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The internet provides access to a huge variety of information, including health information. There is, however, a dearth of evidence as to how, and to what ends, patients raise prior use of the internet during medical visits. Analysis is based on the Harnessing Resources from the Internet study. Drawing on data from 281 video-recorded primary care consultations, we use conversation analysis (CA) to systematically inspect the data for instances in which patients reveal that they have accessed publicly available online resources regarding their illness, symptoms, or treatment concerns. Patients invoke the internet to support three types of action: to (i) justify concerns about a serious illness; (ii) provide a warrant for treatment where they have been unable to find a solution; and (iii) advocate in relation to treatment. Although invoking the internet risks potential encroachment into the doctor's domain of authority, patients carefully design their turns when raising the internet so as to orientate to the final decision about treatment as residing firmly within the doctor's domain of authority. The work demonstrates how detailed interactional analysis can be used to illuminate the local work that patients and doctors engage in to manage the rise in availability of information from the internet.

Original publication




Journal article


Social Science and Medicine

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