Jonathan Potter

Professor of Discourse Analysis

Dean of School, Loughborough University



Jonathan Potter is Professor of Discourse Analysis and Dean of the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences at Loughborough University. 


In the past he has studied topics such as scientific argumentation, literary texts, current affairs television, riots, racism, relationship counselling and political controversies.  Much of his career focused on a critique and reworking of basic cognitive and social cognitive notions in psychology – attribution, memory, influence, representation – and the development of an alternative ‘discursive psychology’.


More recently this has been developed through studies of core actions such as advising, threatening, directing, requesting, admonishing which provide a matrix for core elements of sociality, and through studies of the way psychological issues are managed through different kinds of laughter and displays of upset. 


His detailed engagement with interaction analysis has led to the formation of an evidence-based scepticism about the over-reliance of social scientists on open-ended qualitative interviews.  This theoretical reworking and empirical programme is allied to the development of novel ways of generating high impact in applied settings such as child protection helplines and other forms of client-professional interaction.


His theoretical and methodological skills have been recognized in invitations to teach some 30 workshops and short courses in a dozen different countries.


The hugely influential book Discourse and Social Psychology (Sage, 1987, with Margaret Wetherell) set out the basic features of a discourse approach to social psychology.  Other books include Mapping the Language of Racism (Columbia University Press, 1992, with Margaret Wetherell) that studied the way racial inequalities are discursively legitimated; and Discursive Psychology (Sage, 1992, with Derek Edwards) that developed foundational principles for discursive psychology illustrated through a set of analyses of political controversies.  In Representing Reality (Sage, 1996) he attempted to provide a systematic overview, integration and critique of constructionist research in social science.  He has published a practical guide to focus group moderation based on analysis of what happens in actual focus groups (Focus Group Practice, Sage, 2004, with Claudia Puchta). 


He collaborated with Hedwig te Molder on a collection that addresses fundamental issues that arise in the relationship between cognition and interaction (Conversation and Cognition, CUP, 2005).  This work received the inaugural book award for the Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis section of the American Sociological Association.  The full citation of the committee is here.


A three volume collection of 60 articles on Discourse and Psychology was published in the summer of 2007.  A draft of the introduction to volume 1 is available here.


He has published 10 books as well as many journal articles and book chapters and has been on the editorial board of more than 15 journals and book series.  His work has been cited more than twenty three thousand times.  For more detail on the academic impact of his work follow this link:


He is advisory editor to the journal Theory & Psychology.


In 2008 he was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences.  In 2011 he was made an Honorary Associate of the Taos Institute.


A recent lecture in which he highlights some features of discursive psychology for a Critical Discourse Analysis audience is available here.  It includes questions from Ruth Wodak and Teun van Dijk and his responses.


A video of him talking about the nature of discursive psychology is available here. 





Information and background material on books (including the full text of Social Texts and Context, and the new preface and postscript to the Chinese edition of Discourse and Social Psychology) is available here:


Potter Books


Most recent articles and some classics are available here:


Potter Articles


For a range of images of people and workshops:


Some Images


Audio, video and transcribed materials associated with publications.


Audio-video materials and transcript


Some information and resources on transcription:








Some links:


Ethno/CA news

Theory and Psychology

Australian Institute for Conversation Analysis and Ethnomethodology

Taos Institute

Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section of the BPS

Forum: Qualitative Social Research

Discourse Analysis Net

Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across the Disciplines

Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis


Radical Psychology Network




Updated – September 2013