A Critique of Using Grounded Theory as a Research Method


  • George Allan


Grounded Theory, codes, concepts, emerging categories, emergent theory


Grounded Theory is a powerful research method for collecting and analysing research data. It was 'discovered' by Glaser & Strauss (1967) in the 1960s but is still not widely used or understood by researchers in some industries or PhD students in some science disciplines. This paper demonstrates the steps in the method and describes the difficulties encountered in applying Grounded Theory (GT). A fundamental part of the analysis method in GT is the derivation of codes, concepts and categories. Codes and coding are explained and illustrated in Section 3. Merging the codes to discover emerging concepts is a central part of the GT method and is shown in Section 4. Glaser and Strauss's constant comparison step is applied and illustrated so that the emerging categories can be seen coming from the concepts and leading to the emergent theory grounded in the data in Section 5. However, the initial applications of the GT method did have difficulties. Problems encountered when using the method are described to inform the reader of the realities of the approach. The data used in the illustrative analysis comes from recent ISIT Case Study research into configuration management (CM) and the use of commercially available computer products (COTS). Why and how the GT approach was appropriate is explained in Section 6. However, the focus is on reporting GT as a research method rather than the results of the Case Study.



1 Jul 2003