Workshop and discussion exercises

Practice with these exercises to prepare for your seminars and wider research.

1. This is a task designed to help you familiarise yourself with the transcription conventions used in conversation analysis. As a consequence, you should start to understand the logic of transcribing this way and be able to ask questions about how the speakers are organising their talk.

Tape-record no more than five minutes of talk in the public domain. One possibility is a radio call-in programme. Avoid using scripted drama productions as these may not contain recurrent features of natural interaction (such as overlap or repair). Do not try to record a television extract as the visual material will complicate both transcription and analysis.

Now go through the following steps:
(a) Attempt to transcribe your tape using these transcription conventions shown in the slide below these instructions and in Box 28.1 in Researching Society and Culture. Try to allocate turns to identified speakers where possible but don’t worry if you cannot identify a particular speaker (put ? at the start of a line in such cases).
(b) Encourage a colleague or fellow student to attempt the same task independently of you. Now compare transcripts and listen again to the tape recording to improve your transcript.
(c) Using the chapter as a guide, attempt to identify in the talk and your transcript any features in the organisation of the talk (e.g. preference organisation, perspective-display sequences, features of institutional talk, strategies used to appear neutral and so on).

2. Examine the examples shown below (drawn from Atkinson and Drew, 1979: 52, and discussed in Heritage, 1984: 248–249):
(a) Why does Heritage argue that these extracts demonstrate that ‘questioners attend to the fact that their questions are framed within normative expectations which have sequential implications’ (1984: 249)?
(b) In Example 2, what are the consequences of Child naming the person to whom his utterance is addressed? Why might children often engage in such naming?

  • Atkinson, J.M. and Drew, P. (1979) Order in Court: The Organisation of Verbal Interaction in Judicial Settings. London: Macmillan.
  • Heritage, J. (1984) Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Example 1
1          A:        Is there something bothering you or not?
2          (1.0)
3          A:        Yes or no.
4          (1.5)
5          A:        Eh?
6          B:        No.

Example 2
1          Child: Have to cut the:se Mummy.
2          (1.3)
3          Child: Won’t we Mummy?
4          (1.5)
5          Child: Won’t we?
6          M:        Yes.