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Constructivist

Grounded
Theory
Methodology
PREPARED BY JOHN N. ABLETIS
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY
POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES-STA. MESA

What is Grounded Theory


Methodology?

as Qualitative Data
Charmaz 2006, 2012)

Analysis (QDA) Method (see

as Research Strategy (RS) for systematic, iterative,


and exhaustive gathering and analysis of data until no new
relevant concepts and dimensions emerge. (see Denzin &
Lincoln 2011)
Grounded Theory is an inductive methodology. Although many
call Grounded Theory a qualitative method, it is not. It is a

general method. It is the systematic generation of

theory from systematic research. It is a set of rigorous


research procedures leading to the emergence of conceptual
categories. (Ground Theory Institute 2014)

What is Grounded Theory


Methodology?

Study of a concept (Glaser 2010)

Study of (a) process(es) (Charmaz 2006)

context

Study of a basic process in


(Strauss & Corbin
1998; Corbin & Strauss 2008; cf Clarke 2007 for
situation)

Main Varieties

Objectivist/Classical GTM (see Glaser & Strauss 1967; see


http://www.groundedtheory.com/what-is-gt.aspx)

Post-positivist GTM (see Strauss & Corbin 1990, 1998)

Constructivist GTM (see Charmaz 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011,


2012; Bryant & Charmaz 2007; cf Corbin & Strauss 2008)

Situational Analysis/Postmodernist GTM (see Adele Clark 2003,


2006, 2007; interpretivist Clarke 2014:50; see
http://clarkessituationalanalysis.blogspot.com/)
[W]hether you judge a specific study to be constructivist or
objectivist depends on the extent to which its key
characteristics conform to one tradition or the other.
(Charmaz 2006:130)

What is common among


different versions of GTM?

emergent research process

taking care not to force data by delaying intensive lit review

immediate analysis after collecting initial data through coding


(open coding/line-by-line coding) and memo-writing

writing memos for each concept (its characteristics/properties


and dimensions), pattern, and relationship

constant comparative method between codes, categories


and concepts

theoretical sampling until saturation of concepts

build grounded theory instead of mere description

Towards constructing middle-range (Charmaz 2006) or


substantive (Cobrin & Strauss 2008) theories. For formal theory
building, see works of Barney Glaser.

For quali or/and quanti data from single or mixed methods


(pragmatic; toolkit approach Snape & Spencer 2003; to
take advantage of fortuitous events Strauss & Corbin
1998:203)

Can be used in conjunction with other RS/QDA

Open to other theories

GTM and Symbolic Interaction as Theory-Method Package


(Clarke 2007; cf Corbin & Strauss 2008; Charmaz 2005;
Chamberlain-Salaun, Mills & Usher 2010)

Reminder in using and


mixing methods
Methodologies are designed to do certain things and, with
usage over time, have attained a certain degree of
credibility when used in a manner consistent with the
design. To mix up different methodologies, or use only
certain procedures and not other, erodes at that
credibility. (Corbin & Strauss 2008:303)
-

GTM researchers need to explain their inquiry process


because the theory development depends on the
participants involved, because qualitative methods are not
uniformly agreed upon... [and because in] grounded
theory, there is more than one version of how researchers
can go about implementing procedures (Chiovitti & Piran,
2003, p. 428). (Mruck & Mey 2007:518)

Constructivist GTM-Ontology
Realism/Obdurate reality
[T]hat the empirical world can "talk back" to our pictures of it or
assertions about it--talk back in the sense of challenging and
resisting, or not bending to, our images or conceptions of it. This
resistance gives the empirical world an obdurate character that is
the mark of reality... that both calls for and justifies empirical
science. (Blumer1969:22-23)
This Pragmatist position does not at all lead to radical relativism
(as currently in one version of postmodernism)... One is that truth is
equivalent to for the time being this is what we knowbut
eventually it may be judged partly or even wholly wrong... I realized
there is no one reality out there waiting to be discovered (Geertz,
1973); however, I do believe there are external events... As
Schawndt (1998) states, One can reasonably hold that concepts
and ideas are invented (rather than discovered) yet maintain that
these inventions correspond to something in the real world (p.
237). (Corbin & Strauss 2008:4,10)

Constructivist GTM-Ontology
The constructivist view assumes an obdurate, yet everchanging world but recognizes diverse local worlds and
multiple realities, and addresses how peoples actions affect
their local and larger world. (Charmaz 2006:132)

My use of constructivism assumes the existence of an

obdurate, real world that may be interpreted in multiple


ways. I do not subscribe to the radical subjectivism assumed
by some advocates of constructivism. Consistent with Marx, I
assume that people make their worlds but do not make them
as they please. Rather, worlds are constructed under
particular historical and social conditions that shape our
views, actions, and collective practices. (Charmaz
2008:409)

Constructivist GTM-Epistemology
Constructivism
There is no objective truth waiting for us to discover it. Truth, or
meaning, comes into existence in and out of our engagement
with the realities in our world... Meaning is not discovered, but
constructed... that different people may construct meaning in
different ways, even in relation to the same phenomenon... The
existence of a world without a mind is conceivable. Meaning
without a mind is not. Realism in ontology and constructionism in
epistemology turn out to be quite compatible. (Crotty 1998:89,10-11)
I assume that neither data nor theories are discovered. Rather,
we are part of the world we study and the data we collect. We
construct our grounded theories through our past and present
involvements and interactions with people, perspectives, and
research practices. (Charmaz 2006:10)

Constructivist GTM-Epistemology
However, it is not the event itself that is the issue in our studies,
because each person experiences and gives meaning to events
in light of his or her own biography or experiences....I agree with
the constructivist viewpoint that concepts and theories are
constructed by researchers out of stories that are constructed by
research participants who are trying to explain and make sense
out of their experiences and/or lives. (Corbin & Strauss 2008:10)
My constructionist approach makes the following assumptions:
(1) Reality is multiple, processual, and constructedbut
constructed under particular conditions; (2) the research process
emerges from interaction; (3) it takes into account the
researchers positionality, as well as that of the researcher
participants; (4) the researcher and researched coconstruct the
datadata are a product of the research process, not simply
observed objects of it. Researchers are part of the research
situation, and their positions, privileges, perspectives, and
interactions affect it... (Charmaz 2008:402)

Use of Theory

As sensitizing

concepts

[T]hat the concepts of our discipline are fundamentally sensitizing


instruments. Hence, I call them "sensitizing concepts" and put them in
contrast with definitive concepts... A definitive concept refers precisely
to what is common to a class of objects, by the aid of a clear definition
in terms of attributes or fixed bench marks. This definition, or the bench
marks, serve as a means of clearly identifying the individual instance of
the class and the make-up of that instance that is covered by the
concept. A sensitizing concept lacks such specification of attributes or
bench marks and consequently it does not enable the user to move
directly to the instance and its relevant content. Instead, it gives the
user a general sense of reference and guidance in approaching
empirical instances. Whereas definitive concepts provide prescriptions
of what to see, sensitizing concepts merely suggest directions along
which to look... (Blumer 1954:7)

Or metaphors... a way of looking at the world more than


testable propositions(Fine 1984:240)

theoretical agnosticism (Henwood & Pidgeon 2003:138


quoted in Charmaz 2006:165)

There is a difference between an OPEN MIND and an empty head.


(Dey 1999:251 quoted in Charmaz 2006; Bryant & Charmaz 2007)

Writing the first


draft

Integrating memos
diagramming
concepts

Further
theoretical
sampling if
needed

Sorting memos
Adopting certain
categories as
theoretical concepts
Theoretical
Sampling seek
specific new data
Theoretical memowriting and further
refining of concepts

Data collection--Focused coding


Initial memos
refining
conceptual
categories

Re-examination
of earlier data
Initial coding
data collection
Research problem
and opening
research questions

Advanced memos
refining
conceptual
categories

Slightly modified text from


Charmaz 2006:11

Sensitizing concepts and general disciplinary perspectives

Theoretical Sampling
initial sampling provides a point of departure (Charmaz
2006:100)
in search for concepts and their properties and dimensions
starts immediately after analysis of first set of data; arising gaps in
data and analysis will guide the researcher about where to
sample next; follow theoretical leads.
Use TS (Charmaz 2006:104)

To delineate properties of a category

To check hunches about categories

To saturate properties of a category

The clarify relationship between emerging categories

To identify variation in a process

involves abduction (discovery of new relationship), deduction


(subordinating a case to a known rule), qualitative induction
(associating a case with a known rule)(Reichertz 2007; cf
Charmaz 2013, 2008, 2006)
Theoretical saturation of concepts (evidence based)

Conditional/Consequential Matrix (Corbin & Strauss 2008:94)

International
National
Community
Organizational and Institutional
Sub-Organizational, Sub-Institutional
Group, Collective Individuals
Interaction
Action Pertaining to a Phenomenon
The Matrix consists of a series of concentric and interconnected circles with arrows going both
toward and away from the center. The arrows represent the intersection of
conditions/consequences and the resulting chain of events. Conditions move toward and
surround the inter/action, representing how the consequences of any inter/action move from
inter/action to change or ad to conditions in often diverse and unanticipated ways.... The
Matrix is meant only to be a conceptual guide and not a definitive procedure. The Matrix can
be modified to fit each study and data. (Corbin & Strauss 2008:93)

Visual Representation of Process (Corbin & Strauss 2008:99)

Process in data is represented by sequences of action/interaction/emotions changing in


response to sets of circumstances, events, or situations... not all process is developmental or
progressive. It can be chaotic. It can move upward for a while, then turn downward, or it may
proceed circularly. (Corbin & Strauss 2008:98)

Evaluating GT

Fit, grab, work, modifiability (Bryant 2014)

Rigor and Credibility (Corbin & Strauss 2008:300-301)

intimate familiarity, originality, resonance, careful


engagement of relevant literature (Charmaz
2006:182-183)

How are you going to answer the


So what question?

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