Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Topics: Decision making, Psychology, Martin Heidegger Pages: 6 (625 words) Published: August 29, 2012
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)
What is it?

Jonathan A Smith
School of Psychology
Birkbeck University of London

What is it?
How do you do it?
What does it look like?
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)

Focus on lived experience of participant

Try to make sense of the meanings of events/ experiences/ states to participants themselves

Naturalistic (qualitative methodology)

small n

Dual components:

Interpretative plus
Idiographic not nomothetic


‘Going back to the things themselves’ (Edmund Husserl)

Reflexive turn inwards
away from the objects in the world and
towards our perception of those objects

however intentionality links perceiver with perceived

Different phenomenologies

1. Idiographic
Detailed analysis of elements of the reflected personal experience- the subjective experience of the social world. IPA does this (or at least attempts to)

2. Eidetic
Establish essential features/general structure of that experience across people. Giorgi’s empirical phenomenology tries to do this

3. Transcendental
Put to one side the content of the subjective process in order to attend to pure consciousness itself.


Hermeneutics of identity/empathy
Hermeneutics of questioning/being critical
Understanding combines these

Double hermeneutic:
Researcher is trying to make sense of the participant trying to make sense of….

The hermeneutic circle

Part and whole

Heidegger and Gadamer on how fore-understanding important in interpretation but sometimes may only be discovered in confrontation with new Methodology of IPA

Data collection
Purposive homogeneous sampling
Interview schedule used flexibly- contrast to structured interview Verbatim transcript

Systematic search for themes in first case
Forge connections between themes,
Then move across case
Usual aim: establishment of superordinate themes

However IPA is approach not ‘methodolatory’
Method can be adapted
Try capture rich account-lived experience for individual

Write Up

Narrative account presents elicited themes supported by verbatim extracts from participants GENETIC TEST FOR HUNTINGTON'S DISEASE:


Susan Michie (UCL)
Oliver Quarrel (University of Sheffield)
Mike Stephenson

Huntington's Disease (HD)

progressive, neuro-degenerative disorder, usually of adult onset

serious motor disability, affective disturbance, and cognitive impairment

no treatment

Predictive testing since 1986

before testing, candidate knows risk status is 50%

testing almost definitive

time of onset is unclear

positive result will also change the risk status of their children from 25% to 50%

how does an individual make such a decision and what are the psychological consequences of it?

Existing work

primarily quantitative

1. Some studies on factors influencing the decision of whether to test or not. Tibben et al. (1993b), Codori et al. (1994)

Typical factors pro testing:
assistance with reproductive decisions
planning for the future

anti testing:
searching for symptoms
being unable to live with the knowledge

2. most work is on psychological effects of knowing the test result. (Tibben et al. 1993a, Bloch et al. 1992)

positive test result can cause psychological distress but usually not major psychiatric problems

This study

concerned with how does individual make decision?


Semi-structured interview, early in counsel protocol:
HD, the test, decision-making

taped and transcribed verbatim

analysed with IPA

for results see

Smith JA, Michie S, Stephenson M. Quarrell O, (2002) Risk perception & decision-making processes in candidates for the genetic test for Huntington’s Disease: an interpretative phenomenological analysis Journal...
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