Conversation analysis is an approach to examining human behaviour and interaction closely enough to capture what people communicate, how they communicate, and the consequences. It is broadly qualitative, but quantification is sometimes used too. One of its advantages is that it can map in fine detail the various ways that people can deal with communication scenarios and difficulties (giving bad news, explaining complicated matters, dealing with disagreement). It takes a rather different approach to research on communication than research that involves interviewing people about their views and preferences, or that involves coding and counting communication behaviours. I like using Conversation Analysis because it can reach parts of communication that these approaches cannot reach, allowing development of additional understandings. I also like the underlying assumption of conversation analysis that people do what they do for good reasons – and that any particular way of communicating has an array of pros and cons. It does not simplistically assume some ways of communicating are always right, and some always wrong.
Ways to find out more about conversation analysis:
Jack Sidnell and Tanya Stivers eds. (2013) The Handbook of Conversation Analysis. Wiley and Sons
Jack Sidnell (2010) Conversation Analysis: An Introduction. Wiley Blackwell
Paul ten Have (2007) Doing Conversation Analysis (Second Edition). Sage
John Heritage and Steven Clayman (2010) Talk and Social Institutions: Interactions, Identities, and Institutions. Wiley Blackwell
Bethan Benwell and Elizabeth Stokoe (2006) Discourse and Identity. Edinburgh University Press (focused on identity issues, the book introduces both discourse and conversation analysis)
Book Chapters Introducing the Approach
Steven Clayman and Virginia Teas Gill (2004) Conversation Analysis. In Hardy M and Bryman A Handbook of Data Analysis. Sage
Paul Drew (2005) Conversation analysis. In Fitch K and Sanders R Handbook of Language and Social Interaction. Lawrence Erlbaum
Timothy Halkowski and Virginia Teas Gill (2010) Conversation Analysis and Ethnomethodology: the Centrality of Interaction in Bourgeault I, Dingwall R and de Vries R eds. Sage Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Health Research
Ruth Parry (2010) Video-based conversation analysis in Bourgeault I, Dingwall R and de Vries R eds. Sage Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Health Research
Some Journal Papers Introducing the Approach
Paul Drew, John Chatwin, et al. (2001) Conversation analysis: a method for research into interactions between patients and health-care professionals, Health Expectations 4: 58-70.
Barnes, R.K. (2005) Conversation analysis: a practical resource in the healthcare setting. Medical Education, 39, 113-115.
Doug Maynard and John Heritage (2005) Conversation analysis, doctor-patient communication and medical communication, Medical Education 39: 428-435.