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Step 1: Transcribe

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Naturalistic data

Let us begin by assuming that you have audio-recorded a conversation. Naturalistic data is the bedrock of conversation analysis, so we will use a short extract from a real world, 10-minute conversation that I recorded several years ago in order to exemplify the procedure. The conversation was between two adult males and took place in a private workplace office, with no one else present.

Transcribe the data

The first thing to do is process the conversational data so that it is amenable to examination. We do this by transcribing the audio data into written form. Using the transcription conventions set out in Appendix 1, this results in the following extract.

Extract 1. Conversation between Tom and Jim.

01 Tom:  it’s nice though ’cause I mean I’ve I’ve

02       been various places in Spain (.) for two weeks

03 Jim:  mm

04 Tom:  and er: erm you know it’s okay

05 Jim:  yeah

06 Tom:  the food’s reasonable (..) the

07       things are: (.) //a li*ttle

08 Jim:                    mm

09 Tom:  bit (.) a tiny bit more expensive (..) like they cost

10       a few pesetas //and th*at

11 Jim:                  yeah

12 Tom:  it’s like a hundred and seventy five pesetas to the

13       pound

14 Jim:  yeah

15 Tom:  but I mean (.) I’m sure Yvette can handle that

16 Jim:  yeah

17 Tom:  the things that are luxuries //like*

18 Jim:                                 yeah

19 Tom:  Kit Kats an:d //thing*s

20 Jim:                  yeah

21 Tom:  like that (.) and cakes like that (.) //are jus*t

22 Jim:                                          yeah

23 Tom:  a tiny //bit dear*er

24 Jim:           yeah

If you had access to the original audio recording, you would repeatedly listen to it and, thereby, ensure that your transcription is as accurate as possible. Repeated listening also allows you to get a feel for the nuances of the particular interaction, its dynamics, the speed of delivery, and so on. Of course, without access to the recording, you have only the above transcription to work with. Let us assume, however, that this is a reasonably accurate representation of relevant phenomena within the conversation.

The above conversation extract is reproduced in Appendix 2 for ease of use.

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