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Investigating Our Experience in the World

A Primer on Qualitative Inquiry

April L.Morgan

Publication Year: 2011

At once accessible and sophisticated, this primer introduces a set of general principles and procedures designed to promote a deeper understanding of the nuances of human experience and reflection. The empirical, qualitative approach outlined in this book, which has been refined over the past thirty years at the University of Tennessee, uses disciplined forms of dialogue as the primary means of gathering and assessing information about human experience. Properly known as existential-hermeneutic-phenomenology (or simply phenomenology in everyday usage), this style of scholarly investigation has been applied to illuminate a wide range of research questions in fields such as psychology, child and family studies, marketing, nursing, communications, political science, and more. This book offers an orientation to a transdisciplinary tradition of research . Investigating Our Experience in the World begins with an overview of basic concepts. April L. Morgan provides clear definitions of key terms and succinctly describes how phenomenological research procedures evolved from philosophical explorations of consciousness. Although phenomenological methods are rife with philosophical underpinnings, the author remains focused on describing specific research applications. Each subsequent chapter describes a major stage of a research study. For example, Morgan leads readers through framing the project and undertaking the initial bracketing interview to conducting phenomenological interviews with participants, interpreting texts, thematizing, and developing thematic structure. Rounding out discussion of the research procedures is a full chapter devoted to writing the research report. The book concludes with a section answering common questions about this style of phenomenological research. Appendices provide a glossary, sample forms, and references for further study. Aspects of real-world research projects are continually highlighted, illuminating key methodological points. Morgan recognizes the primary investigators and research teams behind such studies for contributing significantly to the development of contemporary phenomenological research methods.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book uses thumbnail snapshots drawn from a series of research projects to illustrate a scholarly way of investigating life experience. Most of these research projects were conducted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Three generations of curious researchers on this campus are linked through the principles and practices shaping ...

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pp. xi-13

The British Journal of Psychology, Anne Snellen, Michael Thweatt, and others permitted me to integrate key aspects of their irreplaceable works into this one. Additional material drawn from research reports by colleagues and former lab members including Laurel Goodrich, Michael Hawthorne, Bill MacGillivray, and Paul Williamson is gratefully ...

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pp. xiii-xvii

A desire to understand the “nuances of human experience and reflection” governs the approach to studying the human world articulated in these pages (Pollio, Henley, and Thompson 1997). This approach does not seek to test scientific theories or to evaluate the efficacy of a drug on a particular population. Instead, it encourages people to make ...

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Chapter 1: Basic Concepts

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pp. 1-8

The method of empirical, qualitative research this primer outlines is a particular style of phenomenology called existential-hermeneutic-phenomenology. This complex phrase refers to a philosophical worldview as well as to a research method. It also implies a critique of other research methods and of their underpinning philosophies. The philosophers ...

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Chapter 2: Framing the Project and Initial Bracketing

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pp. 9-16

Existential-hermeneutic-phenomenological research methods present a choice between two general types of research projects designed to reveal the human face(s) of a phenomenon. Both are composed by a mix of existential, hermeneutic, and phenomenological components. The most obvious distinction between the two project types is ...

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Chapter 3: Phenomenological Interviewing

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pp. 17-24

One of the guiding principles in phenomenological research is that the participant is the expert on his or her experience.8 This principle comes into play in phenomenological interviewing as the researcher is tutored by the interviewee in highly personalized knowledge. Discussion proceeds on the understanding that the phenomenon is whatever ...

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Chapter 4: Interpreting Texts

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pp. 25-32

The primary investigator first reads the interview transcript alone to get a sense of its major points. Then, he or she takes the transcript to the research team for further consideration. Two primary benefits of group input are evident. First, different life experiences and interpretive styles enable members of the research team to bring a multiplicity ...

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Chapter 5: Thematizing and Developing Thematic Structure

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pp. 33-46

Thematizing is the process by which the primary investigator identifies what is figural, first for one participant and then for all participants in a particular study. To do this, the researcher looks both within and across texts so as to enlarge his or her perspective from what is figural to one participant to what is figural to all participants about an experience. ...

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Chapter 6: Writing the Research Report

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pp. 47-50

Themes and thematic structure constitute the key findings in every existential-hermeneutic-phenomenological research report. The primary investigator is obliged to describe his or her results so that they are accessible to the target audience and, if more than one audience is targeted, different versions of the report may be written. Other than ...

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Chapter 7: Questions and Answers

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pp. 51-58

This chapter addresses issues related to existential-hermeneutic-phenomenological research, which occasionally crop up in the form of questions from other researchers, practitioners, and editors. The answers provided below do not necessarily represent a consensus and assume different opinions on the matters discussed ...

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pp. 59-60

Existential-hermeneutic-phenomenological research enables investigators to examine the experiential basis of human events. This kind of investigation may be especially revealing when the researcher’s or the reader’s experience is very different from the participant’s. Reitz (1998) may have hinted at this possibility by introducing her inquiry as an attempt ...

Appendix A: Sample Informed Consent Form

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pp. 61-62

Appendix B: Sample Confidentiality Pledge of the Interpretive Team

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pp. 63-64

Appendix C: Sample Confidentiality Pledge for Transcribers

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pp. 65-66

Key Terms in Existential-Hermeneutic-Phenomenology

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pp. 67-72


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pp. 73-74


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pp. 75-84


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pp. 85-86


1. Untitled Graphic Image

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pp. 2

2. Thematic Structure of Being Lost

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pp. 41

E-ISBN-13: 9781572337961
E-ISBN-10: 1572337966
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572337596
Print-ISBN-10: 1572337591

Page Count: 104
Illustrations: 2 line drawings
Publication Year: 2011