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Module QXL-4476:
Cognitive Discourse Analysis

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Thora Tenbrink

Overall aims and purpose

What goes on in people's minds when they consider a problem or decision, and how do they think about what they perceive in the world? In this module, students will learn to use linguistic analysis methods in order to address human thoughts and thought processes. CODA (Cognitive Discourse Analysis) is a recently developed methodology that will soon be published as a textbook by Cambridge University Press. The method applies insights from cognitive linguistics to analyse the linguistic choices that people make, for instance when they describe a scene or event, or when they 'think aloud' while they solve a problem.

One area in which this method has been applied widely is spatial cognition, an interdisciplinary research field that addresses how we understand and cognitively represent our spatial surroundings. This starts from the many meanings of 'left' and 'right' (depending on perspective and other concepts that typically remain implicit) and further relates to many issues of practical relevance in everyday life: wayfinding, scene description, object perception and reference, furniture assembly, architectural design, and many more. This module will draw on practical examples from this research area to illustrate the general approach.

Course content

The module will start by considering what kinds of thoughts, concepts, and cognitive processes can be accessed through language, and then discuss each step of a research process that involves verbalisation of thought: from identifying a suitable research question via data collection and transcription to analysis, interpretation, and triangulation with other kinds of data. The main emphasis will lie on the systematic analysis of linguistic choices, aiming to identify indicators for specific cognitive phenomena that are of interest for the research purpose at hand: such as attention and perspective, granularity, certainty etc., to be covered in the second half of this module.

While lectures will provide the theoretical and conceptual foundations needed for doing CODA, the tutorials will be used to critically assess and extend each procedural step based on the participants' insights gained through experience and literature research.

The following topics will be covered:
1. Introduction: Background and scope 2. Language as a representation of thought (across disciplines) 3. Analysis Resources 1: Cognitive Linguistics 4. Analysis Resources 2: Discourse Analysis and Functional Grammar 5. CODA Procedures 1: Research questions, experimental design, data elicitation and preparation 6. CODA Procedures 2: Practical steps of data analysis, qualitative insights and quantitative patterns 7. Identifying Cognitive Orientation: Attention and Perspective 8. Identifying Cognitive Depth: Granularity and Certainty 9. Identifying Cognitive Constructiveness: Inference and Transformation 10. Using Language to Convey Thoughts: Communication and Cognitive Strategies 11. Beyond CODA: Triangulation and practical purposes

Assessment Criteria

This module introduces a research methodology that will be feasible to use across research purposes in areas of Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, Cognitive Science, etc. Adequate for this type of module, assessment will target a comprehensive application of the methodology in an original research study to be carried out by the student. While the study itself is the main challenge for this module, assessment will be operationalised in two steps, through two common dissemination forms for this type of research in relevant conferences: a poster presentation, and a research report in conference submission format where the main challenge is to keep to restricted space limits as required, where density and appropriate crisp scientific writing style (rather than eloquence in essay writing) is asked for, in line with current practice in this research field.


The assessments must involve a possible design for / report a research study within the scope of Cognitive Discourse Analysis.
The assessments must show evidence of some background study of primary sources going beyond material discussed in lectures.
The analyses reported must reflect understanding of the principles of Cognitive Discourse Analysis.


Data and review of literature must be collected, organized, and analysed with care and an appreciation must be shown of some of the problems involved with collecting data and reporting the state of the art.
The assessments must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding of the principles of Cognitive Discourse Analysis.
The assessments must show evidence of substantial knowledge of primary sources. Assertions must be supported by reference to a theory and/or empirical research. The assessments must show evidence of analytical and critical thinking.
The assessments must have a coherent structure and line of argument; relationships between successive parts must be generally easy to follow.


Data and review of literature must be evaluated critically in a logical manner. The assessments must show originality of exposition and understanding; the author’s own thinking should be readily apparent.
The assessments must show clear evidence of extensive reading of primary sources in cognitive science beyond linguistics.
The assessments must reflect understanding of interdisciplinary research principles relevant for Cognitive Discourse Analysis.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will understand the scope and limitations of Cognitive Discourse Analysis.

  2. Students will be able to formulate original research questions in this domain.

  3. Students will have a thorough understanding of how to collect data for the purposes of Cognitive Discourse Analysis.

  4. Students will be able to present methods and results in two different formats commonly used in research of this kind.

  5. Students will be able to transcribe and prepare linguistic data for analysis purposes using software tools such as F4 and Excel.

  6. Students will be able to identify linguistic analysis criteria relevant to an original research question, and apply these systematically through annotation procedures suitable for Cognitive Discourse Analysis.

  7. Students will be able to evaluate analysis results critically in relation to other findings.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
REPORT Research report

The research report must be written in the two-column format of a 6 pages submission to the CogSci conference (cf., and report an original research study undertaken by the student (where the study itself is more important than its representation in writing). The evaluation will assess the scientific background and depth of theoretical understanding, the rigour of the data collection procedure, the success of applying Cognitive Discourse Analysis, the insight and depth of analysis and discussion, the coherence of the report, and the clarity and scientific style of writing – i.e., crisp and concise like accepted CogSci papers that can be found under

REPORT Poster presentation

The poster must reflect the research question, motivation, procedure, and the intended analysis procedures for a proposed research study to be undertaken by the student. The electronic version of the poster will cover 70% of this assessment. On October 27 we will hold a poster session, open for all participants of this module. As part of this, each student will be asked to orally present their research plan, based on the poster. This will include a brief summary by the student (ca. 2-3 minutes) followed by discussion, covering up to 10 minutes in total. This will be an opportunity for students to practise their poster presentation skills in a realistic conference-like setting. It will cover 30% of the mark of this assessment. The evaluation will assess the feasibility of the intended study for the purposes of this assignment, the suitability in view of the scope of Cognitive Discourse Analysis, the scientific background and depth of understanding, the poster design with a view on conveying the message efficiently, and the clarity of oral presentation and discussion.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Students are encouraged to see the lecturer on a one-to-one basis during published office hours (or by appointment) to discuss issues with the module content, seek clarification on topics and discussions, and discuss feedback on assessments and class exercises.

Private study

Directed Reading - students are given required reading each week (of about 2 hours) on the topic of that week's lecture.


Fortnightly one hour seminar.


Weekly 2 hour lecture for 11 weeks.

Private study

In their own time, students will be expected to do further reading, go through materials covered in class and do further research on the topics, and prepare assignments.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Research skills - students will be able to undertake advanced independent research, involving formulating a research question, identifying and deploying appropriate linguistic methodology (theoretical or empirical), data collection techniques (experimental or field-based), as well as the selection and application of appropriate theoretical frameworks in order to adequately analyse and interpret data.
  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies to an advanced standard.
  • Oral presentation skills & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in oral form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies, to an advanced level.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse and interpret data accurately and to draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Problem solving - students will be able to evidence sophisticated problem-solving skills in formulating problems (factual, empirical, theoretical) in precise terms, identifying key issues, and developing the confidence to address challenging problems using a variety of different approaches
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate to an advanced standard a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Independent investigation - students will develop the ability to plan, design and execute a highly original and significant piece of research or inquiry, either independently or as a member of a team in order to discover a specific solution to an outstanding issue or question through searching out and synthesising written, visual and oral information. Students will also develop skills of independent investigation, including interacting with peers and participants/informants.
  • Personal organisation - students will develop the ability to undertake self-directed study and learning with appropriate time-management
  • Learning to learn - students will learn to reflect upon, modify and improve their learning strategies
  • Information technology - students will develop the ability to use computing and IT skills in order to find, store, interpret and present information, to produce a range of electronic documents and to use software confidently
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Working effectively with others - students will develop the ability to work well with others as part of a group or a team
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and mind/brain - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language and mind/brain.
  • Knowledge of linguistic theory and application - students will demonstrate a detailed knowledge of terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the study of human language and linguistics.
  • Understanding of the nature and organisation of language - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of observations and findings relating to various aspects of linguistic phenomena and organization.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: