A Phenomenological Research
Thomas Groenewald, Professional Educational Services, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa
Abstract: This article distills the core principles of a phenomenological research design and, by means of a specific study, illustrates the phenomenological methodology. After a brief overview of the developments of phenomenology, the research paradigm of the specific study follows. Thereafter the location of the data, the data-gathering the data-storage methods are explained. Unstructured in-depth phenomenological interviews supplemented by memoing, essays by participants, a focus group discussion and field notes were used. The data explicitation, by means of a simplified version of Hycner’s (1999) process, is further explained. The article finally contains commentary about the validity and truthfulness measures, as well as a synopsis of the findings of the study.
Keywords: phenomenology, methodology, Husserl
Groenewald, T. (2004). A phenomenological research design illustrated. International Journal of Qualitative Methods.
Novice researchers are often overwhelmed by the plethora of research methodologies, making the selection of an appropriate research design for a particular study difficult. The aim of this article is to illustrate to researchers, both novice and experienced but with little experience in phenomenology, a thorough design, complete with an explication of how it was implemented. Following seven years of study of research methodology (including periods of formal study, as well as the attendance of short courses and self study) I came to the conclusion that one needs a grasp of a vast range of research methodologies in order to select the most appropriate design, or combination of designs, most suitable for a particular study. One further needs to make a thorough study of the methodology(ies) chosen, to execute good research practice. Often, authors contradict one another, which requires that researchers need to exercise well informed choices, make their choice known and substantiate it. I wanted to do research regarding an aspect of teaching and learning practice, namely cooperative education, which, based on my experience and literature review, I found to be often misunderstood or poorly practised. Needing a suitable explorative research design that would prevent or restrict my own biases, after some investigation I chose phenomenology. Having selected a suitable research design, I found that the Rand Afrikaans University library held a collection in excess of 250 titles on phenomenology. Most of the titles are shelved under philosophy and the remainder with psychology, literature/languages, education and sociology. However, I experienced major difficulty in finding literature that provides guidelines on Groenewald
PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH DESIGN 3
International Journal of Qualitative Methods 3 (1) April, 2004 conducting phenomenological research. Therefore, although I do not regard this article authoritative, I offer it as a guide to spare other researchers some agony. This article includes a briefly explanation of phenomenology as research paradigm, followed by an exposition of the research design as it unfolded for a particular study (Groenewald, 2003). This includes the location of the research participants, the data-gathering and data-storage methods used, and the explicitation of the data. An informed consent agreement and an example of the various explicitation phases of one of the interviews are further included. Because the aim of the article is to illustrate a phenomenological study, the literature review of the actual study is not included and only a synopsis of the findings is given. An overview of phenomenology follows.
What is phenomenology?
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