Phenomenological Reduction (Bracketing or Epoché) in the Literature Review

While forming my PhD literature review, I’m currently aiming to structure it more rigorously as Randolph (2009) has suggested: by using a phenomenological approach also to examine the phenomena in my literature review. Here’s a couple of quick thoughts about this process, and about the current stage of trying to set aside my personal theoretical views and natural attitude through phenomenological reduction, or ‘epoché’.

I am already starting to see the benefits for doing the lit review like this. Perhaps some would say their way of choosing sources for their lit review is somehow implicitly “objective”, and they do not need such ‘heuristics’. With the support from Randolph (2009) I have to kinda doubt it. We always have an inclination towards something, that’s what makes us humans. I feel it is going beyond this attitude of “letting things pass as we don’t initially feel them to fit” that makes us better researchers.

Now, I am trying to achieve a representative picture of how virtual environments and HCI is perceived to convey a context. I have started to see how my background as an interaction designer and a gamer really affects what I consider as good research. I sigh every time when I read about ‘serious games’ studies where the participants are mainly allowed to interact through clickers or better yet, answering to instructors questions about the game. In my eyes, this violates everything video games are about. Still, I need to hold this view, as there are many things one can learn about such articles, to which I will not dive more here.

Also, my worldview seems to lie in the axis of interpretivist-pragmatist, which in English means I cannot stand either the overly postmodern theory building nor the overly positivistic “one-variable-at-a-time” laboratory studies. Still, both of them, if quality articles, can convey yet another dimension of the phenomenon I am aiming to describe.

These aforementioned aspects are just a couple of things I need to make visible in my study, let them go (or better yet,  interact with them in my study, see Finlay (2014)), and let the “Otherness” of some studies to be treated with an equal value in order to better understand concepts such as presence, immersion and virtual embodiment.

For the process of the reduction, I have found Lisa Finlay’s articles especially helpful. Finally there is a person who can clearly and succinctly write how to engage in a process that is crucial in order to maintain a phenomenological research attitude – and I consider doing this would be useful to other researchers too.

More to read:

Finlay, L. (2014). Engaging Phenomenological Analysis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 11(2), 121–141. doi:10.1080/14780887.2013.807899

Finlay, L. (2008). A Dance Between the Reduction and Reflexivity: Explicating the “Phenomenological Psychological Attitude.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 39, 1–32. doi:10.1163/156916208X311601

Randolph, J. J. (2009). A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 14(13), 1–13.