Grounded theory myths Professor Cathy Urquhart ukais


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Professor Cathy Urquhart talks about Grounded Theory at UK Academy for Information Systems master class on 12th November 2010.

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Grounded theory myths Professor Cathy Urquhart ukais

  1. 1. Professor Cathy Urquhart
  2. 2.  My journey with grounded theory and why this paper started in a café in Brisbane  What is grounded theory anyway?  The myths of grounded theory  Questions, questions! 2
  3. 3.  Started using it in 1995 – a revelation!  Been teaching it as part of qualitative research methods ever since  Grounded theory method (GTM) has got more popular in information systems – a survey of the top six journals since 1993 reveal 85 articles applying GTM  Despite this, there are some myths about the use of GTM, as was discussed at a Brisbane café   As Senior editor for MIS Quarterly I deal with GTM papers, but not as often as I would like! (MISQ has an impact factor of 4.83, the highest of all business journals) 3
  4. 4. © C.Urquhart 2000  A qualitative research method.  Co-originators sociologists Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss (1967).  An inductive approach to generating substantive theory that is ‘grounded’ in the data.  Has clear directives on coding data.  There are disputes about application and also the method.  Many adaptations in many fields.
  5. 5. 5 1. The aim of grounded theory is to generate or discover a theory. 2. The researcher has to set aside theoretical ideas in order to let the substantive theory emerge. 3. Theory focuses on how individuals interact with the phenomena under study.
  6. 6. 6 4. Theory asserts a plausible relationship between concepts and sets of concepts 5. Theory is derived from data acquired from fieldwork interviews, observation, and documents. 6. Data Analysis is systematic and begins as soon as data is available.
  7. 7. 7 7. Data analysis proceeds through identifying categories and connecting them. 8. Further data collection (or sampling) is based on emerging concepts. 9. These concepts are developed through constant comparison with additional data.
  8. 8. 8 10. Data collection can stop when no new conceptualisations emerge. 11. Data analysis proceeds from open coding (identifying categories, properties and dimensions) through selective coding (clustering around categories), to theoretical coding. 12. The resulting theory can be reported in a narrative framework or a set of propositions.
  9. 9.  The practical benefits of GTM are now well demonstrated in IS research ◦ It provides a rigorous and yet relevant way of doing exploratory research (Fernández and Lehmann 2005) ◦ It allows the (re)investigation of socio-technical phenomena in emerging or changing environments  The use of GTM in IS has been marked by many interesting adaptations (Urquhart 2007)  Excellent for studying processes and for exploring new research areas (So why aren’t more people using it?)
  10. 10.  Four categories of use (Lehmann, Urquhart and Myers 2006) ◦ Full use of GTM (11 papers) ◦ Using the method to generate concepts (11 papers) ◦ Mixing GTM with other methods ( 4 papers) ◦ Mislabelled as GTM ( 6 papers)  Misunderstanding of GTM is prevalent in other disciplines too (eg Suddaby, 2006)
  11. 11.  Myth: ‘‘an unquestioned belief about the practical benefits of certain techniques and behaviours which is not supported by the demonstrated facts.” (Trice and Beyer 1984)  Bolman and Deal 1984, in Hirschheim and Newman 1991, identify different functions of myths; to explain, to express, to maintain solidarity and cohesion, to legitimize, to communicate unconscious wishes and conflicts, to mediate contradictions, and to provide an anchor from the present to the past.
  12. 12.  ‘It is impossible to comply with GT notions of not being influenced by early reading’  ‘GTM ignores the literature’
  13. 13.  There is a very definite obligation to engage the generated theory with the literature; this is a key element of the constant comparison principle  Strauss (1987) modified the 1967 advice for more experienced researchers  The emerging theory determines the relevance of the draft literature review – in practice, there is some searching at the beginning, and the end of the theory development
  14. 14.  Some of these notions of inflexibility may have come from applying the Strauss and Corbin (1998) guidelines  For instance, Hansen and Kautz (2005), Melia (1996) and Kendall (1999) report difficulties in using the Strauss and Corbin paradigm
  15. 15.  GTM accepts a wide range of data, from historical records, literature, statistics, interviews, etc.  GTM accepts many theoretical coding paradigms, providing that they are grounded and not forced (Glaser 2005)
  16. 16.  Walsham (1995) -cited Layder (1993) who said GTM focused on micro phenomena and this prevented the consideration of macro structures  Layder continues these arguments in his 1998 book, so this is still a misperception
  17. 17.  The 1967 book has a whole chapter devoted to just this question of raising the level of the theory.  Glaser (1978) and Strauss (1987) have emphasized the need to engage with other theories to raise the conceptualization level of the substantive theory  Clark (2005) makes many suggestions as to how to scale up the emergent theory to meso and macro levels
  18. 18.  If we accept this myth as true, then GTM is no use to researchers coming from opposing paradigms  Generally, Strauss is held to be interpretivist and Glaser positivist  Glaser would have a good laugh at such assertions
  19. 19.  GTM is a general method of data analysis independent of either paradigm  Guided by epistemological stances, GTM can produce critical, positivist or interpretivist research (Madill et al 2000)  A frequent use of GTM in positivist studies is to produce concepts which are later operationalized in surveys
  20. 20.  Myths identified, intentionally or unintentionally, legitimize the view that GTM cannot be used for dissertation research  Worth considering these myths in a broader context of past battles between qualitative and quantitative research  The potential of GTM for theory building is largely untapped in IS research  Leveraging theory building is important for a relatively new discipline like IS
  21. 21. 21
  22. 22. 22  Urquhart C, Lehmann H, Myers M (2009), Putting the Theory back into Grounded Theory: Guidelines for Grounded Theory Studies in Information Systems, Information Systems Journal, forthcoming  Urquhart C (2007) 'The Evolving Nature of Grounded Theory Method: The Case of the Information Systems Discipline' In: Kathy Charmaz and Tony Bryant (ed.), The Handbook of Grounded Theory, Sage Publishers, 311-331.  Urquhart C and Fernandez W, Grounded Theory Method: The Researcher as Blank Slate and Other Myths, Proceedings of the Twenty Seventh International Conference on Information Systems, Milwaukee 2006  Charmaz K (2006), Constructing Grounded Theory, Sage Publications