Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Grounded Theory and the Constant Comparative Method: Valid Research Strategies for Educators

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Grounded Theory and the Constant Comparative Method: Valid Research Strategies for Educators

Article excerpt

Grounded theory was developed by Glaser and Strauss who believed that theory could emerge through qualitative data analysis. In grounded theory, the researcher uses multiple stages of collecting, refining, and categorizing the data. The researcher uses the strategies of the making constant comparisons and applying theoretical sampling to obtain a theory grounded in the data. The justification of this paper is to provide discussion on the validity of grounded theory and the constant comparative method as effective research strategies for educators. The qualitative design of grounded theory will be the focus of this paper, along with a discussion of the constant comparative method, issues related to trustworthiness, and limitations inherent in grounded theory methodology

Keywords: qualitative research, grounded theory, constant comparative method, education research, qualitative methodology

INTRODUCTION

Grounded theory is one of four qualitative designs frequently used in the human and social sciences; the other designs are ethnographies, case studies, and phenomenological studies. The major difference between grounded theory and the other designs is the emphasis on theory development (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). The qualitative design of grounded theory will be the focus of this paper, along with a discussion of the constant comparative method, issues related to trustworthiness, and limitations inherent in grounded theory methodology.

Grounded theory was developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss who believed that theory could emerge through qualitative data analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). In grounded theory the researcher uses multiple stages of collecting, refining, and categorizing the data (Strauss & Corbin). As identified in the literature, making constant comparisons and applying theoretical sampling are necessary strategies used for developing grounded theory (Creswell, 2007; Locke, 1996; Strauss & Corbin; Taylor & Bogdan, 1998).

Constant Comparative Method

The constant comparative method is used by the researcher to develop concepts from the data by coding and analyzing at the same time (Taylor & Bogdan, 1998). The constant comparative method "combines systematic data collection, coding, and analysis with theoretical sampling in order to generate theory that is integrated, close to the data, and expressed in a form clear enough for further testing" (Conrad, Neumann, Haworth, & Scott, 1993, p. 280). Constant comparative methodology incorporates four stages: "(1) comparing incidents applicable to each category, (2) integrating categories and their properties, (3) delimiting the theory, and (4) writing the theory" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 105). Throughout the four stages of the constant comparative method, the researcher continually sorts through the data collection, analyzes and codes the information, and reinforces theory generation through the process of theoretical sampling. The benefit of using this method is that the research begins with raw data; through constant comparisons a substantive theory will emerge (Glaser & Strauss). Grounded theory is a labor-intensive task that requires the researcher to invest time in the processes of analysis and data collection.

DATA COLLECTION

Data can be collected from observations, interviews or other research sessions (Bogdan & Biklen, 2006). During the process of gathering data the researcher can employ a variety of methods to elicit information pertaining to the study. The techniques commonly identified in the literature for collecting data are document collecting, participant observing, and interviewing (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992).

Document Collecting

Collecting written documents provide a source of information such as meeting dates or events as well as in-depth descriptions of how individuals think about their world. The research examines written documents to gain a deeper understanding and description of the participant's convictions, conduct, and experiences (Bodgan & Biklen, 2006). …

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