Applying Conversation Analysis to Foster Accurate Reporting in the Diet History Interview



Publication Details

Tapsell, L. C., Brenniger, V. & Barnard, J. (2000). Applying Conversation Analysis to Foster Accurate Reporting in the Diet History Interview. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 (7), 818-824.


Inaccuracy in reporting dietary intakes is a major problem in managing diet-related disease. There is no single best method of dietary assessment, but the diet history lends itself well to the clinical setting. In many diet histories data are collected orally, so analysis of interviews can provide insights into reporting behaviors. Conversation analysis is a qualitative method that describes the systematic organization of talk between people. Patterns are identified and checked for consistency within and among individual interviews. The aim of this study was to describe consistent ways of reporting diet histories and to identify conversational features of problematic reporting. Diet history interviews from 62 overweight and insulin-resistant adult volunteers (50 women, 12 men) attending an outpatient clinic and 14 healthy volunteers (7 men, 7 women) participating in an energy balance study were audiotaped and transcribed. Conversation analysis identified a remarkably consistent pattern of reporting diet histories and 3 conversational features that indicated problematic reporting: "it depends," denoting variability (least of all at breakfast); "probably," suggesting guesswork (related to portion sizes); and elaborated talk on certain foods, distinguishing sensitive topics (e.g., alcohol, chocolate, butter/margarine, take-out foods) from safe topics. These findings indicate that there are ways in which dietetics practitioners may conduct the diet history interview to foster more accurate reporting.



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