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Conversation Analysis as a method for health and social policy research - 24 May 2023

Please note that this event has passed.

This session is part of the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health's Research Methods Primer and Provocation series.

In this session, Dr Merran Toerien and Dr Annie Irvine will introduce the method of conversation analysis which has become widely applied to institutional settings including health and social care, criminal justice, and education.

Conversation analysis is an observational method that uses recordings (audio and/or video) of naturally occurring data such as doctor-patient interactions, psychological therapy appointments, or Jobcentre interviews. The method looks in fine detail at the way that conversations between participants evolve, for example, how turns are taken, how participants respond and where blockages or 'misalignments' occur.

As Merran and Annie will show, drawing on studies of heteronormativity and racial disparity in medical encounters, conversation analysis can reveal implicit and unconscious biases that perpetuate marginalisation through the normative use of language in institutional talk. Using this approach, we can also glean important insights into how and why institutional practices work well - or do not - and in turn can identify how health practitioners can adjust the way that they interact with clients to achieve better outcomes.

Merran and Annie will provide examples from conversation analysis studies of GP consultations and telephone-delivered psychotherapy sessions within the NHS IAPT programme.

Please note that this session will be recorded

Learning objectives:

Attendees will gain an understanding of the core principles and methods of conversation analysis, its distinctive methodological potential, and the diverse ways that it can be applied to a range of health and social welfare contexts.

About the presenters:

Dr Merran Toerien is a Reader in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Language & Communication at the University of York. Merran has expertise in the application of conversation analysis to communication in institutional settings, with a particular interest in patient choice. Her work has spanned diverse types of interaction, including beauty therapy, recruitment to medical trials, advisory interviews in Jobcentre Plus and neurology outpatient consultations. She has been active in promoting the real-world impact of her findings and has extensive experience of teaching conversation analysis at undergraduate and graduate levels. She has run CPD and research training workshops in South Africa, Brazil, China, the Netherlands and the UK.

Dr Annie Irvine is a Research Associate in the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health. Annie has worked on applied conversation analysis studies of interactions between claimants and advisers in Jobcentre offices (with Merran Toerien), interactions between therapists and patients in telephone-delivered NHS IAPT assessment and treatment sessions, and a comparative study of interactions during qualitative research interviews conducted by telephone vs. face-to-face.

How to register:

This session will convene online. To join, please register in advance via the Zoom registration link here 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join the seminar

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