Delete search term


Quick navigation

Main navigation

The ZHAW researches COVID-19 discourses

In an interdisciplinary project financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Special Call on Coronaviruses), the ZHAW Schools of Applied Linguistics and Health Professions are researching how communication can successfully contribute to containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The containment of the COVID-19 pandemic depends to a large extent on successful communication between public health organisations and individual social groups among the general public. It is particularly important here that highly mobile groups within the population understand the measures aimed at containing the pandemic and support them with their actions.

Just how appropriate is the communication for its addressees?

The ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics (Peter Stücheli-Herlach, Philipp Dreesen and Julia Krasselt), together with the ZHAW School of Health Professions (Julia Dratva), the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland in Lugano (Suzanne Suggs) and the University of Trieste (Goranka Rocco) are looking at communication within the many-voiced discourses of political, administrative and economic parties and investigating how appropriate it is with respect to its addressees.

The «Public COVID-19 pandemic discourses» project includes the analysis of media and organisational discourses, as well as qualitative interviews with representatives of the 15-to-34-year-old age group in German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland. This age group is highly mobile and socially active. It is less impacted by the virus from a health perspective, and society is demanding solidarity. For the containment of the pandemic, it is therefore especially important that communication measures reach this group.

Findings and recommendations for future measures

The aim of the project is to gain an understanding of public discourse and how it is perceived by young people in Switzerland. On this basis, the objective is then to formulate communication recommendations for public health organisations. A strategy for crisis communication, for both audience and message designs for the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for future public health measures, are also being developed.

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) promotes research at the «language – health» interface

As the only linguistic project and one of the few projects from the fields of humanities/social sciences, the project is being financed by funds from the Swiss National Science Foundation «Special Call on Coronaviruses». With «health communication», the project addresses a key public health issue and demonstrates that answers to burning social questions can be found with the help of discourse and corpus analysis. The experts who have assessed the project for the SNSF particularly acknowledged the track record and potential of the interdisciplinary research team. «The study promises to provide relevant communication recommendations for decision-makers.»

The project was launched on 1 June 2020.

Dreesen, Philipp; Stücheli-Herlach, Peter, 2019. Discourse linguistic in application: a transdisciplinary research design for corpus-based analyses of public communication. Zeitschrift für Diskursforschung. 7(2), p. 123-162.