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Challenges with FPDA

Compare and Contrast the methodological and theoretical approaches of two different pieces of social science research exploring the same topic/issue?


Feminist post-structuralism discourse analysis (FPDA) is based on the theory of Feminist post structuralism which is a combination of feminism & post-structuralism. (Harrington & Sautson (2008)) FPDA as a methodology is used by various researchers to analyze gender & language such as class-room discourse, teenage girls conversation etc. the post structuralism part of FPDA approach says that people’s identities & relationships are formed through verbal interactions.

Feminism may be defined as favoring women’s rights based on equality of sexes.

Post structuralism refers to critical textual analysis of structuralism.

Gender & language study is diverse as it involves study of all possible relationships, intersections & tensions between gender & language. (Weatherall (2005))In methodological terms there is no single field that could define this study. Research work on gender & language study is supported by conversation analysis, cultural studies, feminist media studies, gender studies, and feminist psychology, linguistics & media studies. Research in this area includes study of three main areas: varieties of speech related to particular gender, social norms & conventions that make use of gender language, thirdly the ways in which gender can be made accountable or  being invoked or oriented to & for people in their everyday textual interactions.

The main aim of the research is to spread the awareness of Feminist Post-Structuralism Discourse Analysis (FPDA) by outlining FPDA’s theoretical & methodological approaches among both gender & language researchers & to wider community discourse analysts. These days there is growing interest in FPDA (Eckert & McConnel. (2013)) approach nationally as well as internationally but still this topic is unknown among wider community of discourse analysts. So the first purpose of this research is to spread the awareness of FPDA among both gender & language researchers & among wider community of discourse analysts.It involves positioning FPDA between the discourse analysts to Critical Discourse Analysts (CDA) to which it is compared to large extent & Conversation Analysts(CA) to which it is compared to lesser extent. (Letoselliti (2014))FPDA is regarded as an supplementary approach such as CA & CDA but it is not regarded as rivals to CA & CDA. The work of FPDA includes:

Combines denotative study with connotative study i.e. verbal interactions with the patterns of power relations within interactions

The complexity of speaker’s identity within a single text is addressed by FPDA by analyzing the various ways among competing discourses

FPDA provides various ways in which multiple voices can be incorporated in research account & challenges the authority of single authored account.

It serves as an alternative to emancipatory research by providing wide range of open ended & multi-faceted conclusions

FPDA is an important function to theoretical & methodological approach to post structuralism. Elliott (1996) says that the methodologies which are not well known like FPDA offers resistant value among challenging approaches.

The challenge before FPDA is what is to be counted as discourse in research process. This methodology serves that while preserving the voice of othered by posing researchers influence in the interpretation of data, feminist may end. It is also recognized that it is impossible to present all views of research within the matrix of social & cultural life. FPDA since the social interactions are constituted differently in relation to time , space & different recourses , they are regarded as inconclusive.

FPDA: the theoretical approach

FPDA is offering new things to gender & language study in relation to its comparing partners known as CDA & CA. it has been a challenging task to distinguish FPDA under theoretical & methodological approaches. (Malson (2003))The question raised was does FPDA look much alike of feminist CDA in terms of both name & sentiments. The answer to this question was FPDA is not competing in any way with other approaches rather it is offering a supplementary approach which includes following both complementing & undermining other methods. A multi perspectival approach must be followed which helps in gaining much value by combining different methodological tools.Phillips and Jorgensen (2002) say that divergent form of knowledge can be created by combining various different theories. He emphasize that multi perspective approach can be fitted with the constructionist view for combining theories. For analyzing the speech of preschoolers (Holme & Marra. (2010))FPDA is used as central approach. FPDA has most in common with CDA among all approaches to discourse analysis. Even though both of these approaches have many common things in theory & methodology, they possess contrasting outlooks on the world & seek different results. FPDA as an approach can be defined as analyzing discourses in verbal interaction & various other types of texts & which provides various poststructuralist principles such as plurality, connection, ambiguity, diversity, functionality, complexity etc. The gender differentiation on analyzing of all type of texts is considered as a dominant discourse among all competing discourse as per feminist perspective on discourse analysis.

To discriminate human beings as per their gender & sexuality gender differentiation is regarded as most pervasive discourse among many cultures by FPDA. (Baxter 2005). There are definite connections between FPDA (Baker & Ellece (2011)) and feminist CDA as per theoretical approach & both of then shares a key principle: the discursive construction of subjectivity (Lazar, 2005a; Caldas-Coulthard, 2003; Wodak, this volume). Following are the elements of which such approaches agree (Butler, 1990):

Discourse as a social practice rather hat language above sentence or in use

The identities of per formative rather than possessive & essentialist nature of speaker: gender is not something they characterize rather it is something people enact to do.

The identities of diversity & multiplicity of speaker

The communities of practice such as classrooms, board meetings etc or context specific settings are used to (Muonwe (2014))

construct the meanings.

Deconstruction by working out how relations constitute identities, subject positions &interactions within discourses & challenging those relations.

Recognizing how one text is interwoven with another & one discourse is always inflected with the traces of other discourses. This is known as inter-discursivity.

The need for continuous questioning as to how values & assumptions made by discourse analysis.

The outlook of early versions of CDA was cultural materialist (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997) but today they are defined to be as social constructionist or poststructuralist Caldas-(Coulthard, 1996, and Wodak). The FPDA does have its theoretical roots in postmodernism rather that post-Marxism& its quest is not ideological rather it is epistemological. The key implications which make FPDA different from CDA are:

FDPA a transformative quest but not emancipatory agenda

Where CDA is committed to focus on social problems and has ideological agenda, FDPA does not have power to support any agenda or support a political or theoretical mission which may become a will to truth & (Baxter (2010))therefore a will to power (Foucault’s terms (1980: 109)). As per post structuralisms FDPA can support small scale ethnographic case studies to challenge dominant discourses & where subject can change their conditions. As per Bakhtin’s principle of heteroglossia FPDA means providing space to silent voices.

CDA polarize subjects of study into two parts: the most powerful & less powerful. The most powerful are those who exercise power over others while less powerful people suffer abuses. CDA research combines (J (2010)) Solidarity with the oppressed. CDA research is biased & is focusing on those social groups whose interests are under the boundaries of such dominant discourses. CDA deconstructs masculinist discourses in favor of oppressed groups such as women.  FPDA on other hand argues the complexity of female position. They are not concerned with showing female as victims, (B (1995)) powerless, disadvantaged or oppressed by others & polarize males as villains. It also suggests that position of speakers will fluctuate continuously on a matrix of powerfulness & powerlessness. This fluctuation is due to range of different speech events within a few moments of interaction. FPDA helps analysts in finding out a time or exact point in discourse when speaker fluctuates between state of powerfulness & powerlessness. It also helps in explaining complexity of relations that leads to such shifts of power.

CDA constructs real or material events, situations or structures while FPDA is an anti-materialist with a view that realities are always discursively produced. (Jane (2010))In other words the moment we enter into this world which is infused by competing discourses, we make our existence with the help of such discourses. It also says that speaker never exists outside discourses & a speech or talk is continuously formed through discourse. FPDA on the other hand collapsed the CDA’s distinction made between text & context. It says that one discourse is always negotiated or challenged by other discourses which are known as concept of inter-discursivity. For example when a woman suffers labor pain during child birth that pain is real & the experience of that pain can be never felt or understood without cultural & social discourses about child birth pain. The physical feelings of pain during child birth are inseperable from cultural form of expressions which women show while bearing pain. Different cultures may produce mixed or contradictory discourses about the experiences of female childbirth pain as it involes the issue of power as some women are strong in bearing pains while some are weak. The personal experiences of pain can be constituted in different ways & can be contradictory with each other. Hence anti materialist approach means that research practices are always textualised.

Data analysis

The data that distinguishes mainstream approaches to discourse analysis is used by FPDA by developing an approach. (Krokke & Anne (2005))The main aim of FPDA is to provide multiple accounts by following principle of polyphony (Bakhtin 1981). This means discourse analysis must include space for existence of different voices & accounts. The researchers of the project, participants of research & other people who generally give their reviews & comments of research work must be given chance to raise their voices.  They can make their own comments by bringing together different voices & accounts with authorial comments. Another principle provided by Bakhtin was principle of heteroglossia which includes providing space for minority voices that otherwise be remaining silent if not openly & officially recognized. This may act as a representation for minority voices. Baxter (2003) made a research by taking two aspects like in a classroom study there may be some girls who rarely speak in class, they will be considered as good listeners. Again in management study he highlighted the voice of female staff who never give her views at business meetings. The purpose of this study is to make her enable to speak & give her views in front of all male as well as female bosses because she also has right to speak & her presence is essential in the team.

FPDA does not believe in polarization but it believes in complexity of subjects of study

The identification & naming of important discourses in spoken & written texts is the main aspect of FPDA. A list of discourses has been named & identified by CDA amongst others suggested by Sunderland (2004). The identification of discourse doesn’t not justify the fact that they exist, except if their names are coined by written text of the analysts. The synchronic & Diachronic approaches can be used as suggested by FPDA to solve this methodological issue as to what counts as a discourse. It includes analysis of language of particular social group for a long period of time &observing patterns& developments in their relationships in that period of time. Baxter (2003; 2006) conducted a study on interactions of group of managers for several months & observed that due to particular versions of reality their existed discursively shaped various patterns of behavior & speech. Hence it becomes interpretive as to which name must be attached to these identified discourses among choice of names. (An Anti-Materialist's Intro to MinimalismUnlifer (2013))The second synchronic aspect involves analysis of stretching of text in relation to particular speech event. FPDA work on this micro analysis is based on two levels: Denotative & Connotative. Denotative level explains in detail the verbal & non-verbal interactions between particular social groups but does not evaluate the detail. In such situations (Wiley. (2015))CA helps in providing tools which gives uncontroversial description of events. Connotative analysis on the other hand interprets the data according to the speaker’s position of power.

FPDA must be made known among wider communities of discourse analysts. The factor of ethnic subjectivity in the mix of competing discourses was introduced by Laurel Kamada who aims to spread notions of FPDA. She did a study of Japanese girls who were positioned as powerful & powerless within the range of various dominant discourses. Kamada did analysis of conversations among six girls by combining diachronic, synchronic & moment specific methods. She studies each & every behavior between them as to how they speak to each other, the bodywork of their friendship, teasing, touching & laughter. Kamada demonstrated how the girls constitute their identities among competing discourses of ethnicity. (Lazar (2008))

Surin Kaur (2005) focused on Performativity theory i.e. on the performance of gendered identities in discussion boards. However she argued that because of the level of abstraction in which it works it cannot explain actually what is happening. FPDA uses supplementary approach which involves detailed examination of various competing discourses in performances of gender which allow them to take multiple & sometimes conflicting positions in online discussion boards. FPDA provides a methodology for making detailed analysis of ways as to how members of communities negotiate complex & ambiguous position for themselves.

Gabrielle Budach (2005) was interested in studying the connections between languages, gender & speech community. He is currently doing an ethnographic study in three literacy centers which are designed to improve literacy skills & political confidence .Budach finds FPDA as providing various alternate strategies to CA &CDA & is playing much valuable role as an additional methodology.


It can be concluded that FPDA should be recognized in a better way among wider communities of gender & language researchers & other discourse analysts. FPDA provides new theoretical & methodological approaches to gender & language study in following 5 ways:

The provisional & constructive nature of research is focused by FPDA &attention is drawn on its status as textualising& fictionalizing practice.

It includes providing space to competing voices& different accounts.

It includes challenging the notion of single authorial account to widens the range of all possible meanings.

FPDA researches regarding experiences, complexities & ambiguities of power differences within & between girls/ women.

FPDA supports specific, localized, action driven, functional & temporary feminist processes

FPDA adopts supplementary approach where it is mandate to contest grand narratives.

FPDA may not be well known or may be regarded as a small fish in big sea but it can either choose to be swallowed up by large varieties or swim with the critical discourse analysis. It is not concerned with finding a new discourse analysis. At present as a theoretical & methodological approach it is regarded as an important aspect to increase the institutional powers of CA & CDA.


An Anti-Materialist's Intro to MinimalismUnlifer (2013), viewed 13 May (2015), <>.

B, H (1995), , viewed 13 May (2015), <>.

Baker, P & Ellece, S (2011), Key Terms in Discourse Analysis - Page 204.

Baxter, J (2010), Reserachgate, viewed 13 May (2015), <>.

Eckert, P & McConnel. (2013), Language and Gender, 2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Harrington, K & Sautson, H (2008), Gender and Language Research Methodologies.

Holme, J & Marra. (2010), Femininity, Feminism and Gendered Discourse, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, New York.

J, B (2010), Positioning Gender in Discourse: A Feminist Methodology, viewed 13 May (2015), <>.

Jane, S (2010), Current Research Methodologies, viewed 13 May (2015), <>.

Krokke, C & Anne, S (2005), Gender Communication Theories and Analyse, viewed 13 May (2015), <>.

Lazar, M (2008), Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis.

Letoselliti, L (2014), Gender and Language Theory and Practice - Page 13, Hodder Education, New York.

Malson, H (2003), The Thin Woman: Feminism, Post-structuralism, Rotledge, New York.


Weatherall, A (2005), Gender, Language and Discourse - Page 33, Routledge.

(2015), Feminist Poststructural Discourse Analysis , viewed 13 May (2015), <;jsessionid=0C265E390A6F916C776EA3123CE7A632.f04t02?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false>.

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