Hi, my name is Anne Vo and I am a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I have been using conversation analysis (CA) to study how program evaluation is taught in informal settings. CA is a research method and tool that was developed during the 1960’s and 1970’s in the field of sociology for the purposes of examining “talk-in-interaction” – the way in which interactions are organized through conversation. It is also used broadly by scholars in disciplines such as anthropology and linguistics. But, evaluators who find that they need to answer questions about the nature and quality of interaction and social relationships in their evaluations may also find CA useful. So, what you will find below are some things to consider while doing CA, a link to an online module for those who may be interested in learning more about what “doing CA” entails, and some references for further exploration.
As with every research and evaluation method, CA has its advantages and disadvantages. In this case, they are quite similar to what we normally encounter when using observational or ethnographic methods. A few methodological considerations, strengths, weaknesses, and pitfalls to consider appear below.
Rad Resource: The following link will take you to an online training module that will walk you through the CA transcription process. This module was created by one of the method’s developers, Dr. Emanuel Schegloff. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/faculty/schegloff/TranscriptionProject/index.html
Rad Resources: These provide a great introduction to CA:
- Sacks, H., Schegloff, E.A., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50(4): 696-735.
And, the following books are useful references for those who have long-term interest in CA:
- Ochs, E., Schegloff, E.A. & Thompson, S.A. (Eds.). (1996). Interaction and grammar. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
- Schegloff, E.A. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis: Volume 1. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Hot Tip: Methodological Considerations.
- Large social constructs that are often studied using CA include human interaction, social relationships, and context.
- In CA, these social constructs are indexed by units of analyses not limited to: turn taking, turn constructional units, and sequence organization.
- “Doing CA” involves meticulous transcription of audio or video recordings using CA notation. Analysis involves concurrent use of the audio/video data with the transcript, but the recordings remain the primary data sources.
- Because CA is inherently a fine-grained tool, one of its strengths is its precision, which can be used to identify nuances that might have otherwise been overlooked.
- It also allows analysis to occur specifically at the conversational level, which is not generally afforded by other methods.
Limitations of the method:
- CA transcription is a time consuming and costly activity.
- And, it requires specialized training in CA methods if it is going to be done well.
- The analytic process is sensitive to misinterpretation and over-interpretation so member checking becomes doubly crucial here.
- Likewise, the analyst should be wary of the tendency to essentialize the phenomena that they are observing; rather, she or he should always triangulate these initial patterns before arriving at conclusions.