When Methodology Beats Techniques; or, Why We Prefer Discourse and Narrative Analysis to Interpret Textual Data
Recently, textual analysis has become quite popular in social sciences in general, and in sociological studies in particular, partly due to the "narrative turn" that emphasizes the textual nature of all social practices and legitimizes their explanations through discourses that constitute social reality and identification models in contemporary society. Though content analysis has long ago proved its methodological and technical relevance to solve sociological questions in providing both qualitative and quantitative data about discursively structured social reality, the modern popularization of textual analysis within sociology is associated with two vague and multifaceted approaches, those of narrative and discourse analysis. The article first outlines the three types of sociological data the researchers have to deal with: formalized data that can be arranged in different matrices and analyzed mathematically; weakly formalized, but still structured and organized data; and non-formalized data that supposes the application of textual analysis. The author then presents her explanation of the current state of affairs in the use of textual analysis in empirical sociological studies, in which narrative and discourse analysis are often positioned as the only possible research methods to be employed despite several decades of the successful application of content analysis. This explanation consists of two parts: the first section includes a number of strict requirements a researcher must follow while conducting content analysis, while the second consists of the attractive advantages of narrative and discourse analysis as determined by their interdisciplinary status, nature, and origin.