Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Gathering Experiences

The “data” of human science research are human experiences. It seems obvious, therefore, that if we wish to investigate the meaning dimensions of a certain experience (phenomenon), the most straightforward way to go about our research is to ask selected individuals to write their experiences down.

 

To gain access to other people’s experiences, we may request them to write about a personal experience. We ask: “Please write a direct account of a personal experience as you lived through it.” Here are some additional directions you may want to give in requesting a lived-experience description (LED).

 

  • (1) Describe the experience as much as possible as you live(d) through it. Avoid causal explanations, generalizations, or abstract interpretations.
  • (2) Describe the experience from the inside, as it were-almost like a state of mind: the feelings, the mood, the emotions, etc.
  • (3) Focus on a particular example or incident of the object of experience: describe specific events, an adventure, a happening, a particular experience.
  • (4) Try to focus on an example of the experience which stands out for its vividness, or as it was the first time.
  • (5) Attend to how the body feels, how things smell(ed), how they sound(ed), etc.
  • (6) Avoid trying to beautify your account with fancy phrases or flowery terminology.

 

When asking people to provide a lived experience description, it is important to realize that it is not of great concern whether this experience actually happened in exactly that way. Phenomenology is less concerned with the factual accuracy than with the plausibility of an account–whether it is true to our living sense of it.