CARM Research

The Conversation Analytic Role-play Method

CARM is underpinned by world class research, led by Elizabeth Stokoe (Loughborough University) and Rein Ove Sikveland (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

Our work focuses on analysing real-time interaction between a variety of organisations and those who use them. We use conversation analysis to identify what works and what is less effective in communicative encounters.

The Conversation Analytic Role-play Method

CARM is an approach to communication skills training that can be adapted to any sort of workplace or institutional encounter. Traditional methods for training and assessing communication skills are based in role play or simulation. CARM is totally different to this.

The science behind CARM

The ‘Conversation Analytic’ part of CARM is ‘Conversation Analysis’, or CA. CA has a strong track record in delivering insights into how talk works which, in turn, inform communication practice and policy interventions. CA involves collecting a large number of audio or video recordings of naturally occurring conversation in workplace or domestic settings. The data are transcribed and analysed using a technical system that permits a forensic analysis of the constituent activities that comprise the complete interaction.

The conversational racetrack

It can be useful to think of a conversation in terms of a racetrack, or course, with a distinct landscape. You start at the beginning with your recipient or recipients, and, along the way, you complete various ‘projects’; you anticipate and avoid hurdles, or you construct hurdles that can then knock the interaction off course. CA focuses on how those projects are designed, and how different designs can lead to different conversational trajectories or outcomes, either avoiding or crashing into the racetrack’s hurdles. For instance, explaining a service one can may lead to higher client uptake than when it’s explained another way – it can be the difference between winning or losing the race.

CARM training

CARM works by turning analyses of racetracks into evidence-based training materials. Workshop participants can then effectively ‘live through’ the same projects and hurdles as those in the recorded materials they’re listening to or watching. Training participants are exposed, often uniquely in their careers, to the actual activities of anonymized colleagues doing the job that participants themselves do – usually from an organization based in some other part of the country. Because of the way CARM works, they’re able to identify the practices that work and those that don’t.


See all publications by Elizabeth Stokoe

See all publications by Rein Sikveland