Bracketing, a term derived from Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), describes a method used by phenomenological sociologists and ethnomethodologists. Bracketing approach focuses on revealing the beliefs, 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 (placing what are normally automatic assumptions in brackets) 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'. It is also argued that, unlike earlier reductionist approaches to the supernormal, the bias of bracketing approaches is not necessarily based on an underlying sceptical outlook of researchers, but rather reflects an inherent ontological limitation within the sociological enterprise itself. It is recommended that 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:
Current phenomenological techniques in sociology include the method of "bracketing" (Bentz 1995; Ihde 1977). This approach lifts an item under investigation from its meaning context in the common-sense world, with all judgments suspended. For example, the item "alcoholism as a disease" (Peele 1985; Truan 1993) 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? A phenomenological reduction both plummets to the essentials of the notion and ascertains its meanings independent of all particular occasions of its use. The reduction of a bracketed phenomenon is thus a technique to gain theoretical insight into the meaning of elements of consciousness. - Myron Orleans.