Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Comparative Reflection

Phenomenological literature may contain material which has already addressed in a descriptive or an interpretive manner the very topic or question which preoccupies us.


The work of other phenomenologists can be a source with which we can enter into dialogue. Selected phenomenological materials enable us to reflect more deeply on the way we tend to make interpretive sense of lived experience. Phenomenological sources allow us to see our limits and to transcend the limits of our interpretive sensibilities. Clearly, a human science researcher may benefit from studying how other human science scholars have addressed and brought into writing their understandings of selected phenomenological topics. They may suggest new ways of looking at a phenomenon, or reveal new dimensions of meaning which we had hitherto not considered.


The question is whether one should turn to such phenomenological human science sources in the initial or in the later phases of one’s research study. If one examines existing human science texts at the very outset then it may be more difficult to suspend one’s interpretive understanding of the phenomenon. It is sound practice to attempt to address the phenomenological meaning of a phenomenon on one’s own first. However, early or late one must test one’s insights against those who belong to the tradition of one’s subject of study. And it is then that a researcher becomes aware of as yet unformulated or unsuspected specifications and dimensions of meaning. In this way the work of others can present a conversational partnership that reveals the limits of one’s own interpretive achievements.