Issue 1, June 2017

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...

Intellectual Autonomy of PhD Researchers who use the Grounded Theory Methodology...

Andy Lowe, PhD, Thailand Abstract The decision to choose the grounded theory methodology (GT) for one’s PhD research should never be done lightly, as outlined in Glaser (2015).  The emergence of a researcher’s own intellectual autonomy is often of more importance than the research itself. Intellectual autonomy can be fostered perpetually and spasmodically. Keywords: intellectual autonomy, grounded theory, perpetual fostering, investigating, negotiating. Perpetual fostering Intellectual autonomy can be fostered perpetually in three main ways; discovery of “voice”, investigating, and negotiating. Intellectual autonomy involves the discovery of one’s own “voice” without arrogance but with humility. The PhD researcher should never bury missteps in the PhD thesis.  Instead write about them and explain how they arose and then the means with which they were dealt.  The formal acknowledgement of these errors is always an indicator for the PhD committee that researcher’s intellectual autonomy has emerged. The process of intellectual autonomy begins when the researcher starts understanding, by discovering his own “voice”, by critically reading the published works of others.  The researcher has to delve beyond the descriptive narrative and begin to tease out the more fundamental deep-seated concepts that underpin the research of others.  This approach will also reveal the line of argument being used by various authors.  Glaser (1978) emphasized the importance of the GT researcher being able to develop theoretically sensitivity.  Put very simply, this means that the researcher has to go directly to the ideas and concepts that underpin the research. Investigating Before embarking on any PhD research, it is the researcher’s task to demonstrate his intellectual autonomy by using due diligence. It is the duty and responsibility of the researcher to choose the location where the GT PhD will be registered.  This issue is not just administrative; this is because the researcher should be cautious of naively assuming that all research environments are likely to be equally competent and intellectually stimulating. Find a university that is tolerant of an inductive research design. The dominant research paradigm in academia is the deductive hypothesis approach.  Many universities automatically assume that all PhDs will always follow this path.  This has the potential to be problematic for the GT PhD researcher because GT research is principally an inductive research method. An online research will reveal the attitude of different universities to inductive research based PhDs.  Be wary of universities who compel PhD researchers to use the identical chapter headings and structure regardless of the type of research method being employed.  Do remember that what is considered to be the appropriate structure of a PhD is highly variable even at the same university.  If a PhD researcher is already signed up to a university with an inflexible system, it still might be possible to do a GT PhD.  The workaround is called “the retro fitted PhD”.  Here the GT PhD researcher faithfully follows the tenets of the authentic GT research method that will result in a robust core variable.  Then return to the rigid PhD structure that the university has imposed on the research and repackage the legitimate GT PhD research into the thesis format retrospectively.  However, what frequently happens is that when the supervisors read the GT research they often are so impressed by the research that they find ways in accepting the authentic GT PhD structure. The Conventional full-time PhD Younger novice researchers may wish to opt for a PhD process that pays the annual registration fee as well as income from teaching at a university. Apart from the obvious...

Negotiated Re-orienting: A Theory Generated through International Collaborative Research...

Tom Andrews, University of Cork, Ireland Introduction The theory presented here was generated from a research project that involved researchers in five countries.  To our knowledge, this is the first classic grounded theory generated by such an international collaborative effort.  This article starts by describing the collaborative process, then the theory is presented. The project This research project was co-ordinated by researchers in the United Kingdom (UK).  They were quantitative researchers, quite unfamiliar with qualitative research in general, but decided to use grounded theory without any knowledge of the methodology other than being aware that it is effective at generating theory.  I was invited to join the project and together with colleagues from Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Palestine, and the UK, we held our first meeting in the UK.  It became clear that everyone had a different view as to what GT is.  The Brazilians were intent on using constructionist GT, the Germans advocated that situational analysis GT should be used, while the Palestinians and British did not know anything about the methodology.  To ensure that we were collecting data and doing data analysis in a similar way, I gave a presentation on classic GT.  The quantitative researchers thought of qualitative research as weak and non-scientific.  However, following the presentation, they had changed their minds and became even more convinced that classic GT was very suitable to investigate the substantive area of Intensive Care nurses’ perception of their role in end-of-life care. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and included 51 participants in five countries.  Although contrary to classic GT, this is a compromise that at least initially had to be made for the sake of the study.  Nonetheless, researchers in each country were encouraged to use theoretical sampling by following up on what was said at previous interviews.  The project team in each country participated in-person or via Skype in a two-day analysis workshop at the University of Surrey in order to discuss analysis of each country’s dataset.  It involved a lot of discussion and convincing others that what seemed like differences were in fact not so when the data were conceptualised.  This was not surprising given the different ways that researchers were approaching analysis.  This proved to be a very effective way of analysing and agreeing on the core and other categories.  Memos with supporting quotes and full transcripts of three interviews from each country were prepared and circulated to all team members.  Researchers in each country independently read all of the transcripts and coded them separately, looking for patterns. An additional two meetings took place in the UK, in person or via Skype where the team discussed patterns relating to the core category.  Following these two meetings, a template was circulated with sections of memos and interviews from each country in order to reach consensus.  At the team meeting in Ireland we finalised the core concept and discussed dissemination of the results. The theory Nurses’ main concern in Intensive Care end-of-life care is to shift the emphasis from active treatment to palliative care.  However, this is problematic given the uncertainty surrounding prognosis.  Patients in ICU are often in what Glaser and Strauss (1967) referred to as uncertain death and unknown time when the question will be resolved.  This idea is central through negotiated re-orienting.  The shift from uncertainty to a greater certainty of impending death implies that activities orientate to curing are now ending and replaced by activities prompted by the dying process.  Nurses actively seek to bring this...

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...