Sunday, March 1, 2020

Giorgi’s descriptive phenomenological method

A brief overview of data collection using Giorgi’s descriptive phenomenological method in psychology

Prepared by Aaron S. Robertson, MSM, February 2018


• Developed by Amedeo Giorgi, currently at Saybrook University in California.
• Has its roots primarily in the research approach of German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938).
• Husserl founded the movement of phenomenology, which, according to Wikipedia (n.d.), “…is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness” (para. 1).
• “Phenomenology seeks to make explicit the implicit structure and meaning of human experiences. It is the search for ‘essences’ that cannot be revealed by ordinary observation” (Sanders, 1982, p. 354).
• Four rigorous scientific criteria to be met, according to Giorgi: methodical, systematic, general, and critical (Applebaum, 2011; Englander, 2012).
• Giorgi seeks a shift from psychology as a natural science to that of a human science (Applebaum, 2011).

Some Main Features:

• Interviews or submitted written descriptions
• Interviews can take as long as 1-2 hours
• At least three interviews needed
• Submitted written descriptions arguably more ideal for undergraduate research or as material for workshops, but written descriptions can also be more concise, which may make it possible for the researcher to more easily solicit the experiences and insights of more participants
• A pre-interview meeting with participants is reasonable and within the realm of possibility
• While quantitative research looks for measurement by asking, “How many?”, this method is looking for meaning by asking, “What is it like?”
• Pursuing “depth” over “sampling” (Source: Englander, 2012)


Applebaum, M. H. (2011). Amedeo Giorgi and psychology as a human science. Neuroquantology, 9(3), 518-525.

Englander, M. (2012). The interview: Data collection in descriptive phenomenological human scientific research. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 43(1), 13-35. doi:10.1163/156916212X632943

Giorgi, A. (2006). Concerning variations in the application of the phenomenological method. The Humanistic Psychologist, 34(4), 305–319.

Giorgi, A. (2009). The descriptive phenomenological method in psychology: A modified Husserlian approach. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press.

Giorgi, A. (1997). The theory, practice, and evaluation of the phenomenological method as a qualitative research procedure. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 28, 235–260.

Phenomenology (philosophy). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Sanders, P. (1982). Phenomenology: A new way of viewing organizational research. Academy of Management Review, 7(3), 353-360.

Selected Quotes from Bibliography Sources:

“In order for phenomenological research to achieve the same rigorous quality as natural scientific research, it is important that the research process be methodologically articulated in such a manner that data collection and data analysis are both seen as part of a single, unified process with the same underlying theory of science. Hence, if one is following Husserlian descriptive phenomenological philosophy as a basis for a phenomenological theory of science, both the data collection and the data analysis need to follow descriptive phenomenology in order to achieve rigor. Of course, one can do qualitative research in other ways, but in order to meet all the criteria of science, one needs to consider the consistency of method following the same logic that is part of the same theory of science.” (Englander, 2012, pp. 15-16)

“…it is essential to understand that one needs to adopt a different strategy when doing science in contrast to doing philosophy (Giorgi, 1997, 2006, 2009). In other words, one cannot just take a philosophical method and use it for scientific purposes, because a philosophical method is developed for philosophical purposes, not scientific ones (Giorgi, 1997, 2009).” (Englander, 2012, p. 16)

“The phenomenological method in human science recommends that one uses at least three participants, obviously not because that the number three corresponds with a statistical analysis but because one or two subjects would be too difficult for the researcher to handle in terms of their own imagination (Giorgi, 2009). Although we are not interested in “how many?” who have had a particular experience, for the purpose of comparison, we could take note on how many times the phenomenon makes its presence in the description (Giorgi, 2009, p. 198).” (Englander, 2012, p. 21)

“As Giorgi (2009, pp. 198–199) points out, ‘Research based upon depth strategies should not be confused with research based upon sampling strategies’” (Englander, 2012, p. 21).

“In general, descriptive phenomenological psychology, using a qualitative method, tries to identify the essential structure of a phenomenon. The process of selecting the participants and number of participants differ from mainstream natural scientific psychology mainly due to that the method rest upon a different theory of science and thus signifies a different epistemological purpose.” (Englander, 2012, p. 23).

“…in order to fulfill the meaning of science, human subjectivity is to be investigated by means of a firmly grounded, methodical, general, and disciplinary attitude capable of making substantial contributions to the scientific community’s growing body of knowledge. Thus for Giorgi both the “human” and the “scientific” dimensions of human science are essential constituents if qualitative psychology is to represent a genuine alternative to the dominant, empirical paradigm.” (Applebaum, 2011, p. 520)

No comments:

Post a Comment