Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry

Phenomenology

This approach, most often used by psychologists, seeks to explain the "structure and essence of the experiences" of a group of people (Banning 1995). A phenomenologist is concerned with understanding certain group behaviors from that group's point of view. For instance, a researcher might notice that in a certain group, all girls wear pink socks on Tuesdays. A true phenomenologist would not assume that pink is the girls' favorite color and Tuesdays are their favorite day to wear them. Instead, that researcher would try to find out what significance this phenomenon has. Phenomenological inquiry requires that researchers go through a series of steps in which they try to eliminate their own assumptions and biases, examine the phenomenon without presuppositions, and describe the "deep structure" of the phenomenon based on internal themes that are discovered (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). Phenomenology does greatly overlap with ethnography, but, as Bruyn (1970), points out, some phenomenologists assert that they "study symbolic meanings as they constitute themselves in human consciousness" (p. 286).

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Introduction