Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis - Guidelines by Experts

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis - Guidelines by Experts
During research work, researchers opt for different analysis techniques to analyse the data. Usually, data is of two types i.e., Qualitative and Quantitative. In this article, I will discuss the most widely accepted and effective technique to analyse the qualitative data. i.e., Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). This technique seeks to examine the lived experiences of human beings thoroughly. It is an intrinsic analysis of lived experiences and investigates them from the very perspective of subjective experiences. Human beings try to make sense of reality based on their subjective realities. It is a subjective analysis of lived experiences in contrast to producing an objective record of an event or situation.

What is interpretative phenomenological analysis?

The interpretative phenomenological analysis is phenomenological. It aims to understand an individual's perspective or version of an occurrence or state. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) aims to learn more about how people decipher their personal and social environment. IPA seeks to understand how people create meaning in their life according to certain experiences, incidents, and emotions.

However, during dissertation writing, most of students failed to apply the best methods for interpretative phenomenological analysis. They have an option to hire PhD dissertation writing services to get help from. This article will tell you everything you need to know about interpretative phenomenological analysis.

What is interpretative phenomenological analysis used for?

Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is a useful qualitative research technique with an idiographic focus. Idiographic focus refers to studying instances of a natural or social phenomenon instead of studying a specific phenomenon through pre-conceived theoretical frameworks. IPA inspects those processes that are emotionally charged, complex and confusing and cannot be defined by objective standards.

It has become standard practice in many academic disciplines due to its focus on interpreting the lived experiences of people. The qualitative approach of phenomenology is appealing for humanities, social sciences, and health care practitioners. In a nutshell, interpretative phenomenological analysis is an approach that seeks to examine subjective issues. Subjective processes encompass the following:
  • How do people perceive reality in relation to their environment?
  • How do people create meaning in their lives based on certain events and experiences?
  • How do people process pain and emotions?
  • How do people define themselves in relation to the macro factors such as society, political structure, and family values?

Is interpretative phenomenological analysis a research design?

Yes, interpretative phenomenological analysis is a qualitative research design. It is common in humanities, social sciences, and health care. IPA utilises a qualitative approach to understand the complex human processes that are less tangible. It seeks to comprehensively understand people's life experiences in contrast to the quantified studies. Researchers utilise IPA research design when they are trying to decipher how individuals perceive a particular phenomenon.

It is a useful research design to understand the construction of meaning in relation to social, political, economic, and environmental conditions. IPA is a practical research design for researchers who intend to investigate the complexity of an issue. IPA research design focuses more on the process itself rather than the outcomes. There are no theoretical frameworks or hypotheses in an IPA research design that needs testing.

What is the difference between thematic analysis and interpretative phenomenological analysis?

Thematic analysis is also a qualitative research methodology that examines qualitative data such as a collection of texts and interview transcripts. The researcher studies the data carefully to unravel the recurring themes in terms of ideas and patterns in the texts or interviews.

The distinction between approaches and derivation of conclusions distinguishes thematic analysis from the interpretative phenomenological analysis. Two types of themes and conclusions emerge from the interpretative phenomenological analysis.
  • The first category is idiographic approaches, which are themes and conclusions tailored to certain individuals to emphasise their unique characteristics and experiences.
  • The second type is a nomothetic approach, which focuses on themes and conclusions relevant to a wide range of people.
A thematic analysis follows a nomothetic approach, which means it does not develop themes solely concerned with one or two participants. As a result, proponents of thematic analysis are less likely to create themes exclusively relevant to one individual.

6 steps for interpretative phenomenological analysis

1. Formulation of Research Questions

The research questions in interpretative phenomenological analysis are broad and open-ended. The researcher aims to explore an issue by being open to ideas and probing deeply into the issue. For example, a researcher might formulate such questions:
  • How do people deal with losing a family member or a friend?
  • When do people decide to go into therapy?
  • What is the relationship between magical realism and delusions of grandeur?
  • How does a man's sense of identity change during the transition to fatherhood?

2. Sampling

The sample size in IPA research design is quite small because this approach is not concerned with generalisations. It is rather a case-by-case analysis and a detailed description of the lived experiences of people belonging to a particular group which takes a lot of time. The small sample size in IPA is due to the idiographic focus of the research design. Generalised claims tend to be probabilistic and quantify human experiences. But IPA research design focuses on construction of meaning by every member of the group. Consequently, IPA studies can make specific claims about the lived experiences of every individual and are more accurate.

Researchers who utilise IPA research design tend to locate homogenous sample sizes. Homogenous samples serve the logic of finding the relevant people pertaining to the specific study questions. The purposive sampling is useful in finding those people whose lived experiences are directly relevant to the research question. It is contrary to the representative sampling method that relies on probabilities.

3. Data Collection

In IPA research designs, researchers collect data through semi-structured methods. This methodology enables the researchers to gather the participants' responses in a dialectical manner. In addition, the semi-structured approach allows the researcher to be more flexible since he/she can change the initial questions based on the responses from the participants.

4. Analysis

Analysis requires the researcher's commitment to interpreting the data from the perspective of the lived experiences of the people. Interpretative phenomenological analysis tries to understand participants' perceptions while, at the same time, the researcher's understanding has an impact on the investigation.

5. Multiple Reading and Making notes

To conduct a thorough examination of the data, the researcher must read the data multiple times and make notes. Based on those notes, the researcher must reflect on the data and understand how people construct meaning.

6. Establishing Themes

The researcher, at this stage, aims to construct themes from the notes and reflections. The researcher must develop a conceptual model to decode people's perceptions about a particular phenomenon.


The interpretative phenomenological analysis is a multi-disciplinary approach. It seeks to register the diversity of the human experience. It is an exploratory approach that has deep roots in psychology and philosophy. Any researcher who wants to understand people's subjective experiences can utilise this research methodology.

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