Ethnography and Language in the Social Sciences

MA Social Research modules

Module Outline

The last three decades have seen the development of a significant body of interdisciplinary research on language within particular social and institutional contexts (e.g. in anthropology, education, sociolinguistics, sociology and discursive psychology). One broad line of enquiry has been directed towards everyday talk and the construction of social meanings in face-to-face interaction and textual practices. Different approaches to the observation and analysis of talk have been developed, in different disciplinary sites, with distinct goals and methods (e.g. ethnography of communication, conversation analysis and interactional sociolinguistics). Research has been conducted in different institutional worlds – in education, the media, law, medicine – and in local lifeworlds. This short course will provide an overview of ethnography  and language in the social sciences and will demonstrate how research approaches vary depending on the unit of analysis.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Critically evaluate different approaches to the study of spoken language;
  • Assess the appropriacy of particular approaches to the design of your own research (or similar projects);
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how approaches might be combined;
  • Apply a particular approach to the analysis of your own data (or other datasets);

Course Assessment

A 3000 word assignment on one of the following topics: Provide a critical evaluation of one approach to spoken language; Outline a rationale for incorporating one of the approaches covered in the course into the design of a particular project (this could be your own research project or a similar project); Present an analysis of a particular set of data (spoken or written, monolingual or bilingual), using one of the approaches covered in the course.