What Is Phenomenological Qualitative Research?

Phenomenological approach in qualitative research

A phenomenological approach in qualitative research looks at the lived experiences of participants to understand a certain phenomenon. These experiences are generally described through interviews, focus groups, or in-depth surveys. The intention of a phenomenological approach is to find some sort of common ground among all the participant experiences to effectively explain the cause behind said phenomenon.

Phenomenological qualitative research design

Let’s use the example of a software company that specializes in workplace productivity. In recent years, they’ve noticed that their customers have moved away from their desktop application and towards the mobile version of their software. The company decides to launch a phenomenological research study to explain this trend.

To begin, the researchers send out questionnaires to their customers, asking them which product they prefer – the desktop or mobile app – and why. The survey is extremely short and easy to analyze, and the researchers conclude that most of the participants prefer the mobile app. Next, they decide to conduct a focus group with ten people – seven of whom use the mobile app, and three who use the desktop version. During the session, they ask them what their individual experiences with the mobile app are, and go into detail about its benefits and drawbacks. Additionally, they discuss the participants’ overall mobile use, and whether or not that has increased in general over the last few years. Finally, the participants are asked why they choose to use the mobile app in favor of the desktop app, and if there are broader contexts as to why that phenomenon exists.

After analyzing the data, the researchers are able to offer some theories as to why the software company’s mobile app is gaining traction. Many of the company’s clients travel frequently, and find that using a phone is much more convenient and accessible than a laptop which needs to be connected to WiFi. They also conclude that the overall trend in smartphone usage and the normalization of the smartphone play a role in how comfortable people are with using their phones for professional use.

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