Aim To explore two contrasting methods of phenomenographic data analysis.
Background Phenomenography is a still-uncommon but increasingly used methodology based on qualitative interviews that allows experiences to be categorised and put into a descriptive structure for use in developing educational interventions. There are two different approaches in the literature to analysing data: the Marton and Åkerlind methods.
Data sources A doctoral research project investigating the role of information literacy in evidence-based practice in nursing.
Review methods The phenomenographic study involves open-ended interviews in which participants are asked to describe their ‘life-world’ where the phenomenon is experienced, covering the contexts in which it is experienced and how it is experienced. The researcher attempts to develop statements from the interview transcripts that describe representative ways of experiencing the phenomenon in the form of ‘categories of description’. A category of description represents a qualitatively different way of experiencing a phenomenon.
Discussion This article discusses the reasons for adopting phenomenography, phenomenography’s epistemological assumptions, and the strengths and weaknesses of the two different data-analysis methods.
Conclusion Phenomenography’s strength is its ability to develop logical structures that give a picture of the experience of a phenomenon while being able to read into the structure as much of the complexity of that experience as is consciously and practically possible.
Implications for practice/research One method, described as the ‘Åkerlind’ method, emerged as the appropriate method for phenomenographic studies in nursing.