Chapter 2: The Discovery of Grounded Theory in Practice: The Legacy of Multiple Mentors (Eleanor Krassen Covan)


(From The SAGE Handbook of Grounded Theory Part 1: Origins and History (Bryant, Charmaz))
April 21, 2020

  • Grounded theory is a method of understanding that is cumulative (58)
  • There are 3 dimensions: “individual biographies, history, and social structure”
  • The practice of GT is influences by multiple mentors and students of GT
  • “meaning is negotiated in the context of social interaction”

Social Behavioral Sciences @ UTSF (1974-1980)

  • Author’s experience as a student of GT
  • Initial teaching of GT from Strauss incorporated medical sociology; qualitative methods used in medical sociology
  • Types of field notes:
    • ON = observational notes; what we’re noticing in field
    • MN = Methodological notes; what we’re doing/need to do
    • TN = Theoretical notes; ideas to social setting
  • My interpretation and execution of GTM will be influenced by my educational and professional background; how do I become aware of this? Make it explicit?

The Rules of Sociological Method: Adumbrations of GT

This reading is like a research’s diary entries recollecting lectures in GT from multiple mentors.

  • Sociologists begin by critiquing other methods
  • Maybe I can do that too, to rationalize use of GTM for UX KM
  • Comparative process is critical for GT; comparative analysis precedes generating theoretical hypothesis; AKA theoretical sampling

Theoretical sampling: “Theoretical sampling is the process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyses his data and decides what to collect next and where to find them, in order to develop his theory as it emerges.

(Glaser and Strauss, 1967:45)
  • Theoretical development and comparative data analysis go hand-in-hand
  • Pre-determined groups cannot be made without data analysis
  • Theoretical sampling uses many comparison groups

Choices of comparison groups must therefore by altered, with the analysis of each relevant theoretical category

(Glaser and Strauss, 1967:55-60)
  • Difference between Glaser and Strauss vs. Durkheim was the kind of data they studied; primary vs. secondary

Individual Contributions

  • Glaser and Strauss brought in their individual contributions from their mentors in “The Discovery of Grounded Theory” text
  • Glaser was influenced by Merton and Lazarsfeld
  • Strauss was influenced by Blumer, Park, and Becker
  • Glaser said, “Grand theorizing without data was the wrong way to ‘do’ sociology”
  • The Discovery of Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss) led to 13 books on applications of GT by Glaser
  • GT is powerful — it can be used by researchers in disparate disciplines (ex. nursing, social work, management, high mathematics, international information networks) (Glaser, 2005b)
  • ^ Applies to KM of UX designers

Learning Grounded Theory

  • This is the author’s recollection of learning GT
  • The work that came after the original The Discovery of Grounded Theory “comes closer to a scripted set of directions [on how to conduct GTM].”
  • Ex. Axial coding, situational matrix…
  • GTM activities can seem like directions — Don’t get confused!

It seems like researcher’s understanding of GT depends on WHEN it was taught, by WHOM, and in which ENVIRONMENT. Where am I in the evolution of GT? It’s also influenced by researcher’s background knowledge on other literature even if a literature review for the study was not done.

  • Don’t stress about accurate recordings and transcripts. If it’s important, it will appear again.
  • GT is best performed by collaborating with mature theorists

Grounded Theory and Me

  • Design a codebook to code ethnographies
  • In order to perform GTM successfully, the data collected needs to be qualitative/descriptive
  • Do not collect data like it’s for quantitative analysis
  • Treat data as “scenes”

GTM is used in nursing and policy making. How does GT work in this discipline? How would it be used? Is it to understand how practices are done in this field? How would I say I am using GT for research in UX professional practices?

The text mentioned something about knowing the differences between properties and dimensions. Is this level of detail something I need to consider for my research too?

Reflection: Grounded theory seems very dynamic. it has moments of formality and interpretive flexibility. I think it’ll be more important to stay focused on documenting the journey with clear milestones to not get lost the theory development. I cannot stay too attached to particular data.