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Discovering lived experiences through descriptive phenomenology

Caroline Jackson (Department of Events and Leisure, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
David Roger Vaughan (Department of Tourism and Hospitality, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Lorraine Brown (Department of Tourism and Hospitality, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 12 September 2018

Issue publication date: 20 November 2018




This paper aims to explore the reasons why descriptive phenomenology (DP) can provide an improved understanding of hospitality, tourism and event experiences. This is achieved through two objectives: first, by revealing the complexities and philosophical depths of DP; second, by providing a practical, stepped method that offers rigour and transparency.


This paper is based upon a study that explored the lived experience of the popular music festival-goer. It generally discusses the phenomenological philosophies of Husserl (1965 [1911]) and the descriptive phenomenological method in psychology of Giorgi (2009). It identifies not only some of the challenges and criticisms of DP but also the strengths of using a scientific approach to phenomenological research.


The philosophical strengths underlying DP afford a deeper understanding of the phenomenon being studied. The lived experience music festival study illustrates that the method of data collection and analysis highlights the intricacy of the philosophical debate and research findings. Although the bracketing, or epoché, method of DP has been criticised, the actual application is far more complex than trying to blank out prior knowledge. The aim is to ensure that it is the participants’ experiences that are used to identify the structure that is the phenomenon rather than the personal interpretation of the researcher.


It is recognised that researching the lifeworld affords a greater depth of understanding of experiences in people’s lives. One of the disappointments has been that one branch of phenomenological research, DP, has been underutilised and at times misunderstood in hospitality, tourism and event research. This paper aims to demonstrate and illustrate why and how DP should be considered in the future research of such experiences.



Jackson, C., Vaughan, D.R. and Brown, L. (2018), "Discovering lived experiences through descriptive phenomenology", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 30 No. 11, pp. 3309-3325.



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