Discursive Psychology: Theory, Method and Applications - Sally Wiggins 2017
Writing up and presenting DP analyses
This chapter will guide you through the process of writing up or presenting your DP analysis, providing details on what to include in each section of your report, what software can help, and how to prepare your manuscripts for publication. For some of you, this will be the bit that you have been avoiding, and indeed, the idea of writing a report can be a daunting task. Where do you start? How will you fit everything in? Some of you might even have experienced ’writer’s block’: the paralysing fear of the blank page and an inability to get started with a piece of writing. Fear not. Just as a marathon begins with one small step, so writing is a case of starting with one word, and writing anything to keep you going. The important thing is that you start writing early on and that you keep writing. The trick is then at the editing stage, where you can sculpt and re-write the text until the content and structure are clearly established. Like analysis, writing is a skill that improves with practice and the more you do it, the more your writing will improve. So, grab your coffee and laptop, and let’s get started.
Starting to write
The most important thing is that you get started on your writing as soon as you can. Begin when you first think of a research idea, and continue making notes and writing as you collect your data. At first, it matters less about the content of your writing; you should focus on just getting started and keeping going. Writing can also help us to develop our analyses and ideas about the data. It should therefore be considered as part of the analytical process rather than what we do at the end. With that in mind, use the following tips to help you begin writing.
Don’t wait for a ’good time’ to write or for when you feel like you have done enough reading. If such time arises, it will usually be too late (and there is always going to be more to read). Instead, consider your days in terms of small chunks of time — maybe 30 minutes or one hour at a time — and find spaces in your diary where you have a chunk or two free. These can then be writing time. Short bursts of writing can be as effective (if not more so) than long hours on end. Use a timer, if that helps, to provide a fixed period of time in which to concentrate.
Find a quiet space to write with minimal distractions. At the very least, you will need a chair to sit on and a table on which to rest your laptop or computer. If you don’t have a quiet space around you when writing, wear headphones and listen to music that you can concentrate with. Or just wear headphones. Find a way to block out sounds and sights around you; even wearing a hat or hood can help to narrow your attention onto the screen in front of you (trust me on this one; this can also be a bonus if your house is chilly).
Rather than being a distracting activity, reading can help you to become more familiar with the writing styles that you enjoy reading as well as to gain a greater understanding of the topic area or analytical approach. Read lots of DP research too, so that you can become familiar with the conventions of these reports. Read lots and read widely. At a later stage, this reading will be important for demonstrating that your own work contributes to the existing literature.
The familiar tip of breaking down a task into small chunks will serve you well here. Focus on one section of writing at a time, such as the rationale for your study, analytical notes about a data extract, or a paragraph on the implications of your analysis. Keeping it focused on one small section can help to make it feel more manageable, and it should also help you to be clearer about exactly what it is that you want to say.
Have a place where you can store all of your writing or notes together. This might be a folder on your computer, with clearly labelled individual word documents (e.g., not just ’analysis notes’ but ’analysis notes on false teeth extract’; choose something that is easily recognisable to you). You might also consider software such as Scrivener (see section below), which allows you to organise notes and writing sections in one space.
Consider your audience
Writing is always done for a purpose and there will always be an audience for whom we are writing, even if it is just for ourselves. While you are writing, therefore, think about what and who your writing is for. Is it an assignment only to be read by your tutor (and will it be assessed)? Is it to be published and likely to be read by researchers in a certain discipline? Use these questions to help you to guide your writing towards answering particular questions, such as: what will they want to know? Is it being assessed according to particular criteria? If you can find a trusted friend or peer to read your work and give you constructive and supportive feedback, so much the better.
Box 8.1: Short writing exercise
Try the following exercise to help you to start writing. Write a summary of your research project or idea (choose something you would like to research, even if you haven’t started yet), and include the following: a brief description of the topic area, the focus and aims of your research project and why this is important. You should try to write around 200 words, so you will need to be concise in places. Do not worry about whether your writing is ’academic’ enough. Clarity is much more important at this stage (see also Box 8.2).
Developing and editing your writing
Once you have begun to write, you have overcome the first hurdle. You can now focus on the task of writing your report or manuscript. As you do so, keep two things in mind. First, do not try to polish and refine your writing as you go along. Aim to write one paragraph (or a section) of your report at a time and concentrate on just getting the words and ideas written down. If it helps, write it as if you were explaining it to a friend or family member (someone who isn’t familiar with what you are studying); that way, you are more likely to focus on being clear. It is unlikely to be perfect at this stage and this is completely normal. The first draft is just that — a first draft — and it will probably look very different compared to the final version. Even very experienced writers go through many stages of drafting and re-drafting their writing. This is what is known as editing: we go back through our writing and change words or sentences, move parts around, add in further details and references or cut sections out. This latter point can be difficult at first. Deleting a section of text that you have spent hours working on can feel brutal. Sometimes this is necessary (and if in doubt, you can always move that piece of writing into another document just in case you find a use for it elsewhere), and taking a break from your work can help you to gain some distance from it. I mean this literally: walking away from your laptop or computer and doing something else can help you to tackle it afresh when you return. All the better if that break involves strong coffee or a nice cup of tea. You might also find it helpful to give your work to a trusted friend for constructive feedback. Do this once you have reached a point where you feel that you cannot do any more to improve it; that way, the feedback is likely to help with aspects that you have not already noticed for yourself.
The editing stage is where we sculpt our work into something that resembles the kinds of writing we see in published articles and books. It is all part of the process of writing and developing our ideas. Which brings me on to the second point: writing is not the end-point of our work. It is, in fact, central to the process of developing your analysis. Writing can help you to clarify and sharpen your analysis and this is why, as noted in Chapter 6, the writing-up stage is in many ways interwoven with the analysis stage. It is just that book chapters tend to present things as if in a linear progression (chapter 1, then 2, then 3, and so on) and as if separate from each other. In practice, it is much messier and more like zigzagging back and forth between different phases of research. This is why I encouraged you to start writing early on, even when you have only just begun your research. The benefit of this is that we typically do not need to have worked everything out before we start writing. The writing process enables us to work everything out through forcing us to be very clear and specific about exactly what we want to say.
As you develop your writing, then, take comfort in knowing that each time you draft and edit your work, you are doing exactly the same thing as every other writer — including professional authors — and this is all part of the process of developing our ideas and analyses as much as our writing skills. This process is usually hidden because we only ever read the finished, published versions of people’s work. We don’t see the deleted sections, the sketchy ideas, the awkward phrasing and the poor structure of the earlier versions. Likewise with your own work: you can be as messy and chaotic as you like while you are drafting your report. Nobody ever needs to see it.
The sections of a DP report
We now come to the structure of a written, academic report for DP research. The core structure is very similar regardless of whether you are writing a report for a short class project, an undergraduate or Masters dissertation or a published manuscript. There are variations, of course, according to the particular requirements of university programmes or academic journals, but for the most part these are often stylistic rather than content-related. This section should therefore guide you regardless of what writing task you are engaged in. We will work through each section of a DP report in turn, with guidance and advice on how to submit a clear and coherent report. As you write the report, keep one thing in focus: the report is not a crime or mystery novel. Do not wait until the end to reveal the main argument or analysis. Instead, state this clearly and directly at the very start; let it be the core message that you then unpack and detail in the subsequent sections.
Titles should be clear, concise and tell the reader what to expect in the report. Decide on the specific focus of your research and include this in the title (e.g., ’transgender identities in older adults’, not just ’identities’). Titles can also make use of colons to separate a short and snappy title from something more descriptive. They do not have to be witty or clever, but do try to engage and interest your audience.
The abstract should be a complete summary of your research report, comprising short pieces of information from each section (introduction, method, analysis and conclusion). The aim of the abstract is to tell the reader exactly what the research is about, why it was conducted, how it was conducted, what was found, and what the implications of the study are. A rough rule of thumb is to include approximately two sentences for each of these questions. You will typically have a word limit for abstracts, and these are often around 100—150 words, so it will be good practice at being clear and concise.
The introduction is partly a review of other research that has been conducted in a specific topic area and partly a rationale for the research that you have conducted yourself. This is the section where you will introduce theory: the assumptions about the topic area you are examining and how these relate to the methods of carrying out the research. Depending on the specific requirements of your writing assignment, you can use sub-sections to provide additional structure and to highlight key aspects of the introduction. Sub-sections are typically used in dissertations and journal articles, and you will need to use a brief heading for each sub-section to alert the reader to the specific issue you will address.
The introduction is the place where you need to provide the following information:
· What the study is about
· What existing research there is in this area (the literature review)
· How your research contributes to existing research
· Why the study is important
· Your research question(s)
The literature review — where you discuss other research that has been undertaken in your chosen topic area — is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to identify the findings and insights that have already been attained in this area and to gain a greater understanding of what knowledge has been produced to date and any gaps in this knowledge. Second, it allows you to demonstrate how your own work contributes to this area. Does it fill any gaps in understandings, for example, or select a different data context to compare with existing studies? This should also enable you to provide a clear rationale for why your research is important. Do not underestimate this: if a report does not show how it contributes to existing literature then it is at risk of missing out obvious details or arguments. You will be glad at this point that you have already been reading the literature.
When writing the introduction — and particularly the literature review — be selective in what you include and do not write about every study you find that relates to your topic area. Select those that are most central to the issue you are focused on yourself. This means you may have to write most of the introduction once you have begun analysis; that way you will know what you are focusing on. When you write about other studies, try to organise your review in terms of building up an argument or narrative. For instance, briefly explain the research that they conducted, but in terms of how it offers an insight or specific findings, what conclusions can be drawn, and so on. Do not simply list one study after another, with details about methods and results. Doing this will not only make for a very dull introduction, it will also prevent you from showing clearly where the research gaps are, and how your study fills a gap.
Towards the end of your introduction, the reader should have a clear sense of what other research has been conducted in this area and how your study contributes to this literature, even if only in a small way. You should argue about the importance of this topic: why does this work need to be done, why in this way, and why now? You will also need to be clear about your choice of methodological approach, and why it is appropriate for this study. You could detail, for instance, the theoretical assumptions taken by DP and how they fit with your chosen topic and area of interest. Note that in the introduction you are not telling the reader about how you conducted the analysis, only why this form of analysis is the most appropriate for the current study. The introduction is effectively building towards the culmination of your research question (see Chapter 3). Once this is stated — clearly, and referring back to other literature if need be — then you have set up the right context for presenting the methods of the research.
Box 8.2: The importance of clarity and coherence
The two most important things you can do to improve your report are to be clear and coherent. Being clear means detailing each aspect of your research in a straightforward manner, explaining core concepts and using simple language that focuses on your core argument or message. Some people may use lots of long or unusual words, jargon, or complicated vocabulary in an attempt to show their intelligence or gain higher marks. This usually does not work. It often backfires, and can suggest a lack of understanding of the subject area. Using simple words and clear explanation does not mean you are dumbing down or patronising your reader. Quite the opposite: with a clear writing style you are showing your ability to convey complicated issues in a simple and effective manner.
Being coherent means ensuring that each part of your report fits together in a consistent manner around a central argument or discussion point. The literature in the introduction should be relevant to the topic area and your own research, the methods should relate back to the research question and forward to the analysis, and the discussion section should refer back to issues raised in the introduction. A coherent report, therefore, is one that focuses on one or two main issues and refers to these at appropriate points throughout each section. Even if the process of conducting the research might seem incredibly messy at times, the process of writing the report is the point at which you can find order and coherence in the apparent chaos.
The methods section is where you will provide detailed information about data that you collected and how you analysed these data. It is typical to use sub-headings in this section, and often two will suffice: ’data collection’ (or ’participants and data collection’) and ’analytical procedure’. For much longer reports, such as undergraduate or postgraduate dissertations, it is possible that you will have a whole chapter dedicated to methodology, in which case, you can combine the theoretical justification (the rationale for choosing DP for this project) and practical details in that chapter.
The ’data collection’ sub-section typically includes information on key details such as: where, when and how you recorded the interaction, who was present (i.e., who are the participants), how much data you collected and what kind of data it includes (i.e., face-to-face interaction, online discussion data, telephone interaction). Note that we refer to people in our research as ’participants’, not ’subjects’, to acknowledge the centrality of their role in the research. The amount of detail needed about participants can vary: sometimes it will be appropriate to include ages, genders, sexuality or ethnicity, if these are relevant to your study. Remember, though, that DP treats context as relevant only if it is made relevant in the discourse and interaction, so demographical information is not always important. As a guide, then, you should include information about the participants if that information is relevant to the topic area of your research (such as national identity). It is always possible to use footnotes in the analysis section if you later need to add in details about demographics, if these are noted by participants in the extracts used.
This part should also detail the ethical issues that are relevant for your data, and at the very least should include mention of having received approval for the research from an ethics committee at your institution, and of the participants having provided written consent for taking part in the research. You should also state where and how the data were stored (e.g., on a password-protected computer and external hard-drive), and who has access to this data (e.g., yourself, your supervisor, any members of your research team). There may be additional ethical considerations (see Chapter 4 for more detail on gaining consent) to take into account if you are dealing with young or vulnerable populations, or sensitive topics. While we are ultimately dealing with talk and interaction, we should always be sensitive to the intimate aspects of people’s lives that we are often studying. Regardless of whether or not we wish to analyse the individuals themselves (claiming that we are ’simply’ examining the discourse, for example), this does not mean that we treat discourse as if it is some disembodied artefact lying waiting for us to investigate. Without people we would have nothing to study.
The ’analytical procedure’ sub-section should then contain information about what happened to the data once collected: how did you transcribe the data and how did you code and analyse it? This means going beyond simply saying ’discursive psychology was used to analyse the data’. We need to be clear about the stages that we conducted, and what specific features we focused on. This is all part of the process of transparency (discussed in Chapter 6), of providing evidence of how the analysis was undertaken and of showing your readers how you followed specific procedures. It prevents us from being complacent, ensuring that we are clear and detailed in the steps we choose, and providing reassurance to the readers that we are being consistent with a DP approach (and not simply doing what we think is relevant or appropriate). Box 8.3 provides a checklist of the details that are appropriate for clarifying a discursive psychology analysis.
Box 8.3: Checklist for writing up the ’analytical procedure’ sub-section
This section of published or unpublished reports is often woefully limited or vague about the process of analysis (some of my own publications are, alas, guilty of this too). The following checklist can be used to ensure that you do not fall into this trap yourself:
· Specify the form of discourse analysis used (i.e. discursive psychology) and use one or two references to show which literature has guided your analysis.
· State how the data were transcribed and to what level of detail: e.g., words only for the full corpus, then Jefferson-level for those sections that were identified in the coding stage.
· Describe how you coded the data: how did you select particular sections of the data? How do these sections relate to your research question? Did this process occur more than once?
· Describe how you began the analysis: what did you look for? What discursive devices did you use? Again, show how this relates back to the research question to ensure the report is coherent.
· Identify the main issues or analytical points raised by the analysis: what did you focus on and why? Show that this is grounded in the data, rather than with any presumptions you might have had about what you would find.
· Describe how you checked the credibility and coherence of the analysis: were there any deviant cases? How did you ensure that your analysis is robust?
This is the section of your report that is likely to be the longest, given that it will contain extracts from your transcripts alongside your analytical interpretations. It is also the most important, as here you will need to demonstrate not only that you can competently analyse the discourse, but also that you can be coherent in presenting this analysis for the reader. You should typically begin the analysis section with a short paragraph to provide an overview of the analysis. Here you should refer to any sub-sections that you will use, any key points or main conclusions that will be drawn. Again, remember you are not writing a thriller here, so tell the reader what your analysis will be doing. Sub-sections can also be useful to structure this section. Perhaps you have three or four main analytical points that you want to make: you can use sub-sections to organise these and more clearly flag them up for the reader. As with the start of the analysis section, it can be helpful to briefly introduce each sub-section and, if the analysis section is quite long, conclude each section briefly before moving onto the next one.
Your analysis section will then involve the presentation of a selection of extracts from your data corpus and the written analysis of these. But it is much more than a list of extract-analysis-extract-analysis and so on; it should be a coherent and structured discussion of your main analytical points or issues. As you work through the analysis section, each new extract and written analysis should build incrementally on the last. It should add something new, building up a more detailed understanding of the analytical issues. In this way, the analysis section is like a narrative, where you are explaining the key features, how these work together, and how they culminate in a new understanding or insight of a specific area. Do not expect the extracts to ’speak for themselves’. You need to persuade the reader of your interpretation of the data by showing how your analysis is based on the features of the discourse itself. If you cannot demonstrate that your analysis is based on the extract provided, then you need to check your interpretations or else select a different extract.
Each extract should be given a number (and sometimes also a note or code to indicate where it is from or who is involved in the data clip) to allow you to easily refer to it in your report. They should also have line numbers (see Chapter 5 on transcription) and again this helps to easily refer to specific aspects of the data. Introduce each extract before you present it: for instance, write a sentence or two before the extract to indicate how it relates to the main analytical points, and whether there are any specific features or line numbers of the extract that are particularly important that the reader should focus on. The choice of extracts should be based on the analytical points — your core arguments — that you want to present. The extracts should exemplify and illustrate these points clearly. If the extract does not add anything different, then it probably does not need to be included. The extracts should also be in some way representative of the data corpus; they should not be ’cherry-picked’ or chosen because they are unusual in some way (if they are, they might be a possible deviant case, and so should be highlighted as such). Be clear about the process used to select the extracts so that the reader can be reassured that this was done in a systematic and logical manner.
Box 8.4: Example analysis write-up
The following is taken from one of my own publications to provide an example of how the analysis can be written to focus the reader’s attention on specific parts of an extract — noting line numbers, for example — as well as attending to broader analytical claims and other relevant literature. In this article, the focus was on how parents and children attend to claims of taste preferences (such as when people say ’I like’ or ’I don’t like’ about a food or drink) and how these are managed alongside epistemic rights (people’s rights to have knowledge or claim to have knowledge of something).
Extract 3: McMaster/Moore family
In this example, both adults provide SCAs [subjective category assessments] accompanied by a justification, such as ’it tastes like nothing’ (line 4) and not liking the taste of milk (lines 6—7). When Grandma confirms Mum’s assessment, this is produced as a confirmation (’that’s true’, line 8) and as such also claims equal epistemic rights to be able to know — and use this knowledge — about Mum’s food preference despite being in second position, as a response rather than an initial claim to knowledge (Heritage & Raymond, 2005). As Mum’s own mother (rather than mother-in-law), her position as being qualified to claim the food preferences of Mum then goes unchallenged in the interaction following this extract. (Wiggins, 2014: 11)
This section should be relatively concise, typically containing a brief summary of the main analytical points, a discussion of the implication of these in relation to existing literature, limitations with the research and possible areas for future research. Think of this section as being one in which you consider the ’so what?’ question: So what was the point of doing this study? What have we learnt? What might we have done differently? What else is missing? This might seem a brutal question to consider — particularly if you have just spent months or years working in this area — but it is exactly the kind of question that readers might ask of the study themselves. So better that you ask it of yourself, first, and then have your answer ready.
References and appendices
The reference section should contain all and only those references cited in the report, and the formatting of this section will be dependent on the outlet of your report. Many students are often concerned with how many references are enough for a good report, and this is similar to asking ’how long is a piece of string?’ The simple answer is that there should be enough to support your theoretical claims in the introduction, to evidence the type of analysis in the methods section, to validate your analyses and show your contribution to the literature in the discussion section. Make use of journal articles as much as if not more than textbooks and book chapters. These will demonstrate not only your reading of the literature in this area, but they will also alert you to new developments and analytical findings that are often missing from textbooks. Appendices might include transcripts (a full set would entail a rather lengthy appendix section, so this is not always required), a blank information sheet and consent form.
Box 8.5: The importance of length
At some point you will need to think about how long the report should be. In many cases, you will be provided with guidance about the word limit of your report or manuscript. For undergraduate dissertations, for example, these might be anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 words, journal articles can vary from around 3,000 to 10,000 words, and doctoral theses can be anywhere around 80,000 to 100,000 words. You will need to check whether your word limit includes the reference list and/or appendices and if there is a specific word limit for the abstract. You will also need to consider how to divide this word limit up for each section of the report, and it can be easiest to do this in terms of proportions. For example, the analysis section is likely to be the longest, followed by the introduction, then the discussion, then methods, then the abstract. Do not get too caught up in exact word length, though; use these as guidelines and focus instead on making sure that your report is clear, detailed and focused.
Software to assist the writing and reporting processes
At the bare minimum, all you need to begin writing is word-processing software that will allow you to type words into a document on your computer or laptop. Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac are the two most common ones, and will see you through most eventualities. They also allow you to insert symbols, create numbered lists and indented sections that will become essential when you are creating and formatting your transcripts. Beyond this, the following are examples of software that can aid you at different points in the writing and reporting process of your research:
· Googledocs — for working collaboratively with other people on a written document online, avoiding the need for multiple versions of documents being emailed back and forth. Multiple people can work simultaneously on the document from different locations and use the ’chat’ function or Skype to video conference at the same time.
· PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi — for oral presentations. PowerPoint is now almost ubiquitous in presentations but can be used in different ways, such as synchronising the audio or video file with the transcript as it appears, line by line, on the screen. Prezi offers a more fluid way of building a presentation. See also Box 8.6.
· Scrivener — for working on a substantial piece of writing (such as this book). Great for organisation of your notes, ideas and to keep all the writing in a structured space.
· Mendeley — for storing, organising and reading journal articles and book chapters. Like Endnote (another ’citation management system’) it organises your references, though the advantage of Mendeley is that you can annotate and make comments on journal articles, and these can be saved or shared with others.
· Evernote — for making notes and storing different kinds of documents in a cloud storage system. Useful for keeping track of your analytical ideas on the go, and can be synchronised with files from other software (such as audio or video files).
· Toyviewer — for editing still images, such as from video recorded data. Useful to create a line-drawing effect or soften edges to help anonymise the data and use in publications or presentations. Other photo editing software (some free, some not) can do similar tricks.
· Comic Life — for creating a comic-strip style representation of interaction. Can import still images from video data to visually illustrate the moment-by-moment progression through the interaction. Snagit is another useful tool for editing images and adding speech bubbles and annotations.
· Camtasia — for screen capture and video editing. Can be used alongside other software (such as PowerPoint) to capture your presentations and upload onto the internet using YouTube or Vimeo to reach a wider audience.
· WordPress — for blogging about your research and to disseminate to a wider audience. Allows you to easily create your own website, though this will need maintaining. Also Twitter — for sharing news and comments, and gaining insights into other research work as well as disseminating your own.
Box 8.6: Tips for oral presentations
· Target the audience: who will be listening? What do they know already and what are they expecting from your presentation? Will your presentation be assessed?
· Use a short (no more than 15—30 seconds) video or audio clip of your data if you can: this can really bring your research to life and allow you to more clearly show the emphasis on discursive practices in everyday settings. Note that you will need to have consent from participants to use the data in this way.
· Keep it simple: no more than three data clips and extracts and only a few key analytical points is a good guide for most presentations. It is more effective to give the audience a brief ’taste’ of your research than to try to fit everything in. You can always discuss your research in full with people after your presentation.
· Briefly explain the background context for the video clips, noting features such as the location, participants and purpose of the interaction.
· Subtitles can be added to a video to show the discourse visually as well as audibly (i.e., to appear on the screen at the exact point at which they are spoken).
· Limit your slides: if using presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote, use the slides sparingly and avoid having lots of text.
· Be enthusiastic and demonstrate your interest and understanding of your research: if you don’t look interested, then your audience is not likely to be either.
· Consider using other materials, such as photographs of the research setting or handouts with the transcripts from the extracts used in the presentation, to bring your presentation to life and to make it more engaging for the audience. I have been known to throw chocolate at audience members (well, I do study eating practices) if I think it is particularly relevant or appropriate.
Once you have gained confidence and competence in DP research and particularly in writing up your work, you may be ready to submit a manuscript to an academic journal. This requires a little further consideration of how we present our work. At the very least, each journal will have their own requirements (usually ’instructions for authors’) regarding the type of manuscript that they accept, the disciplines, approaches or methodologies they consider, and the audience to whom they are appealing. This often hits hardest at the point of specifying word limits. Many journals have a restriction of around 7,000 to 8,000 words (and this is quite generous depending on the discipline with which you are familiar; it is not uncommon to have manuscripts of 3,000 or 4,000 words, for instance). Before you write your manuscript, therefore, you will need to be clear about where you would like to send it and what their requirements are. It is much easier to write the manuscript once you know the potential outlet. For those of you working with data in a language that is not English, see Nikander (2008) for a discussion and examples of how to deal with the overlapping issues of translation/transcription and how to prepare this for publication.
The first thing to consider when preparing a manuscript for publication, therefore, is who you want your audience to be. Do you see your research contributing to other discursive, linguistic or interactional research in a particular topic area? Or are you more concerned to speak to those working in a particular topic area? You might also want to consider the type of audience who is likely to read your research: academics, professionals, policy makers? Why are you conducting the research — what did you aim to achieve? In some cases, you might decide to write two manuscripts for different journals (one for academics, one for policy makers, or one for discursive/interaction researchers and one for research into your chosen topic area). So plan ahead, according to how much time you have to write and what you aim to achieve with these (potential) publications.
Aside from the word limit, many journals also have certain requirements for the formatting of your manuscript. This might require you to label or structure sections in a particular way (possibly ’findings’ or ’results’ rather than ’analysis’). They may also have limitations on how many extracts you can use, whether you can include tables or figures, and how these should be formatted. The formatting of extracts is one to pay particular attention to, as some journals are published with two narrow columns of text on each page. This means that your transcript may be mis-aligned during the printing preparation stage and the line numbers no longer match the lines of talk. Figure 8.1 provides an example of this from my first publication. So be sure to check this at the proof-reading stage and adjust your transcripts if at all possible.
Figure 8.1 Example of mis-aligned transcript (from Wiggins et al., 2001)
This all means that there can be huge variation in the styles of DP analyses that we see in print, not only because of different authors and studies, but also because of different journal requirements and styles.
Technological developments — both in terms of the software we can use to present our data as well as the increase in the number of journals available online — mean that, for those of you who have video-recorded data, there are opportunities to include still images from your data. This is all dependent on consent from participants, of course, so you must first ensure that you have the consent of participants to publish their images (as a still screen-shot) before you go down this route. You might also consider the possibility of including a hyperlink to another website where readers could access the video or audio data extracts used in the publication. Although this is a new area of development and requires extended consideration of consent from participants, it offers an exciting way in which readers can get closer to the data for themselves.
Finally, having submitted a manuscript to a journal, you will need to go through the peer-reviewing process. This can vary depending on the journal, but typically takes the following structure:
· Manuscript is considered by the journal editor if it is appropriate for the journal. If it is, it is then sent out to reviewers. If not, it will be sent directly back to you. Do not despair if this happens to you (it has happened to me at least twice). Just reconsider your audience and the most appropriate outlet for your work. Sometimes it can result in finding a much more suitable and better place to publish your work (this also happened to me, twice).
· Manuscript is sent out to at least two reviewers (typically two or three, though sometimes more). These should be ’experts’ or credible researchers in an appropriate area; they should know something about either the topic area or the analytical approach. They usually have between one and three months to read and provide a written review of the manuscript.
· Journal editor collects in the reviews once these are completed and adds their own comments. They will then make a decision as to whether the manuscript will be accepted (as it is, or requiring minor changes), needs revision (sometimes quite substantial changes are needed) or be rejected.
· Unless it is rejected completely — in which case try again somewhere else, taking into account any feedback you received — you will usually have a few months to make the revisions and resubmit it.
· Resubmitted manuscript will often go back out to review again, to the same reviewers if possible (but not always) or the editor will make a decision for themselves. You should then get a decision as to whether it is accepted or needs further changes.
The reviewing process can be lengthy and disheartening at times. For many academics, it is one of the challenging parts of our job — we receive feedback that can be encouraging, critical or just plain brutal. You may need to compromise either the content or structure of your report, and you will have to make a decision as to whether the compromise is appropriate or not. Some journals and reviewers will request, for example, that you remove all transcription symbols from data extracts, avoid repeating comments in the analysis section or — the horror — remove all data extracts from the analysis section because they ’got in the way of the analysis’ (this did actually happen to me once). Sometimes it will be obvious that the reviewers take a very different theoretical or analytical approach from your own, and not everybody is professional and supportive in their comments.
This is not to put you off or to dissuade you from publishing. Far from it. The more DP research is published, the more that research can build on new analyses and develop theory and practical applications in different areas. Just be prepared for the rigours of the reviewing process. Seek support and help from your supervisor, peers or colleagues. Many will have been through the process themselves (often many times) and can help to guide you in terms of what to expect and how to deal with the process. I find that when I first get reviews back from a manuscript revision, I read them through two or three times, then put them aside for about a week. This gives me time to reflect on the comments, and also gives me some distance from the writing so that I am then ready to edit the work without being too sentimental about it. At the end of the day, what is important is that the research is disseminated and has some value and contribution to the literature.
· Start writing as soon as you can and do not worry about whether your writing is ’academic enough’.
· Drafting, re-drafting and editing is a normal part of the writing process.
· Reports should be well structured and coherent: focus on one or two main issues and stick to these throughout.
· Explain everything: be clear about the rationale for each stage of the research process.
· Make use of different kinds of software to help enrich the writing and dissemination of your research.
· Familiarise yourself with the publication process and consider how you might best disseminate your work to the most appropriate audience.
Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research: A practical guide for beginners. London: Sage. Particularly Chapter 13.
Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J. & Luff, P. (2010). Video in qualitative research: Analysing social interaction in everyday life. London: Sage. Particularly Chapter 6.