Aim To discuss the methodological and epistemological challenges experienced when conducting a longitudinal interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) of patients’ experiences of chronic low back pain (CLBP).
Background The author draws on experiences of managing interpretive analysis while undertaking an IPA of patients with CLBP for more than two years.
Data sources Semi-structured interviews were conducted at three points in time from a purposeful sample of ten patients.
Review method There was a recognition that prolonged contact between researcher and participant increases the challenges related to minimising bias and managing researcher emotionality and empathy.
Discussion Two main challenges are discussed: the usefulness of ‘bracketing’ in longitudinal qualitative research and maintaining an inductive approach; and consideration of the emotionality of interviewing and the role of empathy.
Conclusion A longitudinal design adds potential analytical pitfalls, including a priori theorising and emotional involvement. Interpretative and emotional safeguarding included reflection and reflexivity, an iterative approach and the role of phenomenological strategies such as the hermeneutic circle. The efficacy of these is discussed, along with the ambiguity surrounding concepts such as bracketing.
Implications for research/practice Although the topics discussed relate specifically to this methodology and a particular research project sample, they are applicable to qualitative research designs in similar populations.