25   Grounded theory revisited (1)


Speaking only for myself ...

In piece 24 I foreshadowed a series of pieces on different versions of action research and related methodologies.  My purpose is so that, through a comparison, we expand our choices of ways of doing effective research.  I've now chosen "grounded theory" as the first of these methodologies.

You may recall that in an earlier sequence in this series (opiarm 16 to 20) I explored action research as a generator of theory which might be described as grounded.

From time to time I deliberately explore fields which are up until then new to me. Grounded theory was such a field.

It has long been my practice that at these time I initially mostly avoid the existing literature. I try to develop my own ideas first. This allows me to read more critically and with greater understanding. I revise my ideas when I read the literature.

Since the earlier sequence on grounded theory I have been exploring the literature. And there I find (particularly in Barney Glaser's work) some enticing parallels with action research.

(For example, he recommends not reading the relevant literature until later in a study.)

One of the key distinctions which Glaser makes is between hypothesis-testing and emergent methodologies. He sees most sociological research as really being hypothesis-testing, even when researchers might not perceive them as such. He sees them as forcing the data to fit the existing theories.

The alternative is to let the theory emerge from the data. This is what Glaser's form of grounded theory does.

And it is one of the important features it shares with action research. Both are emergent methodologies.

(I've posted a summary of my understanding of Glaser's form of grounded theory on the web at http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arp/grounded.html )




Copyright Bob Dick 1999-2000.  May be copied if it is not included in any
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This may be cited as:   Bob Dick (2000)  Grounded theory revisited (1).
Occasional pieces in action research methodology, # 25.  Available online at

Version 1.2;  last modified 20020223


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