Journal Article

The ecomap: a tool for extending understanding in hermeneutic phenomenological research


Background. Ecomaps are tools used in nursing practice to assess families’ social support systems. Whilst ecomaps have previously been used effectively within qualitative research, little attention has been given to them as a tool within the methodological approach of hermeneutic phenomenology. Aim. To demonstrate that the use of ecomaps is congruent with the Heideggerian philosophical foundations associated with hermeneutic phenomenology. This paper demonstrates how ecomaps can illuminate nurses’ understanding about the experiences of patients and families by reflecting on a study where ecomaps were used to explore how parents of children with cancer are supported with decision-making about their child’s care. Discussion. Exploration of the Heideggerian concepts of ‘being-in-the-world’, ‘being-with’, and ‘temporality’ prompted reflections about how constructing ecomaps furthers understanding about participants’ unique contexts. Using an ecomap within an in-depth interview enabled participants to return to their experiences of being supported with decision-making, and further developed the researcher’s understanding about how each participant’s experience was situated within their evolving relationships with others. Conclusion. Constructing ecomaps within hermeneutic phenomenology is in tune with Heideggerian philosophical concepts. Ecomaps can open a door to participants’ experiences and, combined with understanding of philosophical concepts, deepen the researcher’s understanding and find further meaning in participants’ experiences. Implications for practice. Ecomaps are a useful tool in shining a light on the lifeworld of research participants in hermeneutic phenomenological research. Practical tips are provided to optimise their use in future research.

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Jestico, Elizabeth
Taylor, Bridget
Finlay, Teresa
Schutz, Susan

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Nursing


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-08-16

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