Ideational Theories & Discursive Methodologies Ideational Theories & Discursive Methodologies

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Social scientists continue to be interested in how ideas enter into and shape public policy decision-making and implementation. Ideas, including scientific, research, and lay knowledge, are especially important when addressing environmental challenges. However, there is a considerable debate about how best to conceptualise ‘ideational' influence and what methodologies to apply to its analysis. This innovative two day workshop will enable PGR students to reflect on rival perspectives on ideational analysis and to explore different methodologies for examining policy texts. Led by experts in the study of science and public policy, rhetorical political analysis and applied linguistics, the workshop will give students a practical opportunity to employ and assess cutting-edge methods of critical policy analysis, including critical discourse analysis/applied linguistics, rhetorical political analysis, narrative analysis, metaphor analysis and quantitative textual analyses. Students will also be supported in thinking about their own ideas and research findings and the ways in which these might have ‘impact'. Please follow the link to find out more about the workshop Teaching Team. When your registration has been confirmed, you will be able to access the Online Repository and Forum for this course. 

Timetable for Days One & Two

Day 1 (Mon 19th June 2017)

2.00pm: Welcome and Introductions

2.30pm: Session 1 - Ideas and Policy Formation (Alan Finlayson & John Turnpenny)

This session examines the history of ideas about ideas and their influence on policy. Students will examine a range of approaches from Weber's oft-cited and much misunderstood ‘switchmen' metaphor to theories of ideology and the institutionalist ideational approaches of Peter Hall and Vivien Schmidt. 

3.45pm: Break

4.00pm: Session 2 - Science, Research and Public Policy (John Turnpenny)

In this session we will examine what is ‘different' about environmental policy compared to other policy fields like housing and welfare, and the importance of scientific and research knowledge in environmental policy analysis.  Yet the relationship between science and public policy is not a simple one.  We examine how knowledge use is particularly ‘messy', the importance of a political understanding of knowledge creation and deployment, and what this might mean for science and research practice.

Day 2 (Tues 20th June 2017)

10.00am: Session 3 - The Rhetorics of Environmental Policy (Alan Finlayson)

In this session we will learn about and employ ‘rhetorical political analysis'. How can we analyse and make sense of the ways in which different arguments are assembled and arranged? What does this tell us about the production and circulation of policy ideas?

12.15pm: Lunch

2:00pm: Session 4 - The Linguistics of Climate Change (Andreas Musolff & Gabrina Pounds)

In this session we will illustrate how particular representations of the key issues and stakeholders are constructed linguistically in environmental policy discourse. We will consider expressive choices that shape the attribution of agency, responsibility and values and reinforce/ reflect particular perspectives and ideologies. We consider how the use of rhetorical and argumentative framing devices (e.g. metaphor, metonymy, narrative) sets up ‘default' conclusions/solutions in public debate, political agenda setting and decision-taking.

3.30pm: Break

4.00pm: Session 5 - The Ideas of Social Science: How Can We Have an Impact on Public Policy Thinking? (John Turnpenny & Alan Finlayson)

What does all this mean for our own work?  Researchers, from whichever discipline, have to demonstrate impact on the world beyond academic life.  But this course has shown this relationship is multi-faceted and complex. How do, how can and how should researchers engage with the ‘impact agenda', and with the wider world?

Fees, Contact & Booking Details

For further details or questions about the academic content of this workshop please contact the academic lead, Professor Alan Finlayson, in the first instance at: Dr Simon Watts, PGR Training Coordinator for the Faculty of Social Science can also be contacted at: The workshop is free to PGR students at UEA, and the Universities of Essex, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Royal Holloway, Reading, Goldsmiths, Roehampton, & City University. Fees are otherwise £30 per day for PGR students and £60 per day for all other attendees. The whole week of four courses can be booked at a reduced daily rate of £120 for PGR students and £240 for all other attendees. Bookings can be made and payments arranged by e-mailing: