Grounded Theory II Essay

Grounded Theory II Essay

Grounded Theory II Essay

DQ 1


A children’s song, Ring around the Rosie, is traceable back to at least 1790 in the United States and 1796 in Germany. It was widely held that it was a reference to one of the last outbreaks of the bubonic plague (The Black Death that struck England in the 1660s). Some folklorists disputed the connection, though this belief in the song and dance’s origin was widespread. Assume you were alive in 1790 in England and attempted to find the origins of that song. Would you have chosen narrative inquiry or grounded theory as your methodology? Why? [250 words required, 3 In text APA Citations & 3 APA References. Original Writing only]. Grounded Theory II Essay


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PSY-850 Lecture 5


Appraise the suitability of grounded theory and narrative inquiry.

Contrast data collection, triangulation, and analysis methods employed in grounded theory and narrative inquiry.

Approaches to Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory and Narrative Inquiry


Grounded theory is an overarching method not limited to qualitative variables. Its purpose is to develop new theory about the topic of study that is deeply grounded in facts of the setting studied. Those facts are taken directly from writings, interviews, participant-observation, artifacts, and the daily activities of members in the setting studied. Grounded theory’s cofounders are Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss (1967). Grounded Theory II Essay

Narrative inquiry has a narrower scope because it concerns strictly narrative events and not writings, interview responses, artifacts, or participant observations other than participation in a narrative. Its origin is less well-defined than grounded theory. Riessman (2001, 2005) is one of the prominent contemporary theorists of the method. The narrative approach can be applied within a grounded theory study, as can other qualitative methods. This method takes its data strictly from narrator-listener encounters conducted during a study. A narrative always involves a narrator, a listener, and the exchange of information. The exchange is not limited to the semantic content of the words and sentences spoken. An understanding of illocution (the effect of an utterance) is necessary, requiring study of the ordinary language philosophy of John Searle (Burkhardt, 1990) and his critics (Doerge, 2004). Grounded Theory II Essay

Grounded Theory

Glaser and Strauss (1967) developed the grounded theory method while studying ill and dying patients at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. The grounded theory method seeks to conceptualize and form hypotheses about a situation and setting during the research process, without any preconceived ideas at the beginning. Grounded Theory II Essay

What Glaser and Strauss were doing was called abduction, a logical process transcending induction and deduction, developed by the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1901), and more recently elaborated in Josephson and Josephson (1996). Abduction is the development (using informal induction, deduction, and intuition) of pretheories that are worth further exploration. In human consciousness, the phenomenon of emergence is a product of prior abduction that may be conscious, unconscious, or both. Emergence is the idea of complex ideas or patterns resulting from a system that initially appears simple. Emergence was developed by the psychologist Lewes (1875), and has grown to widespread importance in general systems theory (von Bertalanffy, 1950), natural and social processes (Prigogine, 2000), and other scientific fields. Grounded Theory II Essay


It is not clear if Strauss and Glaser were aware of Peirce as they developed their method, since Peirce was not then widely known in American intellectual circles. His work in many areas is seminal, and he is actively studied around the world at such organizations as the Virtual Center for Peirce Studies (, and the Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism ( Peirce’s writings on abduction and pragmaticism are essential for a root understanding of grounded theory in particular and qualitative methods overall.

Strauss and Glaser parted ways on essential elements of the grounded theory system some years after their 1967 book. Glaser’s (2001) methodological focus dwells on the emergence of new, locally grounded theories, a better understanding of the method, and becoming more able to minimize intrusion of the investigator’s individual preconceptions. Codes for data are developed from a vast informal body of preexisting abstractions, believed to be abstract enough to keep investigators free of bias from extant theories.

Strauss’s focus diverged, falling on consistency of method, validation, and systematic development of codes for data from within the sphere of a particular study (to keep investigators free of prevailing theories from outside that sphere). Strauss and Corbin (1997) emphasized the inherent conflict between the abstraction of theorizing (necessary for deep understanding) and the risk of distortion caused by the simplification of theory. This dilemma is the difficult path an investigator has no choice but to navigate.

Strauss was clearly concerned with refining a scientific method that seeks unbiased findings and maintains the falsifiability requirement of Popper’s (1959) postpositivist philosophy. Falsifiability has been and remains one of the two most widely accepted necessary properties for a theory to be called scientific; the other is predictive power.

Glaser’s vast body of abstract concepts for coding admits the risk of nonfalsifiability because of its size in the same sense that Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is argued by some to be able to explain any behavior (Grűnbaum, 1979). The result of Glaser’s concerns is a method that does the following:

·          Eliminates a primary cause of biased findings: investigator preconceptions

·          Generates central theoretical truths that relate facts from two or more different variables through a process of emergence from the collecting, coding and analyzing the data of a setting

·          Maintains a well-defined method that, if it is used in a consistent pure form, is subject to the test of falsifiability. This last may have not been an intention of Glaser’s, but it is a valuable consequence even so.

Many grounded theory investigators are unaware of the Glaser-Strauss divergence. As a consequence, there has been an evolutionary diffusion of the method into many hybrid forms by individual investigators. Awareness of the foregoing history enables one to evaluate any grounded theory study with deeper understanding and use one or both of the fully developed approaches.

Their differences form one of the most interesting and important debates in the philosophy of social science. All of Glaser’s and Strauss’s concerns are valid. The only evident conflict is in the approach to generating data codes used by a particular team of analysts. Otherwise, the concerns and recommendations of both could be implemented simultaneously.

Narrative Inquiry

Narrative inquiry chooses narratives as the phenomenon of study and the exclusive unit of observation (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Narrative inquiry is a narrower method than grounded theory; it is a qualitative method that can be applied within a grounded theory project or with other methodologies. It always involves a speaker, a listener, and the transfer of knowledge. Both the semantic content of a participant’s speech and the investigator’s reception and speech are data for analysis. The structural nature (aspects other than the semantic content of words uttered) of a narrative interaction is equally important under this methodology.

Austin’s (1975) linguistic concept of illocution is essential to interpreting narrative acts, though it is not commonly found in handbooks on this method. Illocution refers to the effect of an utterance, often future actions implied, though there is much disagreement about the details of what is implied. The philosophy of speech acts provides further tools for understanding illocution and the intended effect of utterances that goes beyond the semantic content of words (Burkhardt, 1990). Searle’s opinions on this are much disputed and a thorough review of that debate is in Doerge (2004).

Catherine Kohler Riessman (2001, 2005) is a prominent user of and writer on narrative inquiry. She suggests four analytic approaches:

·          Thematic: categorizing aspects of narratives

·          Structural: studying structure of narratives

·          Dialogic/performance: analyzing coconstructed narratives

·          Visual: analyzing all types of visual media

Paraphrasing Le Goff (1992), the narrative approach captures the emotion of the moment described, rendering the event active rather than passive, infused with the latent meaning being communicated by the teller. Two concepts are thus tied to narrative storytelling: memory and notions of time, both time as found in the past and time as relived in the present.

Narrative inquiry cannot be reduced to a stepwise algorithm any more than can grounded theory. Riessman’s (2001, 2005) four approaches, the components of the narrative unit of observation (narrator, listener, and information transferred) from Clandinin and Connelly (2000), and the thick descriptions of Ryle (1969) and Geertz (1973) are necessary elements but by no means comprise all of the tools used in narrative inquiry. Looking at the wide array of theories and methodologies to be considered, one begins to see the logic of Glaser’s emphasis on continuing workshops, mentoring, and networking (Martin & Gynnild, 2011) that would be useful for any qualitative methodologist.


Regarding individual studies, triangulation is how results are validated. One can use multiple approaches, increase sample size, or replicate a study with different investigators and/or participant groups. Any combination of these strategies can be used to validate a study. Within a study, iterative review of data, coding, and analysis is almost always done to increase a study’s validity. Explicit documentation of the investigator’s prior beliefs relevant to a study also helps. Documentation of hypotheses that emerge (usually through abduction) further aids validity.

Data and Analysis

Grounded theory uses a wide array of primary data, including conversations, observations, writings, artifacts, quantitative data from surveys, psychometric instruments, agency records (e.g., welfare payments, fire department responses, public school grades and graduation rates), videos and sound recordings, and just about any evidence gathered directly from participants in a study. Narrative inquiry limits itself to narratives: speaker, listener, and information transferred. It may use many media: investigator’s notes and memory, participant’s recollections, video and sound recordings, and more. Semantic content and structural features of a narrative exchange are equally important.

Both grounded theory and narrative inquiry seek more than the immediately, literally apparent semantic meaning of words spoken and written. Illocution (Austin, 1975; Burkhardt, 1990; Doerge, 2004) is the effect of an utterance as opposed to the face-value content of the words used. It is essential to developing complete understanding of speech.

Thick description (Ryle, 1969; Geertz, 1973) of a single short narrative can be quite expensive in the time required to document the event. It can be difficult to decide how to proceed with the coding portion of the study. If one begins analyzing and coding information after just a few narratives, it will save time in subsequent coding, but risks developing incorrect summary meanings based on too little data. If one waits until some preset number or conditions are met, this will result in a greater cost in time to write up full notes for each narrative prior to coding. To find the proper balance, one could use trial and error, work under experienced researchers, read publications on actual studies and on methodological technique, and network with other practitioners of the same method.

Awareness of abduction (Peirce, 1901) as a scientific method complementing induction and deduction is necessary to begin to make sense out of the unstructured data that most qualitative studies generate. Abduction is the generation of plausible explanations from data, coding in data review, and generating findings. The sequence of data collection, development of codes, and identifying is usually done repeatedly with qualitative methods until some stability of coding and findings emerges. Abduction is less formal than induction and deduction and open to intuitive leaps. It comes into play at any point before findings are made final. Abduction and emergence appear to operate with equal importance in other animals as well as human cognitive phenomena. The apes of Tenerife learned one by one in individual leaps of insight (rather than a smooth, multistep learning process) that they could gather more fruit from a tree by using a box to stand on and reach higher (Kohler, 1920/1955). The rats of Tolman and Hoznik (1930) created an invariant map of a corridor with many doors the first time they learned the path from one end of the corridor to the door that contained food. They were then immediately able to find the food when they entered the corridor from the other end. The insight leaps of conceptual gestalts are examples of emergence from cognitive processes in rats, apes and humans. They are abductive advances and qualify for deeper study.


Being a good qualitative methodologist is a lifetime task. The intellectual scope of qualitative methods parallels the mathematical rigor of quantitative methods.

Two qualitative methods have been discussed here. Grounded theory does not limit itself to qualitative variables and can be used with any source of data in any human social setting. It seeks to develop an emergent theory strictly from the setting of a study. Narrative inquiry is limited to qualitative data strictly from narratives, which may come through multiple media. Its goals are more diverse: a theory might be found, a rich description of some aspect of everyday life among participants of a study may result, or the nexus of some social problem might be detected. Narrative inquiry can be used within a grounded theory investigation, but not the other way around. They may also be employed in parallel for validation by triangulation.

Interpreting the information collected by both methods is done by abduction (Peirce, 1901), an informal logical method that circumscribes induction and deduction. Any of the actions taken (data collection, coding, interpretation, or findings) can result in the emergence (Lewes, 1875; Chalmers, 2006) of theories, problems, groupings of variables or participants, and any other kind of understanding about the setting studied. Gestalt psychology (Kohler, 1920/1955; Ellis, 1997; Hergenhahn & Olson, 1997) can provide useful metaphors for abduction. So can von Bertalanffy’s (1950) general systems theory and the theory of psychological isomorphisms (Madden, 1957).


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