This article examines what interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is and what it is used for.
This material was mainly obtained from:
Both editions of Smith, Flowers & Larkin (2009; 2022).Interpretive phenomenological analysis: theory, method, research. London: wise
Smith, JA and Nice, IE (2021).Fundamentals of interpretive phenomenological analysis. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
Also many other theoretical journal articles about IPA.See the bibliography at the end of the publication for more information.
What is not an IPA
Well, first of all, IPA isn't a specific type of beer with iconic status... at least not in this context...
Where does the IPA come from?
It is a relatively newly developed (Smith, 1996) experimental qualitative research methodology (yes, it is a methodology and not just a method; more on that later, I promise!).Professor Jonathan Smith an der Birkbeck University of London.
IPA has its origins in psychology (Professor Smith specializes in the field of health psychology) and has been widely used in a variety of different applied psychologies such as health, clinical, counseling, employment and education.
You name it, we use it to study human experience.
It has also proved popular in other health and social sciences, e.g. B. in health-related professions such as nursing, physical therapy, OT, social work, etc.
Over the years it has been adopted in a variety of other disciplines. For example business, education, music, film, fashion, architecture, sports science, the list goes on.
Dedicated to examining how people understand their most important life experiences, the IPA examines concern about the “human situation” (Smith et al., 2022, p. 3).
The main goal of interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA)
The main goal of the IPA is to get as close as possible to the lived experience of the participants so that we can examine it in detail.
In general, our goal is to understand what it's like to have an experience from the perspective of those experiencing it.
Therefore, we collect rich descriptions of people (mostly oral) and try to access and understand the emotions associated with the experience and how the person relates, makes sense of, and understands it.
People tend to think about the meaning of what happens when they engage in an experience of something meaningful or meaningful in their life, and it is these reflections that we address for our IPA analysis.
Therefore, the personal meanings associated with this experience are essential in the IPA.FORWARDhow that experience relates to that person's worldview and relationships. We could call that "making sense".
At IPA, we examine experiences on their own terms, rather than attempting to “classify experiences into overly abstract or predefined categories” (Smith et al., 2022, p. 1). IPA is therefore what we might callbottom-up approachin the sense that we do not apply top-down categories to the data to conduct our analysis; We work with the data and really focus on the participants.
In summary, the IPA is interested in:
lived personal experience
The meaning of the experience to the participant AND how they understand that experience
Hence, we examine “experience on its own terms” (Smith et al., 2022, p.1).
However, we must take into account and remember that:
Although the IPA is experiential, it does not (and cannot) claim to examine pure experience independently of the meaning making of our participants. The IPA position recognizes that there is no direct route or access to experience: we cannot look directly into someone's mind and see or hear them experience something. So we're really lookingclose experiencewith our IPA contrary to experience as it is the best we can handle.
In this case we seepeople as creators of meaningin the Heideggerian sense, and it can be said that the meaning the participant gives to an experience constitutes the experience itself (Smith et al., 2009, p.33; 2022, p.27). In other words, our goal is to understand a person's relationship to the world through the meanings they ascribe to it, and then pass them on to us, the researchers.
As humans, we are inherently meaningful beings, and the account or narrative that a participant provides to you, the researcher, will reflect their attempts to make sense of their experience. This makes the IPA an interpretive effort and links it strongly to hermeneutics.
In addition, researchers are closely involved in this process, as we ourselves act as filters or mediators of this experience.
If you think about it, our approach to that experience always depends on what we're told about that experience: by transmitting that experience to us, our participant is already interpreting it. And then we will in turn interpret what we hear from our participants to try to understand it for ourselves.
This, my friends, is calledThe hermeneutic duo: is our interpretation of your interpretation of your experience and our interpretation of your interpretation of that experience.
An IPA analysis of a participant's account of an experience or phenomenon requires that the researcher engage in a systematic, conscious, and aware application of the same reflective approach and skills that the participant uses to tell us their story. Therefore, the analysis of the IPA requires a rigorous and methodical process of participation and interpretation by the researcher, which also firmly connects the IPA to a hermeneutic view.
What added value can an IPA study bring?
Due to its ideographic and bottom-up nature, the IPA offers an opportunity to understand up close and in detail what an experience was like for someone and how that person understands it.
IPA can also shed light on any ambiguity and tension in people's responses to their meaningful experiences, reflecting the nature and complexity of the human experience, and potentially informing our understanding of important processes, life events, transitions, and interventions.
References and recommended reading
There is a huge list of basic theoretical texts and articles you should read for your IPA study and here I describe what I consider to be the bare minimum.
You don't have to think about it and you can't miss it:
Both editions of Smith, Flowers & Larkin (2009; 2022).Interpretive phenomenological analysis: theory, method, research. London: wise
Smith, JA and Nice, IE (2021).Fundamentals of interpretive phenomenological analysisS. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
Important journal articles:
Smith, JA (1996). Beyond the cognition-discourse divide: using interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology.Psychology and Health, 11, 261-271.
Smith, JA (2004). Reflect on the development of interpretive phenomenological analysis and its contribution to qualitative psychology.Qualitative research in psychology, 1, 39-54.
Smith, JA (2007). Hermeneutics, Human Sciences and Health: Combining Theory and Practice.International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Health and Wellbeing, 2, 3-11.Note: This article is open access, yes!
Smith, J.A. (2011). "We may dive for pearls": gem value in empirical qualitative psychology.QMiP Bulletin, Number 12, October 2011
Smith, J.A. (2019). Participants and researchers in search of meaning: conceptual developments for interpretative phenomenological analysis.Qualitative research in psychology, 16(2), 166-181
Top tip for reading these magazine articles:
I recommend taking the time to read articles from previous journals in chronological order and sequentially. By taking this approach, you can follow the progress and development of Professor Smith's theoretical ideas about the IPA over almost two decades!
Would you like to learn more about the theoretical foundations of the IPA and how you can firmly build your IPA studies on it? Then you have come to the right place and must book with myLocating the IPA: Applying the theoretical foundations of the IPA to your research studio workshop!
I hope you found this article helpful in clarifying what IPA is and what you might want to look at.
I wish you all the best for your successful investigation!
Until next time
With best wishes full of IPAs,
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What is interpretative phenomenological analysis? ›
Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is a qualitative approach which aims to provide detailed examinations of personal lived experience.How is IPA phenomenology? ›
IPA is phenomenological in that it wishes to explore an individual's personal perception or account of an event or state as opposed to attempting to produce an objective record of the event or state itself.What is IPA thematic analysis? ›
Abstract Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is a qualitative thematic approach developed within psychology underpinned by an idiographic philosophy, thereby focusing on the subjective lived experiences of individuals.What are examples of IPA research? ›
There are interesting examples of using IPA in psychological research to explore a variety of problems, such as: the relationship between body image, gender and sexual orientation (Morgan & Arcelus, 2009), how people with multiple sclerosis think about the experience of exercise (Borkoles et al., 2008), how being HIV ...What are the benefits of IPA analysis? ›
It enables nurses to reach, hear and understand the experiences of participants. Findings from IPA studies can influence and contribute to theory. Implications for research and practice: Achieving a greater understanding of experiences in health care and illness can improve service provision.Why is IPA good for qualitative research? ›
Furthermore, as a qualitative research approach, IPA gives researchers the best opportunity to understand the innermost deliberation of the 'lived experiences' of research participants.What are the principles of IPA? ›
The historic principles
There should be a separate letter for each distinctive sound; that is, for each sound which, being used instead of another, in the same language, can change the meaning of a word. 2. When any sound is found in several languages, the same sign should be used in all.
While conducting a phenomenological research methodology, it often pertains the four necessary steps of Bracketing, Intuiting, Analyzing and Describing.What are the 3 methods in phenomenology? ›
This research limits itself by focusing on three main approaches in phenomenology: Husserl's transcendental phenomenology; Heidegger's hermeneutical phenomenology; and Merleau-Ponty's idea of perception.How is interpretative phenomenological analysis IPA different from thematic analysis? ›
IPA has a dual focus on the unique characteristics of individual participants (the idiographic focus mentioned above) and on patterning of meaning across participants. In contrast, TA focuses mainly on patterning of meaning across participants (this is not to say it can't capture difference and divergence in data).
What are the benefits of interpretative phenomenological analysis? ›
Interpretative phenomenological analysis advantages
It provides a chance to examine more personal perspectives on the issue than other research approaches. It doesn't look at the phenomenon on a surface level; instead, it seeks a way to understand how it is experienced by the individuals.
The data analysis technique used in this study is Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which consists of: 1) Reading and Re-Reading, 2) Initial Noting, 3) Developing Emergent Themes, 4) Searching for connections a cross emergent themes, 5) Moving to the following cases, and 6) Looking for patterns across ...What are the three types of IPA? ›
Prominent IPA styles include West Coast IPA, British IPA and New England Style IPA. According to Bon Appétit, New England IPAs carry a fruity flavor with low bitterness, while the British style is maltier and bitter.What is the purpose of Ipas? ›
Ipas is a global nonprofit organization that works to increase women's ability to exercise their reproductive and sexual rights. The organization has offices in Mexico and other countries around the world.Do you think IPA is important why? ›
1) The IPA makes us more aware of how words are really pronounced. Ideally, we should learn how to speak a language well before we learn how to read and write it. We can then more easily attach spellings and writing conventions to words we already understand and know how to pronounce.Why is IPA important in teaching and learning process? ›
The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) which were created at the era of linguistic in present century can be used to present speech sounds in a written form. In English language, this is particularly useful since the standard spelling is very misleading when compared to how words are pronounced.What are the 2 types of phenomenological research? ›
There are two types of phenomenology: descriptive and interpretive phenomenology. In descriptive phenomenology, the essence of an experience is described. Inter- pretive phenomenology is also called hermeneutic phenomenology. Herme- neutics is the science of interpretation.What is phenomenological method in simple words? ›
The phenomenological approach is a form of qualitative enquiry that emphasizes experiential, lived aspects of a particular construct – that is, how the phenomenon is experienced at the time that it occurs, rather than what is thought about this experience or the meaning ascribed to it subsequently.What is an example of phenomenology qualitative research? ›
Women's experiences in maternity wards, racism in the workplace, and how families experience end-of-life care for loved ones are some examples of themes that can be studied using phenomenological research.What are some examples of phenomenology research? ›
Examples of phenomenological research include exploring the lived experiences of women undergoing breast biopsy or the lived experiences of family members waiting for a loved one undergoing major surgery. The term phenomenology often is used without a clear understanding of its meaning.
What are the basic principles of phenomenology? ›
Henry outlines briefly three principles, (1) “so much appearance, so much being,” (2) “the principle of principles” of Ideas I, (3) “to the things themselves!” before entering into a lengthy dialogue with Marion's proposal of a fourth principle: “so much reduction, so much givenness.” Henry submits each principle to ...What are the key elements of phenomenology? ›
Phenomenology as a method has four characteristics, namely descriptive, reduction, essence and intentionality. to investigate as it happens. observations and ensure that the form of the description as the things themselves.What is the difference between IPA and thematic analysis? ›
IPA has a dual focus on the unique characteristics of individual participants (the idiographic focus mentioned above) and on patterning of meaning across participants. In contrast, TA focuses mainly on patterning of meaning across participants (this is not to say it can't capture difference and divergence in data).What are the steps in interpretative phenomenological analysis? ›
- What Is Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis?
- Designing an IPA Study.
- Collecting Data.
- Analyzing the Data: Starting With the First Case.
- Cross-Case Analysis.
- Writing Up the Study.
- Variations on the Method and More Complex Designs.
- Methodological Integrity.
Interpretive inquiry, as is the case with all other forms of qualitative inquiry, focuses on understanding (interpreting) the meanings, purposes, and intentions (interpretations) people give to their own actions and interactions with others.What are the stages of IPA data analysis? ›
The data analysis technique used in this study is Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which consists of: 1) Reading and Re-Reading, 2) Initial Noting, 3) Developing Emergent Themes, 4) Searching for connections a cross emergent themes, 5) Moving to the following cases, and 6) Looking for patterns across ...What is the sample size for interpretative phenomenological analysis? ›
Clarke (2010) stipulated that three is the default sample size for undergraduate or Masters-level IPA study, whereas 4-10 is advised for professional doctorates. It has even been argued that a single participant study could be justified, providing they can generate a particularly rich or compelling case (Smith, 2004).How many themes are in an IPA study? ›
Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) had three main themes disaggregated in their respective subtopics and presented in Table 4. The subtopics of the main themes "Do (not) it at their core" and "Limitations" were related to the probable affected executive functions of the participants. ...What is the difference between descriptive and interpretive phenomenology? ›
In interpretive phenomenology the researcher's prior knowledge or experience of the phenomena under investigation is integral to the study. In descriptive phenomenology, any prior knowledge the researcher has about the phenomena should not influence the study.What is the purpose of interpretive research? ›
In contrast, the primary goal of interpretive research is empathetic understanding to generate meaning and expand boundaries, which is more of a process than an end product (Denzin, 1984).
What is the goal of interpretive research? ›
Qualitative Methods and the Interpretive Turn
For the antinaturalistic interpretive researcher, human action constitutes subjective interpretations of meanings. Therefore, meaning-making is underscored as the primary goal of interpretive research in the understanding of social phenomena.
Literally, phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience.What are the 2 types of phenomenology? ›
There are two types of phenomenology: descriptive and interpretive phenomenology. In descriptive phenomenology, the essence of an experience is described. Inter- pretive phenomenology is also called hermeneutic phenomenology. Herme- neutics is the science of interpretation.