• As a method of analysis, it may give you ample room to write in a creative

and persuasive way, rather than the traditional academic way

• Keep it simple, be clear about what concepts you use and how!

• Narratives have great “explanatory power” when investigating the

Additional resources
 Czarniawska, B. (2004) Narratives in Social Science Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 Garud & Gehman, 2012. Metatheoretical perspective on sustainability journeys.

Evolutionary, relational, durational. Research Policy.

 Garud et al. 2010. Dealing with unusual experiences: a narrative perspective on

organizational learning. Organizations Science.

 Hjort, Daniel & Steyaert, Chris (2004). Narrative and Discursive Approaches in
Entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar, Cheltenhamn UK.
 Hyvärinen, Matti & Löyttyniemi, Varpu (2005) Kerronnallinen haastattelu. Teoksessa
Johanna Ruusuvuori & Liisa Tiittula (toim.) Haastattelu. Tutkimus, tilanteet ja
vuorovaikutus. Tampere: Vastapaino, 189–222.
 Hyvärinen, Matti (2004) Johdatus narratiiviseen tutkimukseen. Kirjallisuuskatsaus.
Sosiologia 41 (3), 242–246.

 Riessman, C.K. (2004) Narrative analysis. In Encyclopedia of Social Science Research

Methods, edited by M.S. Lewis-Beck, Riessman, C.K. (2008) Narrative Methods for the
Human Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 Riessman, C.K. (2008) Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
What is discourse
• Discourse’ ... refers to language in use, as a process which is socially
situated. However ... we may go on to discuss the constructive and dynamic
role of either spoken or written discourse in structuring areas of knowledge of
the social and institutional practices which are associated with them. In the
sense, discourse is a means of talking and writing about an acting upon
worlds, a means which both constructs and is constructed by a set of social
practices within these worlds, and in so doing both reproduces and constructs
afresh particular social-discursive practices, constraining or encouraged by
more macro movements in the overarching social formation. (Candlin 1997)

• Discourses are ways of representing a part of the world from particular

perspective (Fairclough 2003).

• A discourse is a network of relations between objects – it is: how one thing is

defined and recognized relative to another thing

• Discourse as cluster of ideas, images and practices that provide ways of

talking about a particular topic (Hall 1997, 6)
What is discourse analysis?
• The study of well-established meanings or ideas around a topic
which shape how we can talk about it
– Discourses of globalization, sustainability, equality, Finland, leadership
– Focuses on the consequences of discourses

• The study of how meanings are established, used, challenged and

changed (including in talk)
– Over time
– In ordinary life
– E.g. Pussy Riot: “freedom fighters” or “terrorists”?
→ the chosen discourse provides vocabulary and understanding about
the phenomenon
Big D and small d

• Capital ‘D’ = Foucauldian notion of Discourse:

– “general and prevalent systems for the formation and
articulation of ideas in a particular period of time … functioning
as a powerful ordering force” (p. 1126-7)
– For example globalization
• Lower-case ‘d’ = Close-range micro-interaction
– how people actually use language, how people talk about things
in conversations
– Micro analysis of language practices

Alvesson and Kärreman (2000)

Discourse analysis on
nurses’ strike
• Identifying different discourses on a phenomenon
– E.g. professional discourse vs. vocational calling discourse on nursing
• Examination of one specific discourse and its effects
– How the vocational calling discourse undermines nurses’ demands for
better pay
• Examination of certain discursive practices that construct a
– Discourses of labor market and new public management and how they
frame the case
• Analysis of broader orders of discourses and how they change
– Challenging the symbolic gender order through discursive struggle

(Examples from Henttonen, LaPointe, Pesonen & Vanhala, (2013) A Stain on the white uniform – Discursive
construction of nurses’ industrial action in the media, Gender, Work and Organization.)
Possible sources of data
• Media: articles, stories, news, opinion texts
• Internet: portals, sites, discussion forums, blogs
• Commercial: advertisements and marketing
• Cultural : movies, literature, different forms of art
• Public documents: archives and records, laws and
regulations, statements, memos, annual reports
• Personal documents: diaries, correspondence,
writings, biographies
Rhetorical discourse analysis

• How we attempt to convince through argumentation

– How speakers/writers inform, persuade or motivate
particular audiences in particular situations?
– What are the ways or strategies of convincing the
– How arguments are justified or validated?
– What kinds of vocabularies, expressions, and metaphors
are used?
– How speakers/writers position themselves and others?
How these positions are authorized?
Thesis example
Maria Nokkonen (2007): Näkemyksiä pörssiyhtiöiden hallitusten sukupuolikiintiöistä –
Retorinen diskurssianalyysi Helsingin Sanomien verkkokeskusteluista / Perspectives of
gender quotas in corporate boards – Rhetorical discourse analysis of an Internet

• Research problem: How the writers argue for different perspectives of

gender quotas?
• Data: 3 discussion forum debates in (247 messages)
• Results:
– How writers are positioned?
• Two argumentative positions: defensive and critical
– What rhetoric strategies are used and with what consequences?
• Interpretive repertoires of ”personal experiences”, ”ridiculous quotas”,
”economic bottom-line” and ”diversity”
– Which broader frames direct the discussion?
• Frameworks of ”equality” and ”competence”
How is industrial restructuring
legitimized/delegitimized in the media?

Identify which discursive strategies are being used

• Normalization seeks to render something legitimate by exemplarity. This
exemplarity can involve ‘retrospective’ (similar cases/events/practices in
the past) or ‘prospective’ (new cases/events/practices to be expected)
references, both of which are important in rendering the case at hand as
something ‘normal’.
• Authorization is legitimation by reference to authority. These authorities
can be the journalist him/herself, someone in whom institutionalized
authority is vested, or impersonal, for example, laws, regulations, or
• Rationalization is legitimation by reference to the utility or function of
specific actions or practices.
• Moralization is legitimation that refers to specific values, in this study to
values that differed significantly from that of neoliberalism.
• ‘In the cover story of Kauppalehti Optio on November 11th 1997,
Jaakko Pöyry estimated that consolidation will lead in the next few
years to around ten global forestry companies, including both Finnish
and Swedish companies.’ (Kauppalehti, 11 June1998)
• ‘It is expected in London that the consolidation in the forestry sector
will continue, and that the next move is in Europe by MoDo, Metsä-
Serla or Norske Skog.’ (Kauppalehti, 3 June 1998)
• ‘First Falun mine was closed. Now the headquarters moves away
from the region. Seven hundred years of history in Falun and Dalar is
heading towards its unavoidable end. “This is very unfortunate,”
states Kenneth Hindsberg, a representative for the local union in a
strong local dialect.’ (FK, 3 June 1998)
• ‘With the merger, the companies are searching for cost savings.
These are expected, for example, in streamlining production, plant
specialization, combined purchasing and transportation, and
coordinated investment policy.’ (Etelä-Saimaa, 3 June 1998)
• ‘Synergy benefits will not be too difficult to find. SEK 500–800 million
was mentioned yesterday. It is possible that the promised annual
target of nearly SEK 2 billion in savings can be realized before the
end of 2002.’ (Dagens Nyheter, 3 June 1998)
• ‘The people behind this decision have to answer to the question of
why the Swedish Wallenberg family or American institutional investors
are better and more trustworthy owners of the Finnish forest industry
than hundreds of thousands of Finnish forest owners in the
countryside or the cities.’ (HS, 9 June 1998)
• ‘In a merger of this magnitude, it is clear that the whole world is
considered as the market. In terms of its consequences for
competition, the union of Enso and Stora is thus comparable to the
mergers between the automobile giants Daimler Benz and Chrysler as
well as Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in the aviation industry.’
(Helsingin Sanomat, 3 June 1998)1 ‘After Merita-Nordbanken,
Chrysler-Benz, Segram-Polygram it was time for forestry companies
Stora and Enso to join hands. The bigger the company, the easier it is
to forcefully take markets, business leaders reason. Tuesday’s giant
merger pleased the owners but left the employees worried.’ (Dagens
Nyheter, 3 June 1998)
Why do organizational discourse
analysis (ODA)

• ‘Objects’ such as social institutions (e.g. leadership) and taken for

granted ways of behaving are bought into question – they are
problematized – opens room for improvement.

• Contribute to making sense of the world and managing that world.

• Important to incorporate examples from the real world and areas

where we might apply this rather than limiting it to Academic
Recap: Cultural and Factual
 Cultural perspective
 The data is a sample of reality/culture and/or constructs
 The data tells how people employ different cultural resources in
order to make sense of the world
 The richness and freshness of interpretation
 Factual perspective
 The data provides information and facts about the research
 The data is a lens to reality
 This lens can become distorted (e.g. lying in interviews)
 Minimizing mistakes and distortions; reliability
Additional resources:
Discourse analysis
• Alvesson and Kärreman (2000) Varities of discourse: On the
study of organizations through discourse analysis. Human Relations
53(9): 1125-1149.
• Fairclough, Norman (2003) Analysing Discourse - Textual Analysis
for Social Research. London and New York: Routledge.
• Hjort, Daniel & Steyaert, Chris (2004). Narrative and Discursive
Approaches in Entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar, Cheltenhamn UK.
• Jokinen, Arja & Juhila, Kirsi & Suoninen, Eero (1993)
Diskurssianalyysin aakkoset. Tampere: Vastapaino.
• Jokinen, Arja & Juhila, Kirsi & Suoninen, Eero (1999)
Diskurssianalyysi liikkeessä. Vuorovaikutus, toimijuus ja kulttuuri
empiirisen tutkimuksen haasteina. Tampere: Vastapaino.
• Pietikäinen, Sari & Mäntynen, Anne (2009) Kurssi kohti diskurssia.
Tampere: Vastapaino.
Assignment 3 – Writing a narrative
• Write a narrative (400-600 words) of the how your life
changed after becoming a university student.
• Chronological order, stating the purpose, writing with
sensory details and vivid descriptions relating to the
main point you are making.
• We will use the narratives as data in the lecture where
qualitative data analysis is discussed.
• Please do not put your name or student number on the
• This exercise should be done in English. Please bring a
paper copy to class. I will collect them.