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From the Editor’s Desk

How to Read Classic Grounded Theory Have you wondered how to best read and evaluate grounded theory studies?  Contrary to what some people believe, grounded theories are neither stories, lists of themes, nor descriptions, rather they consist of parsimonious rigorously extracted concepts bound by inductively derived theoretical relationships. The network of concepts and theoretical relationships may be invisible to one who is unfamiliar with the method. The purpose of this editorial is to discuss some of the clues a reader might use to determine the quality of a classic grounded theory study. Grounded theory is a general method that can use either quantitative or qualitative data, however qualitative data are most often used, so this paper will focus on qualitative research. The Grounded Theory Review focuses solely on classic grounded theories and methodological papers. Novice or lay readers may be unaware of the subtle elements that indicate a good classic theory. Peer reviewers, on the other hand, are experienced classic grounded theorists, who learned from Barney Glaser, co-originator of the method. The reviewers know what to expect in a classic grounded theory study and what red flags indicate a study might not have adhered to the classic grounded theory method. Here, I describe some elements to help readers know what to expect when reading each section of a classic grounded theory paper and some red flags that indicate the method was not closely followed. Background Section When reading a published classic grounded theory, you may notice that the background, research problem, literature review, and research question are very general in nature. Although familiar with the substantive area, a classic grounded theorist should not enter a study with preconceptions, biases, and prior hypotheses. Inasmuch as it is possible in an academic system, the grounded theorist should avoid in-depth previous research and conceptual/theoretical literature on the phenomenon of interest. An investigator wants to enter the study as nearly tabula rasa as possible. In fact, the investigator will enter the study not even knowing what phenomenon might emerge—thus a pre-investigation pertinent and focused literature review is not possible. Because classic grounded theory is a method of discovery, studies begin when an investigator becomes curious about a given aspect of a substantive area—asking simply, “What is going on” with this group of people in this situation. So, the background section of a grounded theory paper should be focused on a general discussion of the substantive area, rather than an in-depth discussion of a specific phenomenon. The in-depth literature review occurs only after the theory is discovered. The introductory section of a grounded theory paper should identify the substantive area along with what the general issue of interest. What to expect An indication of the author’s familiarity with a substantive area and unbiased curiosity about something that is not known. Red flags Explicit or implicit statements are present that indicate the author began the study with preconceived notions, received professional issues, a very specific research question, hypotheses, or other indications of bias. Theoretical Perspective Dissertation and thesis criteria, journals’ author guidelines, ethics protocols, and grant applications often require a discussion of the theoretical perspective or conceptual framework that guide research studies. These elements can present a problem for grounded theorists. As an originator of the method, Glaser stated that classic grounded theory was not developed with a specific theoretical perspective. With this idea in mind, there are three potential paths an investigator might choose when required to address the theoretical perspective of a study....

Theoretical Writing

Barney G. Glaser Editor’s note: This paper addresses common questions about the particular way in which grounded theorists should write about their classic grounded theory. This important chapter has been excerpted and lightly edited for clarity and context from chapter 8 in Glaser’s Theoretical Sensitivity (1978). The goal of grounded theory methodology, above all, is to offer the results to the public, usually through one or more publications. We will focus on writing for publication, which is the most frequent way that the analyst can tell how people are “buying” what really matters in sociology, or in other fields. Both feedback on and use of publications will be the best evaluation of the analyst’s grounded theory. It will be his main source of criticism, constructive critique, and frequently of career rewards. In any case, he has to write to expand his audience beyond the limited number of close colleagues and students.  Unless there is a publication, his work will be relegated to limited discussion, classroom presentation, or even private fantasy. The rigor and value of grounded theory work deserves publication. And many analysts will have a stake in effecting wider publics, which makes their substantive grounded theory count. The best form to publish in sociology is through a monograph. The highest rewards, in general, go for writing books, for they probably reach the most diverse public with the maximum amount of material. Journal articles, of course, run a close second. One solution which many analysts take is to write chapters into articles, while fewer combine articles into books. We shall mainly focus here on the chapter form, which is similar to the article form with minor adjustments. In this final stage of grounded theory methodology, writing is a “write up” of piles of ideas from theoretical sorting. Writing techniques are, perhaps, not as crucial as the techniques characteristic of the previous stages, but they are still crucial. Since writing sums up all preceding stages, but they are still crucial. Since writing sums up all the preceding work, it cannot be left uncontrolled, perhaps to scuttle it. Rather, writing must capture it. It must put into relief the conceptual work and its integration into a theoretical explanation. So very often in qualitative research, the theory is left implicit in the write-up as the analyst gets caught up in the richness of the data. Below we shall discuss the logic of construction of shape of and conceptual style of a monograph and a chapter. Then we discuss the reworking of initial drafts, in order to sharpen the shape and style. We briefly indicate our view of uses of the literature, and close with recommendations for the analyst’s theoretical pacing. It must be underlined that the write-up of sorts is a theory of a core variable which freezes the ongoing for the moment. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that writing has this “slice of reality” character. We have covered this problem as best as possible by using concepts and processes that have duration and are independent of time and place. We also construct a theory that is readily modifiable. The analyst should underscore these points in his writing because his writing probably will read mainly as a fixed conceptual description, not an explanation, by most readers. We are in essence stuck with this paradox. Logic of Construction Typically, sociological monographs are constructed on the bases of a “little logic.”  It is the main building idea of the book, hence the ensuing chapters. The...

Becoming an Expert: A Classic Grounded Theory Study of Doctoral Learners...

Barry Chametzky, American College of Education, City University of Seattle, USA Abstract The theory of Becoming an Expert is about the transformation from a student who consumes knowledge to expert and scholar-researcher who creates knowledge.  However, more conceptually, the theory is equally applicable to anyone who progresses from novice to expert in a specific endeavor or field.  The process may start with an innocuous idea as “I would like to learn more about ABC.”  Through a series of trials and tribulations—referred broadly as juggling in the theory—the person gains necessary experience in this area.  These needed trials and tribulations are what help the person transform to an expert.  Without these troubling incidences, these people would not necessarily have the opportunities to reflect and grow.  As proficiency and knowledge are gained, as the person reflects on tumultuous events, he or she transforms into an expert. Keywords: doctoral learners, attrition, classic grounded theory, success, juggling, novice, expert Introduction German people have an interesting expression about the word if: Wenn das Wort wenn nicht wäre, wenn mein Vater millionäre.  The translation is “If the word ‘if’ didn’t exist, my father would be a millionaire.”  By that analogy, if doctoral programs were easy, everyone would do them.  Yet, to explain why some students or candidates do not succeed, that analogy is not satisfying.  Thus, it is important to understand the situation from a deeper perspective given that the attrition rate of doctoral students varies between 40-50% (Terrell, Snyder, Dringus, & Maddrey, 2012); in online programs, the attrition rate is higher–up to nearly 70% (Gardner, 2010; Maul, Berman, & Ames, 2018). Doing doctoral studies is supposed to be transformative as the work changes a person from a learner to an autonomous scholar (Yazdani & Shokooh, 2018).  Yet, from the aforementioned statistics, anywhere from only 30-60% of the students who enter a doctoral program succeed and it is not entirely clear why.  Though research certainly exists on doctoral attrition in numerous fields, what is not known is what doctoral students and candidates believe they need to succeed in their programs.  It is the objective of this author to explain what doctoral students and candidates need to succeed.  Additionally, it will be valuable to understand in a more nuanced manner what some positive and negative elements that help and hinder doctoral learners.  With this new knowledge, educators, post-secondary administrators, and even doctoral students and candidates themselves will be able to understand more clearly why attrition is so high and what could be done to lower those alarming and disappointing statistics. Methodology As the research design for this study, the author used classic grounded theory.  The objective of this design is to understand the behaviors of participants as they attempt to address their main concern.  In the case of this study, the main concern is (presumably) how students and candidates successfully complete their doctoral program. Following the tenets of classic grounded theory (Glaser, 1965), from a procedural perspective, this author created gerund codes from the raw data, constantly compared codes with each other, and wrote memos to uncover any heretofore undiscovered connections.  As codes developed into categories, the categories were constantly compared with other codes and categories and additional memos were created.  Memos were constantly compared with each other, then sorted, and the data were conceptualized with the ultimate goal of developing a theory. Instrument The objective, in any classic grounded theory study, is to “instill a spill” (Glaser, 2009, p. 22): a way to get participants...

Grounded Theory through the Lenses of Interpretation and Translation

Maria Mouratidou, University of Cumbria Mark Crowder, Manchester Metropolitan University Helen Scott, Grounded Theory Online, Grounded Theory Institute Abstract This paper explores interpretation and translation issues that arose during a grounded theory study of the Greek health sector.  It highlights problems that were encountered when working in two languages and demonstrates how these were overcome. This is important because Grounded Theory (GT) research, in cross-cultural contexts, is associated with the linguistic challenges of conceptualisation. The authors offer their suggestions on how to conduct a GT research project within a diverse team based upon their experiences of undertaking such a study. Our paper supports Glaser’s work and contributes to GT methodology by offering guidance on how interpretation and translation can be incorporated in a multi-lingual research design with system and rigour to provide extra levels of constant comparison.  Hence, this paper will be of value to future researchers who are working in diverse teams and/or are undertaking studies in multiple languages. Keywords: Grounded theory, translation, interpretation, method, Greek, English Introduction This paper is the result of our experiences of using grounded theory (GT) to discover the concerns of nurses working within the Greek health sector. We studied nurses working in hospitals and nurses working in GP surgeries.  The main concern of both groups was workplace stress.   However, the way in which stress impacted on our participants was significantly different, despite many of the daily and weekly duties being identical in each setting.   Hospital nurses experienced burnout (Maslach & Jackson, 1981), but GP nurses experienced boreout (Stock, 2015).  This is important because both boreout and burnout can significantly affect the health of those affected and impact on the quality of service they provide (Lehman et al., 2011).  The results of this study will be published separately. Our team consisted of two researchers. The first author is bilingual, a native Greek speaker and fluent in English, whilst the second author is monolingual being a native English speaker learning Greek. Greek was the language of the data and the analysis for the first author, whilst English was the language of analysis for the second author. Integrating the linguistic needs of participants and researchers led to a plethora of practical and methodological issues that are explored in this paper. When working in a multicultural team, interpretation of the spoken word and translation of the written word are the instruments which allow non-native researchers to engage with and conceptualise the data.  Glaser’s (2004) maxim “all is data” (p. 2) is a bedrock of GT. Indeed, Gynnild (2006) argued that the importance of this concept “[cannot] be overestimated” (p. 61).  ‘Data’ are not only ‘words’ or ‘facts’: they are also cultural beliefs, behaviours and perceptions (Fairhurst & Putnam, 2018) which need to be understood if data are to reveal their meaning, and enable conceptualisation (Glaser, 1978). Translation must therefore not be neglected or mismanaged, as flawed translation processes can lead to a loss of meaning (van Nes et al., 2010), or the misunderstanding of culturally-important nuances (Venuti, 1995), which can impact upon the research and fundamentally affect the foundations of the study itself (Al-Amer, Ramjan, & Glew, 2016). Our paper is highly relevant because cross-language research has become increasingly popular (Fersch, 2013). For instance, a major international conference brought together the topics of GT and translation in a stream of its own (IATIS, 2018). Previous authors have made recommendations about the way in which translation might take place within qualitative research generally (see for instance Bradby,...

Doing One’s Best: Becoming a Kinship Caregiver

Kara Vander Linden, Ed.D., Saybrook University, USA Catherine J. Tompkins, PhD, MSW, George Mason University, USA Abstract A kinship family is one where a family member, other than a biological parent, is primarily responsible for the child. In-depth, unstructured interviews with kinship caregivers and children from 15 kinship families were conducted to gain a thorough understanding of interactions and relationships among kinship family members. Other data sources included notes from monthly kinship care committee meetings, kinship care focus groups, and kinship family support groups.  The resulting grounded theory, Doing One’s Best, explains a process of becoming a kinship caregiver and doing what one can regardless of multiple factors that make the situation difficult. Chaos increases as situational, relationship and emotional complexity are exacerbated by occurring together, leading to compounding complexity and the need to engage in behaviors to survive. Keywords: classic grounded theory; kinship families; complexity; caregiving, surviving Introduction In preparation for this classic grounded theory (CGT) study, the researchers identified an area of interest, the substantive area, which, for this study, was kinship care. Kinship care defined in its purest form is raising a child for a family or a friend (KFI, 2019). Kinship caregivers are any adult relative or adult fictive kin providing full-time nurturing and protection of children, with the most prevalent type of kinship care provider being a grandparent–predominantly a grandmother (Child Welfare League of America, 2011). In 2012, approximately 4.2 million households in the U.S. (3% of all households) included both grandchildren under 18 and their grandparents. A grandparent headed over 60% of these households, and 33% had no parent present (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014). Among grandparent caregivers, about 12% are younger than 45 years old and 54% range in age from 45 to 59 years. Twenty-five percent are between the ages of 60 to 69 and 9% are over 70 years old (Pew Research Center, 2013). Researchers and practitioners most often explore kinship care through a child welfare lens, generally concluding that child welfare outcomes, such as safety and permanency, are stronger in kinship care compared to foster care (Winokur, Crawford, Longbardi, & Valentine, 2008). Because kinship care is most often seen as a better alternative to foster care for the children, the assessment of challenges and needs within kinship families focusing on the kinship caregiver, children, and the biological parent is often not explored. This study focuses on the kinship caregiver and the children with future research needing to include the biological parent. Grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren experience positive and negative aspects of the caregiving relationship (Kirby, 2015) but we need to understand more about these experiences. Often, custodial grandparents live in families where their children are unavailable to parent due to adolescent pregnancy, incarceration, death, child abuse, neglect, or addiction (Smith & Palmieri, 2007). Additionally, the complications of raising a child as a grandparent can have a negative impact financially, especially in terms of retirement; socially, as raising a child later in life can be isolating; and emotionally, as the grandparent may feel anger toward their child as well as guilt. These stressors can lead to challenges in caregiving from grandparents in kinship families (Smith & Palmieri, 2007). Methodology Classic grounded theory (CGT) is “a general research methodology linked with data collection that uses a systematically applied set of methods to generate an inductive theory about a substantive area” (Glaser, 1992, p. 16). The primary stages used in this CGT study were preparation, data collection and...

Moving On

Lisa Goldberg, Saybrook University, USA Kara Vander Linden, Saybrook University, USA Abstract Moving on explains a five-stage process of making voluntary change. The first stage begins with a realization that a person is moving toward or away from something and faces a decision to do nothing, perch, or continue on. In the second stage, seeking a right fit, a person explores vehicles for change and uses value-based decision-making to seek a right fit. Acting upon that right fit does not happen until a tipping point is reached, the third stage. Deciding to move toward action or not is a decision made when a person either impromptus, comes to know, or deliberates over information. The fourth stage explains the journey, decisions made and factors that affect decision making, and coping strategies. The fifth stage explains how moving on concludes by evaluating the success, or lack thereof, of moving on. Keywords: voluntary change process, values, decision-making, coping strategies, classic grounded theory Introduction Change is a constant part of life and with change comes many decisions. This study began with an interest in what leads certain individuals to select a specific institution of higher education. However, as I began collecting data and following the grounded theory method, I soon became aware that although grounded theory may start in one substantive area it often leads to the emergence of a broader social process (Glaser, 1998). According to Glaser (1992), Grounded theory often starts off with a study located within a structural unit, such as in a particular business, hospital or school. The conceptualization going on in grounded theory automatically leaves the time and place of this unit. The theory is no longer generalized to a unit, but to a process which goes on in many other similar units. (p. 137) Indeed, this is exactly what happened. The study went from a study about people’s choice of higher education institutions to how people move through a process of voluntary change. Thus, the resulting theory is about how people make voluntary change. Methodology This classic grounded theory (CGT) study was completed as part of a doctoral degree from Fielding Graduate University where I completed a specialization in classic grounded theory. A grounded theory is useful in identifying people’s main concern (or problem) and how they go about resolving (or solving) that concern (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). A grounded theory is often identified by its core variable, the one idea (also known as concept or variable) that explains how people resolve (or solve) their main concern (or problem) (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). In my theory, moving on is the core variable that explains how people solve their main problem which is how to deal with making voluntary change in their lives. To start this CGT study, I made every effort to acknowledge and limit any preconceptions concerning the area under study. This was done in an effort to keep an open mind and be able to listen to what others were saying, and read what people in the action scene may be writing as opposed to allowing my own ideas to cloud what the data was showing. If a researcher is unable to set aside preconceived notions, then the researcher risks adding information into the study that has not earned its way in and therefore may unground and invalidate the study (Glaser, 1998). Similarly, prior to data collection and analysis, I did not read literature about the topic of the study. If this were done the...