Phenomenology The “lived” experience What we will cover

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Phenomenology The “lived” experience

What we will cover

Phenomenology as a Philosophy

Transcendental Phenomenology Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)

  • Sprouted from post WWII positivism. Phenomenology rejects positivism.

  • This can be achieved through reduction (Epoché)

  • “transcend” the experience to discover meaning.

Transcendental (descriptive) Phenomenology

  • Within the range of unique experiences, there is a larger, transcending, essential and unvarying quality of a phenomenon…that can be discovered!

Hermeneutic (interpretive) Phenomenology

  • Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

  • Hans-George Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur

  • Disagrees with Husserl’s epoche.

  • An effort to “get beneath” the subjective experience and find the genuine, objective nature of things.

  • Focuses on the relationship between the event and the person, and how meaning is formed in that relationship.

  • Leads to endless possibilities and endless interpretations.

  • Our relationship with things is not the object/subject relationship.

Existential Phenomenology

  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

  • Rejects Husserl’s belief of transcendance and embraces the lived experience, the concrete.

  • Aim is not to find a common theme, but the goal is to "concentrated upon re-achieving a direct and primitive contact with the world.“

  • Describes everyday experience as it is perceived by the consciousness of individuals.

  • This “new” phenomenology rejects the historical division between the inquirer and the social world (subject/object)

  • This movement marked a return to studying the direct, lived experience of the “field worker” as a source of knowledge about the world.

Phenomenology as a Methodology two camps-a resurgence in the 1970s


  • Believe it is possible to suspend personal opinion to arrive at a single, essential, descriptive presentation of a phenomena

  • Think that if there is more than one reality, that leaves doubt, ignorance, and a lack of clarity.

  • Husserl followers

  • (Rapport 2006)

Phenomenology…as a Methodology

  • …is focused on the subjective experience of individuals or groups.

  • …is personal. The world as experienced by the individual, not relationships between people.

  • …uses small, purposive samples of 3-10 participants that have experienced the phenomenon.

  • …attempts to describe accurately a phenomenon from the person’s perspective.

Phenomenology as a Methodology

  • …is where art and science collide? The interpretation of lived experience and daily life. Understanding meaning from the world around us.

  • …assumes that “There is a structure and essence to shared experiences that can be narrated” (Marshall 2006 p. 104)

  • …assumes that the only things we can know, are those that are directly observable and experienced. The only reality we can know is the one we directly experience.


  • REJECT scientific realism (objects exist independently of our knowledge of their existence).

  • DISAGREE that the empirical sciences are better methods to describe the features of the world.

  • DESCRIBE the ordinary, conscious experience of things.

  • OPPOSE the acceptance of unobservable things.

  • REJECT naturalism and positivism.

  • BELIEVE objects in the natural world, cultural world, and abstract objects (like numbers and consciousness) can be made evident and thus known.

  • RECOGNIZE the role of description prior to explanation by means of causes, purposes, or grounds.

  • DEBATE whether Husserl’s transcendental epoche and reduction is useful or even possible.

  • STUDY the “life-world” (the taken-for-granted pattern of everyday living).


Strengths of phenomenology

  • Efficient and Economical (only in terms of data generation or maybe not at all. . .)

  • Direct Interaction with Participants

      • Allows the researcher to ask for clarification and to ask immediate follow-up/probing questions
      • Allows the researcher to observe nonverbal responses which can be supportive or contradictory to the verbal responses
  • Data is in the participants’ own words

More Strengths

  • Synergy: participants react to and build upon the responses of other participants.

  • Flexible research tool

      • Applicable to a wide range of settings and individuals.
  • Results are easy to understand (in terms of people’s direct opinions and statements)

          • Marvin Farber 1966

Weakness of phenomenology

  • Findings are difficult to generalize to a larger population

      • Small number of participants who are often attained in a convenient manner
      • Individual responses are not always independent of one another
      • Dominant or opinionated members may overshadow the thoughts of the other group members (only if group interviews are performed).
  • Data is often difficult to analyze and summarize.

  • Researcher may give too much credit to the results (immediacy of a personal opinion)

  • Requires a quality moderator

  • It is a “soft science” at best, really it is not science, it is more like philosophy and religion (Charles Harris, 2006)

  • Critics of phenomenology think you cannot describe the unique experiences AND make generalizations about the experiences at the same time.

  • Marvin Farber 1966

Disciplines that use Phenomenology

  • Nursing

  • Education

  • Psychology

  • Social Sciences

  • Urban Planning

  • Art

  • Pretty much anything

  • The Experience of Motor Disability

  • A Young Child’s Sense of Time and the Clock

  • Awaiting the Diagnosis

  • The Stillness of a Secret Place

  • Nature Experience of 8-12 year old Children

  • Possibilities of the Father Role

  • The Nature of at Home-ness

  • Phenomenological Research Titles

  • Loneliness

  • A Lived Experience of Making a Drawing: Drawing Amy

  • Mathematics Teaching: Moving from Telling to Listening

  • Being Nostalgic Naming our Child

  • Women’s Anxious Pursuit of Attractive Appearance



Understanding the Decision Making Process

  • Purpose of the Study

  • Description of the Process

  • Lessons learned

  • Applications of the study


  • Understanding decision making factors of climbing tourist to Nepal.

  • Describe experience upon a peak to climb.

Description of the process

  • Research pre-knowledge

  • Factors for decisions

    • Elevation of mountain
    • Pioneering opportunities
  • Phase 1

    • Collect contact information.
    • Participants selection
    • Coordinate meetings in Katmandu

Phase 2:

  • Phase 2:

    • In-depth, face-to-face interview.
    • Capture the content meaning.
    • Semi-structured Interview
      • General frame-setting questions
      • Probing questions
    • Point theoretical saturation
    • Rich Text is generated

Phase 3:

  • Phase 3:

    • Cluster themes
    • Considerations coded analyzed
    • Develop models
    • Compare with theoretical literature
    • Member check

Applications of the Study

  • Enhance Conservation Planning

  • Minimize social impacts


Interview Groups

  • Interviewer

    • Jess
    • Katie
    • Keith
    • Jon
    • Jill
    • Ardis
    • Eleonora
    • Craig
    • Alexis

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