Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Grounded Theory: An Overview

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Grounded Theory: An Overview

Article excerpt

1. Qualitative and quantitative methodol ogies

Increase in the number of published qualitative papers in recent decades proves the rigor of qualitative methods in research. Qualitative methodologies "value the individual and celebrate the richness of personal lives" (Akbari, 2005, p.41) and perhaps this has been one of the main reasons for the change of shift towards qualitative methodology in recent decades. Laws and McLeod (2006), drawing on the work of Zuber - Skerritt, 1992, enumerated some paradigms for quantitative and qualitative methodologi es. For example, qualitative methodologies made it possible for the researchers to have a "naturalistic" view of human beings in the sense that, unlike quantitative methodologist, they are capable of conducting their research without setting an experiment or manipulating the variables. In addition, in this type of methodology, there is a r espect towards the phenomenon under the study because it can be studied "holistically", with regard to a large set of variables and in a context. Furthermore, qualitative methodology gives currency to the individuality of human beings by pursuing individual's perspective (idiographic view) and by trying to study them through appropriate yet vigorous methods (Interpretive view). All of these characteristics, as Laws and McLeod (2006) claimed, make qualitative methodology suitable for investigating the why of an issue rather than the how of it. In other words, unlike quantitative methods in which there is an attempt to test a hypothesis, the aim of the qualitative methods is to generate the hypothesis (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh, & Sorensen, 2006).

Qualitative methods can be of different types such as ethnography, case study, phenomenology, and grounded theory (GT) (Ary et al., 2006; Mackey & Gass, 2010). It has been stated that GT methods are "now among the most influential and widely used modes of carrying out qualitative research when generating theory is the researcher's principle aim" (Strauss and Corbin, as cited in Thomas & James, 2006, p. 2).

2. GT definition

In order to define a GT method, first proposing a definition for the term theory seems appropriate.

"A theory might be defined as asset of interrelated constructs and propositions that presents an explanation of phenomena and makes predictions about relationships am ong variables relevant to the phenomena" (Ary et al., 2006, p. 14). Goulding (1999) mentions Morse's (1994) description of a theory as the following:

A theory provides the best comprehensive, coherent and simplest model for linking diverse and unrelated facts in a useful and pragmatic way. It is a way of revealing the obvious, the implicit, the unrecognized and unknown. Theorizing is the process of constructing alternative explanations until a best fit is obtained that explains the data most simply. This involves asking questions of the data that will create links to established theory . (p.7)

Different researchers have defined GT through emphasizing on different terms. The following can be a sy nopsis of GT as defined by some of the researchers.

GT is an approach to research which discovers or generate a theory regarding social phenomena. The theory is generated from the data which has been obtained through investigating real-life situations relevant to the research problem. In other words, the, emergent, theory is grounded in the data and thus in the behavior, words and actions of those under the study. Thus contribution of GT to knowledge is not made through the existing theories but through developing a higher understanding of the phenomena under study. Th is understanding is achieved through a systematic analysis of the data collected from one or more sources or vantage points to help arriving at complete picture of the phenomena under investigation. (Ary et al., 2006; Lingard, Albert, & Levinson, 2008; Goulding, 1999; Gasson, 2003; Mackey & Gass, 2010)

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