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We report the first state-of-the-art review of conversation-analytic (CA) research on communication in primary healthcare. We conducted a systematic search across multiple bibliographic databases and specialist sources and employed backward and forward citation tracking. We included 177 empirical studies spanning four decades of research and 16 different countries/health systems, with data in 17 languages. The majority of studies originated in United States and United Kingdom and focused on medical visits between physicians and adult patients. We generated three broad research themes in order to synthesize the study findings: managing agendas, managing participation, and managing authority. We characterize the state-of-the-art for each theme, illustrating the progression of the work and making comparisons across different languages and health systems, where possible. We consider practical applications of the findings, reflect on the state of current knowledge, and suggest some directions for future research. Data reported are in multiple languages.

Original publication




Journal article


Research on Language and Social Interaction

Publication Date





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