An overview of interpretive phenomenology as a research methodology

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To provide an overview of interpretive phenomenology.


Phenomenology is a philosophy and a research approach. As a research approach, it is used extensively in nursing and ‘interpretive’ phenomenology is becoming increasingly popular.

Data sources

Online and manual searches of relevant books and electronic databases were undertaken.

Review methods

Literature review on papers on phenomenology, research and nursing (written in English) was undertaken.


A brief outline of the origins of the concept, and the influence of ‘descriptive’ phenomenology on the development of interpretive phenomenology is provided. Its aim, origins and philosophical basis, including the core concepts of dasein, fore-structure/pre-understanding, world view existential themes and the hermeneutic circle, are described and the influence of these concepts in phenomenological nursing research is illustrated.


This paper will assist readers when deciding whether interpretive phenomenology is appropriate for their research projects.

Implications for research/practice

This paper adds to the discussion on interpretive phenomenology and helps inform readers of its use as a research methodology.

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