Experience and Meaning in Qualitative Research: A Conceptual Review and a Methodological Device Proposal

  • Marianne Daher Universidad San Sebastián
  • David Carré Universidad Arturo Prat
  • Andrea Jaramillo Universidad Alberto Hurtado
  • Himmbler Olivares Universidad de Concepción
  • Alemka Tomicic Universidad Diego Portales
Keywords: experience, meaning, phenomenology, hermeneutics, methodological device


The relevance of experience and meaning in qualitative research is mostly accepted and is common ground for qualitative studies. However, there is an increasing trend towards trivializing the use of these notions. As a consequence, a mechanistic use of these terms has emerged within qualitative analysis, which has resulted in the loss of the original richness derived from the theoretical roots of these concepts. In this article, we aim to recover these origins by reviewing theoretical postulates from phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions and to propose their convergence in a holistic perspective. The challenge is to find the local source of meanings that will enlighten on how to understand people's experiences. This discussion is the basis for the encounter context themes (ECT) methodological device, which emphasizes the importance of studying experience and meaning as part of a larger whole: the participants' life-world. Hence, ECT seeks to complement the available methodological tools for qualitatively-oriented studies, recovering—rather than re-creating—a theoretical discussion useful for current qualitative research practices.


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Author Biographies

Marianne Daher, Universidad San Sebastián

Dr. Marianne DAHER is assistant professor in community psychology, qualitative research and social program evaluation at Universidad San Sebastián and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Her empirical work centers on poverty, human development, public policies, social programs and burnout.

David Carré, Universidad Arturo Prat

David CARRE, PhD fellow at the Niels Bohr Professorship Centre for Cultural Psychology, Aalborg University, Denmark, and lecturer at the Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Arturo Prat (UNAP), Chile. His main research interests involve psychology of science, cultural psychology, and history of science.

Andrea Jaramillo, Universidad Alberto Hurtado

Dr. Andrea JARAMILLO is associate professor and head of the Master in Social Psychology and of the Social-Community Area at Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile. Her main areas of research include psychosocial phenomena and psychosocial consequences of social and individual problems.

Himmbler Olivares, Universidad de Concepción

Himmbler OLIVARES, full professor, Psychology Department at Universidad de Concepción, Chile. His research interests are centered on the history of psychology, human interaction and intersubjectivity.

Alemka Tomicic, Universidad Diego Portales

Dr. Alemka TOMICIC, associate professor, Universidad Diego Portales, associate researcher at the Millennium Institute for Research in Depression and Personality MIDAP. Her research areas are clinical psychology, psychotherapy, subjective experience about sickness and mental health problems.

How to Cite
Daher, M., Carré, D., Jaramillo, A., Olivares, H., & Tomicic, A. (2017). Experience and Meaning in Qualitative Research: A Conceptual Review and a Methodological Device Proposal. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.3.2696
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