This paper traces the development of phenomenology as a philosophy originating from the writings of Husserl to its use in phenomenological research and theory development in nursing. The key issues of phenomenological reduction and bracketing are also discussed as they play a pivotal role in the how phenomenological research studies are approached. What has become to be known as "new" phenomenology is also explored and the key differences between it and "traditional" phenomenology are discussed. van Manen's phenomenology is also considered in light of its contemporary popularity among nurse researchers. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.