Critically assessed: A discourse analytic approach to interview data in Process Tracing methodology

Nao, Marion; Yuksel, Dogan; Zuaro, Beatrice; Wingrove, Peter and Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2023). Critically assessed: A discourse analytic approach to interview data in Process Tracing methodology. In: 13th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice (ALAPP) 2023, 4-6 Sep 2023, University of Glasgow.


This work-in-progress session aims to explore the way in which discourse analysis can be used to complement or enhance Process Tracing, a methodology primarily employed in the Political Sciences (e.g., Beach and Pederson 2019). To illustrate such use and transdisciplinary potential, it considers data from participant interview accounts in Austrian and Spanish higher education and governance contexts (N= c. 30). These have been generated as part of a wider project which draws on Process Tracing methodology to investigate the reasons why English is being increasingly used for academic programmes at European universities.

The aim of Process Tracing is to uncover the causes of a particular outcome of investigation, in this case the rise of English as a medium of instruction (EMI), by seeking and then evaluating ‘traces’ of evidence, or their absence, through critical assessments. While the methodology is in theory open to various sources of data for collection and analysis, participant accounts in interviews might arguably be considered to hold a lesser evidential value than others, such as observations or documentation. In this session, we consider the role that discourse analysis can play in elevating the status of interview data by critically examining them as participant accounts. Parallels can thus be drawn with other professional contexts in which accounts are given by participants and analysed by researchers.

Beach, D. and R. B. Pederson (2019) Process Tracing Methods: Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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