Is reflexivity the key to minimising problems of interpretation in phenomenological research?

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To discuss and demonstrate the use of reflexivity in interpretive phenomenological analysis.


Interpretative phenomenological analysis focuses on understanding individual experiences through interpretation. A double hermeneutic is created as the researcher makes sense of participants' experiences. It is crucial to undergo a process of reflexivity to provide a credible and plausible explanation of participants' accounts and avoid assumptions.

Data sources

Research undertaken with six sub-Saharan African healthcare professionals.

Review methods

Articles were selected from Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health, Medline and Google Scholar. Searches were based on relevance and with priority to those dated over the past five years.


This article has reviewed pertinent literature and personal examples of reflexivity in research practice to aid nurse researcher understanding and encourage its use, particularly when employing interpretative methodologies.


Reflexivity is an active process that may, at times, be difficult and probing, but which is crucial to becoming self-aware and thus able to see any influences that could affect data collection or analysis. This process will increase understanding and allow for a more rigorous approach.

Implications for practice

Many practical examples are offered for using reflexivity. Nurse researchers may choose one or a mixture of the options offered, such as use of time and space to distance themselves from their research, aspects of practical self-presentation, or a reflexive diary.

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