Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is amongst the most popular methodologies for the analysis of language and texts in management and organization studies. Its popularity is evident in the use of CDA in relation to a wide range of topics such as professional and organizational identity, workplace control and resistance, mergers and acquisitions, industrial disputes, strategic sensemaking, and institutional logics, to name but a few of the domains to which CDA has been applied.

The popularity of CDA has, as Leitch and Palmer (2010) argue, been associated with an increasingly expansive and loose use of CDA, as a particular methodology for analysing texts in contexts. Whereas original conceptions of CDA (e.g. Fairclough, 1992) specifically linked linguistic, macro-sociological, and interpretive analyses, they found that only a limited amount of studies in organizational research combine this analytical nexus. Instead, most studies under the banner of CDA were more limited in scope, often restricting themselves to either of these analyses or shifting towards alternative analytical protocols such as ‘grounded theory’.

Such varied uses, including any shifts in uses when CDA becomes combined with methods such as grounded theory, may be problematic for a number of reasons. Researchers may not only limit the inherent potential and use of CDA, but they may also be mixing paradigmatic assumptions (Buchanan and Bryman, 2007) that feed into their analyses. Inherent in Leitch and Palmer's (2010) Point article is a real concern that CDA may be invoked as a rhetorical sleight of hand, and as a substitute for a detailed description of the methods that were used to analyse texts in context. In other words, Leitch and Palmer (2010) are generally concerned about the dependability of CDA analyses, rather than about a strict definition of what constitutes CDA. Based upon their content analysis of recent management and organizational studies, they make a number of recommendations for the use of CDA, and develop a protocol for text-based analysis. The specific steps in this protocol help identify (to the reader) a researcher's assumptions and analytical moves in relation to the textual data and how any general conclusions were arrived at.

In their Counterpoint article, Chouliaraki and Fairclough (2010) respond that the proposed protocol may reinforce a myth of CDA as a relatively mechanical technique. Researchers may diligently follow the protocol, but, they argue, in emphasizing aspects of the method, their analysis may have become rather muted and divorced from the original research questions and any relevant streams of theorizing. Chouliaraki and Fairclough (2010, p. 6) in fact feel that any strictures on CDA as a methodology would limit its ‘inherent contextual contingency and theoretical versatility’. Instead, they argue, there should not be a universal methodology of CDA, let alone a single research protocol. The latter they feel would promote the use of CDA as a series of rigid rules, as opposed to a more flexible use that is contingent on specific research questions, critical interests, and relevant theoretical traditions that are drawn upon. Chouliaraki and Fairclough (2010) proceed in rearticulating the original nexus of linguistic, macro-sociological, and interpretive analyses, and argue that discourse should instead be studied as an interplay of linguistic and sociological forces that combine into formative ‘moments’ in the constitution and institutionalization of social and organizational arrangements. They thus deliberately argue for a flexible use of CDA to connect discourse with other social elements and as part of a critical research approach that is applied to specific questions of power and institutionalization.

As with most debates, both articles in this Point–Counterpoint make valuable points about the use of CDA within management and organizational research. Leitch and Palmer (2010) are concerned with the dependability of CDA research, and provide suggestions for how important aspects of CDA analyses can be documented and written into research articles. Chouliaraki and Fairclough (2010) are less concerned about such dependability, and are in fact worried that an over-emphasis on strict methods or protocols may undermine the flexible use of CDA and its connection with critical and theoretical interests. Whatever your own position in relation to these alternative, and in some senses complementary, perspectives on CDA, we hope that you enjoy the debate that unfolds in this Point–Counterpoint. We also encourage you to comment or elaborate on any of the arguments using the new Correspondence feature on the JMS website at


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