Persuasive communication

Centre for Language Studies | Faculty of Arts | Radboud University Nijmegen

José Sanders

Professor of Narrative Communication


José Sanders studied Dutch Language & Culture at Radboud University Nijmegen, specializing in Discourse Studies and Organizational Communication. She obtained her PhD in Discourse Studies at Tilburg University (1994) with the dissertation ‘Perspective in Narrative Discourse’ in which she analyzed the form and function of perspective in journalistic and fictional narrative in a cognitive linguistic framework. After a subsequent NWO-postdoc position, she worked for 9 years as a researcher-consultant in the area of applied social science of culture and religion. In 2003, she resumed her scientific work at Tilburg University, moving to VU University and finally, in 2009, to Radboud University, to work with the Department of Communication & Information Studies of the Faculty of Arts.

José currently teaches as Professor and is the coordinator of the Master Programme of Communication & Information Studies. She obtained several research grants (NWO, ZonMW) in the domains of text linguistics and health communication, and supervises projects on narrative health communication, online health information seeking behaviour, narrative journalism, and participatory journalism. She currently teaches courses in narrative health communication, new media and society, and journalism theory and genres.


José’s research expertise lies in the domain of discourse analysis and discourse optimization. Her research examines the interplay between the form and the function of discourse in strategic communicative settings, varying from health communication and financial education to journalistic narratives. Discourse characteristics are essentially guiding language users’ understanding, engagement, attitude, and intention to act. Cognitive linguistic theories are helpful to analyze how language users represent viewpoints, frames and situation models in their discourse, using their own perspective as a starting point and trying to reach other language users.

Applying the optimal viewpoints and frames is a major challenge that organizations face when trying to reach a particular target group in a particular context. Discourse characteristics of fictional narrative are particularly helpful to engange readers. An example is a project that studies how personal narratives, instead of argumentative information, can be used to persuade target groups with low health literacy to obtain a healthier life style. Another project studies how financial behaviour is framed in pension education materials, and whether this suits the perspectives that clients of these pensions maintain. A third project investigates whether choice-oriented health education materials on existential themes, such as child birth and palliative care, are sufficiently connected with the framing of personal narratives on these topics in mass media and new media.

José also studies journalistic discourse as a means to create general meaning and personal impact. Not only news organizations, but many more organizations employ journalistic narratives to personally engage their stakeholders, such as clients, patients, pupils, and investors. One project studies how journalistic reconstructions of shocking news events engage readers. Another studies how new media users create content and meaning when they participate in journalistic settings.


Discourse; narrative; cognitive text linguistics; health communication; journalism.

Key publications

Boeijinga, A., H. Hoeken and J. Sanders (2016). From intention to behavior: Dutch truck drivers’ road to healthy lifestyle changes. Work 55, 385–397.

Borger, M., A. van Hoof and J. Sanders, 2016. Expecting Reciprocity. Towards a Model of the Participants’ Perspective on Participatory Journalism. New Media and Society 18(5), 708-725.

Graaf, Anneke de, H. Hoeken and J. Sanders, 2016. Linking characteristics of narrative interventions to health communication effects: A review of the content and form of narratives in health-related narrative persuasion research. Review of Communication Research 4, 88-131.

Hoeken, H., M. Kolthoff and J. Sanders, 2016. Story Perspective and Character Similarity as Drivers of Identification and Narrative Persuasion. Human Communication Research 42 (2) 292–311.

Krieken, K. van, & Sanders, J. (2016). Diachronic changes in forms and functions of reported discourse in news narratives. Journal of Pragmatics 91, 45-59.

Sanders, J. and T. Sanders (2016). Stilistische aspecten van want en omdat. Subjectiviteit van causale voegwoorden in narratieve fictie. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taalkunde 21 (3), 433-444.

Krieken, K. van, H. Hoeken and J. Sanders, 2015. From Reader to Mediated Witness. The Engaging Effects of Journalistic Crime Narratives. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 92(3) 580-596.

Krieken, K. van, J. Sanders and H. Hoeken, 2015. Viewpoint representation in journalistic crime narratives: An analysis of grammatical roles and referential expressions. Journal of Pragmatics (88), 220-230.

Borger, M., I. Costera Meijer, A. van Hoof and J. Sanders, 2013. Constructing participatory journalism as a scholarly object. A genealogical analysis. Digital Journalism 1(1), 117-134.

Borger, M., I. Costera Meijer, A. van Hoof and J. Sanders, 2013. “It really is a craft” – Repertoires in journalistic frontrunners’ talk on audience participation. Special Issue Participatory Journalism: Possibilities and Constraints for Audience, Media Research 19(2), 31-54.

Sanders, J., T. Sanders and E. Sweetser, 2012. Responsible subjects and discourse causality. How mental spaces and connectives help identifying subjectivity in Dutch backward causal connectives. Journal of Pragmatics 44, 191–213.

Sanders, J. 2010. Intertwined voices. Journalists’ representation modes of source information in journalistic subgenres. English Text Construction (3) 2, 226–249.

Sanders, J. and W. Spooren, 1996. Subjectivity and Certainty in Epistemic Modification. Cognitive Linguistics, 7 (3), 241-264.

Sanders, J. and G. Redeker, 1996. Perspective and the representation of speech and thought in narrative discourse. In: G. Fauconnier and E. Sweetser (eds.) Spaces, Grammar and Discourse. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 290-317.

Other articles

Interviewartikel in Communicatie Magazine, april 2017. 

Opiniebijdrage over Voltooid Leven-communicatie, maart 2017.