Doing robust hermeneutic phenomenology: reflexive engagement within circles of understanding
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The philosophy articulated by Gadamer, asserts that all understanding is interpretive thus requiring that researchers pay careful attention to the ways in which prior understandings inform the practice of research in an ongoing manner. Supervisors of students undertaking hermeneutic research encourage the declaration of pre-understandings prior to commencing data collection. This can be a way of ‘bracketing’ and thus bounding prior knowledge. Yet, how is this possible when understandings are dynamic and evolutionary? And should we be limiting research thinking in this way when not only do we endeavour to expand existing boundaries but inherent in the notion of understanding as fusion of horizons is the ever present possibility of coming to new and different understanding? This paper will focus on ways in which supervisors of students using philosophical hermeneutics employ questioning to reveal the relationships between experience, tradition and language. Discussion will centre on ‘presuppositions’ interviewing, ongoing journaling and the careful selection of words that clarify, refine and crystallise meaning which together constitute an approach that reflectively and reflexively ‘writes through’ rather than ‘writes up’ research findings.