Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Doing Heideggerian hermeneutic research: A discussion paper

Smythe, E. A., Ironside, P. M., Sims, S. L., Swenson, M. M., & Spence, D. G. (2008). Doing Heideggerian hermeneutic research: A discussion paper. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 45, 1389-1397. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2007.09.005

This was quite a difficult paper to read. In summary, it is one main researcher, in discussion with colleagues, going through the thought processes that lead them to hermeneutic analysis of their work. It goes into some depth on Heidegger's Dasein, etc. There are a few useful points which I could use in my assignment.

Within this sort of work, rigour is often renamed trustworthiness (needs a citation). The authors stress that they do not link to Husserl or his followers such as Colazzi and Giorgi. They choose to stay close to the experience itself (ontologic) rather than try to articulate a more generalised analysis of essence (ontic).

1. At the heart

"In the midst" of a specific situating that is constantly in flux". Specific knowing can only come in the moment. Gadamer spoke of the rom to "play" - some room to explore within a structure (e.g. wheels on a bike needing some 'pay' to allow for their free movement).

Phronensis: a key part of Heideggerian hermeneutics - the "wisdom in action" that knows in the moment and finds the way, day by day. Researchers in  phenomenology are  never outside their research - they are always in the midst, making choices and living with possibilities.

2. Our quest

There is an understanding that their research cannot produce objective, scientific concepts of truth. Heidegger (in Harman, 2007) refers to truth as 'unconcealment' yet what we seek will move in and out of concealment as we try to seek it. "Thinking is not a 'working out' but a 'letting come' (Dunne, 1993).

3. Translation to method

3.1 The phenomenological conversation
Within phenomenology, the method must, at times, make way for 'Dasein' - being in the moment. Each conversation is unique, even when an interview framework is used. "What matters most is openness to what 'is' - to the play of conversation" (p. 1392).

3.2. Working with the data
Heidegger suggests that our understanding is always already there and cannot nor should be divorced from our thinking. "We are called by a particular story, just as one 'stops' in front of a particular painting in an art gallery". One can never teach another how to think because meditative thinking, as described by Heidegger (1992) is an experience of being-lost-in-thought. The  minute one tries to 'describe' how one thinks, one moves from being-in-thought to a more ontic process that is different.

Van Manen (1990, p. 79) 2Grasping and formulating a thematic understanding is not a rule-bound process but a free act of 'seeing'  meaning". What we call themes are not necessarily the same thing said again and again but rather an understanding we have seen something that matters significantly, something that we wish to point the reader towards.

They suggest that themes aren't 'findings' removed from the data but to indicate what the researcher senses within the text and to indicate to the reader that this will be analysed further.

3.3. Offering
Reliability is not important but what provokes the researcher to wonder.

3.4. Inviting
Heideggerian phenomenology invites the reader to make their own journey.

4. The 'experience'

4.1. At the beginning, the research question is not important and is not fixed. "The focus of the research is held but the questions we bring to that focus will grow and change as our understanding builds."

4.2. Captured by a thought

4.3. Enjoying
Letting the ideas jump out.

4.4. Working
Listen for the ideas that jump out.

4.5. Listening and responding
Must have an openness to the thinking that emerges and respond to those insights with  more questions.

4.6. The unutterable circle of writing

4.7. Openness
writing as thinking rather than writing as reporting. Be open to the unexpected.

4.8. Always an impression
Findings of hermeneutic phenomenological research is the impression gained. It seeks to engage others in their own thinking experience.

4.9. Discerning trust
The researcher has a responsibility to listen in a way that seeks to understand the meaning of what is said, and to respond with thinking that provokes and engages. Resonance - the hallmark of trustworthiness.

4.10. 'Graced moments'
A hallmark of phenomenological research is the act of 'graced moments' (Heidegger) - a shared sense of belonging to the insight that seems to go beyond what was said, yet is felt and understood as being true.

4.11. Being self
Let thinking come, as it comes. 'Being there' in the midst of what is.

4.12. Conclusion
The paper sought to provide words for the unutterable process of phenomenological research. Phenomenological researchers listen to the participants' story of their lived experiences, trusting that new understandings come through the data. Writing hermeneutically is thinking.

Overall, this paper shines through with the joy that the researchers seem to feel as they engage with the process of research and particularly with the process of analysis of the text.

Further reading:

Dunne (1993) Back to the rough ground.

Harman (2007) Heidegger explained. From object to phenomenon.

Heidegger (1992) What calls for thinking?

Heidegger (1995) Being and time.

Van Manen (1990). Researching lived experience.

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