Debating Phenomenological Research Methods

  • Linda Finlay
Keywords: hermeneutic phenomenology


Phenomenological researchers generally agree that our central concern is to return to embodied, experiential meanings aiming for a fresh, complex, rich description of a phenomenon as it is concretely lived. Yet debates abound when it comes to deciding how best to carry out this phenomenological research in practice. Confusion about how to conduct appropriate phenomenological research makes our field difficult for novices to access. Six particular questions are contested: (1) How tightly or loosely should we define what counts as "phenomenology" (2) Should we always aim to produce a general (normative) description of the phenomenon, or is idiographic analysis a legitimate aim? (3) To what extent should interpretation be involved in our descriptions? (4) Should we set aside or bring to the foreground researcher subjectivity? (5) Should phenomenology be more science than art? (6) Is phenomenology a modernist or postmodernist project, or neither? In this paper, I examine each of these areas of contention in the spirit of fostering dialogue, and promoting openness and clarity in phenomenological inquiry.