Guest blog: Charlotte Albury on teaching CA to clinicians

Conversation analysis is increasingly being rolled out as a method for practitioners to use in their work, or at least as a corrective to the idea that all qualitative research is simply a matter of interviewing people. If it has the effect of sensitising them to the ebb and flow of talk in their everyday practices , that’s a bonus. I’m delighted that Oxford early-career researcher Charlotte Albury has written us a blog about her experiences in putting CA in front of a group of medical practitioners.

Charlotte Albury

Charlotte Albury, Nuffield Department of Primary Care

Recently I was invited to teach Conversation Analysis at the University of Antwerp. Their qualitative research methods summer school trains clinicians, quantitative researchers, and research students in qualitative research design; analysis; and appraisal, with a focus on clinical settings.

This year, three lectures were dedicated to conversation analysis. The aim was to provide the group with an overview of CA, how it can be used in clinical settings, and discuss the types of research questions that CA can best answer.

Test out some new teaching ideas

This was a good opportunity to test some new activities, which I had designed to be relevant for the range of learners and experience in the class. Here I’ve described three activities that I found worked particularly well for introducing CA to a mixed experience learning group.

  • Find a partner

I gave each student a piece of paper with one turn at talk on it. In the corner of these it said either 1stpp  or 2ndpp. I encouraged everyone to search the group to find the person they thought was their pair: for example, “How are you?” found “Fine thanks” and “See you later” found “Bye”. When everyone had found their partner, I asked them to work in small groups for about fifteen minutes and tell me what they discovered about talk from this exercise. They decided that:

  • Talk comes in pairs
  • Some responses are more relevant than others
  • Where things are in sequence is important

I started a session with this exercise and it was great to refer back to, as I expanded on each of these concepts throughout the day.

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  • Introducing transcription

I put up a slide that said “I didn’t call him stupid”, then asked someone to read it out (didn’t call him stupid). After this I asked if anyone could interpret this differently, and another learner read is emphasising a different word (I didn’t call him stupid). I repeated this until we’d drawn out 5or 6 different meanings, which initiated a discussion about what we might be missing when working with a verbatim transcription. I asked how we can make the meaning clearer, students suggested underling the emphasised word, or sound, and indicating where the pauses were, as this could change the meaning. I enjoyed this exercise as students identified for themselves the value of capturing how talk was delivered, and it introduced our subsequent activities and discussions about Jeffersonian transcription.

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How would Gail Jefferson have transcribed that?

  • 1-minute transcription challenge

Most learners had come to learn skills in interviewing and thematic analysis and were not planning on using CA in their research projects. However, CA literature has much to offer their research, and their literature reviews. Previous discussions with similar groups identified ‘unusual transcripts’ as a barrier to incorporating CA literature, so I was keen for learners to be familiar enough with transcription conventions to go looking for literature, and to confidently be able to read and interpret these studies. Doing transcription is a brilliant way to learn what it all means, but asking learners who are new to qualitative research to transcribe a large amount of data can be quite overwhelming, so I decided to try a “1 min transcription challenge”. Two lines of talk, a transcription key, audio on a loop and 1 minute to see what they can do. This was really successful, and the learners were more confident as we went on to read and discuss CA studies.Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 08.51.22

Looking back

I designed all activities to be as learner-led as possible so they could discover for themselves the key principles underlying CA. Learners said they found these sessions a “fantastic first introduction to the world of conversation analysis”, and one particular clinician said “it’s made me see conversation in a whole new light”.

Most learners reported that they would take many of the concepts we uncovered with them into clinical practice, and were keen to learn if CA research has explored their clinical speciality “Are there studies on end of life care?” “How about unexplained medical symptoms, or giving bad news?” “What about smoking cessation advice?”.  In our last session we had a dynamic discussion about clinical CA studies and I could see the learners had realised the exciting possibilities of conversation analytic research.

For more on CA teaching, see the “CA Teaching” page, and the pages in the CA Teach drop-down menu



Two more accounts of ICCA2018 in Loughborough

I’m delighted to feature two more perspectives on what the big ICCA meeting in July 2018 at Loughborough was like. First, Jemima Dooley recounts her experience as a presenter, then Fabio Ferraz de Almeida reports on his very successful panel showcasing established and early-career work on police and judicial practices.

A presenter’s view of ICCA 2018


Dr. Jemima Dooley, Bristol

One of the benefits of presenting interactional data is that it is inherently fascinating. My research is in medical settings and presenting my work to clinicians is almost easy – people love the opportunity to have a bird’s eye view of how they and their colleagues perform their daily tasks. When presenting at a clinical conference I can rely on the data to be the star of the show.

So how to approach ICCA, where every presenter has equally engaging data? At a conference where conversation analysis is the core focus, the subtle (or not so subtle) differences in how we analyse and present come into focus. Over the 5 days in Loughborough, I found myself in many conversations on how ‘best’ to present – how much data should we show? Is it OK to present analysis in its early stages? To handout, or not to handout? People argued the merits of presenting meticulous, detailed analytic work vs the merits of presenting one or two simple, clear ideas. The benefits of reading one’s presentation, ensuring succinct descriptions and that nothing you want to say is missed, vs the benefits of not using notes and speaking openly and naturally to your audience.

Variety even in the plenaries

What I learnt from ICCA is that variety is what makes research fun. Just compare the first two plenaries – with Jeffrey Robinson’s rigorous and compelling combination of detailed CA and quantitative methods to examine preferences, compared to Rebecca Clift’s insightful observations of eye rolls and open palm gestures basically just showing us ‘look how cool these are’. Both presentations were two of my favourites of the conference, despite their very different styles.

jd presnting

So, how did I approach presenting when it came to my turn? The hard work had been done before I got there, and so I’m lucky to say it all went by in a bit of a dream. (A nice, cool dream, as the Accounting for Intersubjectivity panel were the only ones with air conditioning for the whole of Saturday!) I went for handouts, probably marginally too much data, and not reading from notes as reading makes me nervous. With the help of a warm and engaged panel chair in the form of Tom Koole, a fantastic talk just preceding mine from Virginia Teas Gill, and some friendly but challenging questions from the audience I had a very enjoyable presenting experience. Here’s to Brisbane 2022!

On Organising a Panel

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Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, Loughborough

Since their development, EM and CA have contributed enormously to various debates on legal and police practices. They have done so by, amongst other things, respecifying the connection between law-in-action and law-in-books;  describing and examining how professionals and lay people perform their actions and interact in legal and police settings – the ‘missing what’ of socio-legal studies and sociology of law;  showing the fundamental character of language and talk-in-interaction to understand judicial and quasi-legal proceedings; and better understanding how legal work is conducted through question-answer exchanges, and more specifically how police, lawyers and other legal professionals employ ‘questioning’ in the construction of a legal case.

Following this research tradition, I recently organised a panel at the ICCA held at Loughborough University. The panel sought to bring together researchers from around the world whose interdisciplinary contributions are focused on different judicial and police settings and whose methodological approaches are mainly EM and/or CA.

Police practices

The panel consisted of two sessions, each with four presentations. The first speaker was Marcia Del Corona (UNISINOS, Brazil), who presented her research on emergency calls in Brazil. She showed that since caller and call-taker orient to their own membership categories when describing places, a great amount of time is spent in attempting to achieve intersubjectivity regarding the location to which the police must be dispatched..

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 16.36.15The next presentation was given by Mardi Kidwell (UNH, US). Based on video-recordings of police traffic stops in the US, she examined how officers describe a reason to stop and how citizens display, or fail to display, alignment with that reason. Her study showed how the work of securing citizen alignment in the early stages of such encounters is essential to securing alignment in later task stages, including the outcome (i.e. whether citizens will receive a warning or a citation).

The third presentation was given by me. Based on my analysis of audio-recorded UK police interviews, I discussed the multiple activities accomplished by officers when they (re)formulate what the suspects have previously stated in the interaction. In particular, I showed that these (re)formulations are employed to transform the suspects’ lay narratives and accounts into legal material, to convey the sense that what has been said is coming from the suspect’s mouth, to highlight admissions and denials, and to put these admissions and denials on record.

The last paper in the morning session was presented by Guusje Jol (Radboud University, Netherlands). Based on her analysis of Dutch police data, she discussed an interactional dilemma faced by police officers when interviewing children who have allegedly been sexually abused: how they can display their affiliation with the children’s narratives without compromising their professional neutrality.

The judicial arena

After a morning session discussing police work, the panel resumed in the afternoon with a focus on the judicial arena. The first to present in this session was Lucas Seuren (University of Groningen, Netherlands). Using video-recordings of jury trials from US state courts, he investigated the interactional properties of direct examinations. He showed that instead of being requests for information, questions in direct examinations are in fact requests for action, i.e. to inform and persuade the jury and the judge.

The next speaker was Martha Komter (NSCR, Netherlands), who talked about the role of the case file in interactions in a Dutch courtroom. She started by showing that judges have a dual task in court: to ratify the evidence by reading aloud or summarising items from the case file, and  to question the defendant in order to find ‘the truth’. She then examined the multitude of dis/encouraging features of judges’ references to the case file and the suspects’ responses to them, concluding that opposing forces may be at work to both encourage and discourage responses from the suspects.

The third presenter of the afternoon was Christian Licoppe (Telecom ParisTech, France), who discussed the interactional difficulties in video-mediated multilingual (with an interpreter) hearings at the French appeal court for asylum demands. For example, he showed how the interpreter’s ability to enable the asylum seeker to produce expansive answers and story-telling is diminished when they are interacting from remote locations.

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Was this man a criminal?

In the final slot of the day, Louise White (Loughborough University, UK) moved to a more general discussion about the discursive construction of innocence across different settings. To do so, she examined how suspected criminals respond to accusations in police interviews, television interviews and vlogs. By analysing data from legal and non-legal settings, she was able to identify how discursive actions are organised to exploit or be constrained by the affordances and contingencies of these settings (e.g. the audience, the status of the speakers, the potential consequences, and the purpose of the interaction).

The relation between policy and practice

In summary, the papers in this panel explicated a multitude of actions, activities, and practices employed by professionals and lay people. They did so across several institutional contexts in which language and legality play an important role, including emergency calls, traffic stops, police interviews with suspects and victims, and courtroom hearings and examinations. By looking at materials from the different stages of various legal systems, the panel produced a more detailed understanding of police and judicial settings and showed how the array of practices that constitute law-in-action are deeply interconnected.

Two reports on ICCA2018 in Loughborough

The International Conference on Conversation Analysis started in 2002 in Copenhagen, and, following a four-year cycle (shadowing the football World Cup) has been to Helsinki, Mannheim and Los Angeles. This year it came to Loughborough, and was a terrific success, showcasing some 500 presentations and attended by over 600 people from across the globe.

I’m delighted to feature reports of the event, from different perspectives. Below,  Jack Joyce, Linda Walz and Jake Piper give the stewards’ view; and then Jessica Young, reports on her conference tweeting.

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Jack Joyce

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Linda Walz

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Jake Piper

  1. The Stewards’ Tale

For a few of the volunteers, ICCA-18 preparation started on the Saturday before the conference with packing around 600 conference bags. This meant, for most, that ICCA was a long, hot and exhausting week; but, if you ask any volunteer (and see the list below*) whether or not they enjoyed it, then the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’.

ICCA proper began with the pre-conference workshops, which were brought off without a hitch, despite some minor technical issues. At the start of the conference, we heard two things from delegates the most: “Loughborough campus is so big! I’ve only been here for CA day”, and the question: “Where can I watch England’s world cup match?”. You never know the problems, questions and situations you’ll find yourself in as a volunteer at a conference; we shuttled people around Loughborough, supported paramedics, became technical support, procured walking canes and often were impromptu tour guides when in Loughborough town.

A volunteer’s day
A planned day for a volunteer meant arriving for the plenary at least 15 minutes before anyone else to set up the microphones and guide people from the Netball centre (where the plenaries were held) to the conference centre afterwards. We would then pick up our ‘room packs’, answer as many questions as we could (and grab a coffee) before we absolutely had to dash to our designated room to set up for the session. Sessions usually ran smoothly, the occasional technical problem or running overtime were often quickly remedied. In-between sessions we quickly ate/drank and fixed any of the problems that had arisen during the previous session; if you were assigned to the registration desk, you became the designated point-of-contact for our Whatsapp group. We coordinated with one another through this group, which meant that help was never too far away in case of technology problems or any queries, and there was usually also time for a quick joke, tease or random emoji amongst volunteers.

On the surface, it appeared flawlessly organised but unbeknownst to most we did have numerous and recurring problems: sound in a lot of the rooms stopped working after Wednesday, so we needed external speakers; security was often late to unlock buildings; and the air conditioning system broke down, which was also a problem for the volunteers. Fortunately for the Accountability for Intersubjectivity panel, all the air conditioning was being blown into their room, so we gathered there during the breaks. The heat and long conference days did lead to some less-than-pleasant interactions about the heat. Other difficulties involved volunteers not having a fitted answer to a question, or being ignored as chair. Yet these issues were the exception to the rule.

We are all very grateful to Paul Drew for giving us the opportunity to volunteer at ICCA, and to Sue White and Claire Feeney for their unfailing support and good spirits. We would also like to thank all fellow volunteers, individuals backstage and all delegates for making ICCA an unforgettable experience. We hope the delegates enjoyed ICCA as much as we did, even though visitors from abroad may have got a skewed impression of British summer – organisers scrambling to get rooms equipped with fans to keep brains functional is certainly not a very common occurrence.

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*Ann Doehring, Bogdana Huma, Carol Sitt-Richie, Chloe Shaw, Claire Feeney, Daisy Parker, Emily Hofstetter, Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, Hongmei Zhu, Jake Piper, Jack Joyce, Joe Ford, Julia Moreno, Kat Connabeer, Lin Wu, Linda Walz, Louise White, Lucy Woodcock, Marc Alexander, Nimet Copur, Reihaneh Asfarhi, Sophie Parslow, Tilly Flint, Veronica Gonzalez Temer, Yuening Yang.

2. The tweeter’s tale

Jessica Young: Coming ‘home’ to meet my community

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 10.15.04After meeting at a CA short course at the University of York, the ever-enthusiastic Celia Kitzinger wrote to me asking if I would like to tweet from a new Twitter page she had established (@ConversationAn4) to share CA-related content (e.g., conferences, data sessions, publications, jobs, etc.). She was looking to other members of the CA community to tweet from ICCA-18, as she was unable to attend.

Now, I am well aware that I am new to the CA community and very new to Twitter. I wasn’t quite sure what I had to offer as a guest tweeter, but I was keen to find my place in the CA community, and keen to show my willingness to engage with others at the conference, so I said ‘yes’.

I tweeted from the final day of a 5-day conference (7 if you count pre-conference workshops). My instructions were simple. Write as yourself and do what you can to ensure that your posts are informative and engaging.

Here are a few reflections I have, looking back at my first live-tweeting experience:

  1. Live-tweeting was a great way to meet people. I had delegates approach me throughout the day to introduce themselves. This is how #humansofCA was created. I felt it important to introduce to others some of the interesting people in the CA community and demonstrate the fabulous diversity in the work we do.
  2. Live-tweeting was truly a service to presenters. Not only does it help to promote their research findings but gives them some feedback about the messages the audience might be receiving from their paper. I have had messages from researchers thanking me for sharing my reflections on their talk.
  3. Live-tweeting also created a useful log of what I learnt, and what it meant to me, so that I can reflect back at a later date (after 5 days that have inevitably blurred into each other in my memory).
  4. Planning ahead was VERY helpful. I had sought handles, hashtags and links for those talks I planned to attend, which meant that I could focus on the talk but still credit the speakers as necessary.
  5. Some people say that live-tweeting can be distracting, but this was not my experience. For me, tweeting was a great way to engage with the talks. I can be a bit of a ‘multitasker’ at conferences, so tweeting was a great way to keep me focused on the talks.
  6. Live-tweeting gave me a chance to share my own interests and work. I also feel that my guest tweeting helped to do some work to establishing my place in the CA community. It helped me to see that I have insights to offer as a PhD student, and that I am one of many students who are enthusiastic about CA and the insights to be gained through its methods.

As I was leaving Loughborough on the Monday, I got a taxi with a lovely man from Finland who had also attended the conference. As I was about to introduce myself, he interjected, “I know who you are! You are Jess-from-Twitter!” I’m not sure that is what I was going for. I think I’d prefer, Jess-the-conversation-analyst-from-Twitter. Perhaps that is something to aim for in the lead up to #ICCA2022. Looking forward to seeing you in the Twittersphere!



Guest Blog: A survey of CA craft skills

How do you handle your data? One big file? Hundreds of randomly-lableled files, in odd folders? Or a carefully curated, updated and catalogued easy-retrieval system? Sarah J White set out to find the answer from her fellow Twitter users….

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Sarah J White, Macquarie University

A few weeks ago I started thinking about processes and tools in conversation analysis. This year I have embarked on my biggest CA project since my PhD, so I thought it was time for a refresh to ensure I am keeping up. There are many, many resources available on how to do CA (I even have a methods chapter coming out soon), but that actual processes used to document the analysis seem less well defined. Continue reading

Guest blog: When graduate students get together: EM/CA Doctoral Network, May 2018

Graduate students doing EM/CA work in places where there aren’t many others of like mind, can sometimes feel a little isolated. That’s where an association like the EM/CA doctoral network comes into its own. Paula Greenlees reports on the most recent event, held in the elegant rooms of Edinburgh University.


Paula Greenlees, Edinburgh University

On a beautiful spring morning, a group of researchers from across the country and beyond gathered in Edinburgh, the city where Erving Goffman published his first book ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. Continue reading

Guest blog: a new journal on social interaction

It’s an exciting event when a new journal appears on the scene that immediately sounds appealing. I’m delighted that Brian Due and Kristian Mortensen will tell us about the background to the new Social Interaction. Video-Based Studies of Human Sociality, and explain how its online publication makes it exceptionally apt for publishing video and audio data.

Brian Due

Brian Lystgaard Due

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Kristian Mortensen

Digital technology has over recent decades had a strong influence on the ways EMCA researchers go about doing their job. Over the years, video and audio data moved from magnetic tape to digital capture; transcriptions were no longer written on typewriters but produced as text files on a desktop; text files could link directly to video files so any segment could be immediately accessed; collections were no longer stored as pieces of papers in folders, but could be organized electronically across different corpora. Continue reading

Guest Blog: Saul Albert on how to draw graphics onto video clips (and why you should)

Occasionally one comes across a new bit of kit or a new technique which looks immediately enticing and exciting. This is certainly one: Saul Albert reports on his recent Drawing Interactions project that aims to create new graphical techniques and tools for the transcription, analysis and presentation of interaction research.


Saul Albert, Tufts University

Conversation analysts usually show their work using Jeffersonian transcripts with traced outlines or video stills in a ‘film strip’ style. These kinds of graphical transcripts present research for finished publications. But what about the exploratory phases of interaction research such as transcription and collaborative data sessions? Continue reading