The grounded theory
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Presented & Prepared BY Cemaliye Soğancı Emete Mavili Özkan İbrahimer. THE GROUNDeD THEORY. There was once a problem. In the world of qualitative research. Theories were confirmed by data collection. So what did this mean?. No new theories were emerging

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The grounded theory

Presented & Prepared BY

Cemaliye Soğancı

Emete Mavili

Özkan İbrahimer


In the world of qualitative research

There was once a problem

In the world of qualitative research

Theories were confirmed by data collection

Theories were confirmed by data collection

So what did this mean

So what did this mean?

  • No new theories were emerging

  • All theories were under the bias of previous research (2 - 200 yrs)

This all changed

This all changed …

This all changed when two men changed the world of researching

This all changed when two men changed the world of researching

Anselm Strauss and Barney Glaser

  • They realized it would make more sense to collect information before making conclusions. This was called the Grounded Theory

  • Due to this, people equate Qualitative Research with the Grounded Theory

  • “Empirical statements can be made during Grounded Theory research as knowledge is founded in data” (Johnson and Christenson, 2000)

  • GT looks at a particular situation and tries to understand what is going on. This process is called Inductive Reasoning.

What is inductive reasoning

What is Inductive Reasoning?

  • The researcher goes into the field for an extended period of time.

  • Evidence is usually gathered from;

    • Interviews

    • Observations

      An example for Inductive Reasoning:

  • 90% of humans are right-handed.

  • Joe is a human.

  • Therefore, the probability that Joe is right-handed is 90%. (probability is employed)

Steps to follow

Steps to follow:

  • Open coding

  • Axial coding

  • Selective coding

Open coding

Open Coding

‘Open coding is the process of breaking down the data into separate units of meaning (Goulding, 1999). It takes place at the beginning of a study. The main purposes of open coding are to conceptualise and label data. Open coding starts the process of categorising many individual phenomena. (Brown, Stevenson, Troiano & Schneider, 2002).’

What specific problems needed immediate action in your organization

What specific problems needed immediate action in your organization?

Open coding

  • There are leadership problems.

  • There is a lack of attention to individual needs.

  • Decisions are often based on inaccurate information.

  • We need a better cleaning service for the office.

  • Our office furniture is dated and needs replacing.

  • We need more computers.

  • There is favoritism and preferential treatment of staff.

  • There is not enough space for everyone.

Open coding: Transfer into codes

Management Issues

  • leadership problems

  • lack of attention to individual needs

  • favoritism and preferential treatment of staff

  • decisions based on inaccurate information

    Physical Environment

  • need better cleaning service for the office

  • office furniture is dated and needs replacing

  • need more computers

  • not enough space for everyone.

The grounded theory

Open coding

Non- Hierarchical

Adults taking a break

from work

  • take a holiday,

  • go out for a walk,

  • read a book,

  • watch TV,

  • wander round the garden,

  • go for a drink with friends,


Adults taking a break

from work

  • take a holiday,

  • go out for a walk,

  • read a book,

  • watch TV,

  • wander round the garden,

  • go for a drink with friends,

    • work friends

    • family friends

    • best friend


Axial coding

Axial Coding

Coding is like a pyramid. Open coding is the base of the pyramid and through systematic analysis and constant comparison of data a relationship between the data would be found.

Integrate codes around the categories to find the major themes.Strauss & Corbin (1990) believed that axial coding is valuable.However, Glaser (1978) believed that axial coding ‘restricts the inductive or grounded, nature of theory building’.

The grounded theory

Grounded theorists emphasize causal relationships, and fit things into a basic frame of generic relationships. The frame consists of the following elements:

Axial coding

The grounded theory

Axial coding

“Pain relief is a major problem when you have arthritis. Sometimes, the pain is worse than other times, but when it gets really bad, whew! It hurts so bad, you don't want to get out of bed. You don't feel like doing anything. Any relief you get from drugs that you take is only temporary or partial.”

Selective coding

Selective Coding

Selective coding is the process of choosing one category to be the core category, and relating all other categories to that category. The essential idea is to develop a single storyline around which all everything else is draped.

Now that the core category and main concern are recognised; open coding stops and selective coding – coding only for the core category and related categories – begins.

The grounded theory

selective coding

The Data Collection Stage:

The Data Analysis Stage:

Selective coding continues

Grounding the theory

Core theme specified

Emergence of the theory

Production of narrative

Presentation of theory

Validation of theory with data

Selective coding starts

  • Assigning values to variables from data

  • Modification of structure based on data

  • Identification of the core category

  • Generation of theory

  • Validation of theory with data



  • Memoing - making notes about any theoretical hypotheses that arise from the coding.

  • Memos - the use of memos allows for the construction of theories from the various categories and properties that have emerged from the data as a result of the coding process, and also allows for the identification of links between the various themes/categories. They are sorted to an order which allows the theory to be communicated clearly.

Points for memos

Points for Memos

  • Memos accumulate as written ideas or records about concepts and their relationships.

  • Memos may differ substantially in style and manner.

  • They are notes by the researcher to herself/himself about some hypothesis regarding a category or property and especially relationships between categories.

  • Memos are contributing substantially to the qualitative research process and its credibility.

Types of memoing

Types of Memoing

There are three types of ‘memoing’:

  • Field Notes

  • Code Notes

  • Theoretical Notes

Example for field notes

Example for Field Notes

9/15/88 Field Note

  • You asked me to tell you about my experience with pain in childbirth. It's been quite a few years since I've had a baby. The funny thing about pain, whatever its source, is that once it's over, you kind of bury it deep in your subconscious somewhere. You can say that it was awful or not so bad, but this expression is filtered through a haze. You can't really feel it anywhere, you just have images of what you think it was like. Do you know what I mean?

  • Childbirth is weird. You kind of dread it because you hear so much about the pain of labor, on the other hand you look forward to it because you're tired of carrying the child and anxious to see it. The pain is seen as the only way of getting there so you know you have to go through it. You just hope that it won't be too bad. Or that they will give you something if it is. The pain is expected, you think about it, dread it, prepare for it by going to classes and learning how to control and tolerate it. In the beginning it's not too bad, toward the end though, it kind of overwhelms you. The force just kind of takes you over. But you do have moments of rest in between. And you know it is going to end, as soon as that baby comes out. And they can give you something to make it hurt less. I was lucky. I had short labors. So I didn't need any kind of medication. I just used my breathing and relaxing exercises. But I can see that if it goes on for hours and hours how you would get tired and need something.

Example for code notes

Example for Code Notes

  • 10/10/89 Code Note


  • We are talking here about a particular type of pain event-that associated with childbirth. This association gives the pain experience its specific properties or location along the dimensional continua. The pain of childbirth is expected (degree of expectancy), can be controlled (degree of controllability) grows more intense as the labor progresses (degree of intensity also denotes that there is phasing), has a known beginning, onset of labor, and an end, delivery of the child (course of trajectory), and it is intermittent with periods of no pain in between (degree of continuity). Oddly enough, the pain of childbirth has another quality or characteristic that is quite strange and difficult to express. Pain is* part of a labor process, labor of course serving an end-the end of pregnancy, the delivery of the awaited child. Hmm. How do I describe this property? The pain itself is not purposeful, but associated with a purposeful activity-labor. (**** I'll note this though I'm not yet sure what to do with this. It doesn't necessarily mean acceptance (though it might to some people), or tolerance, but perhaps it gives the pain a certain degree of predictability? This still doesn't quite capture this phenomenon.)

  • These specific properties of childbirth pain create the context in which the management of that pain takes place from the women's perspective.

  • From this field note I can come up with the following potential relationships. Under conditions, where the pain (childbirth) is known beforehand, thus one can prepare; when it is intermittent rather than continuous; when its intensity varies over the course from mild at the beginning to more intense later; when labor is fairly short or at least follows a predictable course; and there are known techniques for controlling its intensity and these can be learned or negotiated for. Then, one can take action to control the intensity of the pain during laborthrough pain management techniques such as the use of relaxation and breathing techniques, pain medication, or anesthesia (caudal, pericervical). The consequences or outcomes of the use of these management techniques may not be absolute control but control of sufficient degree to get one through the labor.

  • One may enter labor with some predefined sense of what management techniques one is likely to use, such as breathing and relaxation techniques, however if the pain management context changes due to contingency such as labor becoming prolonged due to complications, then one may have to alter that predefined plan of management and use supplements or alternatives to those original techniques.

  • Other potential categories, properties to come out of this field note to be explored in further memos are:

  • pain consciousness or memory-this seems acute at first but dulls with time. Phases of pain trajectory-this bears examining. Predictability of the pain and how this acts as a condition for management.

  • This field note suggests but does not address: What about the timing and amount of medication, anesthesia? What are their effects, potential risks?

Example for theoretical notes

Example for Theoretical Notes

Theoretical Note.

Strauss and Corbin 1990. pp. 216-7.

AS/JC 7-22-88 (Telephone)


  • I posed the issue, long ago observed, that nurses encountered typical problems --- often costly of time and effort and sentiment --- but do not act to change institutional rules or procedures to prevent. Rather they go on with their institutionalized-routine ways of doing work. (Problematic dying patients for instance, or as in pain book). Rather they typify this patient as like one(s) they have had before. But afterward there is no institutional change. These I have thought for a long time are due to the way organizations get work done, their priorities, and perhaps structural strains that precipitate recurrent semicrises. But here is a much better and detailed set of answers.

  • When work processes break down, then there is a change of procedure.

  • If they don't change procedures, it's because the work associated with the problem is not of high priority. The nurses are SO BUSY doing the high priority work, that they don't have time and effort to do anything else. They will, in fact, if the problem (like a problem patient) gets bad enough call in specialists-social work- ers, chaplains, psychiatrists-because their own work has to go on. Or they will ignore the patient; perhaps making the problem worse, but...

  • If the work affected by the breakdown of work process is of high priority (like affect its efficiency or patient's safety), then they have to reflect on how to prevent this from occurring again.

  • If the change is easily done, then it is done through interactional processes: negotiation, persuasion, even some coercion.

  • If the change will be difficult organizationally, this essentially means a lot of additional work must be done but it must be done --- that is: figuring out what's to be done, planning decision making, persuading, negotiating, finding new resources, acting to raise motivation, additional supervising when the new rou- tines are instituted, etc. And of course, an additional drain on the total articulation process until everything is acting smoothly again.

  • So, what we are saying is that THESE ARE THE CONDITIONS FOR AND MECHANISMS THROUGH WHICH ACTION IS INSTITUTED TO REPLACE ROUTINES WITH NEW INSTITUTIONALIZED PROCEDURES. Notice: we have to look more closely at the meaning of routine procedures. At the lowest level, it means how tasks are done. But this can be done by staff agreement as well as by administrative rules.



  • In the next step memos are sorted, which is the key to formulate the theory for presentation to others. Sorting puts fractured data back together. During sorting lots of new ideas emerge, which in turn are recorded in new memos giving the memo-on-memos phenomenon. Sorting memos generates theory that explains the main action in the studied area. A theory written from unsorted memos may be rich in ideas but the connection between concepts is weak.

Writing process


  • Writing up the sorted memo piles follows after sorting, and at this stage the theory is close to the written GT product. The different categories are now related to each other and the core variable. The theoretical density should be dosed so concepts are mixed with description in words, tables, or figures to optimize readability. In the later rewriting the relevant literature is woven in to put the theory in a scholarly context. Finally, the GT is edited for style and language and eventually submitted for publication.

Anselm strauss

Anselm Strauss

Strauss is more interested in;

  • Validation criteria,

  • Systematic approach.

Literature Review:

  • If a literature review is done safely before data

  • collection and theory creation, it will encourage

  • theoretical sensitivity.

Barney glaser

Barney Glaser

GT emphasizes:

  • induction or emergence,

  • individual researcher’s creativity,

  • within a clear frame of stages

Literature review

  • should not be done

  • until you have finished collecting all

  • data /evidence and have drawn conclusions.

Understanding the gt

Understanding the GT

Topic:Why are students afraid of speaking in classroom activities?

  • You are not suggesting it’s a specific reason (as in all other theories).

  • You are not assuming and trying to prove it is something specific.

  • You are open to all theories

  • So, you need to observe the classroom and/or students and/or teachers in detail.

  • You need to carry out interviews with students and/or teachers.

Understanding the gt1

Understanding the GT

  • You need to analyze (compare) all your findings while or after you have finished coding.

  • Then you do a literature review (in order to compare your findings with other research).

  • Then, you put forward your theory, hypothesis (with no influence of any other research done before you).

How valid is this kind of research

How valid is this kind of research?

  • If we are not basing the research on other research, how can we trust the findings?

  • There is, in fact, a way to validate data in GT.

  • Triangulation !

    Example: How does divorce affect children?

    (no assumptions are being made, so we are not trying to prove anything – we are open to all theories)


  • You observe and interview 100 participants ;

  • Do the coding;

  • Do the literature review;

  • Develop a theory.

Triangulaton 1 collecting data from different sources

TRIANGULATON 1 –collecting data from different sources


child father

Participants: 20 children / mothers / fathers

The data collection is not only done by observing and interviewing the children, but in order to obtain some validation, the mothers and fathers are also observed and interviewed.

Triangulation 2 analyzing data

TRIANGULATION 2 – analyzing data

researcher 1

me researcher 2


Participants: 20 children of divorced parents

In this situation, the applier of the GT is having 2 or more of his/her colleagues carry out the same research. Then all the data is collected and compared.

A combination

A combination

  • You can go even further and do Triangulation 1 and 2 for more validation

    mother mothermother

    child father child father child father

    me researcher 1 researcher 2

Participants: 20 children / mothers / fathers

Advantages of using gt

Advantages of using GT

  • Systematic and structured

  • Greater detail

  • Accurate

  • Evidence provided

  • Interplay between data collection and analysis

  • Researcher is an insider



  • Cumbersome

  • Lots of time and effort

  • Unimportant information

  • Ethical approval

Application for teachers

Application for teachers

“understanding more and more about how people learn is empowering for the profession ofteaching, and will enhance your own development,”

Kervin , L., Vialle, W., Herrington, J., & Okley, T., (2006)

“studying your own classroom, and continuously applying the methods you believe will enhance student leaning, is empowering for every learner in the class.”

Kervin et al (2006).



  • Johnson, B., & Christenson, L. (2000). Educational Research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches. Needham Heights: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Kervin, L., Vialle, W., Herrington, J. & Okely, T. (2006). Research for Education. (1st Ed.). Australia: Cengage Learning.

  • Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative Research in Education: A User’s Guide. USA, California: Saga Publications, Inc.

  • Rhine, J. (2009). What is Grounded Theory? In Grounded Theory Institute. Retrieved on 15-Oct-11 from

  • http://www.grounded

  • The Grounded Theory. Retrieved on 12-Nov-11 from _theory

  • Cottrell. R.R., McKenzie .J.F. (2011). Health promotion & education research methods: using the five-chapter thesis & dissertation Model. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.LLC

  • on 24/11/11

  • Introduction to Grounded Theory on 24/11/11

  • An Introduction to Grounded Theory

  • on 24/11/11

  • on 24/11/11

    Background and foreground pictures from: Google images

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