Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 25 April 2008

Conducting Phenomenological Research

I have learned so much during this research project. I highly recommend that PhD students engage in their own research early on in their studies. It makes the process so much clearer.

According to Merriam Webster, phenomenology is:

1: the study of the development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to or a part of philosophy or 2: a philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence

In simpler words, it’s about understanding the structure of lived experience.

My research is a phenomenological study of human consciousness states as experienced through meditation. So my project is the study of the self-awareness of human consciousness.

I have interviewed five of six participants so far. I recorded the interviews using a digital voice recorder, which worked very well. The recorder came with software, which I used to translate the recording to .WAV format. I sent the .WAV files off to a transcriptionist, who sent back MS Word documents of the interview transcripts.

This is what I learned about capturing narrative in order to study the experiential phenomenon of meditation:

  • Keep the questions open-ended so the participant is free to expand their narrative
  • Don’t respond with my own commentary or insights (that comes later during the analysis)
  • Keep steering the interview toward the experience of the phenomena (what was it like? how did you feel? what did you hear, see, taste, smell?)

I’m now starting to analyze the narratives. More on the next post.



  1. Hi!
    I am Rossi Giulia, 28 years old from Italy. I am graduated in Clinical Psychology at Padua University, Italy, with a thesis on phenomenological perception of altherity and authenticity in mental desease, 110 summa cum laude. I am very interested in research and studying this perspective. Do you know some study possibilities such as a phd programe in you country?
    Please, let me know something!
    Thank you for all,
    Giulia Rossi

  2. Good day! How do you deal with the issue of trustworthiness of the phenomenological study? Can you tell me of a research work that discusses this in more details? Thank you.

  3. I’m trying to learn more about this method as I’m taking a qualitative research class in my EdD in Counselor Education & Supervision, but nothing about the methods and how to conduct studies in the different traditions was really presented so I’m struggling to find resources to help me. This is the first time qualitative research methods have really been presented so it is completely different than quantitative methods which were focused on. Do you have any guidance?

    • This may be too late of a response for your course, but I found several good resources on qualitative research:

      Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2003). The landscape of qualitative research : theories and issues (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

      Denzin, N. K. L. Y. S. (2003). Strategies of qualitative inquiry, Retrieved from WorldCat Strategies of qualitative inquiry / Norman K Denzin; Yvonna S Lincoln 2003 2nd ed.

      Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

      Gubrium, J. F., & Holstein, J. A. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of interview research : context & method. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

      Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qulaitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

      Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design : qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches (2nd ed.). London: SAGE.

      Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.

  4. Hey your research study seems very interesting please tell me more about your developments. I am pursuing a MA in Research Methods and I am aiming to address the following: How do mental health nurses talk and feel about self awareness? I will be using phenomenological interviewing which I feel would be the most effective method. This matter will be taken further when I do a phd.

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