Glaser and Strauss (1967); Strauss and Corbin (1990); Glaser (1992)
based on Dick, Bob (2005) Grounded theory: a thumbnail sketch
Grounded theory begins with a research situation, and observations regarding such a situation. Constant comparison is the heart of the process. Compare interview data with other interview data, then make theories, compare that theory to interview data, etc. These comparisons are often noted in margins of text, and encoded to the likes of the researcher. Relative structure of themes and how themes relate to each other can be written as memos, and then memos are sorted as a skeleton upon which writing can occur.
“In short, data collection, note-taking, coding and memoing occur simultaneously from the beginning. […] The theory is emergent — discovered in the data, Glaser will say.”
What most differentiates grounded theory from much other research is that it is explicitly emergent. In this respect it is like action research: the aim is to understand the research situation. “The aim, as Glaser in particular states it, is to discover the theory implicit in the data.”
Questions to judge grounded theory research: Does the theory fit the situation? Does it help the people in the situation to make sense of their experience?
- Data Collection
- Glaser recommends not taking notes or recording. This stimulates natural rapport and leaves you with a summary rather than being bogged down in word-by-word transcriptions.
- Dick recommends recording the session, taking very minimal notes, so that you can go back and verify your effectiveness.
- Convergent interviewing can also be used among a group of researchers. In this, interviews are found touch on similar subjects, and similarities and discrepancies are identified for further study and appropriate theorizing:
- Start by asking general questions about the situation and how the participants manage their situations.
- On the second interview develop a code in the margins that compares the first interview to the second interview.
- When repetition of codes begins to emerge, convert them into memos.
- Memos and categories of memos can be organized in various sub-groups in a hierarchical or network fashion.
- The process of interviewing stops upon saturation, where no new information in a category is added.
- The sample of interviews should be emergent, in that, when new categories emerge, differences in those categories should be sought out to study.
- You shouldn’t limit your research to the initial sample if it ends up not being completely representative of the diversity of your population.
- “A memo is a note to yourself about some hypothesis you have about a category or property, and particularly about relationships between categories.”
- Sorting & Writing
- Reorganize the memos as needed to describe the phenomena/situation to an outside audience. This guides the writing structure.
- Using Literature
- It is not apparent at first what literature will be appropriate to cite in writing until the observations and interview processes begin.
- The literature to be cited should be treated as equal to the data you’ve collected.
- Glaser warns about reading too specific of literature before interviews, in that the coding and memoing could guide you to make assumptions that won’t exist during your observations/interviews.
- If an apparent disagreement between your emerging theory and the literature exists, don’t assume that your theory must be wrong. You should seek to extend the theory so that it makes sense of both the data from your study and the data from the literature.
“In short, in using grounded theory methodology you assume that the theory is concealed in your data for you to discover. Coding makes visible some of its components. Memoing adds the relationships which link the categories to each other.”