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Nurs Philos. 2021 Oct 26;e12376. doi: 10.1111/nup.12376. Epub 2021 Oct 26.

Existential phenomenology as a unifying philosophy of science for a mixed method study.

Nursing philosophy : an international journal for healthcare professionals

Birgith Pedersen, Mette Grønkjaer, Charlotte Delmar


  1. Department of Oncology, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.
  2. Clinical Nursing Research Unit, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.
  3. Clinical Cancer Research Center, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.
  4. Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark.
  5. Research Unit for Nursing and Healthcare, Institute of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
  6. VID, Bergen, Norway.

PMID: 34699109 DOI: 10.1111/nup.12376


This article discusses how existential phenomenology may serve as a frame in a mixed-methods study of changes in weight and body composition among women in adjuvant treatment for breast cancer. In accordance with ontologically and epistemologically fundamental assumptions in nursing, we link mixed-methods and existential phenomenology from the perspective of the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his notion of a unified body subject. Letting this perspective permeate our philosophy, methodology and issues at the method level in mixed-method research undermines the distinction between first- and third-person perspective when applying and integrating different data sources in a mixed-methods study. Applying Merleau-Ponty's third way, the women's bodily experiences appear as gestalt; a 'figure' against a ground of existential threats that are grasped through insight from data integrating in joint displays, which revealed the women's experiences on a deep existential level. Existential phenomenology as a frame in mixed-method studies can speak not only to nurses but also to a multidisciplinary audience in a shared attempt to deepen the understanding of a patient's healthcare problem.

© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords: Merleau-Ponty; existential phenomenology; mixed-methods research; nursing; patient perspective


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