Research Guides

Nexus Analysis

Casey Pennington and Jill Scott


Nexus analysis is a methodological approach within Mediated Discourse Analysis. Nexus analysis, developed by Scollon & Scollon (2004), places action, versus language and culture, as the primary unit of study (Scollon & Scollon, 2007). Nexus analysis methodology is situated within three components: engaging the nexus, navigating the nexus, and changing the nexus (Scollon & Scollon, 2004, p. 152). This methodological approach is one wherein the researcher cannot be a passive observer since their presence within the moment is entangled in the nexus.  When researchers engage with the nexus, they situate themselves within the action under study (Scollon, S.W. & de Saint-Georges, 2013). This methodological approach is one wherein the researcher cannot be a passive observer since their presence within the moment is entangled in the nexus. Once engaged, researchers will navigate the nexus as they examine, and make visible three concepts: historical bodies (e.g. engrained expectations), discourses in place (identity, Gee 2004), and interaction orders (e.g. social relationships, Goffman 1983) Within the nexus, the action/issue under study, the researcher makes visible the invisible ways in which historical bodies, discourses in the place, and interaction orders collide and coalesce. Thus, nexus analysis studies are largely situated within social issues (Scollon & Scollon, 2004; Scollon & Scollon, 2007; Wohlwend & Medina, 2012).

This research guide provides a broad-brush overview of nexus analysis with an emphasis on key scholarly work (Scollon & Scollon, 2004; Scollon & Scollon, 2007; Scollon, S.W. & de Saint-Georges, 2013). Within the nexus, the action/issue under study, the researcher makes visible the invisible ways in which historical bodies, discourses in the place, and interaction orders collide and coalesce. With relationship to the key scholars and writings, we provide examples of how nexus analysis, as a methodological tool, is taken up in three dissertations. Each dissertation discussed in the guide provide strong theoretical and methodological engagements with the nexus analysis for emerging scholars. Additionally, this guide offers internet resources, in the hopes, for scholars to further engage and contribute to this growing methodological field.


Gee, J. P. (2004). An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method. Routledge.
Goffman, E. (1983). The interaction order: American Sociological Association, 1982 presidential address. American Sociological Review, 48(1), 1-17.
Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. W. (2007). Nexus analysis: Refocusing ethnography on action. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 11(5), 608-625.
Scollon, S. W. (2004). Nexus analysis: Discourse and the emerging internet. London: Routledge.
Scollon, S. W., & de Saint-Georges, I. (2013). Mediated discourse analysis. In J. Gee & M. Handford (Eds.). Routledge handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 92-104). London: Routledge.
Wohlwend, K. E., & Medina, C. L. (2012). Media as nexus of practice: remaking identities in What Not to Wear. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 33(4), 545-560.

Key research books and articles on nexus analysis

Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. B. (2004). Nexus analysis: Discourse and the emerging Internet. London: Routledge.

The Scollon’s book is a theoretical piece that accounts for how people, places, discourses, concepts, and objects cycle and circulate together to create social action and social change (Scollon, 2004). This book will serve as a helpful guide and resource for researchers who are interested in learning more about the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of nexus analysis. Tucked nicely into the book are empirical examples of how the Scollon’s used nexus analysis across various ethnographic studies and data sets throughout the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in Alaska. Their primary example draws from empirical research that examined technology-mediated classes in regard to the social problem of “discrimination and consequent lack of access to the educational, legal, medical, and other services to which Alaska natives were entitled” (p. 59).

Scollon and Scollon formulated their theory of nexus analysis in this text. In doing so, they use their own ethnographic research to demonstrate both the theory and methodology of nexus analysis. They provide useful examples of “nexus” and of the “cycles”. Their examples pull from biological ecosystems, events of intercultural communication, and genres of computer-mediated discourse. They demonstrate how social action takes place as a nexus of practice or a nexus of the following three bodies of discourse (1) discourses in place (i.e. educational talk, the way we order a drink at Starbucks, or how we behave at a library) (2) interaction order, which is the ways that people come together in social groups (i.e. a meeting, conversation or chance encounter) and (3) the historical bodies or life experiences of the social actors. These three discourses are the primary concern of nexus analysis, however, it is through three main activities that one can do nexus analysis, the activities include; engaging in the nexus of practice, navigating the nexus of practice and ultimately changing the nexus of practice.

The reader of Nexus analysis: Discourse and the emerging Internet will feel drawn into the ethnographic spaces due to the ease of the writing style presented in the work. The Scollon’s maintain a positive tone with a social justice edge that comes through in their work and in the book. Ultimately this nexus analysis is about understanding the “taken for granted” discourses that cycle,Gee and about changing the world for the better. At the end, there is a practical field guide for researchers to use when engaging, navigating and changing the nexus of practice within their own studies. It contains useful questions, tasks and guidelines but doesn’t go into specifics about exactly how to do nexus analysis in educational contexts. While this book lays some great foundation for doing nexus analysis, it assumes that the reader has experience with Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and many other underlying theories including P. Bourdieu’s habitus (1977, 1998) and Nishida’s historical body (1958), Gee’s big D Discourse (1999), Goffman’s interaction order (1983), and Wertsch’s mediated action (1991).


Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. W. (2007). Nexus analysis: Refocusing ethnography on action. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 11(5), 608-625.

Scollon & Scollon’s (2007) Nexus Analysis: Refocusing ethnography on action is both a historical undertaking and a call for ethnographers to examine action. To begin, the Scollon’s claim that nexus analysis is their “response to Hyme’s call three decades ago for each of us to reinvent anthropology as a ‘personal general anthropology, whose function is the advancement of knowledge and the welfare of mankind” (p. 608). As such, they conceptualize nexus analysis as a shift away from social groups and languages as the problems to be examined and make the move towards ethnographers to examine action as the prime unit of analysis (p. 608, emphasis added). Thus, nexus analysis primary focus is on human action rather than language or culture (p. 608).

The evolution of nexus analysis is situated within 20th century American History. The Scollon’s provide an overview of American history: homesteaders seizing Indigenous lands; WWI and WWII; McCarthyism as well as technology suspicion born of out the 2001 terrorists attacks. Nexus analysis is entangled in American politics. As an entanglement example, the authors provide general overviews of two research studies situated in Alaska where actions were primary: Alaskan Natives in college and Alaskan Natives in the justice system. They found in both cases that the historical bodies, discourses and interaction orders of one’s history (or identity group’s history) collides with dominant—white—historical bodies, discourses and interaction orders which produce grossly unjust and discriminatory practices.

The Scollon’s provide a broad-brush stroke about nexus analysis’ evolution from the early 20th century to current wherein they call for anthropologists and ethnographers to examine action first. In reading this article, one will need a strong background of 20th century American history background in order to understand the nuances of nexus analysis’ development and evolution.


Scollon, S. W., & de Saint-Georges, I. (2013). Mediated discourse analysis. In J. Gee & M. Handford (Eds.). The Routledge handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 92-104). London: Routledge.

Suzie Scollon & Ingrid de Saint-Georges (2013) Mediated Discourse Analysis offers the historical background and theoretical underpinnings at the crux of MDA and thus nexus analysis. The authors share that MDA is an interdisciplinary methodological tool and theoretical framework which calls upon varying frameworks such as: “interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, anthropological linguistics, or the ethnography of communication, critical discourse analysis, social semiotics, multimodal discourse analysis, the New Literacies Studies, and, more recently, cultural geography” (Jensen, 2007 cited in SW Scollon & de Saint Georges, 2012). Scollon & de Saint-Georges highlight that MDA and nexus analysis focus on human, social interaction mediated by bodies, discourses and interaction orders which can be messy and complicated. Therefore this type of methodological engagement and untangling requires researchers to draw upon varying disciplines and methodological frameworks to examine and locate linkages among mediated actions and actors within a moment (p. 8)

In order to do a Mediated Discourse Analysis study, Scollon & de Saint-Georges write that nexus analysis is a methodological approach and tool. They describe nexus analysis as “opening up the circumference of analysis around moments of human action to begin to see the lines, sometimes visible and sometimes obscured, of historical and social processes by which discourses come together at particular moments of human action as well as to make visible the ways in which outcomes such as transformations in those discourses, social actors, and mediational means emanate from those moments of action” (p. 16). To do this, there are three components to consider: Engaging the nexus; Navigating the nexus of practice; and Changing the nexus of practice (p. 20). The authors describe engaging the nexus as the “zone of identification” wherein the researcher must place themselves as part of the nexus of practice of study (p. 18). Once identified, the researcher then must navigate the nexus of practice which goes “beyond identifying the key site and action” but examines the “backstory of the characters (i.e. social actors)” (p. 18). Here researchers analyze and aggregate the discourses in the place, the bodies or social actors, and the history of sociocultural processes (p. 19). The researcher then changes the nexus of practice through a re-engagement with the analysis and back into the original practice/moment/or mediated action. Meaning that researchers make the “visible links and connections among many trajectories of the historical bodies, discourses in place, and the interaction order” (p. 20).

Scollon and de Saint-Georges provide multiple examples of how researcher can engage in nexus analysis as a methodological tool and approach. The authors highlight Ron Scollon’s exacerbation with his colleagues on Hawaii’s island where missiles were heard flying over head during the Vietnam war, but this colleagues did not believe that the war was being escalated, but only believe the escalation once the news reports came out that Hanoi had been bombed. Ron Scollon saw the mediated action (e.g the missiles), the historical bodies, discourse in place and the interaction orders as a way to analyze how his colleagues refused to believe in the war’s escalation. The authors begin with this anecdote as an origination of how Ron Scollon began thinking about entanglements. In addition to this anecdote, they also provide concretized examples of how Ron Scollon engaged in nexus analysis by examining discourses in place, interaction orders, historical bodies through one mediated action—the US census. Their concreteness in an abstract approach makes this article one to read before moving onto other key and seminal pieces as it provides a strong background, historical underpinnings of MDA as well as examples of how to engage in a nexus analysis study.


Scollon, R. (2001). Action and text: towards an integrated understanding of the place of text in social (inter)action, mediated discourse analysis and the problem of social action. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.). Methods of critical discourse analysis (pp. 139-183). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

This is also a foundational source for mediated discourse analysis theory, in which ideas around Nexus of Practice were developed. Between the years of 2001 and 2004 the Scollon’s thinking about nexus of practice and mediated discourse analysis continued to evolve toward its present form seen as nexus analysis.


Further Readings

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: On the theory of action. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gee, J. P. (1999). An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method. London: Routledge.

Goffman, E. (1983). The interaction ritual. American Sociological Review, 48, 1-19.

Nishida, Kitaroo. (1958). Intelligibility and the philosophy of nothingness. Tokyo: Maruzen Co. Ltd.

Wertsch (1991). Voices of the mind: Sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Recent dissertations that exemplify the use of nexus analysis

Rish, R. M. (2011). Engaging adolescents’ interests, literacy practices, and identities: Digital collaborative writing of fantasy fiction in a high school english elective class. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 349336)

Rish’s dissertation employs new literacy studies, mediated discourse theory, and positioning theory to investigate a high school elective English class, in which students collectively read and collaboratively wrote fantasy fiction. The culminating project was entitled The Building Worlds Project and involved students’ collaborative writing on a digital platform called wiki. Rish focused on the social practice of collaboration within writing. He asked three research questions including; (1) How do the teacher, his students, and I engage, navigate, and attempt to change the nexus of practice that constituted the Building Worlds Project? (2) How do the students’ social practices, mediational means, and social interaction shape how and why they coordinated their collaborative writing? (3) How are the teacher and his students’ positional identities related to how and why they wrote collaboratively for the Building Worlds Project?

Rish utilized an adapted version of Scollon’s Data Filtering Process (Scollon, 2001) that involves a series of four filters to organize and prioritize data collection. His extensive corpus of data consisted of classroom observations, field notes, focus group interviews, scene surveys with video of class sessions, student profile interviews, student wiki discussion page posts, and student’s online responses to classmates, audio and video recordings of focus groups, and teacher interviews. Methodologies used for data analysis were two-fold and grounded in mediated discourse analysis (Scollon, 2001a; Scollon & Scollon, 2004). Rish chose to draw from nexus analysis to show how social practices were linked within a nexus of practice. Nexus analysis demonstrated that the students’ writing was not only shaped by social practices associated with out-of-school domains but also social practices related to writing that were associated with the contexts of their other high school classes.


Tierney, J. D. (2013). “It wasn’t like we were serious”: Laughter in the mediated action of race talk. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order No. 3567482)

Tierney’s dissertation pulls from new literacy studies, sociocultural literacies, identity theories, Mediated Discourse Analysis—more specifically nexus analysis (Scollon & Scollon, 2004), Multiliteracies, and sociocultural theories with an emphasis on media literacies and critical engagement. She entered the site with these research questions: How did students in this diverse school and classroom address questions of race, particularly given the critical bend of the course? How were interactions “raced” in the digital media classroom, and how did those raced interactions shape learning? And what, overall, could I learn from students if I simply listened as they talked about race with each other? (p. 5). She came into the site with these questions in mind, but quickly found that laughter and joking mediated the conversations students were engaging with around race and racism. Therefore, the focus of her study became to examine how laughter mediates discussions about race and racism among students, and she situates her study in a high school that “is battling to stay alive,” and where conversations about race and diversity are welcomed (p. 87). She is a researcher-participant in one filmmaking class where a group of three male students are crafting a documentary film about immigration. She opens with her positionality which is an initial step in engaging the nexus of practice. She situates herself as a white, middle class woman in largely diverse minority-majority school.

Tierney engages the nexus of practice as she establishes “the social issue under study, locating crucial actors, observing the interaction order, and determining the most significant cycles of discourse” (p. 86). She is part of the nexus of practice and analysis. To analyze her data, she “coded for patterns related to race study and diversity in the documentary film class and identified the social issue under study that [she] called ‘raced relations’… and in particular, raced interactions mediated by joking and laughter” (p. 86). Once engaged, she navigates the nexus of practice as she examines key discourse patterns of the school, as a whole, and then more specifically the discourses and interaction orders within the documentary film classroom.

Tierney examined three mediated engagements where the students mediate uncomfortable and politically charged conversations about race. She examined the discourses in place (e.g. school-wide conversations about race and diversity) historical bodies (e.g. laughter and jokes as part of masculinity and kinship) and interaction orders (e.g. banter). She found that while the school was open to talking about race and diversity, the overall discourse in place was simplified and felt as an implicit construct. She found that students engaged in raced interactions through jokes and laughter as a way to embed a missing piece of raced talks: “laughing about the ridiculousness of racism and the structures it produces’ (p. 195). In the filmmaking process, the students engaged in “hybridized and playful ways of knowing” (p. 203). The student’s critical engagement in media literacies “hinged on the intensity and surprise they generated through humor” (p. 204). She concluded with knowing she could not untangle herself from the nexus. “Discourses are submerged in the historical bodies and practices of all the participants—including me—and those discourses are significant to how I interact with participants in the nexus and to how I characterize the research here” (p. 192). AS the researcher-participant, she could not untangle herself from the nexus—her historical body, interaction order, and discourses all interacted and collided with the students as laughter and jokes mediated raced talks. She came into the research project looking for how students engaged in nuances and complex conversations about race and found how laughter could mediate such conversations.


Kargin, T. (2016). Literacy in a new playground: Young children’s literacy practices in commercially designed virtual play worlds. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 10164249)

This ethnographic study examines children’s collaborative play and digital literacy practices in the commercially designed virtual play world of Club Penguin. The researcher was particularly interested in the children’s participation and literacy practices, as well as observations when children changed from basic membership accounts to paid accounts and back again. The theoretical framing derives from mediated discourse analysis (MDA) with a focus on two main theories including Mediation in cultural historical Activity Theory (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1991), and Capital and Habitus in Practice Theory (Bourdieu, 1977;1986).

Kargin’s research questions employ the three elements of nexus analysis, historical bodies, interaction order, and discourses in place: “RQ 1, the change in children’s perceptions about Club Penguin and preferred activities is about their historical bodies; RQ 2, the children’s participation in the Club Penguin club peer culture is more about their interaction orders; and RQ 3, the literacy practices of children is more about discourse in place” (pg. 255).

Data was collected from 14 active participants that included children ages 5-8 in an after-school setting using a four-phase approach. Phase 1 involved participant observation and field notes covering interactions during Club Penguin play, accompanied by video of pairs of children interacting while working within the club penguin platform. In phase 2, the researcher employed cyber-ethnography methodology, this entailed using an avatar and visiting the Club Penguin virtual world. During this time, the researcher took field notes and screenshots of online players interactions. Phase 3 involved changing the nexus of practice. During this phase, children received upgraded memberships from free to paid memberships. This change was documented through student interviews that were also videotaped. The final phase involved one-on-one sessions in which students were guided to take a critical stance and respond to Club Penguin with their critiques. These one-on-one sessions were video-taped. All video was analyzed using a video analysis software called Studio Code.

This study utilized Scollon and Scollon’s (2004) Nexus Analysis, and with that the associated tasks of engaging the nexus, navigating the nexus, in which, the researcher located nexus of practice and transformative events for micro-analysis. For analysis, these tasks were combined with Wohlwend’s MDA filter model (Wohlwend, 2009) and then one more section was added to the filters which was a critical literacy phase. This created a new highbred of nexus analysis methodological model that melded nexus analysis, MDA, and critical literacy.


Internet resources

Nexus Analysis Research Network. Retrieved from

This is a resource that is important for anyone who may want to connect with a community of researchers that are using nexus analysis. It is part of a larger platform that is called the Jyvaskyla Discourse Hub (JDH). It is described as a “stimulating and interactive space for sharing and developing new ideas, on-going research and best practices related to discourse studies, multilingualism and minority languages” (JDH, website: and is maintained by a small group of scholars in Finland. The nexus analysis segment of the site includes links to the following: a nexus analysis researcher network site, reading groups, a Q &A network, and a resources section.


Suzie Scollon’s Linkedin Profile. Retrieved from

LinkedIn is a professional social media network, where users create profiles highlighting current and prior work experience. Suzie Scollon’s site not only has professional information, it has a way to contact her via the app. This may be helpful if you are doing nexus analysis and have a question. As it is a newer methodology, there are not that many experts, so having a way to contact the direct source of nexus analysis may prove to be very helpful.


Wigham, C.R. (2011, April 6th). Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet Scollon & Scollon (2004). Retrieved from

This Powerpoint presentation provides a concise overview of the seminal work; Nexus Analysis: discourse and the emerging internet. Scollon and Scollon (2004). It was put together by Ciara R. Wigham, Associate Professor at Clermont Auvergne University. This powerpoint stays very true to the book and doesn’t offer any synthesis or critique. Rather, it is a basic outline of the Scollon’s book introducing nexus theory.


Audiopedia, T. (2018, August 7th). What is Mediated Discourse Analysis? What does Mediated Discourse Analysis mean? Retrieved from

This link connects to a two-minute Audiopedia informational session on Youtube. The Audiopedia aims to help visually-challenged people by providing a reading service to Wikipedia contents and articles in a simple, concise, and abridged manner. This particular audio segment provides a brief explanation of Scollon’s Mediated Discourse Analysis with a focus on Nexus Analysis.


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