Modified Van Kaam Analysis

Qualitative Methodology

There any many ways that qualitative data can be analyzed to generate findings; however, there are some analysis plans that are specific to certain qualitative research designs. For phenomenology, the major data analysis plan would be the Modified Van Kaam approach that was popularized by Moustakas. There are a couple of key steps to this analysis plan that make it unique, the first being the amount of detail required for the analysis. There are several steps that require the qualitative researcher to step outside of himself or herself through bracketing and imaginative variation to look at the data in unique ways. Below is a brief outline of the various steps required of the Modified Van Kaam analysis. Note that the steps outlined below apply to individual interviews, meaning that each interview is treated as its own dataset. For example, if you have ten participants, you will perform steps 1 through 6 for each participant.

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  1. Horizonalization: Treat all the data equally, no quote or excerpt is more important than any other. This is when you begin the process of preliminary coding and grouping by listing every quote relevant to the experience/phenomenon under investigation.
  2. Reduction and elimination: This is when you take the list of every quote and begin to ask yourself two questions: (1) Is this quote important to the participant’s lived experience of the phenomenon?; and (2) Can this quote be reduced to its latent meaning? If you answer no to any of these questions, then the quote is eliminated. This helps separate the invariant constituents of the experience from redundant and ancillary information.
  3. Thematize the Invariant Constituents: Taking the excerpts and quotes that passed the two-question test, you begin to explore the latent meanings and group excerpts based on those latent meanings. The groupings form the themes that express the experience for each participant.
  4. Checking the Themes Against the Data: After you have generated your themes, you begin to examine the themes against the dataset. This is to make sure that your themes are representative of the participant’s experience and help tell the participant’s story.
  5. Create Individual Textural Descriptions: For each participant, you will create individual textural descriptions. These are descriptions that utilize verbatim excerpts and quotes from the participant.
  6. Create Individual Structural Descriptions: Using imaginative variation is crucial for this step. For each participant, you create individual structural descriptions. These are descriptions that examine the emotional, social, and cultural connections between what participants say. This is where the primary interpretation of the data comes into play.
  7. Create Composite Textural Descriptions: In this step, you should create a table outlining all the themes from each participant. This will help you outline the reoccurring and prominent themes across all the participants, which is what you need. This composite description is going to relay what participants said during their interview and note the common themes of the lived experience of the phenomenon.
  8. Create Composite Structural Descriptions: This is where you examine the emotional, social, and cultural connections of participants experiences across all the participants. This is where you describe common elements of their experiences. Maybe participants came from low socioeconomic backgrounds; maybe participants were from a certain race. It does not matter what elements are common, it just matters that they are taken into consideration. This is where you begin to conceptualize what elements factor the most into their experiences and what elements inform their experiences.
  9. Create a Composite Structural-Textural Description: This step is also referred to as a Synthesis. This is where you begin to merge both the textural and the structural to give a comprehensive understanding about the phenomenon. This is what boils down the lived experience of the phenomenon.

It is very common for the results section of a Modified Van Kaam analysis to be over a hundred pages. Despite the long page length, it is crucial to maintain the integrity of your participants voices, which is why it is often selected as the most appropriate data analysis plan for phenomenological research studies. It provides a rich understanding of participants’ lived experiences of the phenomenon without altering their narrative, experiences, and stories. It allows qualitative researchers to deeply explore the participants’ lived experiences in order to understand the essence of the phenomenon through the voices of those who lived it.