Sydney School of Education and Social Work events - 2013 Archive

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Foundations for social research: phenomenology

17 October 2013

This lecture will provide a brief overview and introduction to phenomenology as a methodology in social science research. Phenomenology probes to understand human experience and the ways people find meaning in this experience and their lives. It attempts to develop interpretive descriptions of aspects of human experience and elements of the 'lifeworld' towards providing insight and understanding into such questions as 'What is the lived experience of …?', 'What is it like to be …?' or 'How do … make sense/meaning of …?'. It does this by taking the familiar, the taken for granted and 'making it strange' and in so doing opening up different perspectives and new ways of seeing the chosen phenomena. It employs the analysis of any relevant text and creation of new texts, particularly texts that use rich descriptive language and imagery: the products of the arts are particularly relevant to this methodology.

Textual language and its meaning is central to phenomenology. Because of this it is one of the most demanding research methodologies in the social sciences. In using phenomenology you not only have to be skilled in all of the aspects of qualitative research. you also have to be a skilled writer, able to construct rich descriptive and metaphorical text that can illuminate and provide new insight into the selected aspect of the lifeworld.

The presentation will introduce the four recognised types of phenomenology. These are Transcendental (Husserl), Interpretive Hermeneutic (Van Manen), Existential with its focus on the physical body and embodiment and Heuristic using the personal reflections of the researcher as the sources for the research. Through providing some examples of phenomenological interpretive description, it will then examine the main stages of phenomenological research and the key qualities of high quality phenomenological writing.


Event details

  • When: 4–5pm
  • Where:

    Education Building A35, Room 612

    Click image for interactive map.

  • Cost: Free

  • RSVP: RSVP by emailing Camilla Pilgrim.

  • Contact:

    Camilla Pilgrim


  • More info:

    View the full schedule of talks in this series.

  • Reference:

    Van Manen. M. (2006) Researching Lived Experience: human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. London, Canada: Althouse. [Earlier editions (eg 1997) are also appropriate.]

  • Speaker:

    Dr David Smith is a private educational consultant and an honorary associate professor at the Sydney School of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney. After teaching in primary and secondary schools for 10 years in rural NSW and metropolitan Sydney he spent most of the next 30 years in teacher education, first at Macquarie University and then The University of Sydney.

    As a former associate professor in the Faculty of Education, Dr Smith held various positions including Associate Dean, Research, Teaching and Learning and Postgraduate Studies. He was also coordinator of the Master of Teaching degree and the undergraduate honours program.

    As the author, co-author and editor of 14 books and more than 100 published articles, Dr Smith has been a consultant and evaluator for programs in the UK, Canada, Scandinavia, and New Zealand as well as for state and national governments in Australia. In 2003 he was commissioned by the Australian government to undertake a critical review of the literature dealing with the latest research in quality learning across the western world.

    Dr Smith’s most recent work has been with the NSW DET Middle Years Action Research Project where he has been the academic partner to the DET team managing the project, facilitator at the project orientation meeting and academic partner to the Bidwill and Colyton team clusters. As part of this role he completed a review of recent policy and research for the NSW DET Strategic Initiatives Directorate. In addition, David is the academic partner for the Colyton and Doonside Schools Learning Communities and several other schools.

Foundations for social research: phenomenology


Education Building A35, Room 612

Click image for interactive map.


17 October 2013

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