Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Extension of Colaizzi's Method of Phenomenological Enquiry

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Extension of Colaizzi's Method of Phenomenological Enquiry

Article excerpt


Phenomenology is a twentieth century philosophical movement dedicated to explicating the construction of phenomena as they present themselves to consciousness - the way in which objects appear to human awareness in the natural attitude (Sokolowski, 2000). The aim of this article is to present a description of the processes involved in enhancing the meaning(s) of resilience in adult patients who have experienced mental disorders by extending Colaizzi's (1978a) method of phenomenological analysis by including symbolic representations as an additional information source. The authors propose the benefit of extending Colaizzi's method of descriptive enquiry through the inclusion of symbolic representations offers an opportunity for the researcher to gain a deeper understanding of the individuals intended meaning that is not accessible through linguistic text alone.


The purpose of phenomenology as a method of enquiry is to discover patterns or structures of phenomena as lived within the fabric of everyday life (Giorgi, 1985; Husserl, 1965; Merleau-Ponty, 1956; Parse, 2001). Phenomenology suggests Sokolowski (2000) is concerned with the world of human beings where truth abides, a science directed toward manifestation and disclosure, 'a rigorous, explicit, self-conscious enterprise' (p. 53).

It is advocated by qualitative researchers that the phenomenological method of enquiry is congruent with the ideals of the health sciences, where humanistic understanding is valued and knowledge of a person's unique experience is accessible through dialogue (Husserl, 1965; Kim & Kollak, 2005; Merleau-Ponty, 1956; Solomon, 2001). The focus on human experience emanates from the human sciences (Dilthey, 1976; Foucault, 1994; Giorgi, 1992; Parse & Rizzo-Parse, 1998; Polkinghorne, 1988) in which the everyday lived world of humans constitutes the ontological and epistemological focus of enquiry - understanding of human experiences.

Since the emergence of phenomenology as a philosophical method of enquiry initially articulated in the works of Franz Brentano (Spiegelberg, 1970, 1972) advances in phenomenological thought and methods of enquiry have emerged (Parse, 2001). Beginning with Husserl's modification and refinement of Brentano's approach to phenomenological enquiry, there have been a raftof philosophers and researchers who have contributed to the expansion of the phenomenological movement birthing a rich matrix of philosophical positions and associated procedural steps of enquiry (Parse, 2001). By way of example, it was not until Heidegger developed his philosophical ideas that Kierkegaard's existentialism and Husserl's phenomenology 'were combined into a single project - that of describing everyday human existence in uniquely human ways' (Pollio et al., 1997, p. 5). Such a confluence of philosophical thought gave rise to what is now termed existential phenomenology.

The phenomenological movement was not confined to German philosophers. The movement also flourished in France where individual contributions to the advancement of phenomenological thought were made by such notable philosophers as Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), Maurice Merleau- Ponty (1908-1961), Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005), and Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) enhancing the specificity and diversity of thought and research methods (Parse, 2001). The emergence of the phenomenological movement in the United States of America took place in the early part of the twentieth century with the works of William Hocking, Dorion Cairns and Marvin Farber culminating in the 1950s and 1960s as one of the major schools of philosophical thought (Sokolowski, 2000). Since that time contributions to advancing phenomenology as a research method has resulted in further specificity, diversity of thought, and approaches to enquiry. Such notable North American phenomenologists as Van Kaam (1966), Giorgi (1970, 1985, 1992), and Colaizzi (1978) informed by the works of Spiegelberg (1970, 1972) which stipulated the essential processes for phenomenological enquiry continued to make modifications - refinement and expansion - to the way in which phenomenological research is undertaken. …

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