Exercise 1: Considering the functions of ‘all of a sudden’

In all of the approaches to qualitative analysis covered in the book, it is vitally important to spend time studying the data closely before you move into more formal stages of analysis, such as coding. For example, in their account of the thematic analysis process (see Chapter 7 in the book), Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke emphasize the importance of the initial phase of ‘data familiarization’ – reading and re-reading the data to develop a deep and familiar sense of the detail and overall ‘picture’ of the data.

This very much applies to discursive approaches to analysis too. (See Locke and Budds’, 2020, stages of critical discursive psychology, presented in Chapter 15 in the book, where data familiarization is part of their first stage of analysis.) If you can attune your attention to the ways in which language is being used in the data, you can notice features that might prove to be analytically interesting.

For example, in the additional transcript of the interview with Greg from Arnie Reed’s study with ex-soldiers (which can be found in Appendix 1), Greg uses the phrase ‘all of a sudden’ 12 times when talking about his experience of leaving the army and moving into civilian life.

Search the transcript for each instance of ‘all of a sudden’. Look at the text around it in each instance and consider what functions that phrase is performing. (Remember not to speculate on Greg’s motivations or other intrapsychic features. To do that would take you outside the concerns of a discursive approach to analysis which focuses on the functions performed by language.)

  • Is the phrase performing the same function each time or is it orienting to different functions at different points in the transcript?
  • Make sure you can justify your answers by pointing to supportive evidence in the text.