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Podcast 47: The Qualitative Research Series - Uncovering the machinery behind interaction through conversation analysis with Dr Charlotte Albury

    

Welcome to another episode of The Words Matter Podcast.

I’ll again start by thanking all of you that support the show via Patreon – it really makes these conversations possible, and it's fantastic to see a growing community of researchers, students and practitioners support the show and find value in the episodes.

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So, we're half way into the Qualitative Research Series, and to bring you up to date:

Episode 1 eased us in to qualitative research with Perri Tutleman. In Episode 2 we explored grounded theory with Prof. Jane Mills and Prof. Melanie Birks. In Episode 3 I spoke about Ethnography with Dr Fiona Webster. And in the last episode I spoke with Dr Victoria Clarke about Thematic Analysis.

If you haven’t listened to all them, I strongly urge you go back and catch up, as they’re fantastic entrances to their respective topics and there is also a little cross referencing to previous and future episodes - which will give you a rounded view of the series as it unfolds.

The series is shaping up really nicely, and I hope it will become a useful resource for those wanting to orientate themselves with qualitative research theories, methodologies and methods.

In this episode, I’m speaking with Dr Charlotte Albury about conversation analysis. Charlotte is a qualitative researcher that holds a Mildred Baxter fellowship from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness, and a Fulford Junior Research fellowship at Somerville College, at University of Oxford.

She has held multiple grants including grants from the NIHR school for primary care research, and the British heart foundation. Charlotte is course director for Oxford Qualitative Courses, which are expert-led practical short courses in qualitative methods, including conversation analysis, but also a range of other qualitative approaches.

She has led several research projects which use conversation analysis to identify how to optimise clinical communication including her current work  using conversation analysis to investigate COVID risk communication (see Charlotte's work using conversation analysis here, here and here).

So in this episode we speak about:

  • Conversation analysis (CA) as a qualitative method to uncover the machinery and mechanics of social interaction.
  • The history of CA and its emergence from the US sociology science in the 1960s.
  • CA as a chimeric research methodology, with features and assumption which seems to align with quantitative or positivist research (such as notions of discovery of truth, the somewhat detached-objectivity of the researcher and 'quantifying' aspects of the data (such frequency counts); but also features which are familiar to qualitative research such as the analysis of textual data such as transcripts and the study of social interaction and phenomena). A fascinating hybrid.
  • The the sorts of research questions that CA seeks to address.
  • How Charlotte has used CA to understand communication between patients and clinicians to uncover the different strategies and outcomes of talk (see here for Charlotte’s PhD thesis and work here). 
  • The Jeffersonian system of transcription in CA, which is very particular to CA, and the methods of data analysis once the transcriptions are generated.
  • And finally Charlotte offers some advice for those considering embarking on a CA study or just want to find out more about the method.

So this was such an insightful conversation about an area of qualitative research which was quite unfamiliar to me. Charlotte describes the purpose and methods of CA incredibly clearly, providing a real insight into how conversation analysis proceeds.

The granular, almost reductionist detail of data analysis and the somewhat realist-objectivist notions of CA may initially not be your cup of tea, if you’re an interpretivist or social constructionist - but hold your horses! The forensic attention that conversation analysis gives to the specific words, language and talk offers something valuable to all qualitative researchers interested in understanding and portraying human interactions and social processes. 

I certainly learnt a great deal which I will take with me into my current and future qualitative projects.

Find Charlotte on Twitter @AlburyCharlotte

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