Husserlian Descriptive Phenomenology: A review of intentionality, reduction and the natural attitude

Martin Christensen, Anthony Welch, Jennie Barr


Background and aim: Descriptive phenomenology is widely used in social science research as a method to explore and describe the lived experience of individuals. It is a philosophy and a scientific method and has undertaken many variations as it has moved from the original European movement to include the American movement. The aim of this paper is to describe descriptive phenomenology in the tradition of Edmund Husserl. Integrative literature discussing the nature of descriptive phenomenology was used within this paper to elucidate the core fundamental principles of Husserlian descriptive phenomenology.

Methods: This is a methodology paper that provides both an overview of the historical context and the development of descriptive phenomenology in the tradition of Husserl.

Results and discussion: Descriptive phenomenology is explained from its historical underpinnings. The principles of the natural attitude, intentionality and the phenomenological reduction are described and using practical examples illustrate how each of these principles is applied within a research context.

Conclusions: Understanding the key philosophical foundations of Husserlian descriptive phenomenology as a research method can be daunting to the uninitiated. This paper adds to the discussion around descriptive phenomenology and will assist and inform readers in understanding its key features as a research method. 

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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