What Is Descriptive Phenomenology?


Diego Sanchez

Descriptive Phenomenology is a qualitative research method that aims to explore the lived experiences of individuals. It is based on the philosophical principles of phenomenology, which focuses on the study of conscious experience and the way in which people make sense of their world. In this article, we will delve deeper into what descriptive phenomenology is, its key features, and how it is used in research.

What Is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is a philosophical concept that was first introduced by Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century. It is concerned with exploring the nature of conscious experience and how people perceive and interpret their world. Phenomenologists believe that we cannot understand reality objectively but rather through our subjective experiences.

Key Features of Descriptive Phenomenology

Descriptive phenomenology involves studying the essence of a phenomenon as experienced by individuals. It aims to capture the qualities of an experience without imposing any preconceived notions or theories on it. Some key features of descriptive phenomenology include:

  • Bracketing: This involves setting aside any preconceived ideas or biases about a phenomenon to allow for an unbiased exploration.
  • Intentional Analysis: This involves analyzing the meaning and essence of an individual’s lived experience.
  • Phenomenological Reduction: This involves reducing a phenomenon to its essential components to better understand it.

How Is Descriptive Phenomenology Used in Research?

Descriptive phenomenology is commonly used in fields such as psychology, nursing, and sociology to explore individuals’ experiences with various phenomena. Researchers using this method typically conduct in-depth interviews or focus groups with participants to gather data.

Once data has been collected, researchers will analyze it using various techniques, such as coding and categorizing, to identify the key themes and patterns that emerge. These themes and patterns are then used to develop a descriptive account of the phenomenon being studied.


Descriptive phenomenology is a powerful qualitative research method that allows researchers to explore individuals’ experiences with phenomena in depth. By setting aside preconceived notions and focusing on the essence of an experience, researchers can gain valuable insights into how people perceive and interpret their world. If you’re interested in conducting qualitative research, descriptive phenomenology is definitely a method worth considering.