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Gaining access to the life-world of women suffering from stroke: methodological issues in empirical phenomenological studies


Kari Kvigne, Faculty of Social Work, Hedmark Univeristy College, 2418 Elverum, Norway. E-mail:


Aim.  First to give a brief introduction to some dimensions of phenomenology as philosophy, and then to discuss some problems related to empirical research. The objectives of the discussion are: (1) to show what is involved in investigating changes in the life-world caused by illness and (2) to show what must be taken into consideration to obtain adequate descriptions of the changes.

Rationale.  To discuss some of the methodological requirements and challenges that phenomenological studies are expected to meet, particularly focusing on the data collection phase.

Methods.  This is primarily a theoretical analysis supplemented by illustrations drawn from an ongoing study of women who have had suffered stroke.

Findings.  Openness is essential in the whole research process. It is a precondition for conversation with the informants. In interview-based investigations two forms of openness are at issue – the informant's openness in describing his/her life-world, and the sensitivity of the researcher as regards seeing and hearing what is conveyed in the situation. Both forms of openness can be influenced positively or negatively by many factors, including the physical and mental health of the informants, the researcher's theoretical insight, her ability to communicate, and not least the relationship between the informant and the researcher. A relationship of power, for example, might reinforce gender differences, differences in cultural background, education and social status.

Conclusion.  Openness on the part of the researcher is a prerequisite in order to gain access to the informant's life-world.