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Phenomenology v. Heuristics

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 @ 1:37 pm
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Posted in  Methodology, Supervision

As I am reading and writing about research methodology, i have been having an onlinse discussion with Ann and William about the whole debate around pehnomenology and heuristic research (where the stances, boundaries are etc). I wrote:  So, here I am with two concepts of GREEK etymology: Phenomenology and Heuristic…bloody Greeks again ? 🙂

As  Ann wrote to me in her feedback email: “My understandintg of phenomenology is that although it engages with the experience of the interviewee and tries to describe the meaning they make of the experience it specifically asks that the researcher first of all declaire their ‘bias’ and then brackets off their own material. This is very different fromheuristics, where the researcher is much more present in the research with no attempt of bracketing off.”

I wrote back saying: you make a good point about phenomenology in contrat to  tell you the truth I am a bit confused with it cause Moustakas, in his book phenomenological research methods has a chapter on heuristics and i kind of think that as a heuristic researcher with high personal involvement, i still need to be phenomenological to some extent in relation to how I hear the interview?.

Then Ann responded by: I wonder whether this is like a counselling session, being fully involved with the client, but sliding into a metaposition now and again to keep track of what is happening as it happens I talk about phenomenology in mine because the pilot  the masters) was supposed to be that and I found it generally not easy to do… so I am being more honest this time and not trying to say I have kept my stuff out. So I am hoping to swim the river, fully immersed, but coming up for air now and then, with you, william and the rest of the group as my lifeline!

Then we invited WILLIAM to the conversation who responded by saying:

First off Moustaskas ‘muddies the waters’ because he distinguishes heuristics very clearly from phenemonelogy in 1990 and earlier in 1985 but in 1994 he puts heurisitcs in phenomenology researech methods. Now I don’t believe in bracketing but I do believe in stepping back and really hearing but I wonder if I am still then heuristic and I have written about this a paper – Einstein and Russell etc. Rennie says I am following Husserl here. Bias is a modernist word don’t use. Declaring your stance is what ALL researchers should do especially qualitative one. If you have disappered into your own madness about your research your findings probably wont communciate – unless you touch on a universal madness which is possible. In other words if your agenda is not supported by your co-researcher it wont connect with your readers. There are assumptions about knowing is this but I like James and Rorty talking about truth and beliefs is what works. Rorty si clear we cant spirt out what the truth is so forget it it is undoable. I love that!! Inciddentllay Rorty hasd justd eid I will post out his obit in the Guardian in which he insist his philosophical position is a bricolage!!

We have not mentioned hermeneutics but don’t if the panel want to dance aroudn hermeneutics let thyem!

But what I aim to do is to get clear what my stance this and then talk around the theories that fit it raher than the other way round. This is pragmaticism writ large.

So there is a research topic or phenomenon that interests me deeply. What kind of self dialogue and dialogue with others can I have to deepen my understanding. As a researcher I engage as much or as little as necessay in order to get the best data from by co-researchers. I share my emerging understandings with them (a la Kvale). I ask some of the obvious questions. It’s not rocket science and the talking about research gets way too philosophical – the task is hard enough sometimes!!

The dialogue keeps going….so do the reflections…

QUOTE FROM Van Manen, M. (1997) Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an action sensitive pedagogy. London: The Althouse Press:

Van Manen (1997) reminds us that in phenomenological research, the method is our writing and if our writing is conceived as a reporting process rather than a poetic one, imbued with values of methodological objectivity, abstract systematising and ‘hard’ science, we may lose the nuances and subtleties of qualitative experience and insight.


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