The Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA): A Guide to a Good Qualitative Research Approach

Abayomi Alase


As a research methodology, qualitative research method infuses an added advantage to the exploratory capability that researchers need to explore and investigate their research studies. Qualitative methodology allows researchers to advance and apply their interpersonal and subjectivity skills to their research exploratory processes. However, in a study with an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) approach, the advantageous elements of the study quadruple because of the bonding relationship that the approach allows for the researchers to develop with their research participants. Furthermore, as a qualitative research approach, IPA gives researchers the best opportunity to understand the innermost deliberation of the ‘lived experiences’ of research participants. As an approach that is ‘participant-oriented’, interpretative phenomenological analysis approach allows the interviewees (research participants) to express themselves and their ‘lived experience’ stories the way they see fit without any distortion and/or prosecution. Therefore, utilizing the IPA approach in a qualitative research study reiterates the fact that its main objective and essence are to explore the ‘lived experiences’ of the research participants and allow them to narrate the research findings through their ‘lived experiences’. As such, this paper discusses the historical background of phenomenology as both a theory and a qualitative research approach, an approach that has transitioned into an interpretative analytical tradition. Furthermore, as a resource tool to novice qualitative researchers, this paper provides a step-by-step comprehensive guide to help prepare and equip researchers with ways to utilize and apply the IPA approach in their qualitative research studies.  More importantly, this paper also provides an advanced in-depth analysis and usability application for the IPA approach in a qualitatively conducted research study. As such, this paper completely contrasted itself from many books and articles that are written with the premise of providing useful and in-depth information on the subject-matter (phenomenology, as a qualitative approach).


Interpretative phenomenology analysis, IPA, qualitative research method approach

Full Text:



Alase, A. O. (2016). The impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) on small-sized publicly traded companies and their communities (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), Northeastern University.

Asmussen, K. J., & Creswell, J. W. (1995). Campus response to a student gunman. Journal of Higher Education, 66(5), 575-591

Burrell, G., & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological paradigms and organizational analysis. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing.

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (4th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry and research design choosing among five approaches (3rd Ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Flick, U. (2010). An introduction to qualitative research (4th Ed.). New Delhi, India: Sage Publication.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York, NY: Basic Books, Inc.

Giorgi, A. (1994). A phenomenological perspective on certain qualitative research methods. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 25(2), 190-220.

Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nursing Education Today, 24(2), 105-112.

Guba, E. G. (Ed.). (1990). The paradigm dialog. Sage Publications.

Halling S. (2008). Intimacy, Transcendence, and Psychology. New York, Palgrave.

Husserl, E. (1931). Ideas: General introduction to pure phenomenology (D. Carr, Trans.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Mertler, C. A. (2006). Action research: Teachers as researchers in the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldana, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Nicholas, D. B., Lach, L., King, G., Scott, M., Boydell, K., Swaatzky, B., Reisman, J., Schippel, E., & Young, N. J. (2010). Contrasting internet and face – to – face focus group for children with chronic health conditions: Outcomes and participant experiences. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(1). 105-121.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1989). Phenomenological research methods. In R. S. Valle & S. Halling (Eds.). Existential phenomenological perspectives in psychology (pp. 41–60). New York Plenum.

Riemen, D. J. (1986). The essential structure of a caring interaction: Doing phenomenology. Nursing research: A qualitative perspective, 85-105.

Rubin, H. J. & Rubin, I. S. (2012). Qualitative interviewing the art of hearing data (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Scriven, M. (1991). Prose and cons about goal-free evaluation. Evaluation Practice, 12(1), 55-63.

Smith, J. A. (1996). Beyond the divide between cognition and discourse: Using interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology. Psychology and health, 11(2), 261-271.

Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method and research. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE

Thomas, D. R. (2006). A general inductive approach for analyzing qualitative evaluation data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2), 237-246.

Trede, F., & Higgs, J. (2009). Framing research questions and writing philosophically: The role of framing research questions. In J. Higgs, D. Horsfall, & S. Grace (Ed.). Writing qualitative research question on practice (pp. 13-25). Rotterdam: Sense.

van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany State University of New York Press.

Wolcott, H. F. (1983). Adequate schools and inadequate education: The life history of a sneaky kid. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 14(1), 2-32.

Wu, L. & Wu, M. (2011). The Employee dissatisfaction with organizational change: An Empirical study of a technology service company. African Journal of Business Management, 5(4), 1304.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2013-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies  

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.