Choose Your Method: A Comparison of Phenomenology, Discourse Analysis, and Grounded Theory

Department of Health Services, University of Washington Seattle, Seattle, Washington, United States
Qualitative Health Research (Impact Factor: 2.19). 01/2008; 17(10):1372-80. DOI: 10.1177/1049732307307031
Source: PubMed


The purpose of this article is to compare three qualitative approaches that can be used in health research: phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. The authors include a model that summarizes similarities and differences among the approaches, with attention to their historical development, goals, methods, audience, and products. They then illustrate how these approaches differ by applying them to the same data set. The goal in phenomenology is to study how people make meaning of their lived experience; discourse analysis examines how language is used to accomplish personal, social, and political projects; and grounded theory develops explanatory theories of basic social processes studied in context. The authors argue that by familiarizing themselves with the origins and details of these approaches, researchers can make better matches between their research question(s) and the goals and products of the study.

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    • "We adopted an interpretive paradigm and explored " the ephemeral, the indefinite and the irregular " phenomenon (Law, 2004, p. 4), allowing penetration into " the complex world of lived experience from the point of view of those who live it " (Schwandt, 1994, p. 118). Our research aspired to bring both " theoretical insight " and " rich thematic descriptions " of social impact measurement from perspectives of social entrepreneurs, resource providers, and other actors in the sector (Starks & Trinidad, 2007). "
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    • "All audio-recorded sessions were transcribed, and all of the qualitative data were systematically analyzed by the four sociologists, who used a combination of open and axial coding [16] to identify themes. Open coding involves a preliminary analysis of the data to identify basic categories and themes. "

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    • "[20] We adopted a phenomenological approach since it allows description and close analysis of lived experience to understand how meaning is created through embodied perception. [20] The study was carried out according to the principles expressed in the Helsinki Declaration, and prior to its commencement approvals by the Medical Research & Ethics Committee (MREC) and Clinical Research Centre (CRC), Ministry of Health Malaysia were taken. Finally, it was registered under National Medical Research Registry (NMRR) database. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is often used within the sphere of chronic disease management. Exploring the beliefs and practices of CAM use among People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) could be vital, since some of these therapies may adversely affect the outcomes of the conventional HIV treatment. Methods A phenomenological methodology was adopted. In depth patient interviews were performed with Malaysian patients over the age of 18 diagnosed with HIV/AIDS using a semi structured topic guide. Prior to each interview both written and verbal consents were taken. Saturation was reached after the 13th interview, with no further newly emerging information. All interviews were audio-recorded and subjected to a thematic content analysis framework. Results Beliefs in the effectiveness of CAM, types of CAM and reasons for CAM use emerged from the data as themes. A majority of the participants had a strong faith in the effectiveness and safety of CAM due to their natural origin. Perceived immune boosting effects, devoid of any toxicities and strong cultural influences were found vital driving forces towards CAM use. Remarkably, participants were generally of the view that CAM can always be used either with conventional HIV medicines or until one’s CD4 cell counts drop significantly. Conclusions Despite the possible underlying adherence and therapeutic challenges towards taking ARTs; CAM use in contemporary HIV-care may provide a proactive means of engaging PLWHA, and generate self-care practises that promote positive health behaviours, including proper use of ARTs. Therefore, patient-healthcare provider communications are critical.
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