Laboratory: Role-play

The role-play method asks participants to act out conversations in particular situations described to them by the researcher. The participants are asked to communicate in the way that they or some other person would in a given situation. In fact, a terminological distinction is often made between role-plays and role enactments. In role-plays, the participants react as if they were someone else. A participant who is a student plays the role of a professor, for instance. In role enactments the participants perform a role that is part of their everyday life and personality. A student plays the role of a student (Trosborg 1994: 144)

Trosborg (1994) used this method to investigate the different ways in which native speakers of English, native speakers of Danish and Danish learners of English at different levels of competence perform requests, complaints and apologies. The participants were given appropriate situations to act out and were then videotaped in dyadic face-to-face conversations lasting approximately 5 minutes (Trosborg 1994: 150).

See also:

For a discussion of this method in connection with a particular set of research questions see: