Table 1

Philosophical influences underpinning Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)

PurposeDescribe the lived experience without assigning meaning.Reveal and interpret the meaning of the lived experience.To guide the interpretation of the text of individual accounts.Identify and value the perspectives of individuals in context.
Dominant Scholars and influencesHusserl: put to one side preconceived judgements, known as the epoché or ‘bracketing’, in order to better appreciate the experienced phenomena.Heidegger: we as researchers are part of the research.
Merleau-Ponty: interpretation comes from our own perspective/being in the world.
Sartre: we are always in a state of becoming.
Schleiermacher: understanding involves grammatical and psychological interpretation.
Heidegger: recognises that researchers have preconceived ideas and experiences that they bring to the study.
Gadamer: meaning making is a fusion of participant and researcher perspectives.
Applied to IPA
  1. Ongoing reflecting on the phenomenon itself rather than exploring how experiences can fit with predefined criteria.

  2. Bracketing, where each previous case is put to one side before the researcher moves on to read and analyse the next transcript.

  1. The interpretation of an individual’s meaning making is considered in light of the researcher’s perspective, at that time.

  2. Researchers observe and empathise but view phenomena from their own perspective or being in the world; the researcher cannot fully share the experiences of others.

  3. The narrative is developed through interpretation.

  1. Interpretation becomes an art; through detailed and meaningful analysis participants accounts can be appreciated providing insights into their lived worlds.

  2. Making sense of what has been shared involves close engagement with the data, but interpretation can only occur in light of our own experiences, therefore a cyclic approach to bracketing is required.

  3. The researcher cannot be separated from the researched, engaging with a world transforms the researcher in some way.

  1. Case by case, systematic analysis.