Police interviews with women reporting rape: a critical discourse analysis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study investigates the discursive patterns of interactions between police interviewers and women reporting rape in significant witness interviews. Data in the form of video recorded interviews were obtained from a UK police force for the purposes of this study. The data are analysed using a multi-method approach, incorporating tools from micro-sociology, Conversation Analysis and Discursive Psychology, to reveal patterns of interactional control, negotiation, and interpretation. The study adopts a critical approach, which is to say that as well as describing discursive patterns, it explains them in light of the discourse processes involved in the production and consumption of police interview talk, and comments on the relationship between these discourse processes and the social context in which they occur. A central focus of the study is how interviewers draw on particular interactional resources to shape interviewees? accounts in particular ways, and this is discussed in relation to the institutional role of the significant witness interview. The discussion is also extended to the ways in which mainstream rape ideology is both reflected in, and maintained by, the discursive choices of participants. The findings of this study indicate that there are a number of issues to be addressed in terms of the training currently offered to officers at Level 2 of the Professionalising Investigation Programme (PIP) (NPIA, 2009) who intend to conduct significant witness interviews. Furthermore, a need is identified to bring the linguistic and discursive processes of negotiation and transformation identified by the study to the attention of the justice system as a whole. This is a particularly pressing need in light of judicial reluctance to replace written witness statements, the current „end product? of significant witness interviews, with the video recorded interview in place of direct examination in cases of rape.
Date of AwardMay 2010
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarol N Marley (Supervisor)


  • significant witness interviewing
  • footing
  • reported speech
  • formulation
  • accounts

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