Grounded theory is a qualitative research method that aims to generate theories from collected qualitative data. It starts with the researcher's observations and develops into a theory that explains the phenomena under study. Grounded theory is particularly suited for exploring social processes, such as how people interact with each other and their environment.
Why Use a Grounded Theory Approach
Researchers are trying to learn about people. They are searching for understanding people. To do this, they explore social processes like how people interact with each other and their environment. A grounded theory approach is good for this because you can look at your observations to try to understand what is happening or what might happen if something changes. The grounded theory method encourages researchers to begin with observations instead of existing theories and literature. Grounded theory begins with the perspective of the person being studied, so it is possible to establish a mutual understanding between researcher and participant.
Researchers use grounded theory to learn about people. They want to understand how people interact with each other and their environment. Grounded theory is good for this because you base your theories on your observations to try to understand what is happening with participants.
Grounded theory helps build a theoretical framework to explain a phenomenon directly from research data, for example, interviews with students learning mathematics in informal contexts or diary studies of self-directed learners managing their learning.
The Process of a Grounded Theory Study
Qualitative research is a way of studying people. It starts with the researcher's observations and develops into a theory that explains the phenomena under study. Grounded theory is particularly suited for exploring social processes, such as how people interact with each other and their environment. Theory building, testing, and evolving through the project are key aspects of grounded theory. The idea that everything we encounter while studying an area becomes data means there's no limit on what can be included in our research - including interviews or observations as well! Data is a fundamental component of grounded theory.
There are 4 stages to using grounded theory:
- Coding: Identify the key topics of the data for later reference. In Vivo and Process Coding are two methods that are typically used for grounded theory coding.
- Concepts: Grouping of codes on similar content.
- Categories: Broader groups of concepts that are similar and can inform theories.
- Theory: Collection of categories that build the subject of the research project.
Theory building is an integral part of every step in grounded theory. One must build and refine theory as they move through the stages of using grounded theory.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Using the Grounded Theory Method
Advantages of Grounded Theory
- Allows for the discovery of new behaviors, because it discourages the use of prior literature or theories.
- Ecological validity, findings are more likely to represent the real world because the research is especially close to participants.
- Provides good steps to do qualitative research.
- Increases the scientific rigor around qualitative research.
- Can be used across several research disciplines and professions.
Disadvantages of Grounded Theory
Mostly these are criticisms, so may literally be debatable whether they are disadvantages depending on what you are using grounded theory for:
- Increases the likelihood of researcher bias influencing the final theories. Since researchers start with open coding, prior expectations may influence this. 1
- For some fields, it may be inappropriate to ignore existing literature and theories.
- Theories derived from grounded theory may be poorly explained and closer to concepts instead.
Grounded Theory is a qualitative research methodology that helps researchers explore social processes such as how people interact with each other and their environment. It encourages researchers to start from the perspective of the person being studied, so it's possible to establish a mutual understanding between researcher and participants. Grounded theory can be used across several fields or professions but has some disadvantages like increasing bias and poorly explained theories.