Phenomenology is an approach to qualitative research that focuses on the commonality of a lived experience within a particular group. The fundamental goal of the approach is to arrive at a description of the nature of the particular phenomenon (Creswell, 2013). Typically, interviews are conducted with a group of individuals who have first-hand knowledge of an event, situation or experience. The interview(s) attempts to answer two broad questions (Moustakas, 1994): What have you experienced in terms of the phenomenon? What contexts or situation have typically influenced your experiences of the phenomenon (Creswell, 2013)? Other forms of data such as documents, observations and art may also be used. The data is then read and reread and culled for like phrases and themes that are then grouped to form clusters of meaning (Creswell, 2013). Through this process the researcher may construct the universal meaning of the event, situation or experience and arrive at a more profound understanding of the phenomenon.
With roots in philosophy, psychology and education, phenomenology attempts to extract the most pure, untainted data and in some interpretations of the approach, bracketing is used by the researcher to document personal experiences with the subject to help remove him or herself from the process. One method of bracketing is memoing (Maxwell, 2013).
In my study of the factors that drive employees to use compliance hotlines, I used the phenomenological approach and methods glean answers. Of the five approaches described by Creswell, the approach most closely aligned with the study’s objectives. While the question was not ultimately resolved, the richness of the mined data produced further opportunities for inquiry.
Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among the Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. (pp. 77-83)
Maxwell, J.A. (2013). Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. (pp. 135-136)