Assumptions embedded in wh-questions: An interactional approach to the analysis of goal setting

Veronika Schoeb


Goal-setting is promoted in healthcare guidelines as a way to engage patients. However, not much is known about how this process is accomplished in practice. The objective was to identify how goal-setting is initiated in physiotherapy. The data comprise of 14 patient–therapist interactions in which physiotherapists inquire about goals using a wh-question (e.g. “what do you expect from therapy?”). Conversation analytic findings indicate that those questions embed assumptions a) that patients have a goal beforehand, and b) that they are able to articulate it. Patients’ hesitant responses, however, show that those assumptions are not always mutually oriented to.


Health care; Conversation analysis; Question; Interaction; Goal setting; Physical therapy


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Studies in Communication Sciences | ISSN: 1424-4896