Organizational Trust: Discourse Analytical and Experimental Perspectives

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


This thesis employs a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods of linguistic analysis to investigate how business organizations use discourse as a strategic tool to build and repair stakeholders’ trust. In addition, the thesis makes a methodological contribution by developing a novel corpus annotation method that offers solutions to some of the most significant challenges involved in reliably identifying and quantifying evaluation.

The thesis comprises five original articles. The first article examines the trust-building strategies used by companies in annual reports and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. It investigates how companies use evaluative language to build a trustworthy corporate identity, and how they strategically adapt their communication style to appeal to and persuade the specific stakeholder groups that each text type targets.

The second article proposes a novel theoretical framework for examining the strategies used by companies to try to restore stakeholders’ trust following a crisis. The framework is applied to the analysis of the CEO letter published by the energy company BP one year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. The analysis has the twofold purpose of demonstrating the viability of the model and determining the discourse strategies deployed by the CEO to repair trust in the company after the accident.

Articles iii and iv are primarily methodological in nature. They present and illustrate an original step-wise method that is designed to optimize the reliability, replicability, and transparency of quantitative analyses of evaluation in text and corpora. Article iii describes the method in detail. Article iv gives a practical illustration of the method by applying it to the analysis of a specialized corpus of CEO letters published by BP and four competitors before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Finally, the fifth article uses experimental methods to test the effects of two basic strategies that are commonly used by companies in situations where trust is at stake: apology and denial. More specifically, it investigates whether denial is more effective than apology in repairing trust in a company accused of corruption, and whether and how evidence of the company’s guilt influences stakeholders’ reactions to the strategies. By addressing these questions, the article seeks to shed new light on the pragmatic effects and implications of apology and denial, and to contribute to solving some empirical and conceptual issues raised in the scholarly domains of organizational studies and crisis communication.


  • Matteo Fuoli
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • organizational trust, corporate discourse, trust repair, evaluation, appraisal theory, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, experimentation, multi-method approaches, reliability, triangulation
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2017 May 6
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017 Mar 27
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2017-05-06 Time: 10:15 Place: C121, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Semino, Elena Title: professor Affiliation: Lancaster University, England ---

Related activities

Paradis, C. (Role not specified)

Activity: Examination and supervisionSupervision of PhD students

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