6. Under-Analysis Through Over-Quotation or Isolated Quotation

There is a particular form of under-analysis that seems, at first sight, to avoid the dangers of Under-Analysis by Summary. Under-Analysis by Summary fails to get to grips with the text. As it were, it leaves the text behind. There is a reverse fault when the analyst fails to get beyond the text or texts. This can happen if the analyst is doing little more than compiling a list of quotations snipped from the data. Quotation, like summarising, is not discourse analysis in itself.

Under-Analysis through Over-Quotation is often revealed by a low ratio of analyst's comments to data extracts. If extract after extract is quoted with only the occasional sentence or paragraph of analyst's comment, then one might suspect this type of under-analysis is happening. In the example of the interview about marriage, an analyst might think of chopping up the whole extract into quotable extracts, omitting the interviewer's questions. After presenting the quotations, the analyst might summarise the collection of quotes with a comment such as 'so we can see that the respondent had strong views about the importance of marriage and commitment'. This would not be analysis. The list of quotes divorces the utterances from their discursive context, with the result that it would not be possible to analyze them as responses to questions.

More typically, Under-Analysis through Over-Quotation is liable to occur when the analyst is piecing together responses from different speakers. For instance, the analyst might wish to show that a number of interviewees had responses rather like the one in our extract. Selective quotation from such respondents might be given. There can be analytic and theoretical reasons for presenting profiles based on piecing together such quotations. However, this profiling is not normally of itself discourse analysis, for again it does not of itself get down to the business of actually analysing in detail the discourse that is used. Indeed, as has been mentioned, the over-quotation may impede certain forms of discourse analysis by removing utterances from their discursive context. Two tell-tale signs of Under-Analysis through Over-Quotation would be the small amount of analyst's writing in proportion to the large amount of quotation, and the tendency of the writing to refer to the quotations rather than analyse them.

In addition to Under-Analysis by Over-Quotation is the related error of snipping out a single quote and allowing it to 'stand for itself' as if it required no further comment. This is Under-Analysis through Isolated Quotation. An author might feel that their argument can be illuminated by a quote from their respondent or from the textual source they are working on. The quote is not actually analysed, but set up as self-evidently consistent with, or even proof of, the author's argument. For example one might extract lines 86-90 from the material in the interview extract and simply place it in the text as a self-evident specimen (say, a specimen of the discourse of 'modern times'). At best, this may be a rhetorically powerful embellishment of an analysis done elsewhere; but Under-Analysis through Isolated Quotation is not itself analysis.

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