Grounded theory is to generate or discover a theory. Its focus is to
obtain an abstract analytical schema of a phenomenon that related to
a particular situation (Creswell, 1998). However, Strasuss and Corbin
((1998) explicitly pointed out that the value of the grounded theory
lines in its ability not only to generate the theory but also to ground
that theory in data .
Denzin and Lincoln (1994) stated that grounded theory method of research
consist of systematic inductive guidelines for collecting and analyzing
data to build theoretical frameworks that explain the collected data.
What are exactly specific natures of grounded theory?
Glaser (1978) list four features:
- A theory must have fit: A grounded theory is faithful to the everyday
realities of a substantive area, i.e. a grounded theory must be carefully
induced from diverse data
- A theory must have relevance: Grounded theory arrives at relevance
because it allows core problems and processes to emerge. The grounded
theorist must search for and discover the relevance of his or her
- A theory must work: A theory should be able to explain what happened,
predict what will happen, and interpret what is happening in an area
of substantive or formal inquiry.
- A theory must be readily modifiable: The generation is an ever modifying
process and nothing is sacred if the analyst is dedicated to giving
priority attention to the data.
Strauss and Corbin (1998) added two additional features of grounded
theory. They said that theories are always traceable to the data that
gave rise to them, and grounded theories are very fluid, because they
embrace the interaction of multiple actors, and because they emphasize
temporality and process.
What are other important property of grounded theory? (Notes
in ADTED 550 discussions)
- Grounded theory has the power of transcending
Grounded theory requires constant comparative analysis
- The generative nature always takes it beyond the substantive area
- It transcends specific data collection methods
- The analyst is constantly going beyond his data to new problems
and ideas, and constantly puts him beyond his previous analysis.
- Grounded theory is transcending also in the sense that it conceptualizes
- A central feature of this analytic approach is a general method
of constant comparative analysis.
- Group comparisons are conceptual: they are proceeded by comparing
diverse or similar evidence indicating the same conceptual categories
and properties, not by comparing the evidence for its own sake.
- Comparative analysis takes full advantage of the interchangeability
of indicators, and develops, as it proceeds, a broad range of acceptable
indicator for categories and properties.
Data Analysis of Grounded Theory
The primary method of analysis is a continuous coding process. Analysis
will begin with open coding - the data are examined line by line
to define actions or events within data. This coding analysis will likely
lead to "refining and specifying any borrowed extant concepts"
(Strauss and Corbin, 1998). Next is the analysis of axial coding,
which is aimed to make conceptual connections between a category and
its subcategories. Then, concepts and sub-concepts are further defined
by selective coding, "an integrative process of selecting
the core category, systematically relating it to other categories, validating
those relationships by searching for confirming and disconfirming examples,
and filling in categories that needed further refinement and development"
(Strauss and Corbin, 1998).
Codes and categories will be sorted, compared, and contrasted until
all the data are accounted for in the core categories of the grounded
theory paradigm model, and no new codes or categories can be produced,
i.e. saturation. The researcher also needs to write analytic and self-reflective
memos to document and enrich the analytical process, to make implicit
thoughts explicit, and to expand the data corpus. Analytical memos consist
of questions and speculation about the data and emerging theory.
Creswell (1998) described the following process of data analysis in
- Open coding: Categorizing the information and examining properties
and dimensions of the data
- Axial coding: Identifying a central phenomenon, exploring causal
conditions, specifying strategies, identifying the context and intervening
condition, and delineating the consequences for the central phenomenon
- Selective coding: Identifying a story line and writing a story that
integrating the categories in the axial coding; presenting the conditional
proposition or hypotheses.
- Visually portraying a conditional matrix that elucidates the social,
historical, and economic conditions influencing the central phenomenon.
Creswell (1998) described the general structure of grounded theory
- Introduction: problem and questions
- Research procedures: grounded theory, data collection, analysis,
- Open coding
- Axial coding
- Selective coding and theoretical propositions and models
- Discussion of theory and contrasts with extant literature
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing
among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). (Eds). Handbook of Qualitative
Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Glaser, B. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity. Mill Valley, CA:
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods
( 2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research:
Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage.