The analysis of discourse and rhetoric, history, and content, University of Leeds, 20 June 2014

by Paul Stringer (Communications & Media Studies Pathway, University of Leeds)

On Friday 20 June, doctoral students from Leeds, Sheffield and York were invited to attend a PhD methods research workshop, held at the Institute of Communication Studies, Leeds, and supported by the WRDTC.

The topic of the workshop was the analysis of discourse and rhetoric, history, and content. Leading the discussion was Deidre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois.

McCloskey,_DeirdreThe morning began with an informal meet and greet, with Deidre introducing herself and providing the students with some insight into her quite incredible and varied career in academia. As the introductions moved round the table, Deidre made it clear that all students should stress their second name so they might be better recognised in their own published work in the future. I for example, was Paul STRINGER and so on. There were approximately 12 doctoral students who attended the event, most of whom were from Leeds, but nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to engage with a diverse group of people and learn more about each of their respective research interests.

With a relatively small group, the day also became far less ‘structured’, and developed into a more open Q&A with Deidre, where students were prompted to ask her anything about her own academic experiences, as well as more focused questions concerning method – particularly discourse and rhetorical analysis.

Deidre proved to be an infinite source of knowledge and wisdom. Here is a brief list of just some of the topics that were discussed on the day: how to develop a focused research question; the value of qualitative research methods (even in economics); the art of good academic writing; the history of language and its contemporary context; and how meaning is made through language.

As we were in the presence of a former Chicago School economist, there was also a decent portion of time devoted to discussing capitalism – both its (perceived) pitfalls and merits. Deidre was of course, well equipped to engage with this topic, and it was a fascinating debate that helped illuminate some domains of modern economics I certainly wasn’t aware of before.

Overall, the PhD methods workshop was a fantastic experience and highly valuable for all those who participated. Everyone left the event feeling more informed, inspired, and ready to return to their own research projects with fresh vigour.