Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis: An Appropriate Methodology for Educational Research?

Main Article Content

Edward John Noon


Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) is a contemporary qualitative methodology, first developed by psychologist Jonathan Smith (1996). Whilst its roots are in psychology, it is increasingly being drawn upon by scholars in the human, social and health sciences (Charlick, Pincombe, McKellar, & Fielder, 2016). Despite this, IPA has received limited attention across educationalist literature. Drawing upon my experiences of using IPA to explore the barriers to the use of humour in the teaching of Childhood Studies (Noon, 2017), this paper will discuss its theoretical orientation, sampling and methods of data collection and analysis, before examining the strengths and weaknesses to IPA’s employment in educational research.

Article Details

Reflective Analysis Papers
Author Biography

Edward John Noon, Sheffield Hallam University

Edward Noon is a PhD candidate and Associate Lecturer on the Early Childhood and Childhood Studies Programme at Sheffield Hallam University. His doctoral research seeks to explore how social comparison on social network sites influences adolescent identity development. Twitter – @EdwardJNoon


Arroll, M. A. (2015). Health Psychology and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In M. J. Langweilder, & P. W. McCarthy (Ed.), Methodologies for Effectively Assessing Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) (pp. 43-51). London: Singing Dragon.

Bailey, S. (2011). Taking up the Challenge: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of teachers’ perceptions regarding the presence of asylum seeker and refugee pupils (ASR) within mainstream primary schools in the Midlands, and the implications this may hold for Educational Psychologists practice (Doctoral thesis). The University of Birmingham, Birmingham.

Biggerstaff, D., & Thompson, A. R. (2008). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA): A Qualitative Methodology of Choice in Healthcare Research. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 5(3), 214-244.

Brocki, J. M., & Wearden, A. J. (2006). A critical evaluation of the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in health psychology. Psychology & Health, 21, 87-108.

Bush, J., Harris, D. M., & Parker, R. J. (2016). Cognitive Self Change: How Offenders Experience the World and What We Can Do About It. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Cassidy, E., Reynolds, F., Naylor, S., & De Souza, L. (2011). Using interpretative phenomenological analysis to inform physiotherapy practice: An introduction with reference to the lived experience of cerebellar ataxia. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 27(4), 263-277.

Charlick, S., Pincombe, J., McKellar, L., & Fielder, A. (2016). Making sense of participant experiences: Interpretative phenomenological analysis in midwifery research. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 11, 205-216.

Clarke, V. (2010). Review of the book “Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research”. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 9, 57-56.

Coyle, D. (2014). Phenomenology. In A. McIntosh-Scott, T. Mason, E. Mason-Whitehead, & D. Coyle (Ed.), Key Concepts in Nursing and Healthcare Research (pp. 116-124). London: Sage.

Dallmayr, F. (2009). Hermeneutics and inter-cultural dialog: linking theory and practice. Ethics & Global Politics, 2, 23-39.

Denovan, A., & Macaskill, A. (2012). An interpretative phenomenological analysis of stress and coping in first year undergraduates. British Educational Research Journal, 39(6), 1002-1024.

Eatough, V., & Smith, J. A. (2008). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In C. Willig, & W. Stainton-Rogers (Ed.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research in psychology (pp. 179-194). Los Angeles: Sage.

Goodall, D. (2014). An Interpretative Phenomenological Study Exploring Designated Teachers’ Experiences of Supporting Looked After Children (Doctoral thesis). The University of Sheffield, Sheffield.

Griffiths, M. (2009). Parent and Child Experiences of Childhood Cancer: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis Approach. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

Hefferon, K., & Gil-Rodriguez, E. (2011). Methods: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The Psychologist, 24, 756-759.

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. Oxford: Blackwell.

Jeog, H., & Othman, J. (2016). Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis from a Realist Perspective. The Qualitative reports, 21(3), 558-570.

Langdridge, D. (2007). Phenomenological psychology: Theory, research and method. London: Pearson Education.
Larkin, M., Watts, S., & Clifton, E. (2006). Giving voice and making sense in interpretative phenomenological analysis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 102-120.

Moses, J. W., & Knutsen, T. L. (2012). Ways of Knowing: Competing Methodologies in Social and Political Research. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Noon, E. J. (2017). An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Barriers to the Use of Humour in the Teaching of Childhood Studies. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 5(3), 45-52.

Pietkiewicz, I. & Smith, J.A. (2012) Praktyczny przewodnik interpretacyjnej analizy fenomenologicznej w badaniach jakościowych w psychologii. Czasopismo Psychologiczne, 18(2), 361-369.

Quest, D. A. (2014). Out of the Way and Out of Place: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Experiences of Social Interactions of Bisexually Attracted Young People. Portland State University, Portland.

Ricoeur, P. (1970). Freud and philosophy: An essay on interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Roop, N. P. (2014). Transgender students in higher education: an ipa study of experiences and access of transgender students (Doctoral thesis). Northeastern University, Boston.

Shaw, R. (2001). Why use interpretative phenomenological analysis in Health Psychology? Health Psychology Update, 10(4), 48-52.

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

Smith, J. A. (2004). Reflecting on the development of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and its contribution to qualitative research in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 1, 39-54.

Smith, J. A., & Eatough, V. (2006). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In G. M. Breakwell, S. Hammond, C. Fife-Schaw, & J. A. Smith (Ed.), Research Methods in Psychology (pp. 322–341). London: Sage.

Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M. (2003). Interpretive phenomenological analysis. In J. A. Smith (Ed.) Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (pp. 51-80). London: Sage.

Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M. (2008). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J. A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: a practical guide to research methods (pp. 53-81). London: Sage.

Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method and research. London: Sage.

Smith, J.A., Jarman, M. & Osborn, M. (1999). Doing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In M. Murray, & K. Chamberlain (Ed.), Qualitative Health Psychology: Theories and Methods (pp. 218-240). London: Sage.

Sparkes, A. C., & Smith, B. (2014). Qualitative Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health: From Process to Product. Abingdon: Routledge.

Tomkins, L. (2017). Using Interpretative Phenomenological Psychology in Organisational Research with Working Carers. In J. Brook, & N. King (Ed.), Applied Qualitative Research in Psychology (pp. 86-100). London: Palgrave.

Wagstaff, C., Jeong, H., Nolan, M., Wilson, T., Tweedlie, J., Phillips, E,... Holland, F. (2014). The Accordion and the Deep Bowl of Spaghetti: Eight Researchers’ Experiences of Using IPA as a Methodology. The Qualitative Report, 19, 1-15.

Wedlock, M. (2016). “You kind of pull back the layers”: The experience of inter-professional supervision with Educational Psychologists. Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology, University of Essex.

Willig, C. (2013). Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Willis, A. P. (2017). An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of teaching assistants’ experiences of forming relationships with pupils who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder in mainstream primary schools (Doctoral thesis). University of Essex, Colchester.