Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

About Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)

Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is a psychological approach to qualitative research which is primarily committed to the examination of how people make sense of their lived experiences of the phenomenon under investigation. Typically, such phenomena are experiences of personal significance (e.g. major life events or the development of an important relationship) and are experiences, which are likely to influence the course of a person’s life. IPA adopts an idiographic focus- it aims to offer a rich, in-depth insight into how a given person, in a given context, makes sense of a given phenomenon.  It has theoretical origins in phenomenology, hermeneutics and ideography, and draws on key positions from Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. It is distinct from other qualitative approaches due to the combination of its inductive, idiographic, interpretative and reflexive nature.

As IPA is committed to the detailed examination of the particular case, IPA studies usually employ small, homogenous samples that are purposively recruited. Semi-structured interviews are the exemplary (but not exclusive) form of data collection where transcripts are analysed systematically, taking a case-by-case approach. This is then presented as a narrative account where the researcher’s interpretation is detailed and supported by verbatim extracts from the participants’ accounts. The final product aims to generate an ‘insider’s perspective’ that captures what ‘it is like’ to experience a particular phenomenon from the perspective of a particular group of participants. 

Where to find us and how to get involved

To join the SIPAIG group as an external member, please subscribe here

To join the SIPAIG group as a GCU member (staff & student) please contact: Dr. Adele Dickson

For any Informal enquiries or to join the SIPAIG as a free GCU member, please contact: Dr. Adele Dickson

  • Department of Psychology, Social work & Allie Health
  • School of Health & Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Tel: 0141 273 1958
  • E-mail:

Student volunteers - Great way to get some work experience for your CV. Contact Dr. Adele Dickson at to hear more.

Campus map:

For more information

Paul Flowers, one of the leaders, of the group is co-author of the first book published in the field of IPA and can be found on:

Another IPA research group in the United Kingdom with information on their website:

The British Psychology Society explaining IPA research:


Borg Xuereb, C., Shaw, R.L. & Lane, D. (2015). Patients’ and physicians’ experiences of atrial fibrillation consultations and anticoagulation decision-making: a multi-perspective IPA design. Psychology & Health, DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2015.1116534.

Brocki J.J.M, Wearden A.J. (2006). “A critical evaluation of the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in health psychology”. Psychology and Health, 21(1), 87 - 108

Burton, A.E., Shaw, R.L. & Gibson, J.M. (2015). Living together with age-related macular degeneration: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of sense-making within a dyadic relationship. Journal of Health Psychology20(10), 1285-1295. DOI: 10.1177/1359105313511134.

Dickson, A., Knussen, C. & Flowers, P. (2007). Stigma and the delegitimation experience: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of people living with chronic fatigue syndrome. Psychology & Health, 22 (7), 851-867.

Flowers, P., Davis, Larkin, M., Church & Marriott, C. (2011) Understanding the impact of HIV diagnosis amongst gay men in Scotland: an interpretative phenomenological analysis.Psychology and Health, 26:10, 13781391.

Larkin, M., & Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Experiences of addiction and recovery: the case for subjective accounts. Addiction Research & Theory, 10, 281-311.

McGregor, L., Dickson, A., Flowers, P; Hayes, P. & O’Carroll, R.E. (2014)Reclaiming their livesThe decision-making process in living liver donation- an interpretative phenomenological case study analysis of one couple. Psychology & Health, 29 (12), 1373-1387.

Palmer, M., Larkin, M., de Visser, R. & Fadden, G. (2010). Developing an interpretative phenomenological approach to focus group data. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 7 (2), 99-121.

Reid, K., Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2005). Exploring lived experience: an introduction to interpretative phenomenological analysis. The Psychologist, 18, 20-23.

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

Shaw, R. (2010). Embedding reflexivity within experiential qualitative psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 7 (3), 23-243.

Smith, J.A. (2011). "Evaluating the contribution of interpretative phenomenological analysis". Health Psychology Review, 5(1), 9-27

Smith, J.A. (2003) (ed) Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods. London: Sage.

Smith, J.A. (1996)"Beyond the divide between cognition and discourse: Using interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology". Psychology & Health, 11(2), 261-271

Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method & Research. Sage: London.

Smith, J.A. & Osborn, M. (2003) Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J.A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods. London: Sage.


Tomkins & Eatough, V. (2010). Reflecting on the use of IPA with focus groups: Pitfalls and potentials. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 7 (3), 244-262.