Alexa Hepburn

  • Honorary Professor in Conversation Analysis

My research has broadly focused on five topic areas:

Critical and Discursive Psychology

In her early work, I published widely on issues of child protection and bullying in school situations, and on developments in discursive and critical psychology. Her first two books - An Introduction to Critical Social Psychology and Discursive research in Practice: New approaches to psychology and interaction reflect a dual focus on developing greater theoretical and methodological innovation in psychology, and on the construction of young people’s knowledge asymmetries, rights and competences in interaction.

Emotion in Interaction

I established a tradition of work on managing upset in interaction that pushed the boundaries of communication studies (because of its technical analytic and transcriptional challenges) and offered a major reconceptualization of how emotion can be understood and analysed by psychologists and communication researchers. This research has supported applied work on emotion in professional client encounters, such as medical consultations and end of life interaction in hospices.

Core Issues in Conversation Analysis

I have an enduring interest in issues such as repair, sequence organisation, action formation and epistemics, and have taught and co-taught 31 specialist workshops on these issues in 12 different countries around the world. With a colleague at Rutgers, Galina Bolden, I have just completed a monograph on Transcribing for Social Research for Sage Publications. Careful transcription here has supported my work on the fine coordination of emotionally live activities such as anger, upset and laughter.

Helpline Interaction

I have pioneered the applied interactional study of helpline communication, resulting in a series of research papers on topics such as advice and advice resistance, displaying empathy and managing upset. Applied work was shown to have had a significant impact on helpline training and quality control, benefitting helpline organizations, call-takers, and users. I have worked with child protection helplines across the UK, which now receive training informed by my research, and organized workshops and conferences on the analysis of medical interaction at both Loughborough and Rutgers University in the US, where I continue to develop research and training in the study of clinical and mental health interaction in a range of settings.

My research has been funded by the Department for Education, the Leverhulme Trust and the Economic and Social Research Centre in the UK, and by the Australian Research Council. My current research is focused around the use and development of conversation analytic methods, for example, the notation and analysis of emotional expression within social interaction, the interactional role of interrogatives such as tag questions, parents' strategies for managing their children's behaviour, and the empirical grounding of these interests in everyday interaction.

I have published 85 books, papers, chapters and book reviews - see a list of downloadable publications here.