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Grounded Theory is a Research Design

Grounded theory is a qualitative research design, method or approach (Brown et. al. , 2002). As such, it is “a systematic set of procedures” to generate a theory about the subject of study (Brown et. al. ). The theory that is generated thus must be grounded in data collected by the researcher (Shope & Creswell). This data is interpreted by the method of induction to arrive at a theory (Brown et. al. ). But, the “grounded theory approach” as Brown et. al. refer to this research design, is not meant to test a hypothesis.

Rather, the grounded theory – essentially not a theory until data is gathered and interpreted to generate a theory – aims at increasing the researcher’s awareness about the “research situation” (Dick, 2005). Interviews are among the most important sources of data in grounded theory (Dick). As an example, Huelhs (2005) developed a grounded theory design to take short surveys asking his students to define civil society before their definitions were organized to reveal similarities as well as differences.

Following the data collection and organization phases of this experiment, the researcher asked the participants to analyze the differences of viewpoints about the definition of civil society. The analysis phases involved thorough discussions about the various components of the definition. Because all differences of opinion about the definition could not be resolved through discussion, the researcher took the experiment to the next stage, that is, literature review.

The students’ definition of civil society had to be reconciled with what was revealed in academic literature. Hence, the participants were asked to review the literature for themselves to further analyze and discuss their definitions as compared to those in academic writings (Huelhs). A theory grounded in data was generated immediately following this phase. Indeed, Huelhs and his students were able to find a definition for everybody, including the authors of academic literature, to agree on (Huelhs).

Thus, the grounded theory design helps to build new theories rather than testing old ones. References Brown, S. , Steven, R. , Troiano, P. F. , & Schneider, M. K. (2002, Mar-Apr). Exploring Complex Phenomena: Grounded Theory in Student Affairs Research. Journal of College Student Development. Retrieved Mar 27, 2009, from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qa3752/is_200203/ai_n9045027. Dick, B. (2005). Grounded Theory: A Thumbnail Sketch. Resource Papers in Action Research.

Retrieved Mar 27, 2009, from http://www. scu. edu. au/schools/gcm/ar/arp/grounded. html. Huelhs, F. (2005, Jun 2). An Evening of Grounded Theory: Teaching Process through Demonstration and Simulation. The Qualitative Report, Vol. 10, Number 2, pp. 328-338. Retrieved Mar 27, 2009, from http://www. nova. edu/ssss/QR/QR10-2/huehls. pdf. Shope, R. J. , & Creswell, J. W. Chapter 14 – Grounded Theory Designs. Retrieved Mar 27, 2009, from http://www. virtualcurriculum. com/N4120/grounded_theory. pdf.

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