Phenomenological Approaches

A viewer centered theory with emphasis upon personal experience. This perspective stresses personal lived experience (i.e., embodied meaning). Meaning depends on bodily perceptions and personal interpretations.
A Phenomenology Interpretive Process: Set aside everyday way of seeing and experience as though seeing the situation for the first time (recognize & set aside observer's filters)
  • Receptiveness (Recognize that you have a strong personal response.)
  • Orienting & Bracketing (Document response and note that which is unique to this experience)
  • Grounding & Interpretative Analysis (List observations - next to it list interpretive meanings. This sets up a self-reflexive dialogue)
  • Synthesis (Look for shared interpretations within the context)
Select a specific theorist since they differ in emphasis. There are diverse strands of a phenomenological approach to research. Decide by studying several options such as: (a) Husserlian phenomenology--bracketing, reduction, etc.; (b) Merleau-Ponty (expanded on Husserl with a focus on lived bodily presence, the transcendental nature of perception, and intentionality); (c) Ilde's experimental phenomenology stresses the variety of ways of seeing optical patterns and illusions and his writings on postphenomenology emphasizes cultural-hermeneutic, textual dimensions; and (d) Iris Young (extends phenomenology into gender issues using displacement as its primary tool-referred to as variational phenomenology).
Since in a phenomenological approach to researching a naturally occuring situation, the mental and physical aspects of experience are viewed a single intentional event the literature review in such a study should include a discussion on different ways of knowing, naming, experiencing and conceptualizing so that your exposure to these differences will help you to see more in your qualitative study.
Consider positionality, center/margins or nonhierachical investigation. Discuss the multiplicity of positionality. Discuss the subject and object of your study. Is the subject of your study the same as the object of your study?
The phenomenological approach requires studying experiences from a first person researcher's perspective. Therefore your own beliefs in regards to the one phenomenon studied should be exposed in your study.
While phenomenology is an approach you will need to identify a theoretical frame as a guiding lens to focus your study. Will you do a synchronic structural account (i.e., Husserlian phenomenology) or will you look at what is absent that makes the present experience possible (i.e., Heidegger's phenomenological approach or Derrida's differance)? Is there a center to what you are looking at or multiple centers--what are they specifically? When you look for evidence of or lack of the phenomenon you are studying what filter or lens will you use to read, analyze, and interpret the data?

Berleant, A. (1985). Toward a phenomenological aesthetics of environment. In D. Ihde & H. Silverman (Eds.), Descriptions. New York: State University of New York Press.

Blach, D. (1997). (Course Topic: Phenomena, Phenomenology, and Phenomenography: Summary). The Graduate School of America [On-line]. Available:

Breen, R. (1999). Using phenomenography to explore student motivations and learning experiences in our disciplines. The 18th International Human Science Research Conference. [On-line]. Available:

Derrida, J. (1989). Of spirit: Heidegger and the Question. G. Benningtom & R. Bowlby (Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson (Trans.) New York: Haper & Row (original work published in 1927).

Idhe, D. (1993). Postphenomenology: Essays in postmodern context. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Kearlsey, G. (2000). Phenomenology. [On-line]. Available:

Moustakas, P. H., (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Paskow, A. (2004). The paradoxes of art: A phenomenological investigation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Pedagogik, N. (1995). A developmental or a 'pure' phenomenographic interest-are there methodological implications? Journal of Nordic Educational Research, 15(3), 144-155. [On-line]. Available:

Richardson, J. E. T. (1999). The concepts and methods of phenomenographic research. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), pp. 53-82.

Welton, D. (Ed.) (1999). The essential Husserl: Basic writings in transcendental phenonmenology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.