Why ROLSI uses double-blind review

Many journals in our field, perhaps most, anonymise the submissions they send out for review, and pass comments back to authors anonymised in turn: a “double-blind” system.  This has always been ROLSI’s practice  (at least, it has been under the editorship of the last five editors). But occasionally a reader or potential reviewer raises the question as to why this is preferable to signed reviews, or indeed submissions with the author’s name attached.

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Charles Antaki, ROLSI Editor

I thought readers might be interested in a recent e-mail dialogue with a reader on just these issues.

They have kindly allowed me to reprint their questions (italicised below) and my answers, though they prefer to remain anonymous.


Q. As all linguists know, context is crucial in the interpretation of any text. Removing the name(s) of the author(s) deprives the reviewer of the most important piece of the context. Thoughts that come to mind: What else has the author written on the topic? What are the influences on the author?

A. I’m not sure that the issue of ‘context’ is helpful here. Or if it is, then the proper context is (I would say) the context of the extant literature on the subject, not the author’s record.


Q. Being asked by the author to comment on the paper: On a visit to a university I met a young man and as we chatted he talked about a paper he’d like my comments on. He said it had received not-so-good reviews from a journal. I agreed to take a look. When he sent it I realized that I was one of the reviewers who suggested major revisions. I had no choice at that point but to say I was one of the reviewers, so I sent him the review and said I stood by it. If the authors’ names had been revealed to me when I reviewed the paper, I would have been able to avoid that tricky situation.

A. That is indeed a delicate situation, but a rare one, I should think. And if the reviewer has written a collegial, respectful and scholarly review (as all ROLSI reviewers do!) then there should be, if the recommendation was negative, only the awkwardness of managing a bit of bad but useful news.


Q. Being able to guess the author. It is natural to try to guess who the author is. Sometimes this is even possible. One can Google key words in the title. So the reviewer might waste a lot of time on this project rather than focusing on the paper. So why not just let the reviewer have this information up front?

A. I doubt that a reviewer will spend much time trying to track down the identity of the author. Either they think they know or – much more usually – they don’t, or don’t feel the need to know.


Q. Making a wrong guess about the author. Again, because it is natural to want to know who the author is, one can make an erroneous guess and this can get you into trouble, too. Or not knowing, but perhaps suspecting, that the author is someone I know.  This is the worst situation because then you spend a lot of time worrying about how to handle this, rather than actually working on the paper.

A. I think that most reviewers are wise enough to know that their guesses (if they make them) are quite likely to be wrong, so don’t let such a guess, if made, colour their comments. The reviewer may, or may not, be well-disposed to an author they recognise and like, or the converse. But the danger is obviously greater if the name is given, removing all doubt; then the well- or ill-disposed reviewer is not held back by uncertainty.


Q. Going even further, I also think that the referees should be identified to make the process maximally transparent. Some referees are not very civil in their comments; it is possible that if their names were associated with their comments they might be kinder and more helpful. Also the submitting author always tries to guess who the reviewers are and is often successful!

A. Just on my own experience: ROLSI reviewers are almost without exception respectful in their comments; indeed even when making negative recommendations their tone is on the whole constructive and supportive (I can call to mind only two occasions, out of many hundreds, where this was not so; and even then it would be a rogue phrase or a regrettable adjective, easily amended after consultation) . And as far as guessing the reviewers’ identity, I doubt if that is successful in one out of 50 cases.


To finish off with a couple of general observations about ROLSI’s policy:

The positive case for double-blind can be put in two arguments, which I think are strong:

  1. it liberates reviewer and reviewer from ad-hominem considerations, both favourable and unfavourable; and
  2. it makes some effort to diminish the gender, and perhaps ethnicity bias in un-anonymised assessment (for which evidence admittedly comes mostly from undergraduate essays and the like, but is nevertheless suggestive).
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Guest blogs: Reflections on IPrA 2017, Belfast (part 2)

In this, the second report on the busy International Pragmatics Association conference, we have the reflections of the organiser, Catrin Rhys, intercontinental visitor Chase Raymond, and Twitter follower Saul Albert.


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Catrin Rhys, University of Ulster

The organiser’s view: Catrin Rhys #IPrA2017

Hosting IPrA begins with creating the bid and an appropriate theme and ends, after everyone has left, with report writing for the local sponsors. In between is a three-year rollercoaster with periods of intense busy-ness and quiet periods where you wake up in the middle of the night panicking that you’ve forgotten something.

Conference organising on this scale certainly takes you out of the normal routine of academic life. From site visits in hard hats, to being treated like royalty at a formal food tasting, we were temporarily “valued clients” generating significant income for the local economy. It was satisfying, in that context, to be able to choose a local cooperative and a social enterprise as suppliers.

What I hadn’t expected was how much time I would spend agonising over mundane details like numbers of bottles of wine/beer and ratios of red wine versus white wine for the reception. Thanks to the generosity of the publishers John Benjamins, I could overestimate and we introduced a great new tradition of the closing drinks reception!

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Candy and Chuck Goodwin, flanked by volunteers Carol Stitt-Richie and Chen Chi

Academically, I was very excited at the prospect of hosting IPrA. In my naïveté, I envisaged getting to influence the programme so that I could enjoy a week of fabulous CA sessions. It almost worked! We had brilliant CA plenaries who took the conference theme seriously and were generous in their communication of CA research to the wider IPrA community. The programme overall offered an embarrassment of CA riches – so much so that I couldn’t avoid serious clashes in the scheduling.  And it was such a pleasure to see my home town full of CA folk. What I hadn’t counted on was how little of the conference I would actually get to myself and how distracted I would be when I did. It was wonderful, though, to see my phd students getting the chance to become part of the academic community and engage in a bit of academic fandom.

Overall, I can honestly say that hosting IPrA was a wonderful experience. So watch this space for the next Belfast CA conference!

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Conference dinner. Photo: Adrian Kerrison

Anthropologist Bill Beeman serenading conference-goers with ‘Danny Boy’  in a mock-up of the Titanic’s first-class dining room.

[Editor’s note: If you look carefully at the photo, you can just make out Catrin performing an unexpected act of heroism – crouching below the piano to hold up the music stand for the length of the recital]


 

The intercontinental traveller: Chase Raymond @ChaseWRaymond

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Chase Raymond, University of Colorado

This year’s meeting was an all-around stellar experience. Notwithstanding some initial AV problems at the conference venue, the talks I had the pleasure of attending were truly amazing.  A few highlights included Paul Drew and Kobin Kendrick’s panel on recruitments, which showcased a range of new projects making use of that conceptual umbrella; Ed Reynolds and Jessica Robles’s panel on emotion in interaction, with each paper further underscoring just how systematic and action-oriented displays of emotions are; Charles Antaki’s panel on entry and re-entry into interaction, which included data from a variety of contexts and participants; and several great panels on applications of CA to institutional contexts, most notably one on end-of-life conversations, organized by Marco Pino and Ruth Parry.

Quantity and quality

Overall, I was personally struck by both the quality and quantity of CA scholars and scholarship at this year’s meeting. At the last IPrA in 2015 in Antwerp, I felt as though conversation analysts were ‘guests’ at the Pragmatics party, so to speak; whereas at this year’s conference, I felt that our presence was significantly more central. This was clearly evidenced by well-attended ‘interface’ panels in which CA was brought to bear on classic debates in Pragmatics—for instance, Rebecca Clift and Liz Holt’s panel on the “Pragmatics-CA Interface”, and Lucas Seuren and Traci Walker’s panel on form and function. In addition, though, it cannot go without mention that CA was very strongly represented at the conference-wide level as well: Four of the six plenary speakers have published work in CA (even if that wasn’t what they all focused on in their plenaries), and Sandy Thompson was awarded the Association’s very first John J. Gumperz Lifetime Achievement Award. In sum, then, this year’s meeting has cemented IPrA as one of my ‘go-to’ conferences (alongside ICCA) for high-quality CA.

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John Heritage’s Plenary on medical interaction (Photo: Natalie Flint)

The Belfast Telegraph wrote that the conference was expected to bring £2.5 million to the city over its six-day run, and so it’s safe to say that organizing this event was no easy task. My thanks to the organizing committee, especially its chair, Catrin Rhys, for making this event a spectacular success, and I eagerly await the 2019 meeting in Hong Kong.


The Tweeter: Saul Albert @saul

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Dr. Saul Albert, Tufts University

I wasn’t able to attend the conference, but I followed it surprisingly successfully from 1,000 miles away in Boston.

I’ve been on twitter so long that I remember when all this was only a few fields (mostly computer science, HCI and electronic engineering). It’s taken a few years for the #EMCA community of language and interaction nerds to catch up, and the hashtag #IPrA2017 marked the first year it became possible to follow almost every panel and session from the comfort of your nearest screen.

Following the #IPRA2017 twitter feed gave me the omniscient feeling of being able to monitor multiple simultaneous panels, and there was some comfort in knowing that since there were 22 parallel sessions this year, local attendees were missing out on almost as many talks as us tweeps! The other great advantage of having so many IPrA tweeters is that there’s now an archive of memorable quotes, comments, questions, and other ephemera that might otherwise have been exchanged privately and forgotten between coffee breaks.

Since I happened to be evaluating social media monitoring services for a project, I also had the opportunity to look at some metrics courtesy of Talkwalker, a social data intelligence company.

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Historically, tweets by IPrA delegates between #IPrA2007 (the first conference after the twitter platform was launched) and #IPrA2013 can be counted on the fingers of one hand, so there’s not much to compare with there. The first strong showing was in 2015, when Martin Siefkes collected the 1200-odd tweets sent to the #IPrA2015 hashtag between days 1-3 and days 4-6. However, the twitter conference saturation threshold (when the number of tweets exceeds the number of delegates) was crossed for the first time this year with over 3000 tweets using the #IPrA2017 tag in July alone.

What did #IPrA2017 tweeters also tweet about?

A list of the most often co-occuring hashtags with #IPrA2017 shows a mix of the conferences’ key themes of linguistics, pragmatics and, of course #EMCA, along with references to plenary talks and speakers such as @LizStokoe’s #CARM and @wordspinster Debbie #Cameron. One of the biggest pragmatics-related news items of the year – Deborah Tannen’s take on the #ComeyHearing and attendant #TrumpRussia stories – also get a strong mention, as does @BarbaraDeCock’s analysis of #jesuis and #JeSuisCharlie hashtag use in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

However, a keyword cloud of the most common hashtags and usernames using #IPrA2017, cross-referenced with the most likes/retweets seems surprisingly #EMCA flavored. Perhaps this confirms my biased view that the #EMCA sub-community is particularly engaged and engaging on twitter!

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Most common names and tags in IPrA tweets

The leading ‘social influencers’ in terms of their reach, post-frequency and levels of engagement from other twitters have a similarly healthy leaning towards #EMCA – and the top three clearly reveal a disproportionate source (in terms of the researcher’s base or training) in Loughborough University: @JoMeredith82 (now at Salford), @rolsi_journal (Charles Antaki),  and @DoctoJRo (Jessica Robles).

Finally, some gross demographics: 73.2% of people using the #IPrA2017 hashtag identify on twitter as female whereas 26.8% identify as male, mean age early 30s, mostly distributed between 25 and 44. The career and geographical breakdowns that mostly teachers and students are tweeting about #IPrA2017, mostly from Belfast and N. America –  which intuitively makes sense, given academic career structures and the location of the conference and related research centres.

Given that so many tweeters from this year’s IPrA are also #EMCA aficionados associated with the East Midlands, it seems likely that #ICCA2018 in Loughborough is going to be the next big hashtag.

 

Guest blogs: Reflections on IPrA 2017, Belfast (Part 1)

IPrA opning sot.pngEvery two years the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA) holds a huge conference – this year some 1,300 people gathered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a jamboree of language scholarship. As ever, it was a bazaar of wonders, from historical pragmatics through to eye-tracking experiments, with everything in between, in dozens  of languages. Conversation Analysis was well represented; I asked a number of colleagues to send their reflections, and in this, the first of two Guest Blogs, Liz Stokoe, Melisa Stevanovic and Marina Cantarutti tell us what it was like for them.



The Plenarist: Liz Stokoe
@LizStokoe

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Professor Liz Stokoe, Loughborough University

Being asked to give a plenary at IPRA is an honour. In a line-up for Belfast 2017 that included Deborah Cameron and John Heritage, it was a bucket-list invitation for me. It was particularly lovely to be asked for 2017, twenty years after getting my PhD and so being halfway through my academic career. Saying ‘yes’ to the invitation was the easy part.

Planning the talk was trickier, however. On the one hand, I knew that a good proportion of the IPRA audience would be hardcore experts in my field – in my case, conversation analysis. On the other, I also knew that the majority of the audience would be expert in another area of language, linguistics, and pragmatics. And given that I spend a good deal of my time these days speaking at events in which audience members are experts in something else entirely – surgery, aviation, sales, the law – I was probably more anxious than usual!

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I designed my plenary around a theme: what we can learn from the first ten seconds of interaction. This enabled me to showcase a range of studies from my early PhD work on student tutorials through other settings I’ve studied, and how different the first ten seconds are when people call a familiar organization (e.g., the doctor, a travel agent) compared to calling an unknown service (e.g., mediation). I showed the differences between the openings of real and simulated encounters. And I ended with why the first ten seconds are crucial in the openings of high stakes conversations.

The room filled up on Wednesday morning for the 8.30 slot. Given that I am not an early morning person, I was glad so many delegates appeared to be. The room was vast. The IPRA audience was not the biggest I’ve spoken to, but it was the only one where I was trapped behind the podium (the venue had no lapel microphones, unbelievably…) with no real sense of whether anyone could hear me. So it was very calming to be introduced by my long term collaborator and good friend, Bethan Benwell.

How did it go?

Did I manage to engage the audience about the importance of the first ten seconds? I’ll let Twitter answer:

  • “The only thing getting me out of bed on an early rainy Wednesday morning. Worth it for the @LizStokoe plenary. #IPrA2017” (Claire Melia)
  • “Great demonstration of how to do #PublicLinguistics #IPrA2017 Loved the visuals too! @LizStokoe” (Zsófia Demjén)
  • “Will be interesting to see how #IPrA2017 attendants will start coffee break conversations next few days, having heard @LizStokoe :-)” (Barbara De Cock)
  • “The openings of simulations looks nothing like the opening of real police interviews. Use real data for training. @LizStokoe #emca #IPrA2017” (Edward Reynolds)
  • “#IPrA2017 Liz Stokoe: How do you spend the day (not) giving bad news? When students phone, don’t ask them to tell you their grades #clearing” (So Reissner-Roubicek)
  • “Stokoe notes the problem for mediation services is people don’t know what they’re for, & demonstrates through 1st 10 secs of call #IPrA2017” (Jo Meredith)

The established young academic: Melisa Stevanovic @MelisaStevanovi

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Dr Melisa Stevanovic, Helsinki University

The conference in Belfast was my fourth IPrA. I realized that the bit-by-bit accumulation of IPrA experiences has finally started to pay back: many things felt easier. Unlike during my first IPrA, when I did not know many CA people, it was now relatively easy to spot the interactionally relevant papers from the program merely on the basis of the names of the presenters. And in the instances of the conference program being forgotten in the hotel room or in the depths of the backbag, I could find my way to the most relevant talks by simply following the crowd of those CA people that I, by now, know. As a result, my occasional visits outside the CA bubble felt like refreshing expeditions, since these were chosen voluntarily and not merely on the basis of deceptive presentation titles. Indeed, during some of these excursions, I managed to come across with wonderful talks that I think would have been of interest also to the wider CA audience.

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Sally Wiggins (Linköping University) on a discursive psychology of food assessment

Not just CA

But there was quite a lot of fresh air inside the CA bubble, too. Here I am not thinking that much about the diversity of the interactional phenomena, topics, or settings that CA folks investigate but more about all the different types of CA arguments presented at the conference. Besides the data-centered accounts of interactional practices, there were papers aiming to develop the conceptual side of CA, presentations exploring the interface between CA and other disciplines, studies that used CA as a theoretical basis for conducting research using other methods, and heart-warming unorthodox arguments, which were linked to the CA tradition but not really to the method as such. Being able to experience the happy co-existence of all these genres side-by-side was memorable, and I consider it also promising for the future of CA.


The postgraduate student: Marina N. Cantarutti @pronbites

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Marina Cantarutti, University of York

As a first year PhD student doing Interactional Linguistics, IPrA 2017 has been like finding a pot of gold. This conference has been a great opportunity to see current research and enlarge my reference list, to meet and greet the people whose papers and books I have devoured, and to have heartwarming reunions with other PhD students and past mentors.

IPrA is, indeed, an intensive and massive conference, so navigating the programme and making selections has proven to be a challenge. I have found myself caught in the dilemma between watching talks by the “big names” irrespective of topic, or selecting presentations relevant to my research by people whose name I had never come across before. I also experienced a couple of moments of excitement (and I admit, a little bit of discouragement) when I saw some of what I had deludedly thought were my own “discoveries” appear so neatly explained on someone else’s slides, but then I took it upon myself to make the most of after-presentation talks and tweets to pave the way for further discussion on shared interests, and perhaps consider future collaborations.

No pressure – this time

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A slide from Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen and Sandy Thompson’s magisterial talk on grammar and deonticity

It has also been inspiring to see early-career academics show how they are ahead of their game in questioning well-established beliefs, advancing CA-IL theory, and finding new niches. I obviously could not help feeling great pride in seeing my own University of York colleagues and supervisors make high-quality presentations. And yes, I did get a bit bitter about not having dared to present a poster, but on the other hand, there is great value in enjoying such a huge conference pressure-free!

 

All in all, I am truly grateful for the devoted organisation, the thought-provoking research, and the stimulating coffee/lunch talks. As a student who is but only starting to share in this ever-growing CA-IL academic community,  I have felt welcomed by the passion, collegiality, and professionalism I have found  in my second ever IPrA conference.


Another IPrA 2017 blog will be along soon.

For reports on IPrA 2015, Antwerp, see here and here.

Six ways not to do discourse analysis

A recent blog by Dariusz Galasiński about the poverty of some qualitative analysis has prompted me to dust down an old paper from back in 2003. Written mostly by Michael Billig, it was something of a succès d’estime among those who could find it – but it got lost when the online journal it was in folded. Its worries about discourse analysis are easily generalised to qualitative research more broadly; and, as Galasiński’s blog shows, still all too topical.

This is an abridged version; if you’d like to read the properly referenced full thing, probably the easiest place to get it is as a .pdf from Loughborough University’s repository.

Discourse analysis means doing analysis: A critique of six analytic shortcomings

Citation: Antaki, C., Billig, M.G., Edwards, D. and Potter, J.A., (2003) ”Discourse Analysis Means Doing Analysis: A Critique of Six Analytic Shortcomings”, Discourse Analysis Online, 1

Abstract

A number of ways of treating talk and textual data are identified which fall short of discourse analysis. They are: (1) under-analysis through summary; (2) under-analysis through taking sides; (3) under-analysis through over-quotation or through isolated quotation; (4) the circular identification of discourses and mental constructs; (5) false survey; and (6) analysis that consists in simply spotting features. […]

Introduction In the past fifteen years, discourse analysis has had a major impact on social psychology, especially in Britain. It has introduced new methods of research, new ways of conceptualising research questions and new ways understanding the nature of psychology itself. In this time it has gone from a marginal perspective developed by a handful of scholars to an approach that is represented in wide range of different empirical and theoretical journals, seen in different conference presentations, and developed in a growing body of PhDs. For an increasing number of academics discourse analysis is the prime way of doing social psychological research. At the same time, there has been a proliferation of forms of discourse analysis. […] Our aim here is not further to rehearse these debates and issues, but to highlight some methodological troubles that are visible from whatever discourse perspective one adopts. […].  All of these have positive things to say about doing analysis. But they leave implicit what is not analysis. That is what we want to make explicit in this paper.

[…]

(1) Under-Analysis Through Summary

Qualitative analyses share something important with quantitative analyses in that they both want to do something with the data. Neither is content merely to lay the data out flat. A quantitative researcher who merely presents the raw data from subjects in an experiment without putting it to some sort of statistical testing would hardly be said to have analysed it. So it is with qualitative data.

An interview, doctor’s consultation or television talk show might be transcribed […] Transcription prepares the data for analysis. However, it is not analysis in itself. Analysis must mean doing something with the data, but not just anything. A quantitative analyst who presents a selection of their raw data in some graphical form, hoping that the reader might see a trend or a pattern, would not have done anything statistical on their data. A qualitative analyst will be doing the equivalent if they present their data as a prose summary. However, summarising the themes of what participants might say in an interaction typically does not involve any analysis of the discourse that they are using. A summary is likely to lose the detail and discursive subtlety of the original. The summary will be shorter and tidier. It will be phrased in the analyst’s words, not those of the original speakers (or writers). It will lose information and add none.

[…]

(2) Under-Analysis Through Taking Sides

 If data analysis requires that the analyst offers something additional beyond presenting or summarising the data, then this does not mean that every additional offering is analysis. It certainly does not mean that every added element of analysis is discourse analysis. In some writing one sees the additional offering of the analyst’s own moral, political or personal stance towards what the quoted speaker or text is saying. This on its own is not discourse analysis.

There is a debate amongst discourse analysts whether analysts should take positions with respect to the material that they study. It is not our intention to enter into that debate. Nor, indeed, do we agree amongst ourselves on this issue. What we do insist upon, however, is that position-taking – whether analysts align themselves with, or critically distance themselves from, the speakers whom they are studying – is not analysis in itself. Sympathy and scolding (either explicit or implicit) are not a substitute for analysis.

[…]

[O]ne can say that under-analysis can occur when the analyst substitutes sympathy or scolding for detailed examination of what the speakers are saying. A particular danger is that the desire to sympathise or censure, when not allied to careful analysis, can lead to the sort of simplification that is the antithesis of analysis. […]  [It can] produce a flattening of the discursive complexity, as the analyst selects quotations for the rhetorical effect of appealing to the readers as co-sympathisers or co-scolders. The result is enlistment, not analysis.

(3) Under-Analysis Through Over-Quotation or Isolated Quotation

[…] Under-Analysis through Over-Quotation is often revealed by a low ratio of analyst’s comments to data extracts. If extract after extract is quoted with only the occasional sentence or graph of analyst’s comment, then one might suspect this type of underanalysis is happening. In the example of [an] interview about marriage, an analyst might think of chopping up the whole extract into quotable extracts, omitting the interviewer’s questions. After presenting the quotations, the analyst might summarise the collection of quotes with a comment such as ‘so we can see that the respondent had strong views about the importance of marriage and commitment’. This would not be analysis. The list of quotes divorces the utterances from their discursive context, with the result that it would not be possible to analyze them as responses to questions.

More typically, Under-Analysis through Over-Quotation is liable to occur when the analyst is piecing together responses from different speakers. For instance, the analyst might wish to show that a number of interviewees had responses rather like the one in our extract. Selective quotation from such respondents might be given. There can be analytic and theoretical reasons for presenting profiles based on piecing together such quotations. However, this profiling is not normally of itself discourse analysis, for again it does not of itself get down to the business of actually analysing in detail the discourse that is used. Indeed, as has been mentioned, the over-quotation may impede certain forms of discourse analysis by removing utterances from their discursive context. Two tell-tale signs of Under-Analysis through Over-Quotation would be the small amount of analyst’s writing in proportion to the large amount of quotation, and the tendency of the writing to refer to the quotations rather than analyse them.

[…]

(4) The Circular Discovery of (a) Discourses and (b) Mental Constructs

 Compiling quotations into a profile can be part of a discourse analysis. For instance, an analyst might be seeking to investigate whether speakers, in framing their individual utterances, are using commonly shared discursive resources. Some analysts examine how particular rhetorical and conversational devices are used in specific contexts. Some researchers examine how speakers may be using shared patterns of understanding or interpretation. There are a variety of terms to describe the sort of discursive resources that speakers may share […] [S]ome discourse analysts will consider it a matter of theoretical and methodological importance to show how particular utterances are themselves formed out of wider, socially shared ‘repertoires’, ‘ideologies’, ‘discourses’ etc. The analyst might present a profile of quotes in order to show how different speakers might be drawing upon common repertoires etc.

In theory, such profiling would seem to fit the requirement of discourse analysis. An analytic extra is being added. The reader is not merely being informed that the speakers made these utterances, but the additional claim is made that all these utterances have something in common, being manifestations of a shared pattern of talking. The problem comes when care is not taken to substantiate the claim. Again, the data cannot be left to ‘speak for itself’, as if a series of quotes is sufficient in itself to show the existence of the repertoire, ideology or discourse. Moreover, the analyst runs the risk of circularity if the socially shared entities are cited in explanation for the utterances.

[…]  If that is all the analyst is doing, then these terms function merely as summaries. They add little if anything to the analysis of the utterances, for they are only handy ways of describing the common features that the analyst is claiming to summarise. However, if the analyst then moves towards an explanation of the quoted discourse in terms of these entities, then a step towards circularity is taken, and we have Under-analysis through Circular Discovery. The quotes, which provide the justification for claiming the existence of a ‘marital commitment discourse’ (or repertoire, or ideology) are then explained in terms of this entity. Such circularity would occur if the analyst, having quoted extracts to claim the existence of a ‘marital commitment repertoire / ideology / discourse’, then goes on to imply that the speakers made those particular utterances because they shared this discourse, repertoire or ideology.

[…]

(5) False Survey There is a danger of extrapolating from one’s data to the world at large. This error is not unknown in quantitative research, of course. It may be avoided by explicitly survey-oriented studies, but is not uncommon in experimental social psychology when findings are subtly generalised from the sample of the experiment (say, a set of North American undergraduates) to the universal categories they are supposed to represent (women, high achievers, people with a certain attributional style). Discussion sections of experimental papers sometimes use such unqualified terms, with the logical implication that they encompass all members of that category.

The same danger of False Survey lurks for qualitative work that discovers that certain respondents use certain discourses or ways of speaking. It is fatally easy to slip into treating one’s findings as if they were true of all members of the category in which one has cast one’s respondents. For example, an analyst reading our interview extract might see, in the respondent’s way of talking, a ‘traditionalist discourse of marriage’. They might then be tempted to attribute that discourse to all people in his position (‘non- University-educated young women’, if that was the demographic information supplied along with the extract). This attribution might be done explicitly, but is still more likely to happen unconsciously, in the way the writer uses demographic categories to refer to the people in their data.

Probably few discourse analysts want or intend explicitly to be reporting surveys; but without care, their reports may give that impression. Such a fault makes the work an easy target for the quantitatively-minded, who will properly see it as failing to supply appropriate evidence for its claims. If a survey is wanted, survey tools must be used.

(6) Under-Analysis through Spotting If discourse analysis demands an attention to the details of utterances, this does not mean that all such attention qualifies as satisfactory discourse analysis. Analyses provided by discursive, conversation and critical discourse analysts have, over the past twenty-five years, noticed and labelled a wide variety of conversational and rhetorical procedures. Anyone engaging in these sorts of analyses should properly acquaint himself or herself with such work. They should be able to recognize these conversational features in data extracts. The same is true of rhetorical tropes in printed persuasive materials and so on. However, the recognition of features does not constitute analysis, at least at a research level. It may be appropriate in training exercises as one seeks to acquire the skills of analysis. But research does not, and should not, consist principally of feature-spotting, just as analysing the history and functions of the railway system cannot be accomplished by train-spotting.

[…].

An analysis that consisted primarily of such spotting would not count as original research. It would be like a training exercise in running a well-known illusion such as the Müller-Lyer or administering a well-established personality test. Original analysis should seek to show how established discursive devices are used, in new sets of material, to manage the speakers’ interactional business. What is required is to show what the feature does, how it is used, what it is used to do, how it is handled sequentially and rhetorically, and so on. To remark: ‘that’s a 3-part list’ for example, is to identify a wellknow discursive feature of talk and text; but the interest is in unpacking it and show what it’s doing in this particular set of materials. Good analysis always moves convincingly back and forth between the general and the specific.

Concluding Comments

[…] We should be at pains to say that we do not think that identifying these inadequacies tends positively toward any one particular level or style of discourse analysis. What it does is show up how some ways of writing have the sheen of analysis without its substance. We have deliberately stopped short of saying what does count as analysis, because of the variety of directions in which analysis can go, and because much more has been written on this elsewhere. Perhaps it is safe to say that analysis means a close engagement with one’s text or transcripts, and the illumination of their meaning and significance through insightful and technically sophisticated work. In a word, Discourse Analysis means Doing Analysis.

[References have been stripped from this abridged version]

Guest blog: The Cardiff EM/CA doctoral student meeting

Every year a UK university hosts a meeting for doctoral students working in the fields of ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. This year it was held at Cardiff University. Jack Joyce and Linda Walz have sent in a lively and inclusive report, and Louise White has kindly contributed a warm personal reflection. 

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The 7th biannual EMCA Doctoral Network event was hosted at Cardiff University. It continued the tradition of providing the opportunity for PhD students to explore the various ways with which EMCA is employed around the UK and give us all a glimpse of EMCA research outside of our own departments.

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Guest blog: Behind the scenes at the Helsinki Intersubjectivity Conference

Helsinki’s Centre of Excellence for Intersubjectivity in Interaction has over its short history become an international powerhouse of interaction research. A celebratory conference was held in May, and I’m delighted that two of the Centre’s key personnel Taru Auranne and Taina Valkeapää, agreed to reflect on how it all went.

Taru Auranne

Taina Valkeapää

The conference “Intersubjectivity in Action” (IIA) was organized in the hesitant spring of Finland on May 11-13, 2017. It celebrated the final year of the Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity in Interaction, which has been running at the University of Helsinki since 2012.

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Guest Blog: A celebration of Candy and Charles Goodwin’s life and work

Charles and Marjorie Harness Goodwin (affectionately known as Chuck and Candy respectively) have a special place in the top rank of pioneers of interaction studies. Their scholarship, enterprise and enthusiasm has inspired many generations of young researchers. I’m delighted that Elliott Hoey and Don Everhart agreed to report on an event held to commemorate the Goodwins’ achievements.

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