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Berkenkotter, Carol A. “Analyzing Everyday Texts in Organizational Settings.” Research in Technical Communication. Eds. Gurak, Laura J. and Mary M. Lay. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002. 47-66. Print.

  • At its core, this article is about research methods.  Specifically, B. wants to take up qualitative research methods that arise out of an empirical tradition.  Calling this method “textual analysis”, she hopes to sketch how Writing Studies folks can use “systematic observation for analyzing content, linguistic form, and its function, genre and text organization, rhetoric, and the role of texts within an organization’s communicative system” (48).  Two questions undergird this inquiry:  1) What questions these techniques of textual analysis are designed to answer; and 2) what kinds of problems would lead the researcher to pose and answer those questions through the use of specific analytical techniques (48).
  • B. acknowledges that this is one of many qualitative methods.  In this chapter B. will consider textual analysis via three analytical traditions:  rhetorical analysis (from rhetorical criticism & theory), discourse analysis (from applied linguistics), and genre analysis (from both rhetorical criticism/theory and applied linguistics) (48).  She chooses these three methods because they are all centrally concerned with the relationship between text & context.  Differences:
    • Rhetorical analysis:  concerned with the strategies of argumentation that show up in textual creations.  Typically concerned with ethos, pathos, logos & kairos.  Pay attention to the text but also the sociocultural-historical context.
    • Discourse analysis:  concerned with the persuasive elements of a text; however, instead of relying strictly on rhetoric this approach considers the syntatic/lexical composition of the message as a unit of analysis.  This method uses codes to differentiate & delineate between particular lexical, grammatical, or syntactic structures.  Aims for plausible interpretation (the qualitative).
    • Genre analysis:  This considers the dynamic nature of genre as the central unit of analysis.  By attending to genre & its transformations the researcher can connect text, context, rhetorical purpose, and argument.
  • B. notes that TC research is concerned with the life of “mundane texts” or texts that are of the everyday.  B. notes that, “The notion of textual, or ‘documentary reality,’ and how it is constituted through organizational paperwork are central conceptually to this chapter.  This notion suggests the social constructionist basis of many current analysis of written texts” (51).  In other words, the mundane paperwork of the bureaucracy reveals much about the ways that sociohistorical-cultural forces both exert themselves in the formation of texts and are shaped by the composition of texts (cyclical).
  • B. notes that this kind of analysis is inadequate as a complete method; rather, to really learn about the functioning of an organization she recommends this kind of qualitative work with ethnography on the order of AT or ANT (51-2).
  • Three foundational ideas that undergird the epistemology of these research methods:
    • Documentary reality:  Reality is a social construct created by the interwoven and intersecting felt experiences of ideology, history, context, interaction, and institution.
    • Intertextuality:  Documents are parts of larger documentary systems.  As such, a strict emphasis on the text is undesirable (no New Criticism).
    • Genre systems:  these are the textual systems that sketch out the mutual dependency of documentary reality and intertextuality.  Genre systems constitute epistemologies; additionally, they are subject to change based on the dynamics of the entire context.  See Bazerman, Russell, DeVitt, et al.
  • B. “summative” theoretical stance:  The professions are organized by genre systems and their work is carried out through genre systems (53).  Genres embody the conventions of any community/organization; as such, if we look to the texts that constitute those genres we can get a peak at the documentary reality in which the organization exists.

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