I have searched several definitions of phenomenology from the literature:
The phenomenological inquiry is particularly appropriate to address meanings and perspectives of research participants. The major concern of phenomenological analysis is to understand "how the everyday, inter-subjective world is constituted" (Schwandt, 2000) from the participants' perspective. The basic philosophical assumption underlying this inquiry has most often been illustrated by Husserl's (1962) statements - "we can only know what we experience." Thus, any inquiry cannot engage in 'sciences of facts' because there are not absolutely facts; we only can establish 'knowledge of essences'. The essence is the central underlying meaning of the experience shared within the different lived experiences.
The researcher should first look into the individual point of view, i.e. the realization of subject consciousness perceived in the objects, to get to understand human phenomena as lived and experienced, which Giorgi (1985) pointed out as the major characteristics of a phenomenological psychological method. The major data source for this inner perspective is interviewing. Patton (1990) stated the purpose of interviewing specifically as "to find out what is in and on someone else's mind", and that is exactly what the target of the phenomenological study focuses on, i.e. the perception of lived experience.
There should be two perspectives of phenomenological analysis of the perception of lived experience: from the people who are living through the phenomenon, and from the researcher, whose has great interest in the phenomenon. In order to 'return to the things themselves' (Husserl, 1970), the researcher cannot impose the meanings for the learners, for example, because they are the absolute sources of their own existence living through the learning environment. However, it seems to be impossible to detach personal interpretations from the things that are personally interesting. Thus, the researcher has to be aware of his or her own experience being infused into both his or engagement in the interviews and the analysis of data.
The focus of a phenomenological study according to Patton (1990) lies in the "descriptions of what people experience and how it is that they experience." The goal is to identify essence of the shared experience that underlies all the variations in this particular learning experience. Essence is viewed as commonalties in the human experiences. According to Patton (1990), the steps include:
The entire analysis process aims to examine the lived experience from the ones who produced the experience rather than imposition of other people's interpretations. It should be the interpretations of the participants in the phenomenon under study that define the commonalties of the lived experience in the phenomenon. It is not the researcher's own thinking of the phenomenon, the other researchers' experience of the phenomenon, or the theoretical descriptions of the phenomenon that are under analysis.
One analysis principle was suggested in the field book (Rossman and Raliis, 1998): "phenomenological analysis requires that the researcher approach the texts with an open mind, seeking what meaning and structures emerge." (p. 184) In their suggestions, they encourage the analysts to choose what they will like to focus on. Is that the way? It seems to contradict the concept of " Epochè" and "bracketing", in which the researcher has to recognize personal bias, and take a fresh look at the stated experience. How does a research resolve the dilemma between" subjectivity" and "objectivity"? Interpretations are always subjective. Phenomenological studies pursue "essences", which could be created in the moments of the analysis (although the creation seems to be grounded in the data, the interpretations of the data can be beyond the data themselves.) Essences are abstract, but the phenomenon is not. What is closer to the truth? Ideas of the objects, or objects themselves?
Heuristic process of phenomenological analysis described by Moustakas inlcudes:
Creswell (1998) described the general structure of phenomenological study as follows:
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fetterman, D. M. (1998). Ethnography: Step by step. 2nd edition. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Giorgi, A. (1985). (Ed). Phenomenology and psychological research. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press.
Holstein, J. A., & Gubrium, J. F. (1994). Phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and interpretive practice. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 262-272). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Husserl, E. (1970). Logical investigation. New York: Humanities Press.
Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E., G. (2000). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions and emerging confluences. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research (2nd ed., pp. 163-188). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods ( 2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Rossman, R. B., & Ralllis, S. F. (1998). Learning in the field: An introduction to qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Stack, C. (1974). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York, NY: Haper & Row, Publishers.
Schwandt, T. A. (2000). Three epistemological stances for qualitative inquiry: Interpretivism, hermenutics, and social construction. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln, (Eds). Handbook of qualitative research, p. 189- 213. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Van Manen, J. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York Press.