Phenomenology Methods & Data Collection

Phenomenology Methods & Data Collection

This module provides an overview of research methods for phenomenological studies and describes means of data collection.

Learning Objectives

  • List and describe the steps involved in a phenomenology study.
  • Describe the basic principles applied to phenomenological methodology and data collection.
  • Discuss ways in which phenomenological data can be collected.
  • Summarize tips for conducting an effective interview.


The methodology used in phenomenology differs than most other research methodology because the goal is to describe a lived experience, rather than to explain or quantify it in any way. Phenomenology is solely concerned with the study of the experience from the perspective of the participants; therefore, the methodology does not include a hypothesis or any preconceived ideas about the data collected. 

Phenomenology makes use of a variety of methods including interviews, conversations, participant observation, action research, focus meetings, analysis of diaries and other personal texts. In general, the methodology is designed to be less structured and more open-ended to encourage the participant to share details regarding their experience. Surveys and questionnaires that are commonly used in other research methods to gather information from participants would be too structured and would not allow the participant to freely share. In other words, phenomenology emphasizes subjectivity. The goal of phenomenological research methods is to maximize the depth of the information collected and therefore, less structured interviews are most effective.


Following is a list of principles and qualities applied to phenomenological methodology and data collection:

  • Phenomenology searches for the meaning or essence of an experience rather than measurements or explanations.
  • Researcher should begin with the practice of Epoche. He or she will describe their own experiences or ideas related to phenomenon to increase their own awareness of their underlying feelings. 
  • Phenomenology is different in that the researcher is often participatory and the other participants are co-researchers in many cases.
  • This type of research focuses on the wholeness of the experience, rather than its individual parts.
  • Phenomenology differs from other research in that it does not test a hypothesis, nor is there an expectation that the results predictive or reproducible. Additional studies into the same phenomenon often reveal new and additional meanings.
  • The study can be applied to a single case or deliberately selected samples.


A phenomenological research study typically follows the four steps listed below:


  • Bracketing – The process of identifying, and keeping in check, any preconceived beliefs, opinions, or notions about the phenomenon being researched. In this process, the researcher “brackets out” any presuppositions in an effect to approach the study of the phenomenon from an unbiased perspective. Bracketing is important to phenomenological reduction, which is the process of isolating the phenomenon and separating it from what is already known about it.
  • Intuition – This requires that the researcher become totally immersed in the study and the phenomenon and that the researcher remains open to the meaning of the phenomenon as described by those that experienced it. The process of intuition results in an understanding of the phenomenon and may require the researcher to vary the data collection methods or questions until that level of understanding emerges.
  • Analysis – The process of analyzing data involves the researcher becoming full immersed into the rich, descriptive data and using processes such as coding and categorizing to organize the data. The goal is to develop themes that can be used to describe the experience from the perspective of those that lived it.
  • Description – This is the last phase of the process. The researcher will use his or her understanding of the data to describe and define the phenomenon and communicate it to others.


Several researchers have described variations of the for the steps used in phenomenology. The following diagram provides an example of a more detailed description of the steps in a phenomenology study. It summarizes steps in the Modified Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method as described by Moustakas (1994):


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The video below, Tips for Conducting an Effective Phenomenological Research Study, offers additional information regarding how to effectively use interviewing as a means of data collection for phenomenological study. Data analysis will be the focus of the next module in this series.



 Suggested Readings:

  • Giorgi, A. (2012). The descriptive phenomenological psychological method. Journal of Phenomenological psychology, 43(1), 3-12.
  • Giorgi, A. (1997). The theory, practice, and evaluation of the phenomenological method as a qualitative research procedure. Journal of phenomenological psychology, 28(2), 235-260.
  • Hycner, R. H. (1985). Some guidelines for the phenomenological analysis of interview data. Human studies, 8(3), 279-303.
  • Measor, L. (1985). "Interviewing: a Strategy in Qualitative Research" in R Burgess (ed) Strategies of Educational Research: Qualitative Methods. Lewes, Falmer Press.
  • Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. London, Sage.
  • Polkinghorne, D. E. (1989). Phenomenological research methods. Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experience, 41-60.
  • Starks, H., & Brown Trinidad, S. (2007). Choose your method: A comparison of phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. Qualitative health research, 17(10), 1372-1380.

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Phenomenology Research Overview:

Phenomenology Methods & Data Collection:

Phenomenology Data Analysis:

Strengths & Limitations of Phenomenology:

Extra Phenomenology Links:


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