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Dr Rebecca Barnes

Dr Rebecca Barnes

Dr Rebecca Barnes

Senior Research Fellow in Applied Conversation Analysis

Office Room 1.05
Canynge Hall,
39 Whatley Road, Bristol BS8 2PS
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 928 7213


My main research interest is the study of interaction between patients and health care providers. I specialise in the application of conversation analytic (CA) methods, to address important questions in relation to improving health care. I have studied patient requests and doctor offers for medical services, the differences between nurse-led and GP-led telephone triage for same day appointments, and how treatment recommendations are formulated and responded to in primary care consultations. I am particularly interested in consultations for mental health difficulties and medically unexplained symptoms.

I have recently worked alongside Dr Tanya Stivers, Professor John Heritage (UCLA), Professor Rose McCabe (Exeter University) and Dr Merran Toerien (York University) on a large collaborative CA study, the Treatment Recommendations Project, comparing the different ways that medications are recommended by doctors across different health care contexts.

I am currently PI for the One In a Million study about primary care consultations funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research where we are investigating how what gets said in the consultation such as advice about medical and non-medical treatments can affect patients' subsequent decision-making. The consultations and other linked data collected in this study will be archived for re-use.

I was recently co-lead (with Dr Christie Cabral, UoB) on another CA study, Understanding the causes of miscommunication in Primary care consultations for children with Acute Cough (UnPAC), also funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.

I am also currently PI on a feasibility study of a communication intervention for consultations with patients who attend primary care significantly more than the norm funded by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme. Here we will be using CA to monitor the validity of the intervention implementation, and to inform the training of GPs.


My background is in social psychology and for the last 15 years I have been steadily building my research experience as a qualitative methodologist, specialising in applied conversation analytic (CA) methods with a particular interest in health care communication. CA is the dominant contemporary method for the analysis of social interaction. It has been extensively applied in primary care, particularly in North America where it has been used to successfully identify a wide range of important communication practices and dilemmas that recur in patient-provider consultations and that have substantive effects and outcomes. The field is rapidly evolving and in the UK, it is also beginning to find its way into various aspects of RCTs, complementing other qualitative methods used for process evaluations such as focus groups and interviews. Furthermore it can provide a theoretical resource for the content of interventions themselves, attracting researcher-clinician partnerships, NIHR funding and policy makers.

I conceived the idea for and organised (with Professor Nicky Britten, UoE) the 1st & 2nd ‘International Meeting on Conversation Analysis and Clinical Encounters’, sponsored by the Foundation for the Sociology of Heath and Illness, held July 16-18th 2007 at the Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter and July 20-23rd 2009 at the Peninsula Medical School, University of Plymouth.

I am a member of the International Society for Conversation Analysis 


I currently tutor on the MBChB Year 1: Society, Health & Medicine course, and organise and teach a short course at the School of Social and Community Medicine, 'Introduction to using Conversation Analysis to study Health Care Encounters'


  • Primary health care
  • consultation research
  • mindfulness


  • Conversation analysis
  • qualitative methods



School of Social and Community Medicine

Centres, collaborations and units

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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