Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Guiding the Use of Grounded Theory in Doctoral Studies-An Example from the Australian Film Industry

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Guiding the Use of Grounded Theory in Doctoral Studies-An Example from the Australian Film Industry

Article excerpt


Selecting an appropriate research method is one of the most critical challenges presented to a doctoral researcher. Phillips (1976) likened this element to the Magna Carta of research. The research method must be designed into the research project such that the product of the research is reliable and credible and, importantly for early career researchers, a method that can be applied easily without decades of refinement and practice.

Among interpretive and qualitative research methods, Grounded Theory offers unique benefits to the doctoral researcher. Grounded Theory "is an inductive, theory discovery methodology that allows the researcher to develop a theoretical account of the general features of a topic while simultaneously grounding the account in empirical observations or data" (Martin & Turner, 1986, p. 141). Grounded Theory provides a detailed, rigorous, and systematic method of analysis, which has the advantage of reserving the need for the researcher to conceive preliminary hypotheses. It therefore provides the researcher with greater freedom to explore the research area and allow issues to emerge (Bryant, 2002; Glaser, 1978, 1992, 1998, 2001). As a consequence, Grounded Theory is useful in providing rigorous insight into areas that are relatively unknown by the researcher.

Despite all these benefits, however, Grounded Theory poses several risks to the doctoral researcher. Foremost among these is the risk that after commencing data collection and analysis, the researcher may not actually uncover substantial or significant theory (also known as a basic social process (Glaser, 1978)). Another risk is the chance that the unorthodox nature of Grounded Theory will alienate the potential recipients from the research findings.

This paper seeks to guide doctoral students who consider using Grounded Theory for their studies. It provides a focused critique of Grounded Theory, which can guide their decision to employ it as a research method. More importantly, this paper details and explains the steps doctoral researchers must undertake in order to reap the benefits Grounded Theory has to offer, by applying it rigorously to the problem examined. To ensure a complete understanding of how to use Grounded Theory, the paper tracks a Grounded Theory research project undertaken to study the phenomena of collaboration and knowledge sharing in the Australian Film Industry.

The Information Systems (IS) phenomenon examined here is knowledge sharing within a project environment. Although knowledge sharing has been recently studied in various contexts, the context of project-based knowledge sharing has been largely overlooked (Ajmal & Koskinen, 2008). Studies examining inter-firm knowledge sharing (Ko, Kirsch, & King, 2005), interpersonal knowledge sharing (Gee-Woo, Zmud, & Sanjeev, 2005; McLure-Wasko & Faraj, 2005), as well as person-to-repository knowledge sharing (Kankanhalli, Tan, & Wei, 2005) revealed a myriad of factors that impact knowledge sharing attitudes, intentions, and behavior. However, only a small amount of empirical work has examined the applicability of these factors to the temporary and ad-hoc nature of a project environment (e.g., Boh, 2007).

To explore the underlying issues surrounding knowledge sharing in a project environment, this study selected The Australian Film Industry (AFI). This industry shares many of the characteristics of project teams on one hand (Bechky, 2000; Boh, 2007) and, on the other hand, presents fascinating successful project completions under strict limitations of resources (Alony, Whymark, & Jones, 2007; Jones, Kriflik, & Zanko, 2005). Understanding the enablers facilitating effective knowledge sharing in the AFI offers important lessons to other project environments that also rely on effective knowledge sharing for project success (Ajmal & Koskinen, 2008; Davies & Brady, 2000). As it appears that no significant attention has been given to studying IS in this environment before, Grounded Theory offers a sensitive and rigorous method for investigation. …

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