Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

The main purpose of the empirical (and exegetical) methods is to explore examples and varieties of lived experiences, especially in the form of anecdotes, narratives, stories and other lived experience accounts.


The lifeworld, the world of lived experience, is both the source and the object of phenomenological research. And so we need to search everywhere in the lifeworld for lived-experience material: through interview, observation, language analysis, fictional accounts, etc. We need to realize, of course, that experiential accounts or lived-experience descriptions are never identical to lived experience itself. All recollections of experiences, reflections on experiences, descriptions of experiences, taped interviews about experiences, or transcribed conversations about experiences are already transformations of those experiences. Even life captured directly on magnetic or light-sensitive tape is already transformed at the moment it is captured. Without this dramatic elusive element of lived meaning to our reflective attention phenomenology might not be necessary. So, the upshot is that we need to find access to life’s living dimensions while hoping that the meanings we bring to the surface from the depths of life’s oceans have not entirely lost some the natural quiver of their undisturbed existence.


The object of phenomenological research is to “borrow” other people’s experiences. We gather other people’s experiences because they allow us, in a vicarious sort of way, to become more experienced ourselves. We are interested in the particular experiences of this child, this adolescent, or this adult since they allow us to become “in-formed,” shaped or enriched by this experience so as to be able to render the full significance of its meaning. Traditionally, techniques used to obtain “data” from “subjects” are by way of interviewing, eliciting written responses, participant observation, and so forth. Phenomenological research may proceed along similar lines, but with some important qualifications. From a phenomenological point of view we are not primarily interested in the subjective experiences of our so-called subjects or informants, for the sake of being able to report on how something is seen from their particular view, perspective, or vantage point. Rather, the aim is to collect examples of possible experiences in order to reflect on the meanings that may inhere in them.