About OUr

Information about Our Project

Questions are essential in helping professions. This international and interdisciplinary research project analyzes questioning practices in systemic solution-oriented, work-related (business) coaching. Coaching builds on the interaction between coach and client, addresses clients’ work-related problems and aims to facilitate clients’ change. Theoretical models in psychology describe change via specific developmental phases clients pass through. Yet, these are not observable. What can be observed and linguistically analyzed is the sequentially organized coaching interaction, i.e., the coaching conversation and its development across the entire coaching process. Here, the sequential relations between turns ensure the transformation of clients’ experience and the generation of new knowledge thereby contributing to the process of change across and beyond successful coaching interactions.

Although the importance of coaching has increased significantly in the western world, its academic foundation is still underdeveloped, especially in the context of the coaching process research. The analysis of questioning sequences as an essential change-inducing intervention represents a principal research gap: In contrast to coaching practice literature, where questions are presented as central and powerful tools (though depicted in a monological, decontextualized form using invented examples and with firmly attributed functions and usage indications), to date there is hardly any empirical research on questions in coaching.

Research questions and goals

This research project investigates, which kinds of questioning sequences – i.e., coaches’ questions, clients’ responses, and coaches’ follow-up turns – occur across a coaching process. What are their coaching-specific functions? How frequent are the various types of questioning sequences throughout the different phases of coaching, and how can we understand the relationship between their frequency and their local and global effectiveness? The project aims to develop a coaching-specific typology of questioning sequences and to investigate their local and global change potentials. A special focus is on the third position of the questioning sequence, i.e., coaches’ reactions to clients’ responses, in relation to the systemic solution-oriented coaching agenda as well as the relationship of the third position with the global effectiveness, defined as goal attainment.

Data, methodology, and research design

The study uses authentic, video-taped, and linguistically transcribed processes from systemic solution-oriented coaching; the data collection is based on a close cooperation with the coaching practice. For this purpose, entire coaching processes of professional coaches using a systemic solution-oriented approach are recorded throughout the German-speaking region.

In a mixed-methods research design, qualitative linguistic (Conversation Analysis, Gesprächsanalyse) and qualitative/quantitative psychological (Qualitative Content Analysis, Descriptive Statistics) methods are combined and carried out in the following, at times simultaneous, steps:

Step 1

Development of a preliminary coding scheme in terms of the formal, functional, and interaction-type specificities of questioning sequences in coaching based on an existing corpus (Graf 2015, 2019) with the help of the Conversation Analysis and Gesprächsanalyse.

Step 2

New data generation (video recordings of authentic coaching processes as well as questionnaires to measure clients’ goal attainment) in close collaboration with the coaching practice.

Step 3

With the help of Qualitative Content Analysis (Mayring 2010), the newly acquired coaching data will be coded according to the established phases of change, as described in the TSPP model (Deplazes et al. 2018).

Step 4

The coaching data is linguistically transcribed according to cGAT (Schmidt, Schütte & Winterscheid 2016), and it will be stored and managed via FOLKER (Editor von Forschungs- und Lehrkorpus Gesprochenes Deutsch), at the Leibniz Institute for the German Language in Mannheim.

Step 5

Based on the preliminary coding scheme and the transcribed new data a coaching-specific typology of questioning sequences is developed; for this purpose, questioning sequences are collected across the new corpus, and the collection is cleaned and systematized until saturation is reached.

Step 6

The video recordings of the coaching data are coded a second time. This time coding is based on the typology of questioning sequences developed in step 5.

Step 7

With the help of Descriptive Statistics, the corpus is quantitatively analyzed to determine the frequency of questioning sequences with respect to coaching phases, sessions, and processes.

Step 8

The data is then analyzed with the help of interactional linguistic (Deppermann 2008; Couper-Kuhlen & Selting 2017). A particular focus is on the functions of questioning sequences to initiate, process and finalize the individual coaching phases of the TSPP model. In this way, the sequential, interactional, and coaching-specific (local and global) change potential of questioning sequences is explored.

Step 9

In accordance with the interdisciplinary conceptualization of the project, the results of the steps seven and eight are integrated and interpreted from a linguistic, psychological, and coaching practice perspective. This allows generating more fine-grained hypotheses as regards the specific relationship between local and global effectiveness of coaching.

Step 10

During and towards the end of the project, the findings are presented at international conferences and published in various German- and English-speaking academic media (please find information related the latest events and publications on our “Activities” page).


The project significantly advances coaching process research. It complements our understanding of questioning as a central intervention in helping professions by adding insights from the format “coaching”. Furthermore, the project breaks new methodological grounds for its interdisciplinary approach and the mixed-methods research design. The data collection in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland covers the entire German-speaking coaching market.