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

Charlick, Samantha J.; Pincombe, Jan; McKellar, Lois; Fielder, Andrea


Samantha J. Charlick

Jan Pincombe

Andrea Fielder


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 doctoral student’s study on the journey of exclusive breastfeeding in Australia.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 2, 2016
Publication Date 2016
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2022
Journal International Journal of Doctoral Studies
Print ISSN 1556-8881
Electronic ISSN 1556-8873
Publisher Informing Science Institute
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Pages 205-216
Keywords Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), doctoral studies, qualitative research, midwifery, individualized care, exclusive breastfeeding
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