Beki Grinter

Why Theory Matters in Grounded Theory

In discipline, empirical, HCI, research on June 27, 2011 at 8:45 am

I’ve written about Grounded Theory before. I’ve written about how its not an excuse to not know what you are doing. This is true of any research of course. I’ve also written about theoretical saturation, in which I commented on the importance of doing the theory development part of Grounded Theory.

Kathy Charmaz’s book reminded me of just how important theory development is in Grounded Theory. She discusses the history of Grounded Theory. At the time when Glaser and Strauss developed Grounded Theory, qualitative research was suffering from its lack of connection to theory. They argued that while many quantitative methods were empirically verifying or exposing problems in existing theory, what Grounded Theory could do was to develop theory. In other words create theory by iterating between data collection and analysis with the goal of converging on a theoretical understanding grounded in the research data.

I took the following away: the reason to use Grounded Theory is to develop a theory. Anything less or else is not Grounded Theory.

There are many reasons to read Charmaz book, but one of them is to understand the contexts in which Grounded Theory emerged. Seems appropriate for an approach that argues that you should pay attention to the data.

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