In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Action-Implicative Discourse Analysis

  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Orientation—Grounded Practical Theory (GPT)
  • Overviews of AIDA
  • Book-Length Research Projects Using AIDA
  • Situated Troubles and Their Interactional Practices

Communication Action-Implicative Discourse Analysis
Robert Agne
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0271


AIDA is a qualitative method of analysis developed by Karen Tracy for studying talk or text in communicative situations. As a discourse analytic method, its home is the research area of Language and Social Interaction (LSI), though it has also been used in research areas such as argumentation and interpersonal, group, and organization communication. Its aim is to reconstruct and make arguments about discourse practices that reveal and manage communication challenges people face in identified situations, specifically how those practices shape the normative ideals about that situation. AIDA’s roots are in discursive psychology, interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, and critical discourse analysis, all of which influence four interrelated key features. One is that the data for analysis is typically recorded and transcribed talk. Analysis considers not just what people say but also how they talk and interact with other speakers. Details of talk and interaction such as overlapping speech, pauses, repetition, false starts, emphasis, intonation, and sound particles (e.g., “uh,” “mhm,” “uhuh”) have potential analytic significance. Decisions about how much to record and how detailed to make the transcription are influenced by three other key features of AIDA: the naming of discourse/communication practices, its rhetorical-normative impulse, and the usefulness of ethnographic background. Naming a discourse/communication practice helps frame the situation in which it is found. AIDA’s rhetorical and normative impulse is that it assumes communicators seek to achieve multiple goals in articulated situations which inevitably compete and therefore create interactional problems and challenges, often in the form of dilemmas. Furthermore, those goals invariably involve displaying the self and altercasting others’ identities in some group, institutional, or community context. Thus, some moral compass, or normative guide, shapes how people manage those goals and seek to achieve them. Ethnographic background in forms such as field notes, interviews, and institutional documents helps situate the practice under study and is necessary for interpreting the transcribed talk. Like decisions about transcription amount and detail, the type and amount of ethnographic background will be influenced by articulation of the practice, the situation of interest, and the relevant group, institution, or community. AIDA is an inductive approach that may nonetheless be guided by theoretical concepts. Nascent hunches born with fitting theoretical concepts (e.g., as face/facework, politeness theory, membership categorizing, argumentation concepts) may furnish—to varying degrees—a project using AIDA, but AIDA ultimately seeks to formulate theoretical propositions or new and interesting claims about situated communication practice. This bibliography begins with a collection of articles about AIDA’s theoretical orientation, grounded practical theory (GPT), followed by overview articles about AIDA and book-length research studies featuring AIDA. It also includes a collection of journal articles using AIDA, organized into two groups. One foregrounds the reconstruction of communication practices, while the other foregrounds interaction challenges.

Theoretical Orientation—Grounded Practical Theory (GPT)

GPT is a metatheoretical framework that distinguishes AIDA from other forms of discourse analysis. AIDA was developed in conjunction with GPT, which views communication as a practical discipline, seeking to describe communication practices and the problems and challenges that come with them. GPT (and AIDA) draws on John Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy that everyday experiences call for reflection, deliberation, and perhaps revision of beliefs, values, and social norms. Drawing also on Aristotle’s notions of praxis and phronesis, communication practices can be continuously deliberated and cultivated for how they should be done best, rather than collected and taught as a static set of universally useful skills. Thus, GPT is an approach that is both interpretive and normative, reflecting on how people ought to communicate in certain situations. However, in the same way AIDA is distinct from critical discourse analysis, GPT’s normative consideration is distinct from critical theory in general, as AIDA and GPT do not seek to expose those in power to emancipate the oppressed. Rather, they seek to raise questions and encourage further discussion about how to articulate and achieve ideal situations and outcomes. Research using GPT arrives at these questions and guides discussion by orienting to communication problems or challenges that arise from multiple and competing goals people encounter. It takes on one or a combination of three tasks. It may reveal new or unnoticed communication problems, challenges, or dilemmas in specific situations. It may show how a problem, challenge, or dilemma is managed. And it may make an argument about a normative ideal. In the relationship between GPT and AIDA, research may foreground AIDA by developing theory from reconstructed talk or it may foreground GPT by seeking to ground a theoretical idea in a discourse practice. In either configuration, theorizing about communication practice is where the two overlap. Not all research using GPT necessarily uses AIDA—studies, for example, that are full ethnographies and do not analyze recorded and transcribed talk—but all research that uses AIDA does at least imply a grounded practical theoretical framing. Each of the entries in this section explains (in varying detail) the philosophical roots and main goals of GPT. Each addresses how AIDA works as the methodological ground of the metatheory. Craig and Tracy 1995 first introduces the theory, and in Craig and Tracy 2021, GPT is at its most mature. Articles published in between Craig and Tracy 1995 and Craig and Tracy 2021 explain GPT as a theory for argumentation (Craig and Tracy 2005), applied communication (Craig and Tracy 2014), and interpersonal communication (Tracy 2015) audiences.

  • Craig, Robert T., and Karen Tracy. 1995. Grounded practical theory: The case of intellectual discussion. Communication Theory 5.3: 248–272.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.1995.tb00108.x

    Introduces the theoretical model of GPT as a practical and normative metatheoretical framework. Though it does not directly name AIDA as a major methodological complement, it uses Tracy’s developing AIDA research on Intellectual Discussion to illustrate communication problems and situated ideals.

  • Craig, Robert T., and Karen Tracy. 2005. “The issue” in argumentation practice and theory. In Argumentation in practice. Edited by Frans H. van Eemeren and Peter Houtlosser, 11–28. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Uses GPT and AIDA to explain how describing a point of discussion as “an issue” can be treated as a matter of controversy or as an obvious problem, thus having practical implications for how it should be discussed. Draws on discourse from a classroom discussion about current events and a schoolboard meeting that addresses a science fair problem to contrast normative ideals gathered from GPT with those from critical discourse analysis.

  • Craig, Robert T., and Karen Tracy. 2014. Building grounded practical theory in applied communication research: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Applied Communication Research 42.3: 229–243.

    DOI: 10.1080/00909882.2014.916410

    Stands as an explanation of how GPT has grown in nearly twenty years since its inception. Provides an overview of the theory and its roots, emphasizing its orientation to normative ideals of problematized communication. GPT’s own tensions include those between its descriptive and normative impulses, theoretical and applied usefulness, and claiming positioned or universal ideals.

  • Craig, Robert T., and Karen Tracy. 2021. Grounded practical theory: Investigating communication problems. San Diego, CA: Cognella.

    A comprehensive explanation of GPT. Explains its philosophical and theoretical background, relationship to other practical theories, and communication problem-orientation. Provides a roadmap for doing GPT. While GPT is a theoretical framework that can use interpretive methods other than AIDA, it explains AIDA as helping to shape the theory and grow with it, providing even more extensive philosophical background and elaborating on GPT research since its 1995 introduction.

  • Tracy, Karen. 2015. Grounded practical theory: Theorizing communicative practices. In Engaging theories in interpersonal communication. Edited by Dawn Braithwaite and P. Schrodt, 241–252. Los Angeles: SAGE.

    An updated version of Tracy 2008 (cited under Overviews of AIDA). Includes an additional extended example from research on oral arguments (Tracy and Hughes 2014, cited under Discourse in the Courts) in the supreme state courts on same-sex marriage.

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