Issue 1, June 2017

Growing Grounded Theory: Doing my Bit

Helen Scott, PhD, United Kingdom In Glaser’s recent book, The Grounded Theory Perspective: Its Origin and Growth (2016), Glaser writes of how he recorded and explicated the grounded theory perspective and disseminated the perspective as the grounded theory general method of research, over a period of 50 years. During this period he has monitored its use, embracing procedural developments (e.g. Nilsson, 2011; Scott, 2011), whilst vigorously defending and differentiating the grounded theory perspective from adaptions (e.g. Glaser, 1992, 2002). A scholastic endeavour of monumental proportions. Over the decades, his key tools in achieving the phenomenal worldwide growth of grounded theory[1] are his books and troubleshooting seminars. In this way, he empowers an army of PhD students to spread the use of grounded theory wider still. The result is the continuing diffusion of the grounded theory method geographically and across disciplines including medicine, business, technology, journalism, psychology, international relations, and education and many more substantive areas of interest, including construction, caring professions, careers advice, prison life, de-radicalisation, living on a volcano and so on. Since learning how to do grounded theory is best achieved by experiencing the method, a key teaching technique used in both books and seminars is “exampling”. In his readers, Barney publishes grounded theories that represent the current frontier in grounded theory research. Novices are encouraged to read the theories to develop understandings about how grounded theory studies are conducted and constructed i.e. to identify the theoretical code(s) which model the substantive codes and to experience how the theoretical codes shape the presentation of the theory. In seminars, exampling helps the novice GT researcher envision the trajectory of their own grounded theory by working with other grounded theories at later stages in the development process. Additionally, in hearing of the procedural issues of other participants, novices are able to anticipate or notice their own procedural issues. In discussion, novices also learn how the procedures support the grounded theory perspective and how modifying procedures can, wittingly or unwittingly, compromise the grounded theory perspective. Encouraged by Glaser, several of his troubleshooting alumni now also publish books (e.g. Gynnild & Martin, 2011; Holton & Walsh 2016) and run seminars: Hans Thulesius and Anna Sandren run troubleshooting seminars in Sweden; Foster Fei runs seminars in China and Tom Andrews and I run seminars in Ireland, the UK, Malta, and Australia. One of my problems when learning grounded theory was that coming fresh to grounded theory as a novice PhD student from a department dominated by quantitative methods, much of what I read in Glaser’s writings was telling me what grounded theory was not: the issues that were being defended or differentiated were not my issues. I needed to know what grounded theory is. This has led me, in my methodological mentoring work to focus on the grounded theory research process. This approach works well and has supported my mentees in their development of some truly excellent grounded theories (Krieger, 2014; Stevens, 2015). My natural style is one of facilitation rather than teaching and I prefer to model grounded theory practices. If a mentee feels a need to compromise a procedure (such as using a structured interview design for collecting data at interview) I take care to explain how that will inhibit development of their grounded theory and example how I would approach the issue. I focus on practical matters of progress. Previously I have had little patience with what Glaser (1998) terms the “rhetorical wrestle” (p. 35) preferring to focus on...

The Discovery Power of Staying Open

Judith A. Holton, Mount Allison University, Canada Glaser (1978) emphasized three foundational pillars of GT that must be respected: emergence, constant comparison, and theoretical sampling.  While many qualitative researchers who claim to employ GT will assert their use of constant comparison and theoretical sampling, there is much less clarity around claims to respecting GT’s emergent nature.  Emergence necessitates that the researcher remains open to what is discovered empirically in the data “without first having them filtered through and squared with pre-existing hypotheses and biases” (Glaser, 1978, p. 3) or theoretical frameworks drawn from extant theory.  In many qualitative studies, however, emergence is restricted to the analysis phase (e.g., Corley & Gioia, 2004) and with data collection framed through an initial review of the literature (e.g., Partington, 2000), articulation of specific research questions or interview protocols for “consistency” (Xiao, Dahya, & Lin, 2004, p. 43). Staying open to emergent patterns in data offers surprising and exciting theoretical discoveries—what Glaser has termed the Eureka moment.  Even in studies otherwise framed with some level of preconception, as typical of most qualitative research studies, it is possible to remain open to such discoveries.  This was the case in a research study conducted in 2010-2011. The focus of this study was a leadership development needs analysis for a health services organization where leadership was aligned with fostering a healthy workplace.  The intent of the study was to explore the perspectives of middle managers regarding the overall organizational climate and their leadership development needs.  A qualitative approach was adopted with semi-structured interviews to elicit a variety of experiences, directly and indirectly related to leadership development needs.  Thirty-two middle managers participated in the interviews. Detailed findings were shared with the organization and also published (Grandy & Holton, 2013a, 2013b). As a grounded theorist and a co-investigator in this study, what interested me most as the interviews progressed were moments of self-reflection in which verbal confessions and body language revealed a growing discomfort and realization of disconnect between espoused corporate messages about a healthy workplace, their experience of the organizational culture, and their own realized unhealthy work practices.  While the organization and we as researchers were focused on identifying key leadership development needs, the grounded theorist in me recognized that this felt disconnect—not leadership development—was the main concern of these middle managers.  I wanted to explore this idea further. Following completion of the initial study, we went back and selectively coded the data to better understand this discovered main concern, subsequently developing the concept voiced inner dialogue to explain how managers are able to surface and process the disconnects they experience between the espoused goals of the organization and their own lived experiences of those goals. We identified and elaborated voiced inner dialogue as a three-stage process: Reacting, not reflecting Reacting, not reflecting wherein managers simply react in accordance with organizational norms and espoused values without stopping to reflect on the appropriateness or feasibility of such norms and values, particularly when attempting to demonstrate leadership in a context of constant crisis and “putting out fires” typical of most health care organizations.  These “go, go, go” cultures are reactive, not proactive; there is no catching up, no opportunity to be strategic; timelines are short and imposed deadlines unreasonable.  In reacting, not reflecting managers assume responsibility for this disconnect by questioning their own competence as effective leaders. “I find the more I model this go, go, go, go they [subordinates] pick up on it …. I shouldn’t underestimate the...

Complexities in Palliative Cancer Care: Can Grounded Theories be Useful to Increase Awareness?...

Anna Sandgren, Linnaeus University, Sweden This paper includes first a summary of a grounded theory “Living on hold”, which was one of four different grounded theories in my dissertation (Sandgren, 2010). The theory is then explained in relation to the other grounded theories to give an example of how different grounded theories can be integrated, which leads to an increased awareness of what is going on in a research area. Keywords: palliative cancer care, increase awareness, grounded theories, living on hold. Living on hold The aim of this study was to develop a classic grounded theory of palliative cancer patients and their relatives. Interviews and data related to behavior of patients and relatives were analyzed. Being put on hold emerged as the main concern for palliative cancer patients and their relatives. Being put on hold means that their normal existence is falling apart; normality is breaking down and with it a loss of control. Living on hold consists of three modes of behaviors: the fighting mode, the adjusting mode, and the surrendering mode. Mode being, an individual’s current mode, depends on, for example, age, personality, diagnosis and prognosis, social network, earlier experience of crisis, continuity of care, and professional competence. During the disease trajectory, there may be triggers that start a process of reconciliation that can lead to mode shifts, so modes are not fixed. No mode is better than another. The process of reconciling Regardless of mode, patients and relatives evaluate not only their lives and their current situation, but also the past and the near future. Mode shifting can happen at anytime during the disease trajectory through the reconciling process. Mode shifting triggers, such as receiving bad news, dependency experience, and feelings of uncertainty, can trigger the reconciling process and lead to a change in behavioral mode. Patients and relatives often evaluate life differently, which may lead to individuals experiencing different behavioral modes within a patient’s group. Depending on their different moods, shifting between modes can happen quickly over a short period of time, which could be energy draining for all involved. Fighting mode In the fighting mode, patients and relatives are striving to renormalize their lives; no change to their previous way of life is desired. Through renormalizing, they strive to return to normal, managing themselves, and keeping track as before. Potential powers are discovered and unrealized innate powers may emerge when needed. Rebelling means not only protecting and fighting the whole situation, but also fighting the disease. Through blaming, patients and relatives seek reasons or causes for the disease, and finding something or someone to blame. In the fighting mode, they appreciate foreseeing, since this gives them full control over life, even if it is put on hold. Since individuals are hyper-sensitive, they are scrutinizing everything around them. Adjusting mode In the adjusting mode, patients and relatives are adjusting to a new normality and to new routines. Even though they are adjusting, they do not let the disease take over or control their lives. Adjusting to a life on hold involves moment living, which means maintaining a total presence here and now and involves planning for daily life but not for the future. Disease diminishing, which means not letting the disease affect their lives, is achieved through re-routining where new routines are created. Adjusting also involves façading, which means keeping an emotional facade and staying emotionally strong. Surrendering mode There are two different ways of being in the surrendering mode: resigning, which means giving up,...

Grounded Theory: Study of Aboriginal Nations

Gary L. Evans, University of Prince Edward Island, PEI, Canada Abstract Recently, Elers (2016) published an article stating the importance of using Classical Grounded Theory (CGT) when researching indigenous populations.  This article puts forward CGT as a viable and necessary tool for researching this complex subject as it requires researchers to utilize multiple data sources and, as in this particular project, can be used by multiple disciplinary teams. Canada has much to do to rebuild the trust of the indigenous people of Canada. CGT shows promise as a methodology that gets to the root of the issues and offers one of the best opportunities to develop a theory that can be part of the constructive healing process going forward. Keywords: Aboriginal, indigenous, TRC, labour readiness, grounded theory, research teams. Introduction The project started eight months ago and continues to be a work in progress.  This short analysis provides some insights of the challenges and importance of classical grounded theory (CGT) for a critical area of Canadian research.  It is not possible to highlight all the findings at this stage therefore the purpose of this paper is to put forward some of the lessons learned. The first and most important lesson to be shared is Glaser’s dictate that “All is Data” (Glaser, 2007). Study outline The study started with a call from a Canadian research government funded agency looking at pathways to improve education and labour opportunities for Aboriginal youth.  The process required interviews and focus groups to be conducted across a region.  Concurrently some team members explored literature looking for existing and past insights of specific challenges and opportunities for education and employment.  The research team consisted of professors from different universities and backgrounds. The team included Psychology, Anthropology, Education and Business researchers. The literature review material, while being collected concurrently during interviews, was not shared with the research interview teams until after the groups had completed their initial comparative analysis. One challenge faced by the research team was the diverse level of individual knowledge members had on Aboriginal culture and history. From a researcher’s perspective, the flexibility of the CGT methodology was key to researching the job and education phenomena.  Ehigie and Ehigie (2005) highlight that in certain areas of research it is important for team members to have an understanding of the participants they are studying.  As put forward by Elers (2016), indigenous research is well suited to CGT and this view is supported by his personal comment received from Barney Glaser “It is all just data with patterns in it” (Elers, 2016, p. 114) Past quantitative research of education and employment, does not answer the question, why Aboriginal education and employment levels fall far below the national average.  During data collection, it became clear the issue was complex and went beyond poor education and labour statistics.  CGT provides a framework that supports multiple data sources and allows the data to lead the researcher forward. It was important that all members approach the phenomena with an open mind and willingness to allow the data and process to drive the direction of the study.  Classic grounded theory (CGT) researchers need to ask themselves the questions: “What perspective do I represent?” and “How may this perspective influence my reading?” (Deady, 2011, p. 51) The goal of improving labour and education opportunities was the primary focus, but to understand the phenomena it is necessary to understand the history of Canadian Aboriginal people.  Since before confederation the Aboriginal people in Canada...

Rethinking Applied Economics by Classic Grounded Theory: An Invitation to Collaborate...

Olavur Christiansen, University of Faroe Islands Introduction The heading of this paper refers to an issue that so far remains unaddressed by classic grounded theory (CGT) researchers. The aim of this paper is to take a closer look at the accordance between the CGT methodology and the field of applied economics (economic policy-making). The goal is NOT to present a finished theory; the purpose is to briefly discuss the main concern and to suggest some possible properties of the recurrent solution of the main concern (the core variable) within the field of applied economics. The paper is based on some open coding of sampled data. These data came from interviews with leading politicians with economic responsibilities, memoirs, and published diaries of leading economic politicians, and a selection of popular books written by leading economists. The procedure of memo writing has been used to a limited extent, but no sorting of memos has been made. Selective coding has not yet begun. This means that the work is far from finished. It has hardly begun. Thus, it is far from possible to present an entire classic grounded theory. I can only present some initial theory bits that relate to the discovered main concern. This paper is also an invitation to collaborate, see the epilogue. Two most different methodological approaches The methodological approach of generating and presenting economic theory by classic grounded theory (CGT) is very different from the conventional economic approach. Neoclassic and keynesian economics are both normative. These approaches focus on what should be done, and how. Mainstream economics is based on the assumption that the behaviour of economic agents follows the rule of “rational choice” (optimizing), and that the actual behavior of economic agents should follow this rule. CGT methodology on the other hand is not normative in the same sense. Use of the CGT methodology means that focus will be on actual behavior (what people actually do) and how to explain this actual behavior. No apriori assumptions are made regarding this actual behavior. Discoveries regarding this actual behavior that are grounded in the data may be used at a later stage as a guideline for problemsolving within the field of study (i.e., as “grounded action”). “Schools” of economics A distinction can be made between present-day mainstream economics (typically neoclassic and neoclassic-keynesian synthesis) and different smaller schools of what we can call “minorstreams economics”. These “streams” can typically be identified by the journals, where the respective research is published. One illustrative example of such a “minorstream” is the approach of Daniel Bromley (2006).  Bromley challenges the prevailing economic assumption of “rational choice” of economic agents (optimization), and he offers an alternative evolutionary model of pragmatic human action, where individuals “work out” their desired choices and actions, as they learn what choices are available. Bromley’s methodological perspective of “volitional pragmatism” builds on the work of Charles Sanders Peirce and his abductive approach. For Bromley (2006), the most fundamental human need is not eating, drinking or obtaining shelter, but concerns “what to believe” (Ibid). Nevertheless, Bromley’s approach just replaces the “rational” choice assumption with the assumption of “volational pragmatism” – i.e. so far, the methodology is not so different from the mainstream. Methodologies: Better or worse? Despite this difference of methodological approaches, it would be too brash to claim that the CGT approach is better or worse compared to other approaches. CGT is just different. From the perspective of a CGT researcher, CGT also becomes justified because it is “different”. That...

Patterns of Theoretical Similarity

Kara L. Vander Linden, Saybrook University, USA Abstract Classic grounded theories explicate patterns of behavior used by individuals within a substantive area to address problematic areas that they are working to address.  Through the brief examination and explanation of two classic grounded theories conducted by the author, overlapping patterns of theoretical similarity are discussed despite the theories’ emergence from different substantive areas. The future development of formal grounded theories from these and other substantive grounded theories is discussed. Keywords: theoretical similarity, grounded theory, navigating new experiences, surviving the complexity. Years of conducting classic grounded theory (CGT) research and overseeing CGT research by doctoral students have reinforced Glaser’s (1978) statement that “The goal of grounded theory is to generate a theory that accounts for a pattern of human behavior which is relevant and problematic for those involved” (p. 93).  Due to the theoretical nature of the patterns of behavior discovered, theories developed using CGT often depict overlapping patterns of behaviors and concepts despite emerging from different substantive areas. This article will exemplify this by examining two CGT studies conducted by the author in two different substantive areas: adult learning experiences and grandparent-headed households.  First, a summary of each study will be provided.  Then a discussion of areas of theoretical similarity between the two studies will be presented. Finally, next steps in the development of formal grounded theories are presented. Navigating new experiences Navigating (Vander Linden, 2005) explains three cyclical stages of going through a new experience and factors that may affect the process.  In the mapping stage, people engage in locating (assessing one’s location in relation to a goal), surveying (information gathering), and plotting (creating a plan).  In the embarking stage, people move through the experience using normalizing (creating a new normal) and strategizing (overcoming obstacles encountered).  In the reflecting stage, people reflect on the experience.  These stages are affected by properties of the experience (complexity, newness, structure and control, a catalyst, etc.) and factors that affect the person (emotions, goals, competency, obligations, perception, perspective, modus operandi, etc.). Surviving the complexity Surviving the complexity (Tompkins & Vander Linden, 2016) is a survival process of taking on the caregiving role and doing what one can despite multiple factors that make the situation difficult.  The theory introduces three types of complexity: situational, relational, and emotional.  Throughout the process, the caretaker engages in surviving behaviors to do what he/she can within a complex situation.  The process begins with a trigger event (tragic or destabilizing) that leads to the caregiver (parent) abdicating the role to another.  Stage 1, rescuing, is engaging in temporary, emergency action (helping-out, stepping-in, and taking-in) to save others from harm.  Within rescuing the new caregiver engages in adjusting (figuring out the new role and aspects contributing to the complexity of the situation) and accepting (coming to terms with the situation).  Rescuing ends as the new caregiver is faced with the decision to abdicate the role or move to stage 2, taking-on, where the caregiver consciously commits to take-on the caregiver role and the inherent complexity it brings for a longer duration. While taking on, the caregiver engaged is quieting the chaos (bringing order to confusion through stabilizing and normalizing), doing one’s best, and problem solving. Areas of commonality Both theories identify common patterns of behavior used by individuals resolving problematic aspects within the substantive area and factors that influence these behaviors.  Significant concepts that emerged in common between the two theories included: complexity, emotions, power and control, obstacles and problem...