Discourse analysis as theory, method, and epistemology in studies of education policy

Katherine Anderson, Jessica Holloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Discourse has featured in studies of educational policy as an analytic and methodological tool, theoretical frame, realm of implication, and even a foundational definition of educational policy itself (e.g.) Despite the centrality of discourse as a frame for exploring educational policy and its implications, the ways that discourse is defined or operationalized in educational policy research are often left implicit which can lead to murky relations to larger onto-epistemological questions of how we construct findings from data as well as the nature of policy. In this interpretive analysis, we synthesize a corpus of 37 peer-reviewed journal articles that bring together educational policy and analyses of discourse from varying theoretical and methodological perspectives in order to better understand the breadth and scope of how discourse is defined and operationalized in studies of educational policy, including in ways that are sometimes incommensurate with authors' stated theoretical and methodological positions. After first laying the theoretical groundwork for analyses of discourse in the field of educational policy, we then illustrate how discourse analysis is used differently, and sometimes inconsistently, within contested paradigmatic landscapes. We conclude with an argument for discussions across theoretical frameworks and methodological paradigms about how the concept of discourse lends itself to different epistemological vantage points on educational policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-221
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020


  • Discourse
  • critical discourse analysis
  • methodology
  • paradigm
  • post-structuralism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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