Marketing for Acceptance

Tina L. Johnston, Ph.D.

Abstract

Becoming a researcher comes with the credentializing pressure to
publish articles in peer-reviewed journals (Glaser, 1992; Glaser,
2007; Glaser, 2008). The work intensive process is exacerbated
when the author’s research method is grounded theory. This
study investigated the concerns of early and experienced
grounded theorists to discover how they worked towards
publishing research projects that applied grounded theory as a
methodology. The result was a grounded theory of marketing for
acceptance that provides the reader with insight into ways that
classic grounded theorists have published their works. This is
followed by a discussion of ideas for normalizing classic grounded
theory research methods in our substantive fields.

Introduction

Publish or perish is an often quoted phrase in academia
aptly describing the pressure put on scholars to produce and get
research articles through the journal review process and into
content area publications so that new knowledge can be shared
throughout the reading populous in their field of study (Vernier,
1994). Submission processes are much the same (although
blinding policies may differ). An author writes an article, finds
an appropriate journal in which to submit the article for peer-
review and then waits for a response from a few volunteering
reviewers who will choose to accept, ask for revisions or reject the
article for publication (Groves, 2006; O’Gorman, 2008).
Regardless of the debate as to the general efficacy of this method,
it is the one in place (Groves, 2005; Winkler, 2009; Lee, 2006).
Like any researcher, the Grounded Theory author must pursue
publication in this way. There are complications that arise when
writing and submitting classic grounded theory (hereafter CGT)
articles for publication. CGT research methods and articles have
different structures than others (Glaser, 1978; 2006). In addition,
there are many derivatives of grounded theory methodologies
(Bryant & Charmaz, 2007; Glaser, 1992b; Chen & Boore, 2009).

When reviewers volunteer at various journals they are asked
to provide topical and methodological expertise by filling out
surveys where they check of boxes in which they feel they have
expertise. In these lists, very often grounded theory is one of
those choices, however, what kind of grounded theory the
reviewer is familiar with or even whether that reviewer has a
real understanding of the method is not insured. To further
complicate matters these journals may publish standard
formatting requirements that do not match the standard format
of CGT papers.

The Problem

The problem then is two-fold; users of CGT are under the
same pressures as their colleagues to publish studies, yet the
journals and reviewers in their field are often inhospitable or
ignorant of the intricacies of papers written using the CGT
method. Additionally, the ‘Grounded Theory’ articles that do get
through to publication in many content area journals have either
used some other form of grounded theory (i.e., Qualitative
Grounded Theory, or the Strauss and Corbin method) or are
claiming to use the method but instead have applied certain
aspects or jargon from the method (Glaser, 2009) in combination
with other often qualitative research methods such as case study
or ethnography. The prevalence of these ‘other’ grounded theory
articles set reviewers expectations of what the grounded theory
methodology is and what studies that use grounded theory should
look like. These expectations cast a shadow on CGT article
submissions.

Methodology

This research study employed the use of classic grounded
theory (Strauss and Glaser, 1968; Glaser, 1978, 1992, 1992b).
Using data in the form of reviewers’ comments to CGT authors
who published Grounded Theory articles and interviews with
CGT authors, this theory of marketing for publication was
discovered over a period of three years.

The author collected memos/notes following incidents of data
collection and line by line analysis of data. Every time a new
memo was collected the previously collected memos were read
and sorted seeking a main concern and patterns of behavior to
resolve that main concern. In this case a main concern was
quickly realized, however the details (causes of the difficulty in
publishing CGT articles) came after much of the theory was
discovered. A working paper was written and presented at the
2007 Grounded Theory Seminar in New York. This presentation
provided the author with additional subject volunteers who sent
publication reviews and provided interview data for the author.

A final data set was collected from the grounded theory
literature by conducting a search of a random collection of
published articles by searching library databases for ‘grounded
theory’ as a keyword. Seeking examples of grounded theory
articles to scan for the type of grounded theory used. Articles
were then scanned for references to classic grounded theory or
references to Glaser and then read for article format and
interpretation of grounded theory methodology. If open reviews or
article iterations were available these were read.

Marketing for Publication

As the early career grounded theorist commences with paper
submissions to the various journals in his/her field invariably he
or she receives rejection or revise and resubmit notices. Scrutiny
of these notices may reflect a variety of non-methodological
suggestions for improvement of the articles (general style or
content concerns) while others suggest that the reviewer has
misconceptions of or a lack of knowledge of the classic grounded
theory method. These voids of knowledge lead to unfair criticisms
and ultimate rejection of articles.

Most reviewers, and [editors name], expressed significant
concerns with the conceptual framework for the study,
the literature review, the methodology, data collection
and analysis, as well as the paper’s structure. These
concerns have resulted in our decision to reject the
manuscript.

The rejecting journal reviewers may suggest that all articles
should be formatted to include, a section for the problem, a
theoretical framework, literature review, analysis, results and
discussion sections. Some receive reviews suggesting that there
is not enough detail in the data, documentation of data, or
attention to the literature, or they are criticized for poor sampling
techniques.

Once rejected, the classic grounded theorist begins to be
more strategic in his/her writing and submission process. This
process, termed marketing for acceptance, may include both
changes in the article’s content and/or a focus on article
placement. The changes to the article may include method
masking, qualitizing, and methodological redefinition. While the
article placement strategies include piggy-backing and strategic
submitting.

Method Masking

Method masking occurs when the researcher, in order to
make his/her study more marketable must compromise on many
aspects of the method. He or she may feel compelled to write the
article to match deductive formatting requirements out of
pressure to apply a theoretical framework or literature review.
Reliability and validity measures are detailed and sampling and
interview questions described (Swanburg, et. al, 2009). Under
these clearly mismatched pressures towards confirmatory
research paradigms, the researcher may feel compelled to gain
acceptance by minimizing the discussion of grounded theory in
the research process or eliminating it all together by going back
to the data and using another method but with a view to their
completed grounded theory results.

Qualitizing

Qualitizing occurs when the early researcher seeks to adapt
an article to journals that report qualitative studies. Grounded
theory, in general, seems to have had a better reception among
Qualitative researchers and therefore to reviewers of journals
that focus on these types of studies. Grounded theory researchers
may adapt their article for this type of publication by increasing
the number of illustrations included in their article submission or
by increasing the overall details of the study and its results.
Qualitizing is characterized by a shift from a focus on the overall
patterns and those patterns application to thick description of the
substantive area.

A reviewer liked the work but questioned whether I
needed to give much attention to the method. In her view
I was explaining something that is common practice (not
a distinct method). Another person took issue with my
limited attention to certain literature. A third wanted
more examples and also took issue with the notion that I
was presenting a theory (another common resistance). I
stuck with the reviewers and tried to balance their
comments and create something I could live with…There
is more description, but I think I was able to convey some
key elements of the work.

Methodological Redefinition

Methodological redefinition is a very common phenomenon
among grounded theory studies published in the research
literature. The author of a grounded theory article may suggest
that grounded theory is a data sorting method, a qualitative
analysis method, or a method that can be attributed to Dr.
Glaser, Strauss and Corbin, and Charmaz in tandem (Hunt et. al,
2009; McGlachlan, 2009). The extent to which these authors are
displaying misunderstanding of the various grounded theory
methodologies or represent a strategic display of the grounded
theory literature is unknown.

Piggy Backing

A grounded theory researcher may piggyback their grounded
theory study with another deductive study. This piggyback study
uses the authors initial grounded theory study as a theoretical
framework for the new deductive study (Calvin, 2004; Calvin &
Erikson, 2006). This method provides the researcher with an
opportunity to gain exposure for their theory while submitting to
a journal that may require a non-compatible article organization,
or narrowly defines the types of articles it will print (i.e.
quantitative studies etc.)

Strategic Submitting

The grounded theory author may submit a classic grounded
theory article to the methodological journal that currently accepts
and prints CGT research. The Grounded Theory Review is a peerreviewed
journal that was created explicitly for this purpose.
However in author’s substantive area, articles have been targeted
to journals that are grounded theory friendly, that is they may
allow generous word limits for explaining grounded theories
unique reporting components and organization or have open
review processes (Sandgren, et. al, 2007; Thulesius & Grahn,
2007). These journals may have a track record of including
classic grounded theory articles (such as many of those in nursing
fields). The author’s findings might be so well matched to the
substantive area that these results overshadow any objections
that may be made to the methodology in other words the study
results have grab (Glaser, 1992).

Discussion

The results from this study indicate that authors do find
some difficulty in publishing CGT articles and employ a variety of
strategies to garner the publications that are so important to
advancing one’s early career in academia. Using interview data
and published examples of articles labeled to have used classic
grounded theory methodology indicates that the authors employ
strategies of marketing for publication in their quest to garner
publications to further their careers. These strategies included
method masking, qualitizing, methodological redefinition, piggybacking,
and strategic submitting. These strategies are not employed in any
order but in their variety suggest some problems and solutions for
classic grounded theorists as they too pursue publication opportunities.

Normalizing Classic Grounded Theory

Within many substantive fields of research there is a great
need for CGT to become more a part of the research culture.
Some of the strategic marketing strategies discussed in this
article impede this process as they perpetuate a culture of
methodological misunderstanding while others work towards this
goal. This need is two-fold: one, to share the method itself so that
others can experience the power of theory development, and, two,
the focus of this paper, is to increase the literary exposure of
classic GT results into all fields of research. The author and
discussions with other grounded theorists suggests there are
some things we can do to aide in the normalizing process.

Becoming a Reviewer

The collected reviews of article submissions suggest there is
a need for more reviewers with expertise in evaluating classic
grounded theory articles. If we want our article submissions to
be read by competent grounded theorists we must be willing to
provide that service to our discipline colleagues who also use
classic grounded theory. Increasing the number of reviewers will
increase the acceptance rate of submissions and increase the
visibility of method through print.

Train New Grounded Theory Researchers

In developing grounded theory seminars Dr. Glaser has build
a foundation of knowledgeable classic grounded theorists around
the world. These growing bodies of experts are beginning to train
new users of grounded theory. If this process continues to grow
more and more researchers will have expertise in classic
grounded theory, they will write about their substantive area,
become reviewers themselves and again both the method itself
and the opportunities of exposure through print will increase.

Conclusion

Cleary the results of this study indicate that there is still
much progress to be made in publishing studies that use this
more than 40 year old method of theory development. Still, there
is also clear progress as is evidenced by the growing popularity of
grounded theory institutes, The Grounded Theory Review and the
diversity of disciplines represented by the novice to expert classic
grounded theorists (Glaser, 1978; Glaser, 2007). It is hoped that
this article will further assist in normalizing classic grounded
theory across disciplines and inspire grounded theorists to both
become grounded theory reviewers in their content fields and
submit positive examples of studies that employ the use of the
method.

Author

Tina Louise Johnston, Ph.D.
Department of Science and Mathematics Education
Oregon State University
Email johnstot@onid.orst.edu

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