This paper is drawn from a larger study investigating high school students' participation in group discussions of public issues and the nature of those discussions. An interpretive approach was adopted to research democratic, deliberative discussion, viewed through a multidisciplinary lens influenced by sociolinguistics, speech communication, literacy, and social education. Deliberative discussion is described through identifying emergent forms of discourse moves, textual relationships, and participatory norms that groups constructed. Identified in a microanalysis of small group discussions was a complex synthesis of intellectual, relational, and textual dimensions of group talk. A key finding was the complex interplay of three particular cognitive strategies that supported focused and sustained discussion. Transcript excerpts from one group's focused discussions are shared to illustrate the key findings. The findings point toward the importance of understanding the complexity of student group discussion and the ways in which learners gradually approach deliberative tasks and talk.