Phenomenology Research: Bracketing and Transcription

A master’s student recently asked me for some tips when preparing for data analysis of a phenomenology study. Bearing in mind that she is using van Mannen’s (2014) approach whilst I follow Dalhberg, Dahlberg and Nyström’s (2008) reflective lifeworld research approach, there are differences with how we conduct our analyses. Phenomenological approaches have many similarities, so after pointing out this out, I explained how bracketing (bridling) during the interviews and transcription processes prepare us for data analysis.

Bracketing (Bridling).Bracketing is the term used in many phenomenological methodology approaches and refers to the researcher holding preconceptions and biases in abeyance during the data collection and analysis activities. I found that extremely difficult to do, as I am unable to remove my previous knowledge and experiences from data collection and analysis.

This is why I’ve turned to Dalhberg et al. (2008) who use bridling, which is similar to acknowledging, or being mindful of, previous knowledge and experiences. The mindful researcher than grasps the reins and controls and acknowledges the affect previous knowledge and experiences has on the research process. I will write more about bridling in an upcoming post.

Most importantly, a bracketing (bridling) attitude must be used during interviews, transcription, and analysis activities. Phenomenological interviews tend to be meander through and around topics, and the interview process is a very fluid semi-structured approach. Therefore, a bracketing (bridling) attitude helps the researcher listen to the interviewee and ask questions based on responses.

Transcription.Bracketing (bridling) must also be employed during the transpiration process. I transcribe the interviews I’ve conducted. Although I’m slow on the keyboard, I find I gain a deeper understanding of the intent and richness of experiences the interviewee described. It takes about six hours for me to transcribe a one-hour interview, so I also become very familiar inflections and how filler words, such as “like,” “um,” “right?” and “okay” are used. The filler words are part of the transcript and may provide some characterization of the interviewee. I also noticed some of my own verbal ticks that need eliminating, but that’s another story!

Dalberg et al. (2009) point out that a transcript, not matter how carefully done, cannot truly capture the richness of a live conversation (p. 234). They go on to suggest the transcript should be formatted with “an empty column on the side of every page which can be used for analysis notes or for e.g. memory notes interviews or from observation” (p. 234). These additional notes and observations are also used in the upcoming analysis.

A phenomenological approach to research may seem a bit intimidating at first, particularly the bracketing (bridling) aspect. I practiced bridling in several conversations with friends for a few weeks prior to sitting down for a chat with first interviewee was excellent practice.

 

References

Dalhberg, K., Dahlberg, H., & and Nyström, M (2009). Reflective lifework research(2nded.). Malmö, Sweden: Studentlitteratur.

Van Mannen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of practice. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

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