Leader: Dr. Karen Johnson

According to the Smith of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2016), phenomenology  “…is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view [lived experiences]. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.”  It is important to note that phenomenology is considered a branch of philosophy along with ontology, epistemology, logic, and ethics.  It is not just a research design or methodology.  The researcher must understand the philosophical background of phenomenology from 20th Century philosophers including Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Sarte.  In addition, there are several sub designs that can be used in a phenomenology study including hermeneutic, transcendental, and interpretative phenomenological analysis (aka IPA) that must also be considered.

Sample Size

While there are no specific rules when determining an appropriate sample size in qualitative research, for phenomenological studies, Morse (1994) suggests at least six, but others put the range at three to five, maxing out at eight. Getting deep, rich data from multiple interviews of the same small sample of particpants is considered  more important than the actual number. 

Sampling Method

From the identified population, snowball sampling can help assure that the participants selected meet the criteria for inclusion in the study.  Participants aren't required to be experts; they simply must have had the lived experience being studied. 

Data Collection

Through face to face, semi-structured, one-on-one interviews, researchers allow participants to tell the stories of their lived experience, with a few initial questions, then follow-up probing and prompting to get to the deep, rich data sought.  Through multiple interviews, often three or more interviews of the same participants, the researcher seeks the first hand account of the experience from the people who experienced the phenomenon. 

This video from the University of Amsterdam helps explain probing and prompting quesions appropriate for this type of interview.

Data Analysis

Iterative readings of interview transcripts give deep understanding and determination of themes in individual and shared experiences. 

Writing up Results

Interpretation occurs for each case and across cases.


Husserl, E. (1970). The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (D. Carr, Trans.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. (Original work published 1954)

Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing. Thousand Oaks: Sage

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of Perception. (C. Smith, Trans.). London: Routledge. (Original work published 1945)

Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage/

Saldaña, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Smith, D., "Phenomenology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from:

Vagle, M. (2014). Crafting phenomenologic research. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Van Manen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenology research and writing. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Examples of phenomenological studies


Bolling, J. A. (2017). A phenomenological study of enrolled agent managers bullied by subordinate staff members (Order No. 10288515). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Phoenix. (1925252657). Retrieved from

Madireddy, J. (2010). Management and leadership challenges in achieving success by technology start-ups: A phenomenological study (Order No. 3407442). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Phoenix. (305243693). Retrieved from

Rasheed, J. A. (2014). An investigation of parents' perceptions of African American secondary students' reading proficiency in public schools (Order No. 3583224). Available from  Dissertations & Theses @ University of Phoenix. (1552486613). Retrieved from

Journal Articles

Cangelosi, Pamela R, PhD, R.N., C.N.E., & Moss, Margaret M,PhD., R.N. (2010). Voices of faculty of second-degree baccalaureate nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education, 49(3), 137-42. Retrieved from

DeBoor, Stephanie S, PhD, R.N., C.C.R.N., & Smyer, Tish, DNSc, R.N., C.N.E. (2012). The lived experience of non-degree learners from a time-modified traditional baccalaureate nursing program. Journal of Nursing Education, 51(4), 197-203. doi:

Flora, J. D. (2017). The doctoral mentoring relationship: The phenomenology of scholarly leadership. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 12, 219-249.  


Please post your questions and comments regarding phenomenology in this discussion thread.