What is discourse analysis?

Discourse analysis is a research method for studying written or spoken language in relation to its social context. It aims to understand how language is used in real life situations.

When you do discourse analysis, you might focus on:

  • The purposes and effects of different types of language
  • Cultural rules and conventions in communication
  • How values, beliefs and assumptions are communicated
  • How language use relates to its social, political and historical context

Discourse analysis is a common qualitative research method in many humanities and social science disciplines, including linguistics, sociology, anthropology, psychology and cultural studies.

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What is content analysis and how can you use it in your research?

Content analysis is a research method used to identify patterns in recorded communication. To conduct content analysis, you systematically collect data from a set of texts, which can be written, oral, or visual:

  • Books, newspapers and magazines
  • Speeches and interviews
  • Web content and social media posts
  • Photographs and films

Content analysis can be both quantitative (focused on counting and measuring) and qualitative (focused on interpreting and understanding). In both types, you categorize or “code” words, themes, and concepts within the texts and then analyze the results.

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Dashes (– or —)

Dashes can be used to separate extra information or to mark a break in a sentence. They appear in some of the same places as commas, colons, semicolons, and parentheses. However, they are generally considered more informal than these punctuation marks, so should be used sparingly and selectively in academic writing.

The two main types of dashes are the em dash (—) and the en dash (–). Make sure not to confuse dashes and hyphens (-).

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Semicolons (;)

A semicolon can be used to connect two closely related independent clauses (parts of a sentence that could also stand as separate sentences).

My car broke down this morning; it’s being fixed at the mechanic’s garage now.

Semicolons are also used to separate list items that contain internal punctuation such as commas and dashes.

The film was shot in many stunning locations, including a castle in Heidelberg, Germany; the Great Mosque—also known as the Mezquita—in Cordoba, Spain; and a quaint village in Undredal, Norway.

The semicolon is often described as a punctuation mark that is stronger than a comma and weaker than a full stop, but it is not interchangeable with other punctuation marks.

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Colons (:)

A colon can be used to introduce words, phrases, lists of items, explanations, and elaborations. It can also be used to introduce a quotation.

In general, you can think of colons as saying “what comes next explains what came before.” A colon must be preceded by an independent clause: a fully formed thought that could stand as a sentence on its own.

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Using conjunctions

A conjunction is a word that is used to connect words, phrases, and clauses. There are many conjunctions in the English language, but some common ones include andorbutbecause, for, if, and when.

There are three basic types of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinating, and correlative.

Because the popstar caught a terrible cold, her upcoming performances in Boston and Chicago were indefinitely postponed. The tour organizers provided neither rescheduled dates nor refunds for the tickets, causing much discontent among the fans.

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How to fix dangling and misplaced modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes or qualifies another part of a sentence. The most common modifier mistakes are dangling modifiers and misplaced modifiers.

A dangling modifier occurs when the intended subject (the doer) of the modifier is missing from the sentence, and instead another subject appears in its place.

  • Fumbling in her purse, the keys could not be found.
  • Fumbling in her purse, she could not find the keys.
  • As she fumbled in her purse, the keys could not be found.

A misplaced modifier is too far away from the word, phrase or clause it is intended to modify and, as a result, appears to be modifying something else.

  • The waiter presented a steak to the guest that was medium rare.
  • The waiter presented a medium-rare steak to the guest.
  • The waiter presented a steak that was medium rare to the guest.

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Using parallelism to write balanced sentences

In English grammar, parallelism (also called parallel structure or parallel construction) is the repetition of the same grammatical form in two or more parts of a sentence.

Not parallelParallel
I like to jog, bake, paint, and watching movies.I like to jog, bake, paint, and watch movies.

I like jogging, baking, painting, and watching movies.

Maintaining parallel structure helps you avoid grammatically incorrect sentences and improves your writing style. Although lack of parallelism is not always strictly incorrect, sentences with parallel structure are easier to read and add a sense of balance to your writing.

Parallel construction is most commonly used in sentences containing elements that appear in a series or in a pair. It is also applied to headings and outlines in academic writing.

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Capitalization rules

In English, a capital letter should always be used for the first word of a sentence and for all proper nouns. A proper noun is the specific name of a person, place, organization, or thing.

Michelle Obama, the former first lady, was raised in Chicago and is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Unlike proper nouns, common nouns refer to general, non-specific categories or entities. Common nouns are not normally capitalized (unless they are the first word of a sentence or part of a title).

Monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy are forms of government classified according to which people have the authority to rule.

In some cases, capitalization is also required for the first word in a quotation and the first word after a colon.

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