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An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Heterosexual Male Experience of Togetherness

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Autor:   •  April 20, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  3,480 Words (14 Pages)  •  197 Views

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An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Heterosexual Male Experience of Togetherness


University of East London

Text: 2159 words

Extracts: 1134 words

Epistemological Statement

This study is an exploration of how British heterosexual men experience togetherness in their current couple. Rather than attempting to answer a pre-conceived theory, a phenomenological approach was used to analyse the participants’ experience of togetherness.

Phenomenology focuses on the human experience and on the ways in which things present themselves to us through such experiences, by way of the used language and explanation (Sokolowski, 1999). It attempts to objectively study topics usually regarded as subjective by focusing on how things are experienced rather than how things actually are. Spinelly (1989) states it well by saying that one true reality is unknown to us and instead, what we call reality is experienced by us as real and is linked to our mental processes in general, and, in particular to our innate species’ capacity to construct meaning.

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the theory and the nature of knowledge and the way in which one acquires knowledge. It attempts to answer the question “How do we know?” (Willig, 2013). This epistemological study tries to extract meaning from subjective realities in the perception of phenomena, or conscious experience.

Methodological Statement

Qualitative research is an exploratory social systematic investigation where the researcher focuses on the lived experience, interaction and language of selected individuals. It relies on text data rather than numerical data for analysis. It rejects the concept of objective perception and truth and is instead context-sensitive. Researchers aim to understand the meaning of human action based on a set of data rather than testing predetermined hypotheses (Smith, Flower & Larkin, 2009).

Qualitative research can follow a variety of approaches and procedures to achieve an aim. In this paper the followed approach was Interpretive Phenomenology Analysis (IPA), chosen due to its focus on lived experience and the ways in which one makes meaning of an experience. IPA follows a set of flexible guidelines that are open to adaptation according to their research objectives (Smith & Pietkiewicz, 2012), and holds the key principles of phenomenology, hermeneutics and ideography. This method was used to answer; “How do Heterosexual Men Experience Togetherness in their Couples?”

In IPA researchers interpret the accounts and decode the transcripts to find key themes that place the experiences in a wider interpretive context. This method of interpretation, or hermeneutics, is best done by attempting to understand the phenomenon from the point of view of the participant. Because the participants first make meaning of their experience and secondly, the researcher decodes that meaning by putting it in the context of the research, this process is called double hermeneutics (Smith & Osborn, 2008).

During interpretation the researcher must be reflexive and set aside, or “bracket,” as many assumptions, suppositions and psychological biases as possible in order to focus on the current conscious experience of the participant (Spinelly, 1989, p32-33).

IPA is idiographic as it relates to the understanding of the particular experience of single cases rather than the general, by placing the participants at the centre of the enquiry (Willig, 2008). The researchers must explore each case before producing general statements.

The aim of this analysis was to explore the participants’ views and experiences of togetherness in their current heterosexual monogamous coupledom. The data was interpreted and explored around three key themes.

Methods Section


The participants were invited to take part through private invitation. Both participants identified as white British men in a relationship. At the time of the interview Oliver, a 24-year-old Master’s graduate with full time employment, had been with his girlfriend for one year.  Tim, 31 years old with a Master’s degree and out of work, had been with his girlfriend nearly 6 years.

The interviews were conducted in naturalistic settings as per IPA for both interviews.  Oliver requested to be interviewed at home while Tim met the interviewer in a café near his home.

        Data collection

Data was collected in 10-15 minute face-to-face semi-structured interviews recorded digitally. Interview questions were set in advance but allowed for flexibility. The interviews were transcribed and the participants were given pseudonyms to safeguard their anonymity. Transcripts recorded words and parts of speech and pauses but not intonations or pace.


Ethical considerations

The study was granted ethical approval by the University of East London. The participants were not familiar to the group of researchers in order to create a more comfortable environment to talk. They were sent a ‘Participant Invitation Letter’ that gave an overview of the research and outlined the ethical guidelines and confidentiality of shared information. The participants signed a consent form before starting the interviews.

An ethical consideration is that interpretation always involves a degree of appropriation in order to make sense of the accounted phenomena. By interpreting the researcher has the power to shape a person’s accounted experience. This means that data analysis will be a combination of the participant’s original account, the sharing of that account, and the researchers’ own perspective. In order to remain ethical and reduce pre-conceived narratives that would fit the research’s outcome, it is important to bracket and reduce bias as much as possible. This can be done by re-reading transcripts multiple times to get comfortable with the written words.

Another consideration was the gender relation of the interviewer and participant, due to the sensitive nature of the questions. It is important to consider that perhaps the participant would have been more comfortable sharing with someone of his gender, or of the opposite gender. In the case of this study, both participants were able to discuss intimate thoughts, implying that gender differences did not have an impact on the interview.

Analytic procedure

Following Smith, Flowers and Larkin’s method (2009), transcripts were analysed line-by-line and read several times in order to appreciate the texture and quality of the phenomena. Emerging descriptive analysis was annotated in a right hand column and further analysis was done using the left hand column, as per IPA. A more interpretive account was developed following the increased familiarity with the coded data and overall context of the subject of togetherness. When both transcripts were combined it led to the identification of emergent themes to create a phenomenological understanding of togetherness.


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