University of Edinburgh Business School


Details of the selection and justification for the methodology followed in the Discursive Families Project.

We used a longitudinal and comparative study of UK and Australian advertising in popular magazines to systematically analyse advertisements, editorials, advertorials, and advisory columns, focusing on family and food over the past fifty years, using discourse analysis (Hall 1997, Rose 2003). The study looks at representations of food, eating and family in one popular Australian magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly, and the UK Good Housekeeping spanning the second half of the twentieth century.

Using a historical ‘slicing’ sampling method we select the complete first issue of the first year of every decade (Hand and Shove 2004; Martens and Scott 2005). All material relating to food and family is examined across sponsored advertising and editorial material.

Our approach to data analysis can broadly be defined as a Foucauldian visual discourse analysis, based loosely on G. Rose’s (2003) procedural guidelines. This concentrates on how conceptualisations of a phenomenon (in this case, the family) are discursively constructed, how individuals are positioned by discourse and how these discursive formations legitimate social practices. We draw on Strasser’s (2003: 378) argument for using a historical analysis of documents in order to look at representations of family, lifestyle and consumption within the nexus of branding, advertising and marketing.

The rationale for the methodology is Hodder’s (2000: 108) justification for using material evidence, specifically that reflexive reading of material evidence allows us to understand “how they [advertising and editorial messages] are produced, used and what meanings they may have, what they are seen to be or to represent culturally”. Both visual and textual sources are considered (Maasen et al 2006:7-8, Rose 2003; Schroeder and Zwick 2004; Mirzoeff 1999).