Grounded Theory is about research grounded in the data systematically obtained through social research. The researcher is required to enter the lived-world and observe the environment, behaviours, words, actions and interactions. Symbols are intrinsic to the micro-social interaction.
The main thrust of Grounded Theory is to bridge the gap between theoretically ‘uninformed’ empirical research and empirically ‘uninformed’ theory says Goulding (2002). Often Grounded Theory is often chosen when a topic of interest has been relatively neglected or overlooked in the accumulation of the relevant body of knowledge. The mission is to build theory from the ‘ground’. However, a researcher never starts with a completely blank sheet. The threat of prior knowledge when entering the field is a prior predisposition even if not consciously.
A postgraduate student wanting to use grounded theory therefore need to know the scope of literature in the field fairly well and identified / became aware of a particular gap. The literature cannot be avoided, as it is usually an essential component of a research proposal.
Grounded Theory is not limited to one source of data (as some qualitative methods) but may include “secondary data, life histories, interviews, introspection, observations and memos” (Goulding, 2001:56). Reading is not neglected either, the researcher maintains theoretical sensitivity by connecting ideas to the theory being developed. Once the theory has substance the researcher will deliberately do literature searches to test own theory against.
The shared beliefs of Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss include (Goulding, 2001:40):
- The need to get out in the field to get to know what is happening
- Theory is grounded in reality
- Experience is continually evolving for both researcher and participants
- The researched play an active role in shaping the research
- There is an emphasis on change, process and variability of life
- An inter-relationship exists between meaning and action
Goulding, C. 2002. Grounded Theory—A practical guide for management, business and market researchers. London: SAGE.