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An Overview of Grounded Theory Qualitative Research

April 01, 2020
Using grounded theory, you can examine a specific process or phenomenon and develop new theories derived from the collected real-world data and their analysis.

Grounded theory is an inductive approach in which a theory is developed based on the data. This is the opposite of the traditional hypothesis-deductive research approaches, where hypotheses are formulated and are then tried to be proved or disproved.

In grounded theory, the process of collecting data, analyzing data, and developing theory is a continuous one. The process of collecting and analyzing data is repeated until theoretical saturation is reached or no new insights will be gained from additional data.

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What is Grounded Theory Approach in Research?

The grounded theory approach is a qualitative research methodology that attempts to unravel the meanings of people's interactions, social actions, and experiences. In other words, these explanations are grounded in the participants' own interpretations or explanations.

In 1967, Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss published the book, The Discovery Of Grounded Theory which introduced this method. Many disciplines have since used grounded theory, including anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, and public health.

Qualitative research using grounded theory was regarded as being groundbreaking upon its introduction. By using the inductive methodology, data could be analyzed as they are being collected. The theory also sought to move away from the existing practice of verification, which many researchers felt yielded inconsistent results.
Grounded theory has the following salient features:
Begins with data- Researchers using the grounded theory approach typically start with a case study by observing an individual or group in action. Through an analysis of cases, researchers formulate a tentative definition of their concept. An explanation for the construct is later crafted based on this case analysis. The validity of all hypotheses must be demonstrated before they can be accepted as explanations.

A personal approach- In this method, researchers study participants as they go about their daily activities, observe them interacting with others, conduct individual or group interviews, and ask participants specific questions about their observations, daily lives, experiences, or other sources relevant to the study.

Continuous data assessment- Researchers create an interview guide in which participants respond. An interview guide has a list of questions that are formulated to elicit meaning from the construct and can be used to evaluate the research itself. These definitions are examined to identify any discrepancies between the cases and interviews. After gathering data, researchers analyze it to determine whether the construct holds true, is false, or is somewhat applicable.

Flexible- Grounded theory research emphasizes the importance of focusing on the participants' own explanations and interpretations.

The application of grounded theory qualitative research is a dynamic and flexible way to answer questions that can't be addressed by other research methods.


What is Grounded Theory in Research Examples?

A grounded theory is often used in cases where there is no existing theory that explains the phenomenon being studied. It is also possible to use it if there is an existing theory, but it is potentially incomplete because the information wasn’t gathered from the group you intend to research.
The theory can be applied in various ways. In a corporate setting, grounded theory is used to gain a competitive edge for a brand or business. Here are a few examples:
Grounded theory can assist in the creation of a more visually appealing logo. This could be achieved by interviewing consumers to find out what they think of their logo and whether they like it or not. The next step will be to assemble coded data from the interviews that can be used for a second iteration. Likewise, marketing departments use the theory to improve their products and services according to a structured approach.

Human Resource (HR) departments often employ grounded theory. A good example would be studying why employees are frustrated with their job. Workers can explain why they are frustrated. Then, HR gathers data, analyzes the results to determine the root cause of the problem, and suggests solutions.

What are the Advantages of Grounded Theory?

Grounded theory offers various advantages.
Results reflect real-world settings
By using grounded theory, one can develop theories that are based on observations and interviews with real subjects in real situations. This results in findings that more closely reflect reality. In contrast, other types of research take place in less natural settings, such as focus groups and lab settings.
Excellent for discovering new things
The premise of grounded theory is that you discover new theories by inductive means. In other words, you don't assume anything about the outcome and aren't concerned about validating or describing it. Instead, you use the data you collect to inform your analysis and your theoretical construct, resulting in new insights.
Streamlined data gathering and analysis
Analyzing and collecting data go hand in hand. Data is collected, analyzed, and as you gain insight from analysis, you continue gathering more data. In this way, your data collection will be adequate to explain the results of your analysis.
Findings are tightly connected to the data
In grounded theory, the outcome is determined primarily by collected data, so findings are tightly tied to those data. It contrasts with other research methods that are primarily constructed through external frameworks or theories that are so far removed from the data.
Protection from confirmation bias
Because gathering data and analyzing it are closely intertwined, researchers are truly observing what emerges from data. By having a buffer, you avoid confirming preconceived notions about the topic.
Provides analysis strategies
An important aspect of grounded theory is that it provides specific strategies for analysis. Grounded theory may be characterized as an open-ended method, but its analysis strategies keep you organized and analytical throughout the research process.