Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Examining the Potential of Combining the Methods of Grounded Theory and Narrative Inquiry: A Comparative Analysis

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Examining the Potential of Combining the Methods of Grounded Theory and Narrative Inquiry: A Comparative Analysis

Article excerpt

Qualitative researchers are increasingly combining methods, principles, and processes from different methodologies in the course of a research study as opposed to operating strictly within a delineated qualitative tradition. Researchers who combine methods might do so at some or all stages of the research process, including data collection, data analysis, and representation of findings. In health-related research in particular, we have observed that this combined approach is often invoked under the pragmatic rationale of producing research that is better positioned to translate into practical domains (e.g., Seaton, 2005).

The combination of methods from different methodologies has been variously labeled qualitative mixed method design (Morse, 2010), multiple method design (Morse & Niehaus, 2009), multiple methodology (Seaton, 2005), non-categorical method of research (Thorne, Reimer Kirkham, & O'Flynn-Magee, 2004), interpretive description (Thorne et al., 2004), generic qualitative research (Caelli, Ray, & Mill, 2003), and combined qualitative methodology (Swanson-Kauffman, 1986). While some researchers use these terms interchangeably, others (e.g., Morse, 2010) propose distinctions by applying particular meanings and practices to some of these terms.

In this article, we have adopted the term "combined methodological approach" to bring attention to the historical, theoretical, and philosophical aspects of methodologies from which researchers combine methods. It also refers to the act of combining research methods, processes, and principles commonly associated with different qualitative methodologies at some or all stages of the research process to address the objective(s) of a study. We distinguish the meaning between method and methodology as we contend that the limited distinctions researchers make between these two terms in the qualitative literature pose a problem. Denzin (2010) stated, "each qualitative method rests on different assumptions" (p. 422). Methodology can be situated at the interface between paradigm and method; it consists of a set of "skills, assumptions, and practices that the researcher employs as he or she moves from paradigm to the empirical world" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 25). Among the most recognized qualitative methodologies are: phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory, and narrative inquiry. Examples of methods developed within these traditions include: bracketing, participant observation, constant comparative analysis, and narrative interviewing, respectively. When authors refer to the terms grounded theory and focus group as methods, attention is taken away from the historical, philosophical, theoretical, and methodological aspects that are associated with qualitative traditions such as grounded theory.

Critics caution that combined approaches can be problematic when limited attention is given to key considerations of the constituent methodologies. Caelli et al. (2003) observed that studies utilizing combined approaches are at times poorly anchored within an identifiable epistemological or theoretical perspective. They argued that under the pressure of time constraints, researchers turn toward the "less demanding option" (p. 3) of applying a combined approach because it is perceived as a way to avoid having to fully learn about any one established qualitative tradition. Moreover, those working from a purist paradigmatic and methodological perspective might not see, or agree with, the possibility for compatibility between, and combination of, qualitative traditions such as grounded theory and narrative inquiry. This might especially be the case if they understand these traditions to originate from two diverging paradigms (i.e., grounded theory in post-positivism and narrative inquiry in constructivism/constructionism/postmodernism) and disagree with the idea that methodologies can be 'moved' along the paradigmatic continuum.

Yet, despite these cautionary claims, it is impossible to ignore the increasing trend in the literature of researchers applying combined methodological approaches. …

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