Saturday, September 10, 2016

Transcendental Phenomenology

Two approaches to phenomenology were highlighted by Cresswell in his book on Qualitiative Research Methodology (Five Qualitative Approaches to Inquiry): hermeneutic phenomenology (van Manen, 1990) and empirical, transcendental, or psychological phenomenology (Moustakas, 1994).

Transcendental phenomenology is based on principles identified by Husserl (1931) and was translated into a qualitative method by Moustakas (1994). 

All phenomenological approaches  seek to understand the life world or human experience as it is lived.  

Meaning is the core of transcendental phenomenology of science, a design for acquiring and collecting data that explicates the essences of human experience.

According to Van Manen,  phenomenology research is a dynamic interplay among six research activities. Researchers first turn to a human phenomenon, a concern, which seriously interests them (e.g., satisfaction, grief, motivation). They want to identify the essential themes involved in this phenomenon by listening to or reading about the lived experience of people who experienced the phenomenon. They write a description of the phenomenon, maintaining a strong relation to the topic of inquiry and balancing the parts of the writing to the whole. Phenomenology is not only a description, but it is also seen as an interpretive process in which the researcher makes an interpretation (i.e., the researcher “mediates” between different meanings) of the meaning of the lived experiences.

Moustakas’s (1994) transcendental or psychological phenomenology is focused less on the interpretations of the researcher and more on a description of the experiences of participants. In addition, Husserl’s concept of  epoche (or bracketing) is emphasized. The investigator has to set aside
his experience, as much as possible and has to take a fresh perspective toward the phenomenon under examination based on the description of the lived experience presented by the participant in the research project. The term “transcendental” means “in which everything is perceived freshly, as if for the first time.”  This state is seldom perfectly achieved but the researcher has to be aware of the need for bracketing and concentrate as much as possible on the participant's description.

Moustakas (1994), includes in the research process, identifying a phenomenon to study, bracketing out one’s experiences, and collecting data from several persons who have experienced the phenomenon. The researcher then analyzes the data to identify significant statements or quotes and combines the statements into themes. Then, the researcher provides a list of various experiences of the persons (what participants experienced), a structural description of their experiences (how they experienced it in terms of the conditions, situations, or context), and a description that explains the
overall essence of the experience.

Procedure for Conducting Transcendental Phenomenological Research

Moustakas’s (1994) approach

Moustakas (1994) has indicated the steps in phenomenological analysis using a  structured approach.
The major procedural steps in the process would be as follows:

• The researcher has to  determine if his research problem is best examined using transcendental  phenomenological approach.

The type of problem best suited for this form of research is one in which it is important to understand several individuals’ common or shared experiences of a phenomenon. The understanding of the common experiences will help in developing practices or policies to deal with the phenomenon, or it helps in developing a deeper understanding about the features of the phenomenon.

• A phenomenon of interest  is decided.

• To fully describe how participants view the phenomenon, researchers must bracket out, as much as possible, their own experiences.

• Data are collected from the individuals who have experienced the phenomenon. The data collection in phenomenological studies consists of indepth multiple interviews with participants. Polkinghorne
(1989) recommends that researchers interview from 5 to 25 individuals who have all experienced the phenomenon. Other forms of data, such as observations, journals, art, poetry, music, and other forms
of art related to the phenomenon are also collected. The interviews can be in the form of taped conversations, formally written responses,  and both can have accounts of vicarious experiences of drama, films, poetry, and novels.

• The data collection centres around two broad, general questions: What have you experienced in terms of the phenomenon? What contexts or situations have typically influenced or affected your experiences of the phenomenon? Other open-ended questions may also be asked based on the situation. But, the question on what and how focus attention on gathering data that will lead to a list of experiences (including their description) and a structural description of the experiences, and ultimately provide an understanding of the common experiences of the participants.

• Data analysis: Building on the data from the first and second research questions, data analysts go through the data (e.g., interview transcriptions) and highlight “significant statements,” sentences, or quotes that provide an understanding of how the participants experienced the phenomenon. Moustakas (1994) terms this step horizonalization. Next, the researcher develops clusters of meaning from these significant statements into themes.

• The themes are then used to write a description of what the participants experienced. Then the description of the context or setting that influenced how the participants experienced the phenomenon, called imaginative variation or structural description is developed from the cluster of data developed for the theme.

• From the structural descriptions, the researcher then writes a composite description that presents the “essence” of the phenomenon, called the essential, invariant structure (or essence). Primarily essence  is derived from the common experiences of the participants. It means that all experiences have an underlying structure for the phenomenon.

Illustrative Research Paper

Using Transcendental Phenomenology to Explore the “Ripple Effect” in a Leadership Mentoring Program
Tammy Moerer-Urdahl
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
John W. Creswell
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Phenomenological Research Methods
Clark Moustakas
SAGE, 27-Jul-1994 - Psychology - 192 pages
In this volume, Clark Moustakas clearly discusses the theoretical underpinnings of phenomenology, based on the work of Husserl and others, and takes the reader step-by-step through the process of conducting a phenomenological study. His concise guide provides numerous examples of successful phenomenological studies from a variety of fields including therapy, health care, victimology, psychology and gender studies. The book also includes form letters and other research tools to use in designing and conducting a study.
Google Book Link - No preview facility

Phenomenology: history, its methodological assumptions and application
Mohamed-Patel, Rahima
2002, MA thesis
(Many dissertations using phenomenology are in the above collection)

Husserl's books and articles on

A methodology for modern phenomenology

Husserl's philosophy

Lecture on phenomenology

Updated  13 September 2016,  27 August 2013

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