Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 11, No 3 (2014)

The joint production of confession in qualitative research interviews

Liselott Aarsand, Pål Aarsand
Issued Date: 31 Oct 2018


Uncovering the self and telling the ‘truth’ about who we are, or to confess, is a widespread social phenomenon in contemporary Western societies. The present article moves beyond a preoccupation with confession as revealing inner thoughts, shortcomings and aspirations to rather seeing it as a particular way to speak. The data material consists of 20 qualitative research interviews from two distinct research projects, where the analytical focus is on how confessional talk is initiated and managed in situ. The findings show that confessional talk emerges and is established differently following the pattern of being self-initiated, other-initiated or co-initiated. Accordingly, confession is not necessarily the consequence of a particular question from an interviewer, or a single response from an interviewee, but is developed in and through a course of interaction with contributions from all interlocutors. By highlighting the dynamic work within the interview sequences, the findings may contribute to the lively debate on how to theorize and analyze qualitative interviewing. To better capture the complexities of interviewing, a slight shift – from the role of the interviewer to the role(s) of the researcher – is suggested, which calls for more focus on the particular frame of qualitative research.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.35209


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