Research approaches related to phenomenology: negotiating a complex landscape
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Research approaches related to phenomenology: negotiating a complex landscape

Maura Dowling Lecturer and postgraduate co-ordinator, School of Nursing and Midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway
Adeline Cooney Deputy head and senior lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway

Aim To provide a comprehensive overview of the many research approaches related to phenomenology and their philosophical underpinnings.

Background Phenomenological research approaches are varied and often difficult to apply appropriately. Some researchers persist in labelling their studies as examples of Heideggerian or Husserlian phenomenology without fully understanding the implications of the underpinning philosophical assumptions.

Data sources Methodological sources related to phenomenology as a philosophy and phenomenology as a research approach are used to illustrate the range of phenomenological methods and their philosophical underpinnings.

Discussion The origins of phenomenology are the writings of Husserl and the advancement of his thoughts by Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Gadamer and Ricoeur. The importance of fully understanding a methodology and its philosophical underpinnings before using it, or claiming to use it, is emphasised. In addition, the variety of phenomenological research approaches that have evolved over the past 50 years are explored and placed in the context of their philosophical underpinnings.

Conclusion There is no single way to conduct a phenomenological study. There are many approaches from which researchers can choose. This has resulted in a range of labels and often in different descriptions for the same approach.

Implications for research/practice It is essential that researchers planning to use phenomenology are familiar with the many approaches available. This knowledge will help researchers choose the approaches that best suit the aims of their studies.

Nurse Researcher. 20, 2, 21-27. doi: 10.7748/nr2012.

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

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