Editorial: New Perspectives on Conceptual Growth through GT

Astrid Gynnild, University of Bergen

What does it mean to learn grounded theory? I mean, really learn it? The question emerged while re-reading and reflecting on the final versions of the six very different, and yet interrelated, articles in this June issue of the Grounded Theory Review.

Many a novice grounded theorist has experienced that, in order to truly understand

grounded theory, he or she has to start doing it; grounded theory is a learning-by-doing method that constantly produces new theories firmly grounded in data. But the learning process may, in itself, be extremely challenging, even scary, no matter the circumstances. Classic grounded theory might be scary simply because it prompts researchers to get out of their personal and professional comfort zone when hunting inductively for data to explain human patterns of behavior. Taking on the responsibility of doing a grounded theory is possible only if a researcher is willing to invest in individual growth and experience while simultaneously engaging with data.

In the opening article of this issue, Dr. Barney G. Glaser explains how the GT recipe for personal and professional growth goes through the constant conceptual expansion that is built into the grounded theory approach. The article, which is a preprint of the first chapter of his next book, extracts the productive design and outcomes of Dr. Glaser’s lifelong devotion to grounded theory. So far, Glaser has written 35 books on grounded theory and innumerous articles, and he steadily produces a new book yearly. In the article Dr. Glaser calls classic grounded theory a ”no preconceptions method.” He looks back on his GT career and reflects on the consistent inner drive to explore the method further. He also explains an important rationale for doing inductive research; “writing up data was much faster than thinking up conjectures to suit a perspective that could be very irrelevant.”

In this issue I am also very happy to publish three new grounded theories with core concepts that might have relevance far wider than their substantive areas: mastering everyday life, collective inclusioning, and trust testing.

The first theory comes from the health discipline. A group of Swedish researchers at Linnaeus University has developed a theory on “Mastering everyday life in ordinary housing for people with psychic disabilities.”  The researchers are Rosita Brolin, David Brunt, Mikael Rask, Susanne Syren, and Anna Sandgren. Their theory provides new insights into handling the complex everyday life of massive information flows paired with shifting requirements of attention, concentration, and quick decision-making. To many people, these complexities are hard to cope with, especially when combined with phobias, fatigue, attention deficits, or compulsive disorders. The main concern of the impossible mission of everyday life is resolved through the core category of mastering everyday life, which is a process as well as a set of strategies.

The second theory also comes from Sweden, from the field of innovation sciences. The grounded theory of collective inclusioning by Michal Lysek offers a bottom-up approach to innovation and leadership. Lysek has studied how leaders make entrepreneurs and managers engage in undertakings that require full commitment from all people involved. The resolution is what Lysek has conceptualized as collective inclusioning, which can be applied  by afinitizing, convincing, engaging, goal congruencing, and innovation. Lysek emphasizes that collective inclusioning is a complementary theory to other strategic and management theories.

Even the third theory this time was generated in Sweden. Gustaf Waxegard and Hans Thulesius provide new insights into a very complex part of health services. The researchers have carried out a long term study on problems encountered and resolved by health professionals who work with the building of care pathways for people with neurodevelopmental disorders (ND) such as ADHD and autism. The new theory explains what is going on in a complex diagnostic field with scarce resources and diverging stakeholder interests. The first concept is unpacking, that is, the diagnosis and work up; it refers to what neurodevelopmental disorders should be conceptualized where and when in the pathway, and by whom. The second concept, trust testing, refers to the “monitoring and acting on the perceived unpacking commitment of other stakeholders in the ND pathway.”

The book review section this time focuses on two new books that have potential to greatly influence the further work and understanding of classic grounded theory in the years to come.

Kara Vander Linden has reviewed Barney Glaser’s latest book The Cry for Help: Preserving Autonomy Doing GT Research  (Sociology Press 2016). Vander Linden expected to find a book mostly written for GT novices, but realized that the Cry for Help had some very important messages to her as a supervisor and a mentor of grounded theory as well. In the book, Glaser strongly advocates for mentoring and support that preserves the autonomy of the novice GT researcher. His arguments made the reviewer stop and question her own mentoring and ask “Am I taking away the researcher’s autonomy by taking control of the research, or am I empowering the novice researcher by providing the level of support needed to facilitate autonomy?”  Being sensitive to other researchers’ autonomy is a challenge that supervisors constantly face. Vander Linden states that her goal as a mentor is to “recognize the learning that takes place in the struggle to learn the methodology and to help my mentees embrace that struggle and work through it.”

Tove Giske has reviewed Judith Holton & Isabelle Walsh’ new book Classic Grounded Theory: The application of qualitative and quantitative data, recently published by Sage. Giske finds the textbook insightful and valuable to experienced researchers as well as to novice grounded theorists. In particular, she discusses the authors’ claim that grounded theory is philosophically neutral and, as such, might be considered a meta-theory of inductive research design. She applauds the authors’ openness to a variety of political stands when doing GT even though they favor critical realism. Giske supports the idea that grounded theory might be referred to as a method, a technique, a methodology, a framework, a paradigm, a social process, and a perspective all at once depending on the stands of the individual researcher. The review provides a detailed discussion of the ten chapters and the two sections of the book. Giske concludes that the textbook is “easy to read and aids those researchers new to GT to gain a better understanding of the methodological books written by Glaser.”

We would like to add that Holton and Walsh’ book is already gaining status as a classic textbook on classic GT. On behalf of the classic GT community we are happy that the book is now available for the growing numbers of novice researchers searching for safe harbors to anchor their ontological and practical questions on grounded theory.