Reaching the parts that other theories and methods can't reach: how and why a policy-as-discourse approach can inform health-related policy.
This article illustrates how conceptualizing policy-as-discourse offers opportunities for those with a vested interest in policy to 'reach the parts that other theories and methods can't reach'. First, it explores the dialogical relationship between theory and method in the context of policy analysis, summarizing contemporary writing on conceptualizing and analysing policy and drawing on the work of Bacchi to describe the theoretical underpinnings of three different policy representations along with methodological corollaries, research practices and disclosures about the world that flow from each. This involves reflecting on three different answers to the question 'what is policy?': considering how policy might be conceptualized and analysed under each and narrating the kind of research stories that emerge. Second, the article focuses on one of Bacchi's representations - policy-as-discourse - to provide readers with a case study of this dialogical relationship and drawing on published research exploring the development of primary care research policy to illustrate what elements of discursive policy analysis might look like. Last, the article concludes by reflecting on the ways in which such an approach may (and may not) prove valuable in analysing health-related policy.