Astrid Gynnild

To provide new knowledge is a basic aim of academic research. This task seems to be so self-evident that underlying cognitive aspects of knowledge acquisition are often taken for granted. Nevertheless, in order to produce credible, relevant and unbiased research results, the greatest challenge of any researcher is probably that of handling one’s own preconceptions. When grounded theory was generated by Glaser and Strauss 45 years ago, they aimed to provide an inductive methodology that cut across preformed research investigations and the testing of irrelevant hypotheses with little grounding in empirical data. In grounded theory literature, getting open to what the data tells you and implicitly how to minimize personal and professional preconceptions, is a recurring topic. And yet we know from everyday life and from research in general how easy it is to slip into forming opinions beforehand without adequate evidence.

In this issue, we are happy to publish the first chapter of Barney G. Glaser’s latest book, in which many aspects of preconceptions are discussed in detail. In his chapter, Dr. Glaser points out how the no preconception dictum in grounded theory applies to the general research problem and the specific participants’ problem. By stating that by staying open to the emergent, the researcher cannot preconceive what he or she will discover, he touches an apparent research paradox. Glaser’s theoretical discussion is based on data from a number of experienced grounded theorists and on data from his many years of discovering and developing grounded theories. The chapter and the succeeding book will fill a void in the research literature. Even though the quest for professional curiosity and openness is a prevalent aspect of any research approach, its cognitive and practical implications are rarely analyzed.

In this issue, I am also happy to present two new grounded theories, in two different publishing formats.  Anna Sandgren from Sweden has developed a full format substantive theory about deciphering unwritten rules.  Her theory is based on a secondary analysis of data from three former studies in palliative care.  The concept of deciphering unwritten rules explains how patients, relatives and nurses in palliative cancer care handle the uncertainties of how to act and behave in different situations. The theory clearly demonstrates the importance of uncovering and talking about unwritten rules, and the importance of knowledge and counseling for all involved.

Gaetan Mormant’s theory within the field of management introduces a new format in the Grounded Theory Review, namely shorter conceptual discussions. In less than six pages, or approximately 3000 words, Mormant presents a rich grounded theory about seeding events as a resolution to the main concern of developing spaces of entrepreneurial freedom (SoEF). His paper addresses the question of initiating, fostering and growing vibrant economies by establishing and developing the SoEF.

In the time to come, our goal is to present more theories in both the full format and the shorter format. Since grounded theories are conceptually written, the length of the theories can be scaled up and down as time and place allows. We believe that this new opportunity to present short form grounded theories, or parts thereof, will inspire more researchers to submit their work even if their theories are not fully developed. The shorter format helps in funneling down the essentials of a theory. In turn, this write-up practice might save both time and confusion, since the researcher will get valuable feedback by experienced reviewers during the theory generation process.

The paper written by Kim Kwok and Antoinette McCallin from New Zealand speaks directly to Barney G. Glaser’s dictum of no preconception. Reflecting back on the different stages of theory development, they emphasize that an important part of a grounded theory research  process is to learn how to work one’s way through challenges of forcing the data. The paper discusses the practical realities of preconception and how it can be managed. The authors also draw attention to  “less well recognised factors that contribute to forcing.” They conclude that if one is able to regard the research process as a learning opportunity and focus on discoveries in the data, preconceptions will gradually be substituted by solutions to the real problems that emerge during the study. The authors experienced that the GT steps were helpful in getting out of the traps of preconception.

Naomi Elliott and Agnes Higgins from Ireland discuss how research students deal with the challenges of doing a GT study within an academic context and meeting the requirements of their degree programs. Drawing from the personal experiences of two PhD graduates from two different universities, the authors identify four key discussion points of a GT process. They point out that grounded theorists can demonstrate academic scholarliness by focusing on implications of inductive enquiry, the primacy of questions in data gathering and analysis, the research-theory versus the theory-research link and finally how grounded theory “provide researchers with a viable means of generating new theory.”

Finally, in the section for book reviews, Paul Dowling from the United Kingdom provides a thorough and refreshing critique of the anthology Grounded Theory: The Philosophy, Method and Work of Barney Glaser (BrownWalker Press 2011). Dowling was asked to do the critique from the perspective of a scholar who teaches methodology at masters and PhD levels. He is well acquainted with GT literature and says he is inspired by grounded theory, but has developed his own theoretical approach to educational research. Dowling’s reflections confirm that there is much to learn from getting feedback from colleagues with diverging perspectives, especially from colleagues with an open mind. Only be being open to, and curious about, the experiences and viewpoints of colleagues from significantly different methodological approaches can grounded theory researchers really test their own insights and improve their own argumentative skills.