Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Contrasting Classic, Straussian, and Constructivist Grounded Theory: Methodological and Philosophical Conflicts

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Contrasting Classic, Straussian, and Constructivist Grounded Theory: Methodological and Philosophical Conflicts

Article excerpt

Grounded Theory (GT) is an innovative methodology, consisting of three prevailing traditions: Classic, Straussian and Constructivist GT. Despite their significant divergence, the three factions of grounded theorists claim the same origin and continue to embrace a number of the original methodological techniques penned by Glaser and Strauss in the original GT text, The Discovery of Grounded Theory (1967). A detailed background of this history is available in the authors' previous article (Kenny & Fourie, 2014). Although this present article is concentrating on the distinctions which differentiate these three factions of GT, it is imperative to first acknowledge their points of methodological convergence and identify a number of the foundational GT concepts (as featured in the original Classic GT publication in 1967), which Straussian and Constructivist GT continue to embrace and endorse.

Points of Convergence

The original textbook of GT (The Discovery of Grounded Theory, 1967) outlined that at the preliminary stages of a study, the researcher should only make choices regarding the initial gathering of data rather than predetermining the entire procedure of data collection from the outset of the study (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Glaser and Strauss (1967) contended that decisions regarding data collection cannot be entirely prearranged because the analysis of data will reveal the need for more data. This becomes evident at a number of stages throughout the research. Firstly, as data are initially coded and categorized, gaps will become evident, thereby identifying the specific need for further evidence in a particular sphere (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Secondly, during the simultaneous collecting, coding, and analysis of data, unexpected concepts may emerge which change the direction of the study considerably, thereby redirecting the research, and necessitating further data-collection that could not have been anticipated in advance. Finally, as the underlying hypothesis begins to surface, gaps in the emerging theory will become evident to the researcher, who subsequently identifies the specific need for further evidence in a particular sphere. As a consequence, the researcher's progressive research sample will be guided by these unfolding identifications rather than predetermined at the outset of the study. Glaser and Strauss (1967) named this evolving process theoretical sampling. This procedure of theoretical sampling continues until the point of saturation, when the analysis has been exhausted and no new data are emerging. Significantly, these precepts remain intrinsic to Classic, Straussian and Constructivist GT as they each contend that the research sample cannot be predetermined; instead, it must be a theoretical sample, dynamically led by the emerging theory until the point of saturation.

The original GT methodology (1967) forged a very specific approach to analysing data which is underlined by the method of constant comparison. As raw data are meticulously analysed line by line, every incident in the data is coded with a conceptual label. These codes are collated into a plethora of categories denoting higher-level concepts. Glaser and Holton1 identified that as the researcher is simultaneously collecting, coding, analyzing and categorizing data, she is engaged in three levels of constant comparisons (Glaser & Holton, 2004; Holton, 2010):

1) Codes are compared with codes,

2) Codes are compared with emerging categories, and

3) Categories are compared with one another.

At the latter stages of research, Glaser and Holton (2004; Holton 2010) suggest that comparative analysis encompasses a final dimension (which the authors suggests could be depicted as the fourth tier of the constant comparative technique):

4) The emerging theory is compared with the literature.

Glaser and Strauss insisted that this dance of the collection, coding and analysis of data, punctuated by the beat of the constant comparison should "blur and intertwine continually, from the beginning of an investigation to its end" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. …

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