What does a phenomenological psychological dissertation method chapter look like?

Oct 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Human Science

Here’s an example of a phenomenological dissertation method chapter.

This paper is the methodology section of Broomé’s doctoral dissertation that outlines the Descriptive Phenomenological Psychological Method of research as taught by Amedeo P. Giorgi. Giorgi (2009) based his method on Husserl’s descriptive phenomenological philosophy as an alternative epistemology for human science research. This method section references Giorgi’s work and the phenomenological tradition of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and others. Each step of Giorgi’s (2009) modified Husserlian method is described and explained in the context of doing psychological research on the lived-experience of the participants in the dissertation research. The steps are: (1) assume the phenomenological attitude, (2) read entire written account for a sense of the whole, (3) delineate meaning units, (4) transform the meaning units into psychologically sensitive statements of their lived-meanings, and (5) synthesize a general psychological structure of the experience base on the constituents of the experience. It is the first-person psychological perspective that is sought so that an empathetic position can be adopted by the end-user of the research.

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10 Comments to “What does a phenomenological psychological dissertation method chapter look like?”

  1. Is it possible to find two structures on the same phenomenon? or Should not the analysis of the data reveal a single structure?

    • Marc Applebaum says:

      Yes absolutely it is possible to find more than one structure. Since you are interviewing multiple people you may find that “the same” phenomenon, so to speak, is lived in radically different ways psychologically. For example if you were doing a psychological study of the lived experience of losing a loved one you might find that your research participants live that experience in such different ways that they deserve to be written up in multiple structures. That too would be a legitimate research finding of course–our aim is to remain loyal to the experiences as they are lived not to reduce them to a single essence (here I am using the word “reduce” in a non-phenomenological sense!). Thank you for your question!

  2. Brandon Conlon says:

    I’m curious about how the descriptive phenomenological method developed by Giorgi might be combined with ethnographic field work. I’ve read Ilja Maso’s article on phenomenology and ethnography in the Handbook of Ethnography (Atkinson et al., 2001), where he cites Giorgi, but have not been able to find published examples of research combining the two methods. Are you aware of such research? Can you point me to some published examples?

    I’m considering doing a study of the way students experience getting a higher education, and would like to use Giorgi’s method. At the same time, I am interested in how the university is facilitating the students’ awareness of the university’s stated educational mission, and thought I would use ethnographic description to establish this side of the study.

    • Marc Applebaum says:

      Alessandro Duranti wrote an excellent article titled “Husserl, Intersubjectivity, and Anthropology” in the journal Anthropological Theory (2010). Though I don’t have a specific research article to point you toward that’s an application of this method, there is no reason you might not accompany a descriptive analysis with an ethnographic account of the context within which the phenomenon is lived. In fact i’d argue that a descriptive study that doesn’t take the “situatedness” of the phenomenon seriously risks being critiqued as naive–what I mean by situatedness is not that a phenomenon is “determined” by culture, context, history, language, et cetera, but rather that it is lived in a way that’s embedded in a context that matters a great deal, and if we neglect that then we’re prone to naively universalize. In fact from a Husserlian perspective one could say that neglecting these dimensions is a failure to adequately exercise imaginative variation and bracketing!

  3. Brandon Conlon says:

    Thanks, Marc! This is very helpful indeed. I found Duranti (2010) and have read it.

    How is “situatedness” usually accounted for in descriptive phenomenological studies?

    In my own study, I was hoping to describe what the university is overtly doing to project its values and mission. I then planned to look for evidence in the phenomenological description of a number of students that demonstrated convergence or divergence with the overt values and mission of the organization. This would be bracketed in the phenomenological interviews, of course, partly in order not to prejudice the direction the student descriptions take.

    • Marc Applebaum says:

      Different descriptive phenomenologists might address “situatedness” differently, but for my part, I think the context within which the phenomenon is given ought to be written about by the researcher, the–so to speak–hermeneutic context in which the phenomenon is lived. What are the shared understandings that relate to this phenomenon? How does culture or subculture, history, or language impact this, if it does? This is just a beginning of accounting in a broad way for the context in which the participants’ narratives are given as already-meaningful, because they’re given to a community (large or small) within which the contents of the narrative already have meaning.

      • Brandon Conlon says:

        Hi Marc,

        I just wanted to take the time to thank you for your response above, which has been enormously helpful in my research process using Giorgi’s (2009) descriptive method. I have just begun collecting interview data with the research participants in my study, a highly engrossing process.

        Thank you to you and your colleagues for this excellent blog site!

        All best,


  4. VideoPortal says:

    An important aspect of the descriptive phenomenological method in psychology is the way by which it distinguishes itself from those approaches that are strictly interpretive.

  5. Alcia says:

    I’m trying to find out if Giorgi’s Descriptive Phenomenological Method allows for the use of reflective journals to collect data on the lived experience. Also, in using reflective journals, how would one truly obtain the essence of the phenomenon (assume the phenomenological attitude) without using prompts to gather the participants’ description? Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    • Marc Applebaum says:

      I’d need to hear more about how you propose to conduct research, to answer your question. Do you mean asking the research participants to journal about their experiences? Do you mean instead that the researcher would capture her/his thoughts in a journal, while investigating other peoples’ lived-experiences? About your question re the essence of the phenomenon, have you read descriptive phenomenological writing (for example, Giorgi, Wertz, Englander) where they describe how data is analyzed?