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By Sister Olive Kajoina and Sara Mariam Emami

What is phenomenology?
Lichtman (2013) defines phenomenology as a type of qualitative research with
philosophical roots that emphasizes study of lived experiences.

According to Merriam (2002), phenomenology seeks to understand the

essence and underlying structure of phenomenon.

Addresses the questions about the common, every day experiences or events
believed to be important phenomena of our type, typical of a group of people, or
of contemporary interest.
What is the essence of this phenomena as experienced
by these people and what does it mean?

What is phenomenology? (cont.)

Investigates subjective phenomena
Truths about reality are embedded in peoples lived experiences
The purpose of this research method is to describe experiences as they are
lived to capture the lived experience

Addresses the meaning that things have in our experience:

the significance of objects, events, tools, the flow of time, the self, as these things arise and are
experienced in our life world

Studies the structure of various types of experiences ranging from

perception, thought, memory, imagination, emotion, desire, and linguistic

Characteristics of Phenomenology
Tends to withstand the acceptance of those circumstances which are
unobservable and is a grand system that rises in speculative thinking.

Opposes naturalism (e.g. objectivism & positivism).

Justifies knowledge with reference to awareness of a substance itself.
Inquiry ought to emphasize upon encountering as it is directed at
objectives as they are encountered.

Main research approaches

Descriptive describes the human experience.
Interpretive - is to explore in detail how participants are
making sense of their personal and social world.
Post-intentional - incorporates elements of post-structural
thinking into traditional methods.

Roots and Historical

Origins of phenomenology
Discipline central to the tradition of continental European
philosophy throughout the 20th century.
Fathered by Edmund Husserl, then further developed by
proponents Martin Heifegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul
Sartre. Franz Brentano, an Austrian philosopher steered Husserl
away from mathematics (Lichtman, 2013, p. 84).
Most famous classical phenomenologists, many different thinkers,
different concepts, methods, and results.

Schematic representation of Husserls view on

*Husserl defines Phenomenology as, an approach to
philosophy that takes the intuitive experience of a
phenomenon as its starting point & tries to extract from it the
essential features of experiences & the essence of what we


Edmund Husserl (cont.)

Edmund Husserl was drawn to philosophy by Franz Brentano
began to criticize the plight of empiricism (Spiegelberg, 1975).

Brentano believed that the object of inquiry should be human experience, not
necessarily a reflection of the physical realm but is in fact a realm in its own right
(Polkinghorne, 1983).
Rejected the reductionist tendencies of the natural science.
Husserl believed that natural scientific measurement is not a suitable vehicle to
understand the human being since man cannot be reduced to a measurable
object (Kruger, 1979).
To understand ones fellow man, one needs to look at the quality of experiences
and as such he placed great emphasis on consciousness.

Edmund Husserl Martin

Heidegger, who is considered one of the main contributors to the theory of

phenomenological psychology, was successful in merging existentialism and

Expanded on Husserls phenomenology to include not only consciousness but also
the individuals world in which he lives (Vonder Hoeven, 1965).
Being-in-the-world precedes all our thinking of the world (in Giorgi et al., 1983).
The notion of being -in -the world (for Heidegger) yielded an existential
reformulation of Husserls philosophy.
Pure consciousness was no longer the object of investigation.
Instead the focus shifted to a study of consciousness as it presents itself in the
lived experience of the individual (Valle & King, 1978).

Edmund Husserl Martin

Heidegger Jean Paul-Sartre
This discipline seeks to explain the essence or structure of human
experience through the use of descriptive research techniques (Valle &
King, 1978).
Sartre (Spiegelberg, 1965) expanded further on Husserls phenomenology
by introducing a reflexive and pre-reflexive consciousness.
Believed consciousness to be ahead of itself and as such capable of being
aware of itself.
Consciousness as an action where individuals can become aware of their
experiences and consciousness merely by reflecting consciousness (in
Spiegelberg, 1965).

Edmund Husserl Martin Heidegger

Jean Paul-Sartre Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Merleau-Ponty believed that individual perception has an original relationship to the world
since individuals do not actually perceive their world but instead, their world is what they
The individual co-exists with his world and this co-existence is made possible by
consciousness, and without human consciousness there is no world (Merleau-Ponty in
Luypen, 1966).
Sartre and Merleau-Ponty emphasized the importance of pre-conceptual structures that are
the origins of experience (Polkinghorne, 1989).
Maintained the foundational concepts of Husserlian; reflected on structure of consciousness
that consists of levels of transactions. Levels of transactions meaningful human
experiences making sense of the human experience.

Other philosophers
Emmanuel Levinas studied Husserl and developed a philosophy of ethics
Argued Husserls transcendental ego was too idealistic

Jacques Derrida there is no single meaning to language or text

Claude Lvi-Strausss structural model (1968) looks below the surface of culture
to identify the mental structures of human thoughts that underlie all cultures
(Lichtman, 2013, p. 84).
Lvi-Strauss has been the most influential in the past 20 years and is more of a
contemporary voice regarding influences of phenomenology
Alfred Schtz, more than any other phenomenologist, attempted to relate the
thought of Edmund Husserl to the social world and the social sciences.

Types of Phenomenology
Emphasizes the search for universal essence of various sorts of matters (e.g. human actions,
motives, and selves)
This procedure involves suspending acceptance of the pre given position of conscious life as
something that exist in the world & is carried out in order to obtain an ultimate inter subjective
grounding for the world & the positive sciences of it (e.g., social beliefs, positions & practices)
The study is concerned with topics such as actions, conflicts, desires, finitude, oppression &
Lived experiences are tools for better understanding the social, cultural, political or historical
context in which those experiences occur. Focuses on meaning & interpretation : how socially &
historically conditioned individuals interpret their world within a given context

Existential Phenomenology
Heideggers existential phenomenology, being-in-the-world precedes all

our thinking of the world and as such man as being here (existing).
The person is seen as having no existence apart from the world and the
world any existence apart from the person.
It is through the world that the meaning of an individuals existence
emerges for him and for society (Spiegelberg, 1965).
In emphasizing the union of consciousness and the environment, the
existential -phenomenological approach is concerned with an
investigation of how human beings are in-the-world (Valle et al., 1989).
Existential-phenomenological approach is in fact challenging the notion
of objectivity and pure constituting consciousness (Luypen, 1966).
The existential-phenomenological approach emphasizes a total,
indissoluble unity or interrelationship of the individual and his/her world
(Valle et al., 1989).

Hermeneutic Phenomenology
Hermeneutics is an example of the interpretive method of inquiry.
The interpretive method allows the reader to experience an instant
recognition of the phenomenon, even when the reader is not a

The research is not context- bound and its theoretical abstraction

allows for it to be accessible and understood by the reader
(Polkinghorne, 1989).

Examining ones own experience, we should examine experiences

of life by examining them through the course of history.

Heidegger included history into phenomenology and described the

world as a shared world, one that is created and shared in the form
of language. there is no escape from the historical foundation of
our understanding because it serves as an ontological base for our
being-in-the-world (Polkinghorne, 1989).

Hermeneutic theory also posits that the human realm can never be
fully understood and known since it is ever evolving.

Types of Phenomenology (cont.)

Classical/realistic/ transcendental phenomenology (Husserl)
Husserl is the father of phenomenology (Lichtman, 2013, p. 84)

Existential Phenomenology (Jean Paul-Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Maurice

Merleau-Ponty, Clark Moustakas)

Hermeneutic Phenomenology (Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur

Data Collection

Interviews, observations, and others





Phenomenological Data Analysis

Phenomenological studies are flexible and multi-directional

Bracketing- set aside their experiences to take a fresh perspective

toward the phenomenon

Reduction- the process of examining data for units of meaning as
experienced and described by participants
Horizontalization-the process assigning equal weights to significant
statements and clustering them into themes
Imaginative variation-the process of examining data from differing
perspectives being cognizant of the underlying themes and identifying
them as textual descriptions
Final step-construct a synthesis of textural and structural descriptions
of the phenomenon

Analysis summary

Analyst go through the data

Highlight significant statements, sentences, and quotes
Clustering of significant statements to form themes
Statements and themes are used to write descriptions of (1) what
participants experienced called textural description (2) the
context or setting that influenced how the participant experienced
the phenomenon called structural description or imaginative
The combination of textural and structural descriptions conveys
and over all essence of the experience

Presenting a Research Project

The final report starts with an introduction which :
describes what the project is about and the rational of the study
also describes the rationale for using the phenomenological approach and discusses the

stages in the process.

Lit review always short Phenomenenology is more about the lived experiences than the
The report is cognizant of the fact that during analysis issues may arise that were not
anticipated and if that happens those issues will be included in the discussion section
It provides a step-by step guide to the method used including details of participants, data
collection, and the process of analysis
The discussion and conclusion may point towards applications in practice and provide
suggestions for future research

How can this tradition be used

Phenomenology- has been used to study the lived experiences of
those who experienced the phenomenon
1. Identify a shared experience of a phenomenon-topic of
interest- something you want to explore ( teaching, marriage,
sickness, or natural disasters like a tornado or an earthquake)
2. Identify the people that have lived that experience
3. Bracketing researchers bias and interpretation
4. Data collection

Procedural steps
Recommended sample size from 5-25 participants
Questioning: Two essential questions
what have you experienced in terms of the phenomenon?
What context or situations have typically influenced your
experience/ affected your perception of the phenomenon
Data analysis: bracketing, reduction, horizonitalization,

Recap of how to use this

Identify the shared experience of the phenomenon
Identifying people who live the experienced the

Research questions
Data collection
Data analysis

Class Activity
STATE the Shared
experience of a
(topic of interest)

Provide the RESEARCH

QUESTION of the study

Who are the

(those who
experienced the

What is the
Primary method

(example) Online
(the lived experience
of online teaching)

What concepts do online

educators think are important
in teaching online?

Educators who taught

online classes


Article # 1
Article # 2
Article # 3



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