Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that aims to describe the subjective experience of the world around us. This approach has been used in various fields, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. In this article, we will explore the different approaches of phenomenology.

The Descriptive Approach

The descriptive approach is the most fundamental approach of phenomenology. It involves describing an individual’s subjective experience without any external influence or interpretation.

This approach requires a high level of concentration and mindfulness on the part of the individual being studied. The goal is to identify and understand the essential properties of our experiences.


John is asked to describe his experience of drinking a cup of coffee. He begins by describing its taste, smell, and temperature. He then describes how he feels after drinking it—energized or relaxed.

The Interpretive Approach

The interpretive approach goes beyond just describing an individual’s subjective experience. It involves understanding and interpreting their experience in light of their cultural background, beliefs, and values. This approach recognizes that our experiences are not just individual but also shaped by societal factors.


Maria, who comes from a culture where coffee is considered a luxury item, describes her experience of drinking coffee differently than John does. She may describe it as a means of socializing or as a way to signal her status within her community.

The Hermeneutic Approach

The hermeneutic approach focuses on understanding how we interpret and make sense of our experiences. It recognizes that our experiences are not just passive but rather actively constructed through our interpretations.


Sara describes her experience of seeing a painting in an art gallery differently than others do based on her knowledge about art history or personal experiences.

The Phenomenological Reduction Approach

The phenomenological reduction approach involves bracketing or setting aside our preconceptions and biases to focus solely on the essence of the experience. This approach requires a high level of objectivity and mindfulness on the part of the researcher.


Steven, who is conducting a research study on people’s experiences of listening to music, sets aside his personal preferences for certain genres and focuses solely on identifying common themes in participants’ experiences.

The Existential Approach

The existential approach focuses on understanding how individuals create meaning and purpose in their lives. It recognizes that our experiences are shaped by our values, beliefs, and goals.


Lisa, who is struggling to find meaning in her life, describes her experience of drinking coffee differently than someone who has a clear sense of purpose. For Lisa, coffee may represent a small pleasure in an otherwise unfulfilling life.


Phenomenology offers various approaches to understanding individual experiences. Each approach provides unique insights into how we construct meaning and interpret the world around us. By applying these approaches, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of human experience and behavior.