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Phenomenology qualitative research method
Phenomenology Qualitative Research Method

“Its Not Easy Being Green”

By Ronda Hildebrand, Chris Bikakis, Carol Lewallen,

Robin Koster & Rachel Wurth

Objectives at the end of this presentation the learners will be able to
Objectives At the end of this presentation, the learners will be able to...

State some of the key assumptions of phenomenology based research

Discuss the philosophical base of the method.

Indicate when this method is appropriate for research and identify appropriate research questions.

Discuss methods of data analysis and how results are presented

Analyze and critique published research done using this method.

Key assumptions
Key Assumptions

Humans coconstitute situations.(Parse 2001)

Key assumptions1
Key Assumptions

Knowledge about human experience is expanded by allowing essences of phenomena to appear through descriptions without predictable prescriptions.(Parse 2001)

Key assumptions2
Key Assumptions

Knowledge about human experience is gained from retrospective descriptions of lived experiences. (Parse 2001)

Philosophical base
Philosophical Base

  • Phenomenology is both a research method and a philosophy

  • The phenomenological movement arose in Germany in the late 19th century.

  • Early philosophers were trained in religion, philosophy, mathematics, or physics.

Philosophical base1
Philosophical Base

  • Edmund Husserl’s descriptive phenomenology

  • Martin Heidegger’s interpretive phenomenology (also called hermeneutics)

Philosophical base2


Philosophical Base


  • Three components to this approach

    • Essences

    • Intuiting

    • Phenomenological reduction (Bracketing) or setting aside all previous experience including the existence of other subjects.

Presuppositions and relationships are viewed as necessary to understanding and they should not be suspended.

Experiences can be understood in a new way by recognizing historical influences and meanings of past traditions.

Philosophical base3
Philosophical Base

  • The French phase (during WWII) sought to intertwine objectivity and subjectivity.

    • Key figures were Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

    • Objectivity and subjectivity are united to form the human experience.

  • North American phenomenology will focus on describing the lived experiences within the context of a participants culture rather that searching for universal meaning.

Philosophical base4
Philosophical Base

  • While the assumptions of phenomenology are similar to the values of holistic nursing, interpretations of the many different forms of phenomenology have led to controversy.

  • “Nursing is a human science that focuses on individuality, is holistic in nature, and involves concern for human responses” (Dinkel 2005 p.8)

Why do nurses use phenomenology
Why do nurses use phenomenology?

Nursing is a human science that focuses on providing individualized care.

Nursing is holistic in nature.

Nursing is concerned with human responses and experiences.

The concern of phenomenology
The concern of phenomenology

Phenomenology is concerned with the subjective experience, which is considered to be more real and more important in the understanding of human nature and human experience.

It focuses on the person’s lived experience within a phenomenon, including shared meanings and commonalities.

The phenomenological movement
The phenomenological movement

  • Three main phases:

    • German phase with Husserl, the father of the movement (descriptive) and Heidegger (interpretative and hermeneutics)

    • French phase which influenced psychology and psychiatry.

    • Dutch phase (combining descriptive and interpretative methods

    • A new phase? The North American focus.


  • Main types:

    • Descriptive

    • Interpretative

    • Hermeneutics

  • Main methods:

    • Interview (relaxed)- to explain experiences fully and deeply until nothing further to say

    • Group interviews

    • Diaries or journals

    • Audiotapes

    • Videotapes

    • Participant observations

Phenomenological research
Phenomenological Research

Purposive sampling – participants have knowledge of a phenomenon

Small sample size – until saturation achieved

Usually relaxed interviews – from 30-120 minutes.

Conducted in comfortable environment or natural environment of participants

Basic components of phenomenology
Basic components of phenomenology

  • Intuiting

  • Bracketing

  • Identifying the essence

  • Describing

    • Examines lived experiences or phenomenon

    • Essences or the most essential meaning for

    • Participants are co-researchers and co-create meaning

    • No causal inference

Sample questions
Sample questions

What are the lived experiences of being clinical educators?

What are women’s expectations and experiences of childbirth?

What is the lived experience of pain during childbirth?

What is the lived experience of adolescents living with depression?

Sample questions1
Sample questions

What is the lived experience of cardiac patients waiting for a heart transplant?

What is the lived experience of grieving the loss of a loved one?

What are the essential features of loneliness?

What is the lived experience of families with a child who has cancer?

Phenomenological research analysis

Phenomenological Research Analysis

Remember- the intention is not to generate theory or determine causality- but rather to describe and possibly understand the essence of the concept by giving voice to the human experience just as it is.

Phenomenological analysis a few things to know
Phenomenological Analysis- A few things to know

  • Phenomenologists are sometimes reluctant to focus or refer to steps (too scientific)


  • Only people who have lived the reality of the subject are legitimate sources of data- so always retrospective

  • Most usual data source is verbatim transcripts of interviews

  • Horizontalisation- All elements of data are initially deemed equal

Phenomenological analysis becoming one with the data yes parse terms
Phenomenological Analysis- Becoming one with the data....Yes, Parse Terms

  • Intuiting

  • Analyzing

  • Describing

Phenomenological analysis handout
Phenomenological Analysis - Handout

Multiple “methods’ devised-some common features simplified regarding data:

  • The division of text into units

  • The transformation of units into meanings (also called phenomenological concepts)

  • The tying together of transformed meanings/concepts to general description of the experience

Presentation of results
Presentation of Results

  • Themes/Essences/ Patterns/Common Concepts are identified.

  • Then a comprehensive description of the phenomena being considered is told- much like a story.

  • Often quotes are used. An understanding of a lived experience should occur for the reader.

    “Informational needs and the experiences of women with abnormal Papanicolaou smears”- next two slides.

Phenomenology qualitative research method

Dealing with stigma

Several participants indicated a burden of shame when

they learned that their abnormal Pap smear was a result of

an HPV infection:

Many years ago when my aunt had cervical cancer

people were very supportive but they had no idea that

it had anything to do with HPV. But now it’s different.

I feel like I won’t get that support because no one is

going to feel sorry for someone who got a sexually

transmitted disease and then later developed cervical

cancer because of it . it’s like it’s your fault . it’s

horribly embarrassing.

Social stigma was also characterized by an altered self-image

represented by feeling contaminated, feeling a sense

of anger and unfairness because they considered themselves

at low risk for acquiring a sexually transmitted

infection. The terms clean and dirty were used to describe

a physical self-concept associated with social stigma:

The first lady [healthcare provider] I went to made me

feel like I wanted to zip myself up in a Ziploc bag. All

the information I got was that it was super serious and

it’s a communicable disease like hepatitis or HIV.

Strategies to ensure rigor
Strategies to Ensure Rigor

Validity- to increase the trustworthiness of the interpretations of the date

  • Prolonged engagement with the data

  • Verification with the participants/source

  • Peer evaluations- regularly present for debriefing

Strategies to ensure rigor1
Strategies to Ensure Rigor

Reliability – to increase consistency of procedures/data generated.

  • Disclose personal orientation/context.

  • Intensive engagement with material and iterations between data & interpretation

  • Technical accuracy with recording/transcribing



Qualitative critique

Qualitative Critique

Nurses’ Experiences of Drug Administration Errors

Phenomenology qualitative research method

  • Purpose of research?

Appropriate qualitative approach
Appropriate Qualitative Approach

  • Was exploring, interpreting or obtaining a deeper understanding of a clinical issue the objective?

Settings participants
Settings & Participants

  • True Random Sample

  • Wide range of experiences within group

Data collection methods
Data Collection Methods

  • Enough information given about collection

  • Sensible & adequate way to address research question?

Data analysis method
Data Analysis Method

  • Systematic way of analyzing data?

  • Examples sought which contradict the majority?

Credibility importance
Credibility & Importance

  • Use common sense to determine if results are sensible & believable

  • Do results matter in practice?

  • Is actual data sited?

  • Are results independently & objectively verifiable & traceable?


  • How well does the analysis explain why people behave in the way they do?

  • How comprehensible would this explanation be to a thoughtful participant in the setting/

  • How well does the explanation cohere with what we already know?

Critique of phenomenology study

Critique of Phenomenology Study

Vulnerable and Strong


  • What is the study purpose?

    To describe the maternity care experiences of a sample of lesbian couples

  • Does the question lend itself to using phenomenology method?

    Each participant lived the experience

    Little is known

    Sensitive topic

Why did the researcher believe there was value in this study
Whydid the researcher believe there was value in this study?

  • To address the reported “lesbian baby boom”

  • All women feel powerful experiences of life, death, vulnerability and solitude during “maternity care”

  • Healthcare providers should see each woman as individuals, regardless of patient’s “culture”, be professional while providing empathy

  • Lesbian patients could benefit if providers had increased knowledge and ethical aspects of these specific encounters

Method data analysis
Method & Data Analysis

  • Did participants live the phenomenon in question and did the research incorporate his or her own beliefs?

  • Were the participants willing to describe their experiences? How?

  • What about the setting or researchers showed successful interviewing?

  • How did the researcher successfully interpret the data?

Method data analysis1
Method & Data Analysis

  • Validity

    • Specific opening question provided in the study

    • Open narrative and only interrupted if clarification needed

    • 3 phases of interpretation defined (Intuiting, Analyzing, Describing)

Method data analysis2
Method & Data Analysis

  • Reliability

    • Every participant was interviewed by researcher

    • Every participant was a lesbian mother

    • Interviews recorded and transcribed verbatim by the researcher

    • Documented that there was discussion with study supervisor re design and data

Method data analysis3
Method & Data Analysis

  • Rigour

    • Joint interviews provided shared and in-depth narrative

    • Focused on 3 phases as opposed to follow up

    • Only 2 participants revisited , no response recorded


  • Is the description simple in identifying themes?

  • Is there an exhaustive essential description

  • Can the reader see the central theme or phenomeneon

  • Did the researcher express alternatives?


  • Is the description simple in identifying themes?

    • YES, simply stated 3 main themes; being open, being exposed and being confirmed also presented in graph

  • Is there an exhaustive essential description

    • YES, then the author gives in-depth description of each theme

  • Can the reader see the central theme or phenomenon

    • YES in reading the excerpts and detailed description

  • Did the researcher express alternatives?

    • how provider contributes to lesbian maternity experience or caring by taking responsibility

Closing thought
Closing Thought

“Doing phenomenological research is a challenging,

exciting, and at times exhausting process. The

researcher is forced into a sometimes uncomfortable

self-awareness as she plums not only the meaning of

the phenomenon for participants but her own

responses. The final research product can provide a

real sense of satisfaction for the researcher, an often

expressed sense of meaningful contribution by the

research participants, and insight and understanding

for the reader.” Julie Donalek, 2004

The end
The End


Doo dooo do dodo


do doo do do


  • Dinkel, S. (2005). Phenomenology as a nursing research method. The Kansas Nurse, 80(5), 7-10.

  • Dowling, M. (2003). Hermeneutics: an exploration. Nurse Researcher, 11(4), 30-39.

  • Jasper, M. (1994). Issues in phenomenology for researchers of nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 19(2), 309-314.

  • Leininger, M. (1988). Caring: An essential human need. Proceedings of the Three National Caring Conferences (pp. 129-132). Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press.

  • Munhall, P.L. (2007). Nursing research: A qualitative perspective. (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

  • Parse, R. (2001). The phenomenological method. Qualitative inquiry: The path of sciencing. Boston, MA: National League for Nursing.

  • Priest, H. (2002). An approach to the phenomenological analysis of data. Nurse Researcher, 10(2), 50-63.

  • Schelbred A. & Nord, R. (2007) Nurses’ experiences of drug administration errors. Journal of Advanced Nursing 60(3), 317–324.

  • Spidsberg, B.D. (2007) Vulnerable and strong – lesbian women encountering maternity care. Journal of Advanced Nursing 60(5), 478–486.

  • Van derZalm, J.E. & Bergum, V. (2000). Hermeneutic-phenomenology: providing living knowledge for nursing practice. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 31(1), 211-218.