Alexandra Kent completed her BSc Social Psychology, MRes Social Research Methods and her PhD in Discursive Psychology with Conversation Analysis at Loughborough University.

She joined the School of Psychology at Keele University in Sept 2012 as a Lecturer in Psychology. Her research combines a theoretical reworking of the way language and psychology are understood with detailed technical analyses of empirical data using conversation analysis. Her research interests include the negotiation of power and authority in interaction, requests, shared decision-making in interaction, and help-seeking behaviours. 

Research and scholarship

My research primarily uses conversation analysis and discursive psychology to study the practical accomplishment of social life. It addresses the question of how people interact with each other. How do we perform highly coordinated social actions within interaction?

My current research with aligned with two complementary programmes of work.

Calling for help

I am interested in how we seek help and how we attempt to influence the behaviour of others to meet our goals. Previously I have investigated family mealtime conversations and calls to the NSPCC helpline. More recently I have been working with emergency (999) and non-emergency (101) police calls to explore how people ask for help, how call handlers gather information before making a decision about whether to provide help, and how the conversation is managed when help can’t be offered.

This research programme has generated a series of training workshops for police call handlers around how to hold more effective and efficient phone conversations.

Current research projects in this programme include:

  • How the boundaries of what counts as an ‘emergency’ or a ‘policeable’ incident are negotiated and constructed through talk. Collaborating with Prof Heidi Kevoe-Feldman.
  • Wondering and Hoping: Low entitlement request for police assistance. Collaborating with Prof Alexa Hepburn.
  • Digital 101: What’s different about seeking police help via social media. Collaborating with Dr Jo Meredith.

I would be very interested to hear from potential PhD student about future work related to help seeking and the interactional management of urgent situations.

The language of breastfeeding

A fundamental tenet of discursive research is the observation that language is constructive and constructe. The words we use to talk about a subject have real world consequence for how that subject is understood and engaged with. The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Many British women report that they did not meet their personal breastfeeding goals. On a population level, breastfeeding rates represent a complex sociological, psychological, political and philosophical challenge. How we talk about breastfeeding can impact how we understand it, value it, position it, and support or discourage it. My research explores talk about breastfeeding with a key aim to identify language choices that can empower and support breastfeeding in a way that is protective of mothers’ health, rights, and wishes.

Current projects in this programme include:

  • Online Discourses of Public Breastfeeding: Newspaper comments. Collaborating with Dr Jo Meredith and Dr Kirsty Budds.

Future work planned for this programme includes:

  • Antenatal talk about infant feeding choices
  • Seeking Support: How do we talk about difficulties with breastfeeding
  • I would be very interested to hear from potential PhD students who are keen to explore how we talk about infant feeding choices and support in different social contexts and at different stages of pregnancy and parenthood.


Second Year Undergraduate:

PSY20043 - Qualitative and Survey Research Design
PSY20012 - Social and Developmental Psychology

Third Year Undergraduate:

PSY30122 - Qualitative and Survey Research Methods (for returning Study Abroad Students)
PSY30134 - Making a Difference with Psychology
PSY30061 - Final Year Project


PSY40045 - MSc Dissertation
PSY40038 - MSc Research Apprenticeship in Psychology
PSY40036 - MSc Qualitative Research Methods
PSY40051 - Advanced Study in Applied Social and Political Psychology


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