Statistical Discourse Analysis: Testing Educational Hypotheses with Large Datasets of Electronic Discourse

Statistical Discourse Analysis: Testing Educational Hypotheses with Large Datasets of Electronic Discourse

Ming Ming Chiu (University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA) and Gaowei Chen (University of Pittsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4426-7.ch013


Educators are increasingly using electronic discourse for student learning and problem solving, partially due to its time and space flexibility and greater opportunities for information processing and higher order thinking. When researchers try to statistically analyze the relationships among electronic discourse messages however, they often face difficulties regarding the data (missing data, many codes, non-linear trees of messages), dependent variables (topic differences, time differences, discrete, infrequent, multiple dependent variables) and explanatory variables (sequences of messages, cross-level moderation, indirect effects, false positives). Statistical discourse analysis (SDA) addresses all of these difficulties as shown in analyses of social cues in 894 messages posted by 183 students during 60 online asynchronous discussions. The results showed that disagreements increased negative social cues, supporting the hypothesis that these participants did not save face during disagreements, but attacked face. Using these types of analyses and results, researchers can inform designs and uses of electronic discourse.
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During an electronic discussion, a group of participants exchange ideas by sending and receiving messages. Like face-to-face discourse, electronic discourse involves individuals responding to others’ recent messages and inviting others’ future messages. When participants agree or disagree with the content of the previous message, they refer back into the past; in contrast, asking questions or issuing commands projects forward into future messages. These links connect series of sequential events (or time-series data). Moreover, if there are multiple discussion topics/groups, the electronic discourse also has multilevel structure (messages nested within topics).

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