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What do we mean when we talk about meaning? A qualitative study on students’ concepts and sources of meaning in life.

Schankweiler, D.A. (2020) What do we mean when we talk about meaning? A qualitative study on students’ concepts and sources of meaning in life.

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Abstract:Meaning in life is part of many academic and lay people’s ideas of human well-being. For university students meaning in life is an important topic. The experience of meaning includes conceptual beliefs about the structure, and specific sources of meaning. Students’ concepts of meaning are largely unexplored, but previous research suggested that they rely on social relationships, altruism, career, and self-actualization and growth as sources of meaning. The present qualitative study examined the concepts and sources of meaning in a sample of four undergraduate university students from different European universities and study programmes. Online interviews with open-ended questions were conducted and the data was analysed through content and thematic analysis. The concept of meaning usually included having purpose, coherence, and significance in life, having multiple fluid sources, and regarding meaning as individually constructed and detected in real-life events. The most common sources of meaning in life were social relationships, self-actualization, altruism, achievement, and positive emotions. Some gender differences emerged for self-actualization and social relationships. Findings about the concept of meaning are potentially new and require validation. Findings on the sources in this study are largely consistent with previous research, apart from the gender differences. Additional research is needed to validate the findings with larger samples and to examine the inconclusive findings about gender-differences.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:08 philosophy, 77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/82037
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