Fresh from a session on “Social innovation” (with a useful PhD writing interlude) I went to “What is… Policy Document Analysis?” These “what is…” events are put on by the methods@manchester folks.Sometimes ‘sage on the stage followed by q and a’ is okay. This was one of those occasions.
- Imma bullet point it, (#wearealldeadalongtime)
Documents aren’t just things on paper, can be photos etc etc
“social facts, constructions of particular representation using literary using literary conventions” (Atkinson and Coffey. 2010)
Not neutral, but a particular version of reality
Policy is “statement of intent” with an “ought” function
Policy documents have specialised tones/registers, and don’t exist in isolation (intertextuality)
You can look at what is “in” the document – content analysis, thematic analysis, and/or at how the document came into existence (discourse analysis) and WHY (see my list of questions).
Three ways of looking at this
English for Specific Purposes (Swales, 1981, 2000)
Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday and Martin, 1993)
New Rhetoric (Miller, 1994). [I think Carolyn Miller] – Looking at attitudes, values and beliefs of the text users
“What the problem is represented to be” – Carol Bacchi –[Adelaide Uni!] Foucauldian analysis. All policies designed to solve problems, also contain explicit and/or implicit solutions. Therefore can/should identify the problem representations and trace them historically [i.e. genealogy of…]
Sequence of document analysis–
- Selection (get them all in one place)
- Familiarisation (skim etc)
- Identifying extracts
- Developing analysis
Two observations from me
- interviewing people can provide rich insights and quotable quotes!
- compare to framing (Snow and Bedford), Agenda Denial (Cobb and Ross) and the counter-rhetorical strategies of Kitsuse and Ibarra
Two more observations
- It’s the silences that matter – not just which “problems” are off the table, but which “solutions” are off the table for the problems brought forward.
- Policy documents are picked up and put down as needed (deliberate ambiguity within and between them, creating needed rhetorical wiggle-room in the unending legitimacy battles and turf battles). Policies that are inconvenient are simply ignored
Questions I like to ask:
Who wrote this document?
Who was paying them?
In response to what events/documents/problems?
Why did they write (beyond “following orders/pay the mortgage”)? What was the intended outcome?
Who is the intended audience for this document?
What has been elided? Conflated, either accidentally or on purpose?
What, in the eyes of critics, were the ‘hidden motives’? Is this a trojan horse for something else?
Who has ‘pushed back’ on this document – on what grounds (with what effect)
Did this document achieve its intended notoriety/fame/infamy/impact?
See also: Donald Schon “Beyond the Stable State”
Future “what is” events
What is..? interviewing ‘elite’ groups
18 February 2015
1pm – 2pm
What is..? observation in the workplace
25 February 2015
1pm – 2pm
What is..? textual analysis
4 March 2015
1pm – 2pm