Jonathan Potter, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor 
Dean of School of Communication and Information 
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 
4 Huntington Street 
New Brunswick 
New Jersey 08901 


Jonathan Potter pioneered the development of discourse analytic work within psychology. He has studied topics such as scientific argumentation, current affairs television, riots, racism, food talk, heterosexism, relationship counselling, laughter and interaction, assessments, and child protection help lines. Since the 1980s he has worked mainly with naturalistic materials (audio and/or video recordings of interaction in actual settings) and increasingly used the powerful analytic tools of conversation analysis to study embodied and situated psychological practices. At the same time, he has worked to build a radical respecification of the way psychological notions are understood. 

He a world authority on qualitative methods and has written widely on discourse analysis and discursive psychology, focus groups, the study of psychological issues. He has highlighted the limitations of the key strands of ‘qualitative psychology’ and in particular the widespread, taken for granted, and unreflexive use of open-ended interviews. He has taught workshops and short courses on analysis in 10 different countries with the aim of improving the analytic rigor and theoretical sophistication of qualitative and critical research. 

The book Discourse and Social Psychology (Sage, 1987, with Margaret Wetherell) set out the basic features of a discourse approach to social psychology. Mapping the Language of Racism (Columbia University Press, 1992, with Margaret Wetherell) studied the way racial inequalities are discursively legitimated. Discursive Psychology (Sage, 1992, with Derek Edwards) developed the foundational principles of discursive psychology and illustrated those principles through analyses of political controversies. Representing Reality (Sage, 1996) offered a systematic overview, integration and critique of constructionist research in psychology and social science more broadly. He has also 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 of papers that offer alternative versions of the relationship between cognition and interaction (Conversation and Cognition, CUP, 2005). This received the inaugural book award for the Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis section of the American Sociological Association. 

A three volume collection of 60 articles on Discourse and Psychology was published by Sage in the summer of 2007. 

He has published 10 books as well as many journal articles and book chapters and has been on more than 20 editorial boards. His work has been cited more than forty thousand times. He is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. 

Since 2015 he has been Dean of the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University.