What’s going on here? The pedagogy of a data analysis session

Reshaping Doctoral Education cover
Reshaping Doctoral Education cover

Harris, J., Theobald, M., Danby, S., Reynolds, E., Rintel, S. (2012). What’s going on here? The pedagogy of a data analysis session. Pp. 83-95 in Lee & Danby (Eds.) Reshaping doctoral education: International Approaches and Pedagogies. London: Routledge. [Format: Local PDF of first proof]


Data analysis sessions are a common feature of discourse analytic communities, often involving participants with varying levels of expertise to those with significant expertise. Learning how to do data analysis and working with transcripts, however, are often new experiences for doctoral candidates within the  social sciences. While many guides to doctoral education focus on procedures associated with data analysis (Heath et al., 2010; McHoul and Rapley, 2001; Silverman, 2011; Wetherall et al., 2001), the in situ practices of doing data analysis are relatively undocumented. This chapter has been collaboratively written by members of a special interest research group, the Transcript Analysis Group (TAG), who meet regularly to examine transcripts representing audio- and video-recorded interactional data.

Here, we investigate our own actual interactional practices and participation in this group where each member is both analyst and participant. We particularly focus on the pedagogic practices enacted in the group through investigating how
members engage in the scholarly practice of data analysis. A key feature of talk within the data sessions is that members work collaboratively to identify and discuss ‘noticings’ from the audio-recorded and transcribed talk being examined, produce candidate analytic observations based on these discussions, and evaluate these observations. Our investigation of how talk constructs social practices in these sessions shows that participants move fluidly between actions that demonstrate pedagogic practices and expertise. Within any one session, members can display their expertise as analysts and, at the same time, display that they have gained an understanding that they did not have before.

We take an ethnomethodological position that asks, ‘what’s going on here?’ in the data analysis session. By observing the in situ practices in fine-grained detail, we show how members participate in the data analysis sessions and make sense of a transcript. Ethnomethodology focuses on methods and resources that people use to make sense of what is happening around them and the actions of others (Garfinkel, 1967). Used in conjunction with ethnomethodology, conversation analysis (CA) pays close attention to the sequence of interactions, to see what members make of what each other says and does. The context, then, is one of co-construction where members work together to make sense of data, which may include audio or video recordings of interaction. Interactional moments involving members sharing different views are important for understanding how members make visible their stances.