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A discourse approach to theorising HRD: opening a discursive space

Lawless, Aileen; Sambrook, Sally; Garavan, Tom; Valentin, Claire


Aileen Lawless

Sally Sambrook

Tom Garavan

Claire Valentin


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss how a discourse approach to theorising human resource development (HRD) can open a “discursive space” to challenge dominant discourses within the field; enabling a more critical discourse to emerge.Design/methodology/approach – Discusses two approaches to discourse analysis, a “practice” and a “critical” approach, and illuminates how both approaches can contribute to theorising HRD.Findings – The notion of what constitutes HRD is being constantly renegotiated both in theory and in practice. While contemporary HRD discourses are many and there is fluidity in the field a dominant discourse can be identified. The authors argue that a focus on the discourses which construct and constitute HRD need to consider both the “practice” and “the order of discourse” enabling the emergence of alternative discourses within the field.Research limitations/implications – Due to word restrictions an empirical example has not been included. However, future work will address this limitation.Practical implications – The two approaches to discourse analysis discussed provide a useful framework; enabling an analysis of the dominant and competing discourses within the field of HRD.Originality/value – Discourse analysis is rarely discussed in business settings despite the evidence that applied discourse analysis focuses on questions that are of relevance to the field. This paper contributes to a perceived gap and demonstrates how discourse analysis can contribute to researching alternative notions of HRD in order to encourage a variety of conceptual developments.


Lawless, A., Sambrook, S., Garavan, T., & Valentin, C. (2011). A discourse approach to theorising HRD: opening a discursive space. Journal of European industrial training, 35(3), 264-275.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 22, 2010
Publication Date Apr 5, 2011
Deposit Date Aug 3, 2016
Journal Journal of European Industrial Training
Print ISSN 0309-0590
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 3
Pages 264-275
Keywords Human resource development, Human resource management
Public URL