Topic: Drawing on material from Chapter 1 Critical, creative and credible and Chapter 10, Memory and remembering in autobiographical talk, critically evaluate the contribution of discursive methods to our understanding of autobiographical talk.
Word limit: 1500 words (excluding references, the title and any appendices). Write the word count at the end of your essay.
This assignment asks you to critically evaluate the contribution of discursive methods to our understanding of autobiographical talk. The process words are ‘critically evaluate’, meaning that you must make a judgement about the contribution of discursive methods to the study of autobiographical talk. The judgement should be about the strengths, weaknesses and worth of the contribution. It must also be based on evidence and reasoning.
Chapter 1 provides a broad overview of qualitative methodology (especially in Sections 1, 4 and 5), but the core of your answer should discuss discursive methods in particular. Discourse is discussed under Number 3 of Section 4.5 (‘Analysis’) of Chapter 1, but you may also find Section 4.3 (‘The concept of discourse’) useful as it outlines the two related functions of discourse – the social (outward) dimension and the psychological (inward) dimension. You may also find Section 1.2 (‘How do methods relate to theory?’) useful, as this section introduces the concepts of epistemology and ontology, which are then further discussed in Section 4.6 (‘Epistemology and ontology’). This material will be useful in showing how discursive methods depart from the usual natural science assumptions and aim for in-depth understanding rather than causal explanation.
You should discuss discursive methods in relation to the topic of autobiographical talk. Chapter 10 will be particularly useful here because it explores how discursive methodology can help make sense of autobiographical talk (Section 2). Examples of how autobiographical talk can be analysed using two analytic concepts, ‘narrative’ and ‘dilemmas’, may be useful to consider in Section 4. Section 5 explores examples of autobiographical talk as evidence.
In composing your essay, it is important that you address the title as directly as possible and integrate the material from the different sources rather than simply summarising the chapters’ content.
In using the word ‘contribution’, this essay title does not intend a narrow focus on specific research findings (although, where available these are relevant), but includes more theoretical concerns such as how the autobiographical memory is reframed through taking a discursive approach.
You may find it helpful to use Chapter 7 to develop a broader based understanding of the place of discursive methods within qualitative methods more generally. Section 5 of Chapter 7 deals with a brief overview of the social-constructionist underpinnings of discursive psychology while Section 6 discusses the methodological implications associated with discursive psychology.
Finally, even though a ‘critical’ examination does not mean that you should pick fault with discursive methods, a good critical examination should nevertheless also evaluate the limitations of this approach. In considering the limitations of a discursive approach you may wish to consider how other qualitative approaches, such as a phenomenological approach, develop a different understanding by focusing on how memory talk can be seen as representative of the ‘dimensions of the lifeworld’. Chapter 8, and particularly Section 3, may provide some useful material to develop your discussion.

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