Sunday, May 11, 2008



Central Epistemological Assumptions of Hermeneutic Phenomenology and the Epistemological Assumptions of Empiricism

I. Abstract
a) The ontological outlook recommends no such impartial and independent procedure of setting up the truth and involves a central epistemological structure
II. Central Epistemological Assumptions of Hermeneutic Phenomenology
a) In case of assumptions it will be found that the central epistemological assumptions of hermeneutic phenomenology are much different from the epistemological assumptions of empiricism, but some similarities also exist.
b) Primarily this discussion targeted the students of doctorate programs and some others who believe hermeneutic phenomenology to be a perfect strategy for research.
c) The purpose of the research is realizing a human trend and the practitioners’ knowledge and experiences of that trend.
d) The choice of research method depends on research questions along with the theoretical perceptions applying which the questions will be examined.
e) The methods of collecting data are scrutiny through observation, reflective exercises, and interviews.

The hermeneutic phenomenology generally derives ontological assumption with the intention of constructing the meaning intersubjectively setting the historical perspective as a limit. So to tell the truth, it is not at all independent, but to a certain extent is a procedure of knowing how the negotiations of meanings occur. This ontological outlook recommends no such impartial and independent procedure of setting up the truth and involves a central epistemological structure comprising of the definition of knowledge, what more to know from regular practices and the phenomena itself. All the ideas and meanings generating out of these experiences have a social framework. Entry to this social world happens through reports and explanations which people employ to give a meaning to their own actions as well as to the actions of others.
Central Epistemological Assumptions of Hermeneutic Phenomenology and the Epistemological Assumptions of Empiricism
Assumptions of the nature of the object of study: If assumptions of the nature of the object of study are discussed, it will be found that the central epistemological assumptions of hermeneutic phenomenology are much different from the epistemological assumptions of empiricism, but some similarities also exist. In empiricism, the object of study is physical in nature, and its functions by the aid of relation of source and outcome. Here is a basic view of this assumption that the phenomena are made up of separable elements that blend and intrude into each other, but may in law be found in isolation. In this case the variables are sometimes independently influenced; stimuli are the organism free characteristics of a physical environment.
On the other hand the object of study in case of inquiry based on hermeneutic phenomenology is neither a theoretical system concerning relations nor an automatic process concerning the forces. It is basically a semantic or documented structure of day to day practical activities. An instant ready-in-hand engagement is the initial point of hermeneutic enquiry.
Assumption concerning the relationship between the object of study and the researchers: The assumption based on the relationship between the object of study and the researchers also vary from each other. In case of empiricism it is to look for the covering laws, which reveal the promptness of the co-occurrence of all observables. The covering laws can not be taken as logical rules; they are basically statements expressing empirical and casual contingencies.
The general laws which are presented as statements saying that some specific events will take place provided there is a presence of some specific initial circumstances. These laws should always give the clarifications and descriptions of an event of past and also predict the future by proper explanations.
Conversely in the hermeneutic thoughts both the casual laws and the formal structures look for clarifying and the practical knowledge of human activities understandable by offering an explanation of them.
Assumptions based on the type and purpose of the knowledge: The assumptions based on the type and purpose of the knowledge also can be explained in to ways that is by empiricism and by hermeneutic phenomenology. Going by the empiricist paradigm the basis of knowledge for the investigator and the human subject is presented by means of observables of ‘brute data’. The data here are judged to be the facts concerning the world, which can be recognized and documented in a way independent of explanation. Within the paradigm a vital element for scientific interrogation is ‘data collection’ (without theory).
In case of hermeneutic inquiry along with the ontology which is its base, the major origin of any knowledge is considered to be entirely practical in nature. Such acts exist before any kind of theorizing and also possess properties which are distinct than that of theories. The most notable one is that they never involve any context free components which can be defined without interpretation.
Example: This discussion is basically done on using hermeneutic phenomenology in a convincing and precise research plan to examine knowledge about clinical reasoning along with its applications in professional practice of health. Primarily this research based discussion targeted the students of doctorate programs and some others who believe hermeneutic phenomenology to be a perfect strategy for research. A basic design leading towards a research which includes a research model and all the philosophical assumptions along with structure, method, and strategies employed for data collection and obtain meaning from them is the subject discussed on this paper. Some criterions are involved in this for ensuring the quality of the interpretive research along with strictness (Guba and Lincon, 2000) and reliability (Lincoln and Denzin, 2000; Harrington and Koch, 1998). Other than this, the ethical conduct is also maintained throughout the research. The Research outcomes are submitted to allow the readers to understand the actual approach of the research and to know the link between research design and results.
The purpose of the research is realizing a human trend and the practitioners’ knowledge and experiences of that trend (knowing the execution and communication of reasoning, a specific duty and ability of the health professionals). The purpose is a perfect fit for the strategies, intentions and philosophy of the interpretive research model. This model is structured by the influence of epistemology of the process of idealism (in case of idealism, knowledge is said to be a social structure) and includes numerous research approaches, having a central objective of looking for interpreting this social world. The analytical processes introduced by Dilthey (1833 to 1911) pointed out the interpretive understanding for deriving meaning of experiences of the participants as resisted to explain or predict their actions, which is basically the objective of this empirico-analytical research.
The interpretive paradigm says that the meanings are created by the human beings following some exclusive methods, based on the circumstances and individual framework of situation as they get involved with the society they understand (Crotty, 1998). The interpretive paradigm can be considered as the concept of multi-constructed truths (Crotty, 1996).The research paper get its results coming out from the communication between researchers and participants during the research (Creswell, 1998). So, subjectivity gets its value; it is admitted that the human beings are not capable of objectivity in totality are they are placed in a truth made up of subjective experiences. Again, the research is bounded by value because of the character of questions asked, values held, and methods by which the results are derived and interpreted. To choose a specific paradigm, some particular assumptions and outlooks are accepted. The communication and clinical reasoning are interactive and cognitive methods which are often implicit and intuitive and happen in context. The phenomena discussed here cannot preserve their necessary and rooted traits if minimized or measured like in case of quantitative research. Communication and the clinical reasoning are both complex phenomena which involve multiple purposes, interpretations, and strategies; no perfect approach towards communication or reasoning is known. Further, all the two methods are bound contextually (i.e. the people involved, social condition, health condition, actual setting); everything is approached following the circumstances.
Trying to measure or isolate communication or reasoning in the clinical practice never gets successful; the contextual procedures overlook the complications, truth, and effects of these acts in practice. As an addition to the contextual procedures, educational journeys in work environment are implicit. Interpretive paradigm is considered to be the most appropriate application for this research as it has potential to produce new perception of multifaceted human phenomena. Particularly, practical understanding is required, which is rooted around this world full of human interactions and meanings. Therefore it is suitable to scrutinize the phenomenon based on interpretive paradigm. The figure1shows an outline of the approach of the research with the different decisions and activities made all through the research.
The Hermeneutic phenomenology is found to be the most appropriate method for the research, as shown by Manen (1997), in his work. Hermeneutic phenomenology shows to be attentive towards the basic philosophies of both phenomenology and hermeneutics (Manen, 1997).
It can be stated as the research procedure with the target of producing high quality textual explanations of experiences based on chosen phenomena in life of individuals which can be connected to the experiences of others (Smith, 1997).
From the recognition of experiences, a profound understanding of meaning of those experiences is required (Smith, 1997), which happens through more and more deep and coated reflection, created using rich and descriptive language.
The choice of research method depends on research questions along with the theoretical perceptions applying which the questions will be examined (Shepard, Schmoll, Jensen, Gwyer, and Hack, 1993). It is a research is devised to know the phenomenon of knowledge, to communicate reasoning in clinical environment from the explanations of physiotherapists and experiences in the clinical practice. The phenomenology is based on lived experiences, so it is perfect for examining personal journeys of learning. However, phenomenology has its main focus on pre-reflective practices and feelings.
A main facet of the research is investigating the experiences of the psychotherapists along with their journeys of learning the communicating reasoning. Using hermeneutic phenomenology allowed the journey of experiences of the participants a further understanding by the researchers based on both the personal and theoretical knowledge of them (the researchers). Hermeneutics gives the interpretive factor to explain assumptions and meanings in the text of the participants that they themselves might have trouble in communicating, for instance, the knowledge of tacit practice (Crotty, 1998). The language and communication are knotted and hermeneutics presents a process of realizing such experiences of human beings captured through words and in perspective (Manen, 1997).
The methods of collecting data are scrutiny through observation, reflective exercises, and interviews. The figure 1 demonstrates the order of these actions. These policies are selected as they are fitting the philosophical structure of the research model and method, and make the way to experiences of the participants.
A suitable date is set with all the participants and the observers to watch them executing their regular tasks for almost one continuous day. They are said to select one date when they can be examined treating some patients and conversing with new graduates as well as students, with only one team meeting in the whole day and no clinics for any specialized problem. The instructions are given to make the most out of the hours spent with those participants watching their interactions and genuine practice with students and patients.
During observation, the observers do not take part in any action carried out by those participants, and try to lessen the problems caused by their presence. The observation is employed to gain the experience of communicating reasoning in clinical environments and to scrutinize interactions and probable influencing aspects. The significance of observation is that a great deal of thinking (or reasoning) concerning the clinical practice happens rapidly and at the preconscious level mostly in case of experienced practitioners, criticism on the observed actions can help to remember those thoughts and allow them to express their reasoning in words.
The process is employed in the time of the interviews while the researcher questions about the observed actions.
Similarly, the workplace learning comes as a subconscious phenomenon rooted in the social interactions (Billett, 1996). A lot of observations, connections and experiences are continuously recorded during the learning procedure, for potential later reflection. Observation is also employed to understand the setting of the work, to make a note the others interacting with participants, and to watch the level up to which the participants utilize the behavioral strategies (for example, using touch) and their culture (using friendly codes) as tools for working.
Another part of the method of creating data texts or sets is asking the participants to finish three exercises, which includes one preparatory exercise, one learning timeline & one report on a particular incident. The reflective exercises are used for assisting the participants for reflecting their previous learning experiences linked to the clinical reasoning along with its communication. The exercises come with some inquiring questions during the interviews to support deeper journey of learning for the participants. Preparatory exercise consists of questions that the participants are asked to reply in writing. These questions have its focus on communicating process of clinical reasoning to the trainee physiotherapists since teaching will be a much more obvious context for conscious communication of their reasoning and to reflect on those reasoning.
In case of the second exercise, the participants are told to give two timelines that will portray significant events, colleagues, mentors, friends, training and courses that they have practiced throughout their careers and the incidents which might have influence on the clinical reasoning they perform.
The last exercise, asks the participants to write down any three of their experiences that caused an alteration in their way of explaining their clinical reasoning in front of trainee physiotherapists, patients or any health professional. Writing is naturally reflexive, which makes it even more complex for any writer to settle close to the experience and showing as if it happened then only (Manen, 1997). Writers have a tendency of including explanations and analysis with the depiction of their experience. So, an interview is organized after writing those exercises, where all the participants are pushed for focusing straight on their actual experience while giving the detailed description.
Field notes of three sorts are taken during the complete research procedure, personal file, transcript file, and analytical file (Alexander, Aroni, Minichiello and Timewell, 1995). Personal file has a thorough sequential account of all the participants along with their settings, the other persons present (example, clients, staff, and family members) with reflective notes based on the experience of the research. The details found in personal file allow renovation of conversations based on context instead of just relying on a verbal recording. Particularly, any visible evidence of strategies and reasoning of participants that they utilize in communication of reasoning to their clients and trainee physiotherapists are recorded. Transcript file stores raw data of the interviews. Analytical file has a detailed assessment of the thoughts emerging as a result of the research questions during the progress of the research. It also has reflections and approaches based on the research, which decided its direction. This was just a way to prompt and record the reflexive inquiry performed by researchers.
In the time of the research, the chief data collector can also act as a member and a researcher both. As an insider that person will then get to enjoy a number of advantages. It helps to build faith and assurance in the relation between the researcher and the participants and allows the researcher to set up a bond with all the participants during the data collecting procedure, and also provides admission into their clinical thought process.
A code with specific jargon may be hard for the researchers to understand if they are not among the members (Frey and Fontana, 2000). There may be some researcher who can understand the language of the participants at ease, which primarily provides better access to the world of the participants without any continuous clarification. There can be a trouble if the researchers allot meanings for a particular word or slang, behaviors or decisions, differing with the participants (Minichiello, 1995). After knowing about the disadvantage, one should attempt to keep a hermeneutic alertness (Manen, 1997), which happens in conditions where they step backward to put reflection on the different meanings of the situations instead of admitting their previous conceptions and understandings. Thus, the reflexivity is sighted as a vital dimension in scheming and putting the research in practice. The actions taking place during the entire research, openings for attentive study of the experience of the research, and the association between the participants and the researchers, (example the methods of research questions) are incorporated into the procedure of the research and all of those are explained in the entire discussion.
To keep pace with the method applied to approach the research, the data analysis processes are generated from the hermeneutic and the phenomenological philosophy and also from guiding principles about methodical and practical methods of understanding the research data. So, the methods used here are specific for the research, and also illustrate the knowledge and understanding of specialists in the arena of the interpretive research. There are six steps of data analysis. Throughout these steps of data analysis constant explanation of the text of research and the learning phenomenon of communicating the clinical reasoning occur.
During the learning procedure the research assumptions based on the phenomena are continually tested by evaluating and contrasting those assumptions with results of the research text. Thus, any discrimination developed from personal experience or literatures are spotted easily. By constant cross-checking of the understandings of the researchers with the transcripts it may be required to maintain more closeness (or authenticity) to the constructs, grounding explanations in data. The plan to preserve genuineness was recommended by Guba and Linkon (2000). The conversation between these two authors of the paper regarding emerging results caused checking of the authenticity of the data for one more time.
The ethical points raised through this research are based on receiving knowledgeable permission and preserving the confidentiality of the participants. Knowledgeable approval is stated as
the voluntary contract of a capable person to take part in a healing program or research process, concerning the sufficient perception of its purpose, implications and nature (Sim, 1986).
The knowledgeable approval can be divided into four elements: disclosure (provides sufficient information), comprehension (realizing the information), competence (capability of the participants to take a balanced decision), and the voluntaries (no compulsion) (Sim, 1998). These participants are given information sheets with details of the goal of research and its process. These sheets are given to all the participants either straight or by the managers.
All the participants are provided with the chance to ask their questions about the research, and are informed that they can withdraw themselves from the research any time which will not cause any kind of penalty. Written permissions are received from the volunteers before the start of the data collection process. There is no association between the participants and the researchers that can be alleged as oppression.

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