DREaM event 2 speaker insight: Professor Andy McKinlay

Professor Andy McKinlay

Professor Andy McKinlay

In the second in our series of preview posts ahead of the LIS DREaM2 workshop, Professor Andy McKinlay discusses some of the issues he will be covering in his workshop session An Introduction to Discourse Analysis. He explains what this research technique involves, how he has applied it in his own work and why he feels it will be of benefit to the other LIS researchers attending the workshop.

Professor Andy McKinlay is head of the school of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

What research techniques will you be discussing with the workshop participants?

I will be exploring with colleagues the ways in which one particular form of qualitative research – discourse analysis – can be employed in LIS research. The essence of discourse analysis is to examine the fine grain details of spoken and written discourse to develop an understanding of how people accomplish social actions in discourse. This includes understanding how people ‘socially construct’ versions of people, actions and events.

How have you applied these techniques in your own research?

Across a number of years I have been interested in understanding how people use discourse to socially construct their own identities and the identities of other people. How, in other words, people use text and talk to create a sense of who they are and also to create a sense of who other people are. One element of my research has focused on how people use discourse in this way to avoid, or deal with, becoming the targets of prejudice.

How do you think these techniques might be relevant to LIS researchers?

First, LIS researchers can use discourse analysis to understand how LIS functions as one of a set of socially-embedded structures and practices: How do LIS professionals view LIS? How do other ‘stakeholders’ such as funders and users understand LIS? How do people make sense of the complex societal relationships that exist between LIS and other aspects of society, e.g. what do they see as the relationship between the library and the community? Are there broader ideologies in society that conditions the way that LIS functions?

Second, LIS involves people: LIS professionals, user groups, and different groups of other relevant people such as related professionals, colleagues within the broader work environment, those involved in regulatory activities, or those involved in funding. In what ways does the LIS professional create an understanding of what these people are like? And how do these people create a sense of what the LIS professional is like? How do these viewpoints interact (or even collide)? What are the social action outcomes of people viewing each other in these ways? These are questions that can be pursued using discourse analysis.

Where can people will find more information?

People might want to pursue these themes by looking at the text I co-wrote with Professor Chris McVittie: McKinlay, A. & McVittie, C. (2008). Social psychology and discourse. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Another useful text is: Tuffin, K. (2005). Understanding critical social psychology. London: Sage.

For full details about the workshop, please see the workshop programme.