Discourse Analysis is a method of studying language which goes beyond what is being said. Rather, Discourse analysis is concerned with language meaning beyond the sentence, how language is located in social practises and how language functions as a system of thought. It is a method which is used in a whole range of social sciences and has been adopted in multiple disciplines.
Discourse Analysis began to form as a method around the 1950s but was greatly informed by the theorist Michel Foucault and his book The Archaeology of Knowledge. Foucault’s work especially impacted work on discourse in social sciences such as Psychology. Both Discourse Analysis and Foucault put emphasis on socio-historical contexts of language and the meanings they create within that given context. From such an understanding discourse came to mean, not only formal linguistic language, but rather the institutionalised patterns of knowledge which represent structures of knowledge and power. Based on Foucault’s major contribution one form of Discourse Analysis is called Foucauldian Discourse Analysis which is especially focused on power distributions in relationships in society.
Another area of Discourse Analysis is Critical Discourse Analysis. This particular method is concerned more with political motivations. Usually having identified an area of study the researcher would collect relevant documentation about the topics. Analysis would then be conducted upon those texts using macro, meso and micro levels of analysis. It is then determined how ideologies are formed by the language and how that message constructs a social reality.
Some of the earliest Psychologists to use Discourse analysis were Jonathon Potter, and Margaret Wetherall and Derek Edwards and together they published some of the central books on Discourse Analysis in the 1980s. There work has continued to influence those in the Discourse Unit at Manchester which was set up by Erica Burman and Ian Parker.