The SAGE Key Concepts series provide students with accessible and authoritative knowledge of the essential topics in a variety of disciplines. Cross-referenced throughout, the format encourages critical evaluation through understanding. Written by experienced and respected academics, the books are indispensable study aids and guides to comprehension. Key Concepts in Journalism offers a systematic and accessible introduction to the terms, processes, and effects of journalism;a combination of practical considerations with theoretical issues; and further reading suggestions. The authors bring an enormous range of experience in newspaper and broadcast journalism, at national and regional level, as well as their teaching expertise. This book will be essential reading for students in journalism, and an invaluable reference tool for their professional careers.


One of the most over-used, and some would say misused, concepts in the social and human sciences. Discourse is a highly contested field, with authors offering widely different accounts of what discourse is (and isn't) and how it should be studied (see van Dijk, 1997, 1998). Only three approaches to discourse are introduced here: the formalist and functionalist definitions used in linguistics (Schiffrin, 1994b); and the Foucauldian notion of ‘orders of discourse’. First, we can define discourse as a particular unit of language, specifically, as a unit of language ‘above’, or larger than, the sentence. As Cameron (2001: 10–11) illustrates:

[linguists] ‘treat language as a ‘system of systems’, with each system having its own characteristic forms of structure or organization… If discourse analysis deals with ‘language ...

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