I learned something today and that always makes for a good day. Unfortunately (or typically might be more accurate) what I learned is that there are gaps in my knowledge. Today I didn’t really begin to fill in those gaps but I am locating their boundaries so I suppose that makes today productive. Even better it gives me a plan for future work.
I have learned that I don’t know a whole lot about rhetorical analysis and that I will need to do quite a bit of study before I’m ready to embark on my next research project. This shouldn’t be shocking. While I have a number of research methods courses under my belt (thank you TTU TCR program), my dissertation project didn’t employ the type (or depth) of rhetorical analysis that I expect my current project will require. In fact another thing I’ve learned is that there is a whole lot more I can do with my existing data but that will be another project and another day.
For today, I think it is enough that I have expanded my understanding of what I know (and don’t know) about content analysis, discourse analysis, and rhetorical analysis. According to Huckin, content analysis is analyzing semantic data in text(s) to uncover underlying rhetorical themes/patterns. Barton describes discourse analysis as the study of the ways in which language in different communicative events function to create and reflect aspects of culture. Selzer defines rhetorical analysis as the study of how people in specific social situations influence others through language. Understanding what separates these different types of analyses is helpful to me as I knew I wanted to analyze a specific set of texts but was unsure which method to employ. I now understand that while I used content analysis (in a most basic form) as part of my mixed methods dissertation research I will more likely utilize discourse analysis for my next project.
My next project will focus on four documents, a type of annual report, that provide yearly snapshots for a group’s transformation from organization in crisis to thriving community. I am interested in what these communicative events can teach us about the evolution of the culture and community of this organization. I’m pretty excited about this project and can’t wait to dive in.