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RTP 2019-20: Methods & Methodologies: Grounded Theory - Dr Dave Calvey


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Grounded theory is by far the most popular technique for qualitative data analysis. It is widely used in almost all social science disciplines including education, evaluation research, nursing, and sociology. It focuses on generating theoretical ideas from the data. The approach emphasises the systematic discovery of theory from data by using constant comparison method and theoretical sampling.

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RTP 2019-20: Methods & Methodologies: Grounded Theory - Dr Dave Calvey

  1. 1. •‘Grounded Theory: A methodological sensibility’ • Dr Dave Calvey, Sociology Dept, MMU • PAHC, 16/10/2019
  2. 2. Contents • 1) The ethnographic context • 2) The classic foundations-1967 • 3) Further developments-Grounded Theory as a popular school/perspective • 4) Critical reflections • 5) References
  3. 3. 1) The hospital ethnography context • In 1957 Strauss led an interdisciplinary team in a comparative ethnographic study of two psychiatric hospital departments. This published books–: • Psychiatric Ideologies and Institutions (1964)-Strauss et al • Awareness of Dying (1965)-Strauss and Glaser • Time For Dying (1968)-Strauss and Glaser • They collectively offer a new framework for analyzing complex organizations. Conceptualized as sites of permanent negotiation, continuous processes of generating and acting upon tacit agreements allow organizations to function. The negotiations include unofficial ‘working’ arrangements and official decisions among the various professional and other groups.
  4. 4. Anselm Strauss (1916-1996) was greatly influenced by Symbolic Interactionism and naturalistic methodology (Herbert Blumer,1969), University of Chicago -Human beings act towards things on the basis of the meanings that these things have for them -The meaning of such things is derived from, and arises out of, the social interaction that one has with other -These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process used by the person in dealing with encounters Barney Glaser collaborated with him in the department of Nursing, University of California
  5. 5. 2) The classic foundations (1967)
  6. 6. Theory discovery • Grounded theory may be broadly defined as: • ‘ the discovery of theory from data systematically obtained from social research’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967: 2).
  7. 7. ‘Ground up’ vs ‘bottom down’ • This research methodology uses inductive reasoning and logic, in contrast to the hypothetico-deductive of the traditional scientific method • Their standard of evidence is ‘plausibility’ not certainty • Principle of revision and emergence as you are collecting and analysing data • Legitimate qualitative approaches in the face of quantitative domination
  8. 8. Theory Generation 1. Theory Generation was a common goal ‘Description, ethnography, fact-finding, verification (call them what you will) are all done well by professionals in other fields and by laymen in various investigatory agencies. But these people cannot generate sociological theory from their work. Only sociologists are trained to want it, to look for it and to generate it.” (1967: 6-7)
  9. 9. The term, ‘theory’ actually covers many different kinds of generalisations. They distinguish between substantive theory, which comes directly from the data (empirical), and formal theory which is more abstract and general (conceptual): “ By substantive theory, we mean that developed from a substantive, or empirical, area of sociological enquiry, such as patient care, race relations, professional education, delinquency, or research organizations. By formal theory, we mean that developed for a formal, or conceptual, area of sociological enquiry, such as stigma, deviant behaviour, formal organization, socialization, status congruency, authority and power, reward systems, or social mobility” (1967:32).
  10. 10. Grounded Theory is comparative ‘ generation by comparative analysis requires a multitude of carefully selected cases, but the pressure is not on the sociologists to ‘know the whole field’ or to have all the facts from a ‘careful random sample’ His job is not to provide a perfect description of an area, but to develop a theory that accounts for much of the relevant behaviour’ (1967:30).
  11. 11. THEORETICAL SAMPLING Decisions concerning what to study are critical and should be made in advance of the field (hypothesis led)-set of relevancies 1) ‘ the essential question to be answered for the purposes of theoretical sampling is, “what groups or subgroups does one turn to next in data collection? And for what theoretical purpose?’ (1967:47). 2) ‘ the process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyses his data and decides what data to collect next and where to find them, in order to develop theory as it emerges’ (1967: 45).
  12. 12. Theoretical Saturation • Theoretical saturation of concepts is the point at which the data collection and analysis cycle can conclude ‘saturation means that no additional data are being found whereby the sociologist can develop the properties of the category’ (1967: 61)
  13. 13. 3) Further developments-Grounded Theory as a popular school/perspective • Glaser and Strauss have disagreed on how to apply the grounded theory method, resulting in a split between Straussian and Glaserian paradigms. • The split occurred most obviously after Strauss published Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists (1987) and together with Juliet Corbin, published the popular Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques (1990). This was followed by continued criticisms by Glaser, including:
  14. 14. • Glaser, B.G. (1978). Theoretical Sensitivity: Advances in the Methodology of Grounded Theory. • Glaser, B. G. (1992). Basics of Grounded Theory Analysis: Emergence vs. Forcing. • Glaser, B.G. (1998) Doing Grounded Theory: Issues and Discussions. • B. Glaser (Ed.) (1994) More Grounded Theory Methodology: A Reader.
  15. 15. Theoretical sensitivity • Glaser highlights the importance of theoretical sensitivity throughout GT. Part of this was the role of the core category: • ‘the generation of theory occurs around a core category. Without a core category an effort of grounded theory will drift in relevancy and workability’ (Glaser, 1978: 93). • The core category accounts for most of the variation of data and therefore most other categories relate to it in some way. • The core category is a more highly abstracted category but still must remain grounded in the data. The major categories are related to the core category and these categories show how the core category works in the lives of participants.
  16. 16. Constructivist Grounded Theory • Kathy Charmaz (1990, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2009), a student of Glaser and Strauss, developed constructivist features of grounded theory: • simultaneous collection and analysis of data • creation of analytic codes and categories developed from data and not by pre-existing conceptualisations (theoretical sensitivity) • discovery of basic social processes in the data • inductive construction of abstract categories • theoretical sampling to refine categories • writing analytical memos as the stage between coding and writing • the integration of categories into a theoretical framework.
  17. 17. • The classical position did not emphasis ‘multiple meanings’ from the data as was more fixed • The classical position assumed a type of researcher objectivity (‘distant expert’. silent authorship) whereas the researcher and researched are co-producers and co- creators. • More creative type of data analysis
  18. 18. 4) Critical reflections • There are ‘probably as many versions of grounded theory as there were grounded theorists’ (Dey 1999: 2) • ‘Weaknesses in using the method have become equated with weaknesses inherent in the method’ (Charmaz 1990: 1164). • Catch all school/perspective that loses precision and glosses over differences in qualitative approaches • Spread of application in various fields
  19. 19. • Widespread appeal (use and misuse) ‘ The future will bring less need to legitimize grounded theory; hence, there will be less need to justify using it. Now, many researchers have to explain it and argue for its use. Its future portends that grounded theory will be as accepted as are other methods (e.g., surveys) and will require little or no explanation to justify its use in a research project. With its use, it will empower the Ph.D. candidate with a degree, a subsequent career, and the acclaim of an original creative theory’ (Glaser, 1999: 845).
  20. 20. • Positivistic and prescriptive overtones in GT but useful signposts and principles for qualitative inquirers • Varieties and reinventions of Grounded Theory: Critical Realist (Oliver, 2014) Abductive (Rahmani and Leifels, 2018)
  21. 21. (2019)
  22. 22. 5) References • Charmaz, K and Mitchell, R. (1996) ‘The myth of silent authorship: Self, substance, and style in ethnographic writing’. Symbolic Interaction, 19(4), 285-302. • Charmaz, K. (1990). Discovering chronic illness: Using grounded theory, Social Science & Medicine, 30 (11): 1161-1172. • Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research, (2nd ed., pp. 509-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. • Charmaz, K. (2001). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method (pp. 675-694). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. • Charmaz, K. (2006) Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis, London: Sage. • Charmaz, K. (2009) ‘Shifting the grounds: Constructivist grounded theory methods’, in J. M. Morse, P. N. Stern, J. M. Corbin, B. Bowers and A. E. Clarke (eds), Developing Grounded Theory: The Second Generation, Walnut Creek, CA, University of Arizona Press, pp. 127–54 • Dey, I. (1999) Grounding Grounded Theory Guidelines for Qualitative Inquiry, San Diego: Academic Press.
  23. 23. • Rahmani, F and Leifels, K. (2018) ‘Abductive Grounded Theory: a worked example of a study in construction management’, Construction Management and Economics, 36:10, 565-583. • Glaser B. G Strauss A. L . (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research New York: Aldine Press. • Glaser, B. G. (1978) Theoretical Sensitivity: Advances in the Methodology of Grounded Theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press. • Glaser, B. G. (1992) Basics of Grounded Theory Analysis: Emergence vs. Forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press. • Glaser, B. G. (Ed). (1994) More Grounded Theory Methodology: A Reader, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press. • Glaser, B. G. (1998) Doing Grounded Theory: Issues and Discussions, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press. • Glaser, B. G. (1999) ‘The future of Grounded Theory’, Qualitative Health Research, 9 (6): 836-845. • Oliver, C. (2014) ‘Critical Realist Grounded Theory: A New Approach for Social Work Research’, British Journal of Social Work, 42 (2): 1-17 • Strauss, A. L and Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of qualitative research Grounded theory procedures and techniques, London: Sage. • Strauss A. L and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research Techniques and Procedures for developing Grounded Theory 2nd ed, London: Sage.