This chapter begins the discussion of specific interpretive research perspectives by drawing on two linked traditions: phenomenology and existentialism. It illustrates possible applications with research studies that could be adapted for use by student researchers. It also develops some of the major ideas, themes and techniques normally associated with each perspective.
Chapter objectivesAfter reading this chapter students will be able to
• explain the major themes and concepts of phenomenology as a research perspective
• apply these themes and concepts in a phenomenologically informed student research project
• understand certain phenomenological principles that have more general application in interpretive research studies
Social researchers of every persuasion have adapted philosophical systems and ideas for use in their own research. One particularly important philosophical theme that has been used in many research studies is phenomenology. Social researchers have linked the phenomenological emphasis on lived experience with the concern of existentialist writers for the experience of being and existing. Phenomenology has been placed in opposition to positivism in social research since the two research perspectives are usually characterized by assumptions that are mutually exclusive. Most notably, where phenomenological research assumes a socially constructed reality, positivism assumes that reality is external and objective. Easterby-Smith et