Exploring types and functions of questions in police interviews

Tim Grant, Jennifer Taylor, Gavin E. Oxburgh, Gary Pankhurst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


There is a proliferation of categorization schemes in the scientific literature that have mostly been developed from psychologists’ understanding of the nature of linguistic interactions. This has a led to problems in defining question types used by interviewers. Based on the principle that the overarching purpose of an interview is to elicit information and that questions can function both as actions in their own right and as vehicles for other actions, a Conversational Analysis approach was used to analyse a small number of police interviews. The analysis produced a different categorization of question types and, in particular, the conversational turns fell into two functional types: (i) Topic Initiation Questions and (ii) Topic Facilitation Questions. We argue that forensic interviewing requires a switch of focus from the ‘words’ used by interviewers in question types to the ‘function’ of conversational turns within interviews.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunication in investigative and legal contexts
Subtitle of host publicationintegrated approaches from forensic psychology, linguistics and law enforcement
EditorsGavin Oxburgh, Trond Myklebust, Tim Grant, Rebecca Milne
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-118-76913-3
ISBN (Print)978-1-118-76923-2, 978-1-118-76922-5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Publication series

NameSeries in psychology of crime, policing and law


  • questions
  • linguistic analysis
  • interviews
  • function
  • conversation analysis


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