CAUTION!! This might be boring for those who are not into technicalities. Jump down to the last paragraph of this post to skip the details.
So, basically, at the moment, I am writing up the analysis part of my dissertation and below are some of my thoughts on it.
Because of my interest in exploring the lived experience of individuals and a method that allows me to make interpretative comments, IPA (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) became my first choice for this research.
Some of the books which made this workable. If you’re not sure what IPA is or would like a basic introduction to IPA, I would highly recommend Darren Landrige’s ‘Phenomenological Psychology’. It also offers you information on other methods in conducting a qualitative phenomenological research such as descriptive ones that focuses on presenting the experience of participants the way it is, or narrative ones which are interested in the way an account or story is presented by the participant, or interpretative ones which focuses on what kind of meanings an experience holds for the participant. It also describes the fundamentals of phenomenology, it’s history and such. Good introduction.
And if you have firmly decided that IPA is your thing; Smith, Flowers and Larking’s ‘Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis’ is the book you wanna get. You won’t be able to live without it. Well, at least I couldn’t. The book discusses IPA in detail; the theoretical aspects of it, how to conduct one and issues to look out for. It also provides research examples and a step-by-step guide for new well as experienced researchers.
So with the guidance of these books, I am currently listening and re-listening audio recordings of interviews to get a feel of what the participants are really telling me. Note, I’m saying ‘listening’ instead of ‘reading’ which is what most researchers would do, ie. transcript the data then read and re-read them. But that hasn’t been possible due to time constraints of a masters level project. From the individuals’ audio recordings, I am currently attempting to identify themes or topics that pop out for me and why I think they are the essence of the interview. Following that, I would have to search for connections across the recordings to identify reoccurring themes.
In using this method, I felt that the beauty of this method is that it takes into account the subjectivity of the researcher. That the researcher is ‘engaged in a double hermeneutic (process) because the researcher is trying to make sense of the participant trying to make sense of what’s happening to them’ (Smith, Flowers and Larkin, 2009). But to be honest, it’s a painstaking process to analyse the data using this method although this is probably incomparable to the likes of Grounded Analysis which requires a lot of background conceptual knowledge.
It has been extremely interesting to see the range of experience interviewees have. These interviews have touched me in many ways. From the admiration I hold for them for having been able to jump through the hurdles of the field of trauma work to the inspiration they provide me and their sincerity in helping me gain deeper insight into work in this field. I must admit some of their stories have been horrifying and left me lost in the interviews unable to recollect my thoughts. However it has been a great learning process and if given the choice I would have chosen to conduct those interviews again. I have never felt so much for a set of data before, seeing that I come from a psychological background where we mostly conduct empirical studies. I think I may be a converted from a positivist.