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Phenomenological Design of a Research Study

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Data Analysis
Wordcount: 1657 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Phenomenological Design

Contradictory to other qualitative research designs, phenomenology focused on the essence of the participants’ experiences to derive at an explanation that provided support in understanding the phenomenon of doctoral student attrition (Creswell, 2007). Although other qualitative research methods survey the experiences of individuals experiencing a shared phenomenon, the goal of their research desired a different outcome Creswell & Poth, 2018).  Originated in 1859 from the work of German mathematician Edmund Husserl, phenomenology has a strong philosophical component (Caelli, 2001; Creswell & Poth, 2018).  “Husserl thought that through different stages of reduction it was possible to reach a more fundamental understanding of the phenomenon” (Davidsen, 2013, p. 321).  The two common forms of phenomenology research designs used to reach this fundamental understanding are hermeneutical and empirical (Davidsen, 2013).  Hermeneutics interprets the “texts” of life and phenomenology orientates toward the lived experience (Creswell & Poth, 2018, p. 77).  This method helps researchers understand the meanings of the experiences lived by people (p. 78). On the other hand, empirical or transcendental phenomenology consist of identifying a phenomenon to study and requires the researcher to bracket out a participant’s experiences and acquiring data from several people who experienced the same event (Creswell & Poth, 2018, p. 78).

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According to Creswell and Poth (2018), the phenomenological study describes the everyday lived experiences of multiple individuals focusing on what everyone “has in common as they experience a phenomenon” (p. 75).  Deepa and Panicker (2016) explain that phenomenology design allows the researcher to interpret the meaning and nature of a certain group of participants in a certain setting while sharing their stories (p. 586).  Phenomenology basic purpose is to reduce an individual’s “grasp of the very nature of the thing” (Creswell & Poth, 2018, p. 75).  The nature of the thing is the essence that researchers seek to study regarding human nature and common experiences lived by people (Creswell & Poth, 2018).  Researches than collect data from the people who have experienced the phenomenon and explained “what” and “how” they experienced it which can be challenging (Creswell and Poth, 2018).

Phenomenology Challenges

Substantial challenges are involved with using phenomenology research.  There are many pitfalls and problems experienced by phenomenological researchers when they engage in this type of research for the first time (Caelli, 2001).  This qualitative design method can be challenging to carve out the researcher’s personal biases and experiences.  Creswell and Poth (2018) state that phenomenology requires researchers to have some understanding of more explicit philosophical assumptions (p. 80).  Therefore, research says that bracketing personal experiences may be problematic for the researcher to implement because interpreting the data incorporates the premises of the researcher (Creswell & Poth, 2018, p. 81).  Tufford and Newman (2012) state that bracketing also protects the researcher from the cumulative effects of the examination of emotional material (p. 81).

According to Creswell and Poth (2018), another main challenge with this method of research is the bias that research can bring to the study. It is often difficult to distinguish a person’s own experiences, and that of the participants as phenomenological researchers often choose a familiar phenomenon. Moustakas (1994) states that bias is eradicated with the use of epoche. Epoche leads researchers away from their own biases and is defined as suspending what interferes with a fresh outlook (Moustakas, 1994).

Problem Statement

The problem to be addressed is the consequence of a community on an online doctoral student’s persistence to complete the program. According to several researchers, 50% of doctorate students do not persist to graduation; it is essential to recognize the phenomenon of community that contributes to the existing rate of doctorate student attrition. Creswell and Poth (2018) provide beneficial information regarding phenomenology, its challenges, and uses.  Davidsen (2013) provides an understanding of the approaches to conducting phenomenological research.  Lastly, Tufford and Newman (2012) describe what bracketing is and how it is used to help researchers separate their personal opinions and biases from research studies.                                          Purpose Statement                                                                                                                          The purpose of this phenomenological study is to examine the phenomenon of community and the effect on the shared experiences of online doctoral students. The objective is to analyze the sense of community to determine whether it affects doctoral student persistence. The research study participants will be students that have failed to persist in their respective online programs in business administration. Specifically, this study sought to understand the perceptions of doctorate holders and what contributed to their persistence to degree completion. Since the participants were online doctoral students, there is no specific geographic location of the study. The barriers to doctoral persistence are primarily defined as different personal, academic situations, and other circumstances that stand in the way of students conferring their doctorate in business administration at this stage in the research.

                                                            Qualitative Research Questions                                          

          This phenomenological study requires specific research questions concerning the phenomenon of community.

  1. How does a lack of personal and academic support contribute to doctoral attrition?
  2. What are the experiences of a lack of community support in online doctoral students?


A phenomenological research design was chosen for this study because it best captured the experiences of doctorate holders interviewed. The phenomenological study is a logical choice in learning about the different phenomena that affect doctoral persistence.  The research aim is to gain an understanding of the effects of community on doctoral persistence through examining the experiences of those impacted by a lack of community. The community core in an online learning environment can best be understood through phenomenological study research.


  • Caelli, K. (2001). Engaging with phenomenology: Is it more of a challenge than it needs to be?              Qualitative Health Research, 11(2), 273-281. doi:10.1177/104973201129118993
  • Creswell, J.W. & Poth, C.N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (4thed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing, Inc.
  • Creswell, J.W (2007). Qualitative inquiry& research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
  • Davidsen, A. S. (2013). Phenomenological approaches in psychology and health sciences. Qualitative research in psychology, 10(3), 318-339.
  • Deepa, R., & Panicker, A. S. (2016). A phenomenological approach to understand the challenges faced by medical students. The Qualitative Report, 21(3), 584.
  • Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. London: Sage Publications.
  • Tufford, L., & Newman, P. (2012). Bracketing in qualitative research. Qualitative Social Work,11(1), 80-96. doi:10.1177/1473325010368316


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