Stage 1: Contextualisation of the BP Texts

The first stage of analysis is one ofbroad description of the data sets. At this stage, I dealt with the full sets of texts (169, 94 and 31) before reducing the text numbers for closer examination. The purpose of this stage of analysis was to provide a contextualising description of the sets of texts that mentioned the BP oil spill across a number of broad dimensions. Nexis UK provides certain information on the articles in its database, including word length, name of publication and type of publication (e.g. newspaper, magazine or weblog). However, I was particularly interested in three other pertinent categories. The first was the country of origin of the item. From the Nexis information, it was generally possible to determine the country of origin of the text, although this is not always clear for online publications. The second was genre: my depth analysis needed to take account not only of the range of language features characteristic of the many text genres in the data set, but also of the shifts by genre across the time period of the data. I wished to know whether the news genres in which the BP story appeared were different immediately after the crisis from two years later. While the Nexis database provided information on type of publication, this did not necessarily map on to analysable © The Author(s) 2017

J. Gravells, Semiotics and Verbal Texts, Postdisciplinary Studies in Discourse, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58750-3_6

definitions of media genre. The third was some means of addressing the salience of the BP story in the texts in which it appeared. Did the story constitute the news item, or was it only a small part of a longer text, perhaps mentioned as contextualising information in another story? For this analysis, I determined by word count the proportion of the item which directly concerned the BP story, and classified the texts in bands—less than 25% of the item (by word count) concerned BP; between 26% and 50% of the item concerned BP; between 51% and 75% and between 76% and 100%.

The contextualisation analysis therefore consisted of:

  • 1. Country of origin.
  • 2. Genre of texts.
  • 3. Salience of the BP story.

These three analyses were intended both to offer an initial picture of the kinds of text covering the BP oil spill and to support and enhance the later depth analysis of language features.

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