Hermeneutic philosophy. Part II: a nursing research example of the hermeneutic imperative to address forestructures/pre-understandings
Hermeneutic research requires that pre-understandings are brought to consciousness in order to provide the phenomenon under investigation with the greatest opportunity to reveal itself. This hermeneutic imperative is dealt with in the present study. My research involved explicating the practice knowledge of nursing on residential adolescent mental health units, and as I had worked on such units I held pre-understandings that would influence the research. I addressed pre-understandings in three ways: (i) by developing understandings of practice knowledge through a hermeneutic conceptualisation of it; (ii) by working out forestructures of the phenomenon under investigation. Using Heidegger’s writing on forestructures, 20 statements were generated, interpreted and reconceptualised as my forestructures of residential adolescent mental health nursing. I used this work to review participant interviews in an effort to prevent myself from only finding what I already assumed I would find in relation to practice knowledge; and (iii) by formulating pre-understandings of the phenomenon of interest. Using Gadamer’s writing on reflection, seven stories were written and interpreted as my pre-understandings of adolescent mental health nursing practice. I used this work to consider the presence of pre-understandings during textual interpretation in an attempt to prevent premature interpretive closure. In these ways, I brought my forestructures/pre-understandings to consciousness, reflected on them, questioned their origins, adequacy and legitimacy and thereby took account of their influence on myself and the research.