Sociology Index

BRACKETING

Bracketing, a term derived from Edmund Husserl, describes a method used by phenomenological sociologists and ethnomethodologists. Bracketing approach focuses on revealing the belief, ideas and values that are simply taken for granted in the social world. By suspending belief in the naturalness and normality of the social world bracketing reveals the underlying thinking and values that people bring to bear in understanding the world and engaging in social action.

Bracketing approach gives the researcher the information necessary to investigate the ordinary methods social members use to comprehend the social world and give it reality and concreteness. Bracketing is a term which reflects Husserl's initial training in mathematics. Such bracketing of the common sense, the 'natural attitude', implies that what is taken for granted or what is seen to be "out there" need not necessarily be so.

Mapping the subtle theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of bracketing will facilitate the identification and delineation of core elements that compose bracketing, and also distinguish how different research approaches prioritize different bracketing elements. Bracketing approaches to the sociological study of supernatural, paranormal, and occult proponents do not truly 'bracket' the reality-claims made by those being studied, but instead impose ontological limits on what can be considered 'supernormal'.

The bias of bracketing approaches reflects an inherent ontological limitation within the sociological enterprise itself. Bracketing should be replaced by a reflexive, dialogical approach that emphasises the ontological positioning of social analyses with respect to supernormal claims. - Objectivity and the supernormal: the limitations of bracketing approaches in providing neutral accounts of supernormal claims. - Jeremy Northcote

Bracketing in Research: A Typology 
Robin Edward Gearing 
The term bracketing has increasingly been employed in qualitative research. Although this term bracketing proliferates in scientific studies and professional journals, the application and operationalization of bracketing remains vague. The growing disconnection of the practice of bracketing in research from its origins in phenomenological sociology has resulted in its frequent reduction to a formless technique, or black-box term. Mapping the subtle theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of bracketing will facilitate identification and delineation of core elements that compose bracketing, and distinguish how different research approaches prioritize different bracketing elements. The author outlines a typology of six distinct forms of bracketing that encompasses the methodological rigor and evolution of bracketing within the richness of qualitative research.

Current phenomenological techniques in sociology include the method of "bracketing". This approach lifts an item under investigation from its meaning context in the common-sense world, with all judgments suspended. The item "alcoholism as a disease" is not evaluated within phenomenological brackets as being either true or false. Rather, a reduction is performed in which the item is assessed in terms of how it operates in consciousness: What does the disease notion do for those who define themselves within its domain?.