Making Sense of Participant Experiences: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis in Midwifery Research

Samantha J Charlick, Jan Pincombe, Lois McKellar, Andrea Fielder
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 11  •  2016  •  pp. 205-216
Selecting the most appropriate methodology for research as a doctoral student is one of the most important yet difficult decisions. Not only should the methodology suit the research question, it is important that it resonates with the philosophy of one’s discipline and produces needed results that will contribute to knowledge. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is an approach to qualitative enquiry. IPA seeks to explore how individuals make sense of their major life experiences and is committed to the detailed study of each particular case before moving to broader claims. In the field of midwifery, midwives work with women throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the early postnatal period, offering individualized care based on the unique needs of each woman. IPA aligns with this women-centered philosophy as it offers a methodological approach that considers the individual in a local context. By capturing context specific situations, IPA allows broad-based knowledge to be contextualized within a social and cultural context, producing relevant findings. Thus the access to IPA studies will enable midwives to better care for women and their families through understanding the experiences and perceptions of those in their scope of practice.

This paper presents the theoretical framework leading to practical guidelines on how to con-duct a doctoral-level IPA study, as experienced by the first author. It also addresses the advantages and challenges around utilizing IPA, illustrated through examples from the doc-toral student’s study on the journey of exclusive breastfeeding in Australia.

Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), doctoral studies, qualitative research, midwifery, individualized care, exclusive breastfeeding
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