Invited panel on 'Impacts in Linguistic Research'. Paper: ‘Bringing linguistics into practice: Achieving impact through training police interviewers’.

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


With applied research, it is easy to consider the applications to professional practice to be obvious and/or desirable, thus taking their potential for ‘impact’ for granted. Yet getting research findings to the right audience, then actually implemented, is by no means an easy process, even assuming our research is genuinely useful in the first place. We discuss the approach taken to achieving ‘impact’ in a recent project, where we developed and delivered training for police interviewers on language and communication. A key part of the project was to work alongside practitioners in developing the materials, to ensure practical relevance. We will reflect on our understanding of ‘impact’ as dialogic and collaborative, driving change on both sides.
We held one-day sessions at three English police forces, during which we delivered training based on our research on police interview discourse. The material covered a number of linguistic concepts, selected from our research findings and hence their (perceived) relevance to police interviewing. Topics included turn-taking, pragmatics, language and power, language and identity, participation frameworks (Goffman 1981), and audience design (Bell 1984). The underlying aim was to provide interviewers with insight into their own linguistic behaviour in the interview room, and how this can (unintentionally) influence what is said by interviewees. After each training session, participants completed questionnaires and took part in focus groups to provide feedback. The materials were then revised, before delivery to the next force. This resulted in training materials developed in response to practitioner input, as well as a set of feedback detailing police interviewers’ views on language and communication, and how they themselves consider that linguists can best contribute to their practice.
Overall, the response to the training, and to academic input, was overwhelmingly positive. We summarise key messages to be gleaned from our experiences, including some unexpected outcomes in terms of what practitioners actually want from academics. We will also consider ‘impact’ from the reverse perspective: the effect of such collaborations on our own research agendas.
Bell, A. (1984) ‘Language style as audience design’. Language in Society 13: 145-204.
Goffman, E. (1981) Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell.
Period7 Apr 2017
Event titleiMean Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number5
LocationBristol, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational