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Grounded Theory | Research Conduction

Published on May 9th, 2017 | Last updated on February 23rd, 2021 by | Category: TESOL / TESL Issues through CALL | No Comments on Grounded Theory | Research Conduction | 83 Views | Reading Time: 7 minutes

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory is a quantitative research design in which the investigator moves beyond description and attempts to generate or discover a theory, an abstract analytical schema of a process, action or interaction (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

  • This theory-development does not come ‘off the shelf’ but rather is generated or ‘grounded’ in data from the participants who have experienced the process. In other words, grounded theory is a qualitative research design in which the inquirer generates a general explanation (a theory) of a process, action or interaction shaped by the views of a large number of participants (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
  • More recently, Charmaz (2006) has advocated about a ‘constructivist grounded theory’ thus introducing yet another perspective into the conversation about the procedure. Grounded theory has gained popularity in fields such as sociology, nursing, education, and psychology as well as other social science fields.
  • Charmaz (2006): social situations should form our units of analysis in grounded theory.
  • The two popular approaches to grounded theory:
    1. Systematic procedures of Strauss and Corbin (1990, 1998): The investigator seeks to systematically develops a theory that explains process, action or interaction on a topic. The researcher typically conducts 20 to 30 interviews based on several visits to the field to collect interview data to saturate the categories (or field information that continues to add to them until no more can be found). A category represents a unit of information composed of events, happenings or instances. The participants interviewed are theoretically chosen called ‘theoretical sampling’ to help the researcher best form the theory. This process of taking information from data collection and comparing it to emerging categories is called the “constant comparative” method of data analysis.
    2. The researcher begins with open coding: coding the data from its major categories of information. From this coding, axial coding emerges in which the researcher identifies one open coding category to focus on (called the core phenomenon), and then goes back to the data and creates categories around this core phenomenon. Strauss and Corbin (1990) prescribe the types of categories identified around the core phenomenon. They consist of ‘casual conditions’ (what factors caused by the core phenomenon), strategies (actions taken in response to the core phenomenon), contextual and intervening conditions (broad and specific situational factors that influence the strategies) and consequences (outcomes from using the strategies).
    3. These categories relate to and sounded the core phenomenon in a visual model called the ‘axial coding paradigm’.
    4. The final step is ‘selective coding’ in which the researcher takes the model and develops ‘propositions’ or hypotheses that interrelate the categories in the model or assembles a story that describes the interrelationships of the categories in the model. This theory developed by the researcher is articulated toward the end of the study and can assume several forms, such as a narrative statement, a visual picture, or a series of hypotheses or propositions (Creswell & Brown, 1992).
    5. Strauss and Corbin (1998) takes the model one step further to develop a ‘conditional matrix’. They advance the conditional matrix as a coding device to help the researcher make connections between the macro and micro conditions influencing the phenomenon. This stage is not frequently used (Creswell, 2007).
    6. Creswell’s (2007) for data collection in a grounded theory study is a ‘zigzag’ process: out to the filed to gather information, into the office to analyze the data, back to the field to gather more information, into the office, and so forth.
    7. Constructivist Procedure of Charmaz (2005, 2006): Instead of embracing the study of a single process or core category as in the Strauss and Corbin (1998) approach, Charmaz advocates for a social constructivist perspective that includes emphasizing diverse local worlds, multiple realities, and the complexities of the particular worlds, views and actions.
    8. Constructivist grounded theory lies squarely within the interpretive approach to qualitative research with flexible guidelines, a focus on theory developed that depends on the researcher’s view, learning about the experience within embedded, hidden networks, situations and relationships and making visible hierarches of power, communication and opportunity.
    9. Charmaz places more emphasis on the views, values, beliefs, feelings, assumptions and ideologies of individuals than on the methods of research, although she does describe the practices of gathering rich data, coding the data, memoing and using theoretical sampling. She suggests that complex terms or jargons, diagrams, conceptual maps and systematic approaches detract from grounded theory and represent an attempt to gain power in their use.
    10. In her idea, a grounded theory procedure does not minimize the role of the researcher in the process. The researcher makes decisions about the categories throughout the process, brings questions to the data, and advances personal values, experiences and priorities. Any conclusions developed by grounded theorists are just suggestive, incomplete and inconclusive.
    11. Charmaz’s theory is full of reflexivity and flexibility.
    12. Procedures for conducting grounded theory based on Strauss and Corbin:
    13. Grounded theory is a good design to use when a theory is not available to explain a process. The literature may have models available, but they were developed and tested on samples or populations other than those of interest to the qualitative researcher. Also, theories may be present but they are incomplete, because they do not address potentially valuable variables of interest to the researcher.
    14. The research questions that the inquirer asks of participants will focus on how individuals experience the process and identifying the steps in the process. (What was the process? How did it unfold?). After initially exploring these issues, the researcher then returns to the participants and asks more detailed questions that help to shape the axial coding phase, questions such as: What was central to the process: (The core phenomenon) What influenced or caused this phenomenon to occur? (casual conditions), What strategies were employed during the process (strategies), what effects occurred (consequences).
    15. These questions are typically asked in interviews, although other types of data might also be collected such as observations, documents and audiovisual materials.
    16. The analysis of the data proceeds in stages. In open coding, the researcher forms categories being studied by segmenting the information. Within each category, the investigator finds several properties or subcategories and looks for the data to dimensionalize or show the extreme possibilities on a continuum of the property.
    17. In axial coding, the investigator assembles the data in new ways after open coding. This is presented using a ‘coding paradigm or logic diagram’, i.e. a visual model, in which the researcher identifies a ‘central phenomenon’, i.e. a central category about the phenomenon, then explores casual conditions (categories of conditions that influence the phenomenon), specifies strategies (i.e., the actions or interactions that result from the central phenomenon), identifies contexts and intervening conditions (the narrow and broad conditions that influence the strategies) and delineates the consequences (the outcomes of the strategies) for this phenomenon.
    18. In selective coding, the researcher may write a ‘story line’ that connects the categories. Alternatively, propositions or hypotheses may be specified that state predicted relationships.
    19. Finally, the researcher may develop and visually portray a conditional matrix that elucidates the social, historical and economic conditions influencing the central phenomenon. It is an optional step and one in which the qualitative inquirer thinks about the model from the smallest to the broadest perspective.
    20. The result of this data collection and analysis is a theory, a ‘substantive-level theory’, written by a researcher close to a specific problem or population of people. The theory emerges with help from the process of ‘memoing’, a process in which the researcher writes down ideas about the evolving theory throughout the process of open, axial and selective coding.

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