Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 31 May 2008

Analyzing and Writing Phenomenological Research

There is so much to writing phenomenology and I’m a true novice. I keep gravitating to writing the “how” and “why” instead of the “what” of the experience. The interview narratives are rich and poetic. There’s almost no need to add much of my own text, yet phenomenology demands that I discover the themes or structure of the experience and add my interpretation of it all. Max Van Manen says “themes are the stars of the universes of meaning we live through” (Researching Lived Experience, p. 90) – I have post-it notes on my desk reminding me to “seek meaning” and “seek multi-layered meaning.”

Van Manen defines phenomenology as “the systematic attempt to uncover and describe the structures, the internal meaning structures, of lived experience.” Since consciousness is the way in which we have access to our lifeworld, phenomenology is the study of our consciousness of our lifeworld. My particular research project is about consciousness states through meditation experience. There are multiple circles or spirals of inquiry within my project.

I have now spent many hours reading and re-reading the interview transcription texts. I have also listened to the digital recordings of the interviews in a meditative state to allow meaning to emerge. I have written 30 pages already, winnowing the huge amount of material down into five major themes.

But I’m still not done with my paper. My intent was to understand the experiences during and after meditation and then compare them with several consciousness theories. This part has become tedious. I want to turn in my paper and get a grade for completing my course, but I want to do a good job understanding and applying these theories. OK – I’m whining – but some of the material I’m using is very dense and I hadn’t covered it during my previous overview reading work.

My paper covers theories by Hofstadter and Sri Aurobindo, previously covered in this blog. And I’m including references to the works of Jenny Wade; Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rich; and Ken Wilber.



  1. Dorianne, I just love your blog. It is both fascinating and helpful to me as I work on my 702 paper. Jung wrote quite a bit on phenomenology. I haven’t been planning to read this for this paper, but now I’m considering it.

    BTW, the current New Yorker Magazine has really great articles. And the writing is always so good, I feel nourished reading just about anything, whether or not I’m “interested” in the topic.

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