Academic journal article Asian Social Science

An Overview of Grounded Theory Design in Educational Research

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

An Overview of Grounded Theory Design in Educational Research

Article excerpt


Over past decades, grounded theory is increasingly popular in a broad range of research primarily in educational research. The current paper aims to provide useful information for the new-comers and fit them well in grounded theory research. This paper starts with definitions, origin and applications of grounded theory, followed by types of grounded theory research designs and the key characteristics of grounded theory. Other aspects covered include data collection and data analysis, general steps, and ethical issues in grounded theory. Discussions on the strengths and limitations of grounded theory, as well as evaluation aspects, are found in the last part of this paper.

Keywords: grounded theory, educational research, research design, qualitative research

1. Introduction

Grounded theory is a form of qualitative research designs. Lincoln and Denzin (2005) viewed qualitative research as a practice of examining studied subjects in natural settings and then transforming and making sense of the studied phenomenon through the interpretation of gathered field notes, photographs, conversations, and the other similar representations (as cited in Greg et al., 2013). Qualitative research is also concerned about an individual's assumptions and values, thus it tends to gather enriched data for data interpretation (Hancock, 1998). Grounded theory was advocated and developed by Strauss and Glaser in the last century, in the 1960s (Birks & Mills, 2011). At that time, Strauss and Glaser conducted social science research in hospitals on death awareness. They were trying to produce a new theory rather than verify the existing theory. Based on their research, the grounded theory has begun to be established.

According to Opie (2004), grounded theory is a process of collecting qualitative data and undertaking data analysis to generate categories (a theory) to explain a phenomenon of interested. As the theory is generated from the collected data, it could not be a discrepancy from truth. Similarly, Creswell (2012) viewed grounded theory as a powerful tool when a researcher needs a broad theory or explanation of a natural phenomenon. Creswell (2012) also viewed that the emerging theory is "grounded" or rooted in the data, thus it will provide a more sophisticated explanation than a theory derived from other studies. Thus, grounded theory design can be used when the current available theories fail to describe the phenomenon of interested (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Apart from creating new theories, grounded theory could be viewed as a process to examine data in order to discover theories that contained within (Bound, 2011). Furthermore, grounded theory is applicable to complex behavioral problems even though the contributor factors have not been identified (Stern, 1980). Besides, the created theory has the advantage of to be consistent with empirical evidence due to its nature of rooted in the real data (Eisenhardt, 1989).

According to Bryant and Charmaz (2007), grounded theory design arguably turns up to be the most common and popular qualitative approach. Moreover, grounded theory research has been successfully conducted in many educational studies (Laws & McLeod, 2004). For instances, to seek the life model of physicists and chemists, the nature of a prestigious school, effective counseling, and a school principal's leadership.

2. Types of Grounded Theory Designs

In order to produce high quality grounded theory research, researchers need to understand the grounded theory paradigm and the nature of the study. As advised by Mills et al. (2006), researchers should select a research design paradigm that is parallel with their beliefs about the nature of the phenomenon of interested. Basically, there are three dominant grounded theory designs, namely the systematic design, the emerging design, and the constructivist design (Creswell, 2012).

2.1 The Systematic Design

This type of grounded theory design is broadly applied in educational research (Creswell, 2012). …

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