Some Similarities and Differences among Phenomenological and Other Methods of Psychological Qualitative Research

By Osborne, John W. | Canadian Psychology, April 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Some Similarities and Differences among Phenomenological and Other Methods of Psychological Qualitative Research

Osborne, John W., Canadian Psychology

Abstract This paper compares the research method of phenomenological psychology to other qualitative research methods such as ethnography, participant observation, grounded theory, dramaturgical interviewing and content analysis. An attempt is made to identify similarities and differences. As a prelude, the major metatheories with which they are associated (phenomenology and symbolic interactionism) and the related differences between natural science and human science are discussed.

Interest in qualitative research methodology appears to have gathered momentum over the last decade (e.g., Rist, 1980). One of the recurrent themes in the discussion of qualitative methods has been the question of whether quantitative and qualitative methods are compatible. Opinion has been divided. Gibbs (1979) made a plea for complementarity of subjectivist and objectivist methods in psychology. Mahrer (1988) has advocated discovery oriented research in the field of psychotherapy, while Sperry (1988) has suggested an integration of positivistic and phenomenological thought to form a more naturalistic approach to the study of brain and consciousness.

The split between those who support and those who do not support complementarity of quantitative and qualitative methodology has also occurred in the field of educational research. For example, Howe (1985, 1988) and Firestone (1987) have argued for compatibility, while Smith (1983) and Smith and Heshusius (1986) have argued for incompatibility.

The early eighties marked the growth of an interest in qualitative methodology which has paralleled the growing disenchantment with traditional logical - empirical research methods. The hegemony of natural science type research methods has been increasingly challenged by descriptive and hermeneutically oriented methods (e.g., Giorgi, 1986; Packer, 1985; Palmer, 1969; Polkinghorne, 1983; Rommetveit, 1987). Contextualism (Rosnow & Georgoudi, 1986), social constructionism (Gergen, 1985) and deconstructionism (Derrida, 1977) have also challenged the objectivity of traditional natural science methodology by emphasizing the socially derived foundationalisms upon which methods are based.

There seems little doubt that qualitative methodology has come out of the closet in the field of the human sciences. Although quantitative methodological hegemony continues, the degree of coexistence and complementaritybetween quantitative and qualitative research methods seems to be increasing. Nonetheless, there are those who, while seeing symptoms of the inadequacy of standard quantitative methodological practice, see possible cures and solutions in the same metatheoretical terms (e.g., Aiken, West, Sechrest & Reno, 1990). Sarbin (1976) has noted the difficulty that psychologists trained in logical - empirical traditions have in breaking their reliance on habitual methods.

The Transition from Quantitative to Qualitative Methodology

Those researchers who are willing to explore qualitative methods face several difficulties. Usually they have been trained in the quantitative tradition and find the transition to qualitative research methods requires a major shift in world - view. The metatheories underlying such methods often differ from the logical - empirical base of natural science (Jacob, 1987). As will be seen later, some aspects of the qualitative methods associated with symbolic interactionism follow normative natural science practice (e.g., the Iowa school of ethnography) while other qualitative methods use a mixture of natural and human science approaches to research (e.g., the Chicago School of ethnography). Qualitative research methods such as phenomenology and the phenomenological aspects of ethnography, participant observation and grounded theory are based on metatheories that are associated with a human science approach to psychology (see Giorgi, 1970). The emphasis is upon discovery, description and meaning rather than the traditional natural science criteria of prediction, control and measurement.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Some Similarities and Differences among Phenomenological and Other Methods of Psychological Qualitative Research


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?