Macquarie University
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The expert in the aisles: exploring supermarket narratives in Coles and Woolworths magazines from 2009-2018 using machine learning techniques

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:36 authored by Kathryn Elliott
In Australia, supermarkets dominate our food landscape, with over eighty-four percent of weekly food purchases occurring at the supermarket. The majority of this shopping occurs at either Coles or Woolworths. Given Coles and Woolworths’ dominance in food retailing, the messages they promote about food form important narratives that establish, reflect and reproduce broader cultural and social beliefs about taste.This thesis uses a combination of topic modelling, a type of machine learning, together with close reading to analyse the supermarket narratives found in the Coles and Woolworths magazines, Coles Magazine and Woolworths’ Fresh, published between 2009 and 2018. My analysis of these narratives demonstrates how supermarkets are positioning themselves as food and lifestyle authorities ready to instruct their customers on how to be good moral citizens through their consumption choices. Although the supermarket duopoly was subjected to intense external scrutiny and criticism from multiple sources during this period, my research finds this had little impact on their magazine narratives. Finally, my research highlights the benefits and analytical richness to be gained from combining topic modelling and close reading when performing content analysis on a large corpus of text


Table of Contents

1. Introduction - 2. The digital promise -- 3. Defamiliarising diet and nutrition -- 4. Supermarket narratives -- 5. Digging deep into the text -- 6. Uncovering narratives : the expert in the aisles -- 7. Conclusion -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 103-119 Empirical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Alison Leitch

Additional Supervisor 1

Brian Ballsun-Stanton


Copyright Kathryn Elliott 2018. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (v, 119 pages) colour illustrations

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