Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2018

Page updated 5 March, 2018

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2018, Researching the Real World, available at
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A Guide to Methodology

6. Conversation and discourse analysis

6.1 Introduction to discourse analysis
6.2 Conversation analysis

6.2.1 Introduction
6.2.2 Focus and presumptions of conversation analysis
6.2.3 Elements of conversation analysis
6.2.4 Why undertake close analysis of conversational sequences?
6.2.5 Methods of conversation analysis Recording Transcription Analysing the sequential structure Participants' issues, concepts and categories

6.2.6 Examples of how conversation analysis has been used
6.2.7 Analysing power relations

6.3 Genre analysis
6.4 Pragmatics
6.5 Discursive psychology
6.6 Interactional sociolinguistics
6.7 Ethnography of communication/speaking
6.8 Narrative analysis
6.9 Critical discourse analysis
6.10 Summary and conclusion

6.2 Conversation analysis

6.2.5 Methods of conversation analysis

The following is an overview of the key approach of conversation analysis. For more detail see Hutchby and Wooffitt (1998), Have (1998) and, for some original material, Sacks (1992).

Top Recording

Conversation analysis researchers insist on the use of audio- or video recordings of episodes of 'naturally occurring', that is non-experimental, interaction as their basic data. Having said that, as we shall see below (Section 6.2.7), some researchers have analysed conversations in written, fictional texts (Muirhead, 2000).

Recording of conversations results in data that can be examined and re-examined and provides a safeguard against analytic conclusions that are the result of selective attention on the part of the researcher, or idiosyncratic intuition or presupposition about what has been said. The analysis can, in effect, be checked against the recorded conversation in a way that, for example, a reported interview, reliant on the researchers' notes and memory, cannot.

At what point exactly this preference for tape-recorded data became invested with an actively-developed suspicion towards the use of 'unsatisfactory data sources' in language description (e.g. interview data, observational data obtained through field notes, invented examples and experimental elicitation) is a matter of hindsight interpretation. (Slembrouck, 2006)

For a detailed account of a conversation analysis and comparison to other discourse analysis approaches see the study by Maria Stube, et al. (2003) in CASE STUDY Discourse analysis comparative study.

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