Although CA has historically given primary attention to the ongoing orderliness of talk within single cases and collections of social interaction (e.g., see Atkinson & Heritage 1984; Sacks 1992), the embodied organization of gesture, gaze, and body orientation are basic and enduring concerns (e.g., see Goodwin 1981; Heath 1986; Beach 2007b).
Discovering how these actions are sequentially organized is fundamental for explaining communication in everyday life.
Through CA, priority is given to: (1) identifying how speakers utilize specific vocal and visible practices to manage the moment-by-moment design of turns-at-talk, and (2) the sequential and spatial environments within which actions routinely occur.
Colleagues gather to repeatedly hear and view recordings, closely examine transcribed excerpts, and provide increasingly refined observations about practices comprising the organization of specific moments and interactions being examined.
A defining feature of CA is the descriptive rigor and explanatory force brought to recordings and transcriptions, a proof-by-exemplar methodology of analytic induction: social problems are not brought to the data, but emerge from grounded and systematic inspections of moments not prematurely dismissed as lacking order or relevance.
When monitoring the course and progression of another’s speaking, recipients rely on acknowledgment tokens (e.g., mm, mm hm, uh huh, and yeah) to display attentiveness and facilitate others’ extended talking (e.g., during stories).
But words such as yeah, okay, or all right can also be recruited to close down prior speakers’ talk and thereby secure speakership.
Central to these social actions are ways speakers work together to negotiate and achieve shared understandings.
One primary mode of CA research is to investigate how speakers work to repair their own talk (e.g., when a wrong word is employed), and/or exhibit an inability to understand another’s talk (e.g., What? Mechanisms comprising these sequential environments have been identified, including how it is possible that “breakdowns” and “misunderstandings” are created and resolved, and how those who initiate repair about another’s talk are made out to be responsible for the trouble.
Significant relationships between CA and alternative methodologies have been addressed (e.g., between ethnography and CA, and contrasting orientations to “context”).
A variety of related and critical issues have also been examined (e.g., news interviews, conversational poetics, morality, verbal/non-verbal relationships, lay diagnosis, and turn construction).