Qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach which is conducted through critical, self-reflexive enquiry where the researcher should be constantly asking questions about his role in the research process. Qualitative research design includes interviews, case studies, participant observation, action research, historical research, philosophical research, of which phenomenological research, an approach to collect qualitative data.
This research method distinguishes itself from other research designs as it aims to provide a live experience despite quantifying the research. Phenomenology study inherits the experience from the participant’s perspective, as a result, no formulation of the hypothesis is required to carry on the process of data collection. The phenomenological method used in epistemology, where data and information can be obtained only by emphasising personal experiences and comprehension.
Phenomenology uses multi-methods such as focus group meetings, participant observation, interviews, conversations, analysis of diaries and other personal texts. To solve the purpose, the questionnaire used is more unstructured and open-ended to explore the experiences of the respondents. Simply put, phenomenology emphasises subjectivity aiming to collect the data in detail using more unstructured questions.
Generally, such research methodology is used in finding out an individual’s experiences, perceptions from their perspectives and in the research studies related to psychology & medical.
Few research examples employing phenomenological research are as follows:
- Experiences of Higher Education Students with Disabilities
- Studying the green flash that sometimes happens just after sunset or just before sunrise
- Experiences of parents of young children suffering from autism receiving special education services
- A phenomenological study on the resilience of old age people from chronic disease
Phenomenology does not focus on measurements or explanations but searches for the meaning or essence of an experience. Phenomenology research is different in that the researcher is often participatory and the other participants are co-researchers in many cases. This research emphasises the study as a holistic approach rather than considering into parts.
Typically, a phenomenological research study follows the four steps, of which includes:
- Bracketing – It is the process to keep a check on any preconceived beliefs or opinions about the phenomenon being researched.
- Intuition – In this step the researcher gets fully involved in the study but simultaneously considers the phenomenon conceived by others.
- Analysis – Here the researcher uses processes such as coding and categorising to organise the data.
- Description – This process involves utilisation of cognition regarding data collection and after understanding the phenomenon communicates it to others.
Talking about the strengths of phenomenological research, it provides an in-depth understanding of the themes and meanings of experience that emerge from the data and provides sensible meaning to lived experience. Such type of study contributes to the development of changes in policies or development of new theories. But many a time, researcher may not be able to express the experiences to its full context due to different barriers such as age, language, cognition, motivation, embarrassment and other factors.
Sometimes the researcher may be biased which is difficult to determine. Also, the results may not be statistically reliable even if the large sample size is taken and may not produce results which may be generalised over the whole population.
The darker side of this research is that the policymakers do not provide much credibility to it as the subjectivity of the data may lead to difficulty in establishing reliability and validity.