Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Hermeneutic Interview Reflection

The hermeneutic interview has a conversational structure: it is oriented to sense-making and interpreting experiential meanings. The interview has a collaborative conversational structure that lends itself especially well to the task of reflecting on phenomenological meanings.

 

A hermeneutic interview is an interpretive conversation wherein both partners reflectively orient themselves to the interpersonal or collective ground that brings the significance of the phenomenological question into view. The art of the researcher in the hermeneutic interview is to keep the question (of the meaning of the phenomenon) open: to keep himself or herself and the interviewee oriented to the substance of the thing being questioned. The art of questioning is that of being able to go on asking questions; in other words, it is the art of thinking, says Gadamer. By setting up situations conducive to collaborative hermeneutic conversations, the researcher can mobilize participants to reflect on their experiences (once these have been gathered) in order to determine the deeper meanings or themes of these experiences. For this purpose a series of interviews may be scheduled or arranged with selected participants that allows reflection on the text (such as interpretations of transcripts) of previous interviews in order to aim for as much interpretive insight as possible.

 

Once transcript themes have been identified by the researcher then these themes may become objects of reflection in follow-up hermeneutic conversations in which both the researcher and the interviewee collaborate. In other words, both the interviewer and the interviewee attempt to interpret the significance of the preliminary themes in the light of the original phenomenological question. Both the researcher and the interviewee weigh the appropriateness of each theme by asking: “Is this what the experience is really like?”