The Grounded Theory Bookshelf

By Vivian B. Martin, Ph.D.

Bookshelf will provide critical reviews and perspectives on books on
theory and methodology of interest to grounded theory. This issue
includes a review of Heaton’s Reworking Qualitative Data, of special
interest for some of its references to grounded theory as a secondary
analysis tool; and Goulding’s Grounded Theory: A practical guide
for management, business, and market researchers, a book that
attempts to explicate the method and presents a grounded theory
study that falls a little short of the mark of a fully elaborated theory.

Reworking Qualitative Data, Janet Heaton (Sage, 2004).
Paperback, 176 pages, $29.95. Hardcover also available.

Unlike quantitative research, where secondary analysis of data
is common, qualitative research has yet to understand or take
advantage of the possibilities of secondary analysis. Janet Heaton’s
book focuses more on the hurdles to qualitative secondary analysis
— the ethical and legal issues, as well as the operational challenges
of analyzing interviews one did not conduct or witness — rather than
providing protocols. But of special interest to grounded theorists are
the possibilities grounded theory might offer for secondary analysis.
Heaton does not launch such an argument; however, in the book’s
preface, Heaton notes that Barney Glaser—yes, the co-developer
of grounded theory— provided some of the first discussion in the
literature about the possibilities of secondary analysis. She quotes
from a 1962 Social Problems article in which Glaser writes:

To be sure, secondary analysis is not limited to quantitative
data. Observation notes, unstructured interviews and documents
can also be usefully analyzed. In fact, some field workers
may be delighted to have their notes, long buried in their files,
reanalyzed from another point of view. Man is a data-gathering
animal. (Glaser, 1962: 74).

Grounded theorists would run into some of the same hurdles as
other researchers viewing qualitative materials for which they could
not go back to interviewees and seek elaboration, though grounded
theory’s limited concern with full coverage might decrease such
hurdles. Heaton does cite some secondary analyses projects for
which grounded theory was invoked as the method for re-use.
However, the main issue addressed in the book is the limited number
of secondary analyses in general. The “secondary analysis of
qualitative data remains an enigma” (viii), she writes.

Heaton provides a literature review of secondary studies, though
they are primarily in the health and social care literature. Importantly,
calls for re-use of data have been explicit in these areas, and
funding from the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK
supported the initial literature review of the health studies. Heaton
provides a typology to discuss secondary analyses thus far, but she
acknowledges that “secondary analysis” is a vague term, and many
studies that appear to be secondary analyses do not make it explicit.
Secondary analyses, according to Heaton, include (p. 38):

Supra analysis: Transcends the original topic for which the data
were collected.

Supplementary analysis: Expands on some aspects of the original
study through more in-depth investigation.

Re-analysis: Verifies or corroborates original premises.
Amplified analysis: Combines data from two or more studies for

Assorted analysis: Combines secondary data with primary research
and/or naturalistic data.

Most of the secondary analyses Heaton examined involved
researchers going back to their own data. She notes that, although
some researchers espouse the idea of making data available
to others for secondary analysis, many have not taken the next
step to make such data accessible. Nonetheless, Heaton finds
encouragement in the increase in archives of qualitative data, and
she provides information about such sites in the book.

This work is useful for its “state of the methodology” discussion,
as well as information it provides about data archives. For
grounded theorists, there’s something else: a challenge to see how
grounded theory might provide an intervention to break the current
methodological stalemate in secondary analysis.

Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide for Management,
Business and Market Researchers, by Christina Goulding
(Sage, 2002). Paperback, 186 pages, $37.95. Hardcover also

Christina Goulding attempts to give management, marketing, and
related business researchers an overview of grounded theory to
meet the growing interest those disciplines have in the methodology.
Goulding introduces readers to some of the differences between
grounded theory as espoused by Barney Glaser and the model,
with its complicated coding scheme, presented by Anselm Strauss
and Juliet Corbin, which Goulding states is more typically preferred
in management and related studies. To illustrate how grounded
theory works, Goulding presents a study of heritage tourism that
she reports she developed in keeping with Glaserian methodology.
Adherents of Glaserian grounded theory will take issue with this
claim, however. Though useful in some ways due to its references
to a mix of perspectives on grounded theory, Goulding’s grounded
theory research is a good example of how studies can implode when
analysts insist on incorporating techniques and practices that run
counter to Glaserian protocols.

The book is divided into three parts: one with chapters on grounded
theory principles and discussions of qualitative research in general;
chapters on a study on consumer behavior at heritage sites; what
the author describes as a “critical review of the methodology.”
Exercises for students appear at the end of chapters in the first and
second parts of the book. Goulding starts with a discussion of the
rise in qualitative research in management research. In an effort to
highlight the move toward more interpretive research she spends
time distinguishing phenomenology, ethnography, and postmodern
perspectives. Here is where a knowledgeable reader is confronted
with the first of several wrong turns. Like many other writers on
grounded theory, Goulding incorrectly presents grounded theory as
a qualitative methodology. Certainly, it has been most utilized with
qualitative data, but as Glaser has taken increasing pains to note,
grounded theory is a general methodology for which qualitative and
quantitative data can be used.

Goulding’s unfortunate conflation of grounded theory with qualitative
research (“the qualitative methodology known as grounded theory,”
p. 38) becomes all the more problematic in the book’s second
chapter, where, under the heading of “the influence of symbolic
interaction,” she provides a distorted history of grounded theory.
She writes that the “roots of grounded theory can be traced back to
a movement known as symbolic interaction” (p. 39). Moreover, she
writes, “Using the principles of symbolic interactionism as a basic
foundation, two American scholars, Glaser and Strauss, set out to
develop a more defined an systematic procedure for collecting and
analyzing qualitative data” (p.40). Never appearing in this “history”
is mention of the quantitative background and analytical qualitative
techniques that Glaser, trained at Columbia with Paul Lazarsfeld
and Robert Merton, brought to grounded theory. These techniques
form the basis for the concept-indicator model of analysis on which
grounded theory is based.

Goulding’s rationale for ignoring this history is not clear. A good
part of the first part of the book is intended to differentiate between
versions of grounded theory, not just contrasting Glaser with Strauss
Corbin’s scheme, most famously laid out in Basics of Qualitative
Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Principles
(1990) but
also other variants like dimensional analysis. For these reasons,
Goulding should have been aware of Glaser’s critique of Strauss and
Corbin’s work in particular; she quotes from Glaser’s 1992 (Basics
of Grounded Theory Analysis: Emerging v Forcing
), which contains
a chapter-by-chapter rebuke of Strauss and Corbin’s Basics of
Qualitative Research
as well as a reiteration of grounded theory’s
link to the quantitative techniques pioneered at Columbia.

We may find the answer deeper into the book, however. Despite
Goulding’s claim that her work proceeded based on Glaser’s
guidelines, it begins to appear that Goulding was working off of
her own version of Glaserian grounded theory. In introducing her
research on consumer behavior, Goulding notes that “data were
collected in keeping with Glaser’s description of the methodology
with the emphasis on emergence and theoretical sensitivity” (p. 106).
She notes that this means that certain techniques associated with
Strauss and Corbin, “such as the continual use of the conditional
matrix do not form a central role in interpretation” (p. 106). Correct
enough, but in the next sentence she writes: “However, the basic
principles of open coding, axial coding, theoretical sampling, and
theoretical emergence and the process of abstraction remain

Axial coding? That complicated coding scheme that has caused
so many people to throw up their hands declaring that grounded
theory doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do? Axial coding is
a Strauss-Corbin “intervention” that forces grounded theory analysis,
as Glaser has argued. Nonetheless, axial coding is built into
Goulding’s research project; she also spent time identifying
research questions, and adding other twists that ultimately misshape
her project. But there is something valuable for grounded theory
students: Goulding provides excerpts from transcripts, memos,
and other discussions that help the reader see her process; her
transparency allows students to see how a project can go up course,
certainly providing interesting information, but missing the mark when
it comes to development of a fully integrated theory. Clearly, this was
not her intent.

Goulding shares an example of one of the codes she comes up
with: Nostalgia, which seems to have properties and factors into
some museum visitors’ motivations more than others. She then
introduces us to various types of museum visitors, suggesting that
she is using a typology to organize her theory. Because she gives
short shrift to theoretical codes, the shape of the theory is not clear.
The reader never gets a sense of a core and its satellites. The
reason for this becomes evident on page 127. She writes: “ With
regard to abstracting the interpretation, this involves identifying
the most salient literature which gives theoretical credence to the
interpretation. “

With this quote, the author shows a misunderstanding of how
grounded theorists use theoretical codes to move into an integrated
theory. Grounded theorists do not have an “interpretation” that they
then go to get verified by extant theories. Such hitchhiking has
been the approach that qualitative researchers take in an effort to
generalize and legitimize their studies. Grounded theory is intended
to get away from that. The approach Goulding has described is one
of the ways in which qualitative researchers have imported some of
their quantitative-research envy into qualitative data analysis, then
into grounded theory.

Grounded theorists are not hostile toward extant theory, but there
must be an emergent fit between the new and extant theory. A
classic grounded theorist would develop his or her theory, moving out
from the core category, and communicate with the extant literature
with which there are intersections. In explaining how she went to
the literature, Goulding writes that the most “appropriate starting
point for analysis is to examine the concept of the ‘self’ in relation
to the past” (p. 127). Noting literature indicating that any theory of
motivation needs a self behind it, Goulding began integrating this
in her analysis. Such codes are not necessarily incorrect additions,
though one should note that the self seems to becoming a vague
entity in much research. Goulding notes that the literature of the self
help “enhance theoretical understanding of the nature of interaction”
(p. 127); however, while the importance of her growing theoretical
sensitivity cannot be minimized, it also seems that Goulding’s
assumption that she needed to go to the symbolic interaction well
and “self” literature for “theoretical credence” instead of building her
own theoretical argument seems to have forced her analysis and cut
off her own theory before it could grow.

Grounded theory researchers need to read successful and not so
successful grounded theories to help them understand the nuances
of the methodology. Goulding’s work is recommended with that
in mind. Unlike some who have undertaken entire books on the
methodology without doing a grounded theory project, Goulding
wrestled with the method and produced a product even if it is not as
elaborated theory as classic grounded theorists would hope. Many
of us are still struggling to reach that ideal ourselves. In addition to
useful references, this book can help the intermediate-to-advanced
grounded theorist understand how seemingly innocuous decisions
can block theories.