Sociology Index


Grounded Theory has been derived through inductive reasoning, thus giving it a firm grounding in data or observations of the world. Grounded Theory was an attempt to avoid sociological theory which was overly abstract and for which the references to the real world were unclear. Such abstract theory would be simply a logical construction deduced from assumptions and propositions. The basic idea of the grounded theory approach is to read (and re-read) a textual database (such as a corpus of field notes) and "discover" or label variables (called categories, concepts and properties) and their interrelationships.

The phrase "grounded theory" refers to theory that is developed inductively from a corpus of data. If done well, this means that the resulting theory at least fits one dataset perfectly.

This contrasts with theory derived deductively from grand theory, without the help of data, and which could therefore turn out to fit no data at all. - Introduction to Grounded Theory - By Steve Borgatti

Discussion drawn from: Glaser and Strauss. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strauss and Corbin. 1990. Basics of Qualitative Research. Grounded theory takes a case rather than variable perspective, although the distinction is nearly impossible to draw. This means in part that the researcher takes different cases to be wholes, in which the variables interact as a unit to produce certain outcomes. A case-oriented perspective tends to assume that variables interact in complex ways, and is suspicious of simple additive models.

The grounded theory approach, particularly the way Strauss develops it, consists of a set of steps whose careful execution is thought to "guarantee" a good theory as the outcome. Strauss would say that the quality of a theory can be evaluated by the process by which a theory is constructed.

Although not part of the grounded theory rhetoric, it is apparent that grounded theorists are concerned with or largely influenced by emic understandings of the world: they use categories drawn from respondents themselves and tend to focus on making implicit belief systems explicit. 

Grounded Theory and Organizational Research 
Patricia Yancey Martin, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306 
Barry A. Turner, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, England - The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 22, No.2, (1986)
Grounded theory is an inductive, theory discovery methodology that allows the researcher to develop a theoretical account of the general features of a topic while simultaneously grounding the account in empirical observations or data (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This article explicates the utility of a grounded theory approach to research on work organizations. Following a general introduction to the grounded theory method, the authors'review of the organizational literature using grounded theory illustrates the variety of issues and topics studied through this approach. The authors describe and explain specific strategies for conducting grounded theory research in and on organizations, including note taking and note writing, concept discovery, and concept definition and preliminary elaboration of theory. Throughout the article emphasis is placed on grounded theory's ability to facilitate understanding and to identify desirable improvements in work contexts.

Grounded Theory Research and Theory Building, T. Marshall Egan 
Advances in Developing Human Resources, Vol. 4, No.3, (2002)
The problem and the solution. A challenging mandate recently advanced by human resource development (HRD) scholars and practitioners has been the development of theory with clear implications for practice. The grounded theory research approach presents promising possibilities for the development of theoretical frameworks that emerge from research situated in practice and enhance the HRD theorist–HRD practitioner partnership in the process of theory building.

A Grounded Theory of Portfolio Working - Experiencing the Smallest of Small Businesses 
Michael Clinton, Kings College London, UK 
Peter Totterdell, Stephen Wood, University of Sheffield, UK 
Portfolio working has been championed, most noticeably by Handy (1995), as a new way in which we should understand many working lives. It is said to be characterized by obtaining and doing a variety of pieces of work for a number of different clients or employers and is suggested by many to be an increasing practice. To understand how individuals who work in this way experience portfolio working, 26 semi-structured interviews were carried out with a range of portfolio workers and then analysed using a grounded theory technique.

Beyond Two Dimensions - A Grounded Theory Model of Conflict-Handling Behavior 
Anne Maydan Nicotera, Howard University 
Management Communication Quarterly, Vol. 6, No.3, (1993)
A descriptive model of conflict-handling behavior was developed in an inductive investigation aimed at overcoming problems of assuming two dimensions of conflict behavior. The model delineates and defines strategy categories based on actor-salient aspects of specific behavior in specific situations. Ninety full-time employees of different organizations provided written accounts of recent conflicts in which they were involved at work. Using a grounded theory approach, strategy descriptions were subjected to constant comparison analysis.

The Development of Constructivist Grounded Theory
Jane Mills, Ann Bonner, and Karen Francis
Abstract: Constructivist grounded theory is a popular method for research studies primarily in the disciplines of psychology, education, and nursing. In this article, the authors aim to locate the roots of constructivist grounded theory and then trace its development. They examine key grounded theory texts to discern their ontological and epistemological orientation. They find Strauss and Corbin’s texts on grounded theory to possess a discernable thread of constructivism in their approach to inquiry. They also discuss Charmaz’s landmark work on constructivist grounded theory relative to her positioning of the researcher in relation to the participants, analysis of the data, and rendering of participants’ experiences into grounded theory. Grounded theory can be seen as a methodological spiral that begins with Glaser and Strauss’ original text and continues today. The variety of epistemological positions that grounded theorists adopt are located at various points on this spiral and are reflective of their underlying ontologies.

Using grounded theory to research parent participation 
Imelda Coyne, Sarah Cowley, Journal of Research in Nursing, Vol. 11, No. 6, 501-515 (2006)
There are many interpretations and applications of the grounded theory method which have contributed to different understandings of grounded theory and different versions of how the key components (theoretical sampling, constant comparative analysis and theoretical saturation) should be implemented. The esoteric terminology coupled with the matrix style of the analysis process can be challenging for new researchers. This paper uses data from a study on parent participation to illustrate the application of the key components of grounded theory. Grounded theory provides clear guidelines on how to analyse qualitative data and so is a rigorous method that provides structure and direction to the researcher. However, theoretical sampling with vulnerable groups can be problematic and requires further discussion and debate from other users of grounded theory.

The Grounded Theory Institute
Dr. Barney Glaser and Classic Grounded Theory.
Barney Glaser's now world famous troubleshooting seminars are designed for PhD candidates to trouble shoot exactly their next question in writing, doing their Grounded Theory dissertation. The goal is to get candidates closer to finishing the PhD dissertation, by troubleshooting their current Grounded Theory problem(s) and listening to other student's current Grounded Theory problems in an open, supportive and noncompetitive discussion. Seminars cover the many Grounded Theory issues candidates face in completing their PhD dissertation. All students will learn from each other, and receive invaluable help.

The Grounded Theory Review is an international peer-reviewed journal for the advancement of classic grounded theory research and scholarship. Each issue of the Review contains papers featuring substantive theories developed using classic grounded theory methodology as well as papers with a focus on methodological perspectives. The Review wishes to serve as a forum for global networking among grounded theory researchers and welcomes dialogue and discussion between its readers and the members of its Peer Review Editorial Board. We are currently seeking articles for two forthcoming special issues:
June, 2009. This issue will focus on the novice experience in learning and doing CGT (Classic Grounded Theory). We especially welcome papers that address the challenges, lessons learned, rewards and advice to others undertaking their first CGT study.
November, 2009. This issue will focus on writing and publishing CGT. The numerous remodelled versions of GT have resulted in many misunderstandings of the classic methodology, most particularly, the misconception that GT is a qualitative research method. The resultant confusion of CGT with qualitative methods is a frequent frustration – and sometimes obstacle – for CGT scholars seeking to publish in mainstream academic journals where the criteria for publication may be inconsistent with CGT methodology and where reviewers will often assess a CGT paper against established criteria for qualitative research. We welcome papers that address these issues and offer advice to others in successfully overcoming the obstacles to publication in mainstream journals.