Research Methods: Advanced Document Analysis
Full course description
Oﬀered in a course period when students prepare their BA thesis, this skills course aims to improve the students’ ability to make good use of primary sources in their own research. The course is especially useful for students who are embarking on a thesis that includes an analysis of political language. Advanced Document Analysis explicitly builds on Back to the Sources (ES) / Finding Sources (AC). The focus of these earlier skills courses was on where to find useful sources and how to analyse whether or not they provide credible and representative information. Advanced Document Analysis moves beyond the earlier focus on credibility of sources and focuses on the ‘reality effect’ of political & public language. It addresses the question how politicians (and media) do things with words, how language is used by these actors as an instrument of power which does not passively reflect reality, but instead shapes (our perception of) reality. In six hands-on assignments students will analyse, for instance, the rhetorics of political speeches, parliamentary debates and newspaper reports. We will not be so much interested in establishing whether the “facts” mentioned in these documents that we find and study are actually correct or not. Rather, what interests us here is to understand the manner in which sources (the kinds of which students commonly use) discursively represent the social and political “reality” they purportedly refer to. As such, this skills course intends to raise the students’ awareness about, and to provide a first introduction to, what has become known as “framing” and “discourse analysis”.
At the end of this course, students will be able to critically analyze the rhetorics and discourse of political documents and media reports.
Material to be provided during the course.