All entries for Friday 20 November 2015
November 20, 2015
This week I have given Kathy Charmaz’s book “Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis” a first reading run through. The first reading run through is to mean an attempt at attaining a consensus or understanding as to the suitability of this flavour of Grounded Theory to my own (majority) qualitative research. From the first reading, I can confirm that this approach to Grounded Theory is very suitable for my own research project and the way that I perceive research and its role in understanding processes and reality itself. Reasons and arguments for this are in development, but I shall try to be as brief as I can with this blog post (Me, brief? Haha!)
Can a researcher really stand in a purely objective position when it comes to analysing their data? Can a researcher really detach themselves from their own perspectives of reality and their own subjective notations of reality and really analyse the data from an objective position? Can or should a qualitative researcher (important question for my own research) detach themselves from their own perspectives and consider only the perspectives of their participants? What is the role of the perspectives of the qualitative researcher, and what impact could these perspectives have on the research itself?
Constructivist Grounded Theory places both the researcher and participants’ perspectives as central to investigating the phenomenon of research interest. Charmaz takes the position that because of the constructivist, interpretivist style of Constructivist Grounded Theory, what is being constructed is an interpretation of the data or, in other words, what is being constructed is a theorising of the data, not a theory itself, through analysing and interpreting the data leading to the construction of codes and categories that explains what is going on, along with identifying and analysing relationships between these categories, memo writing processes, and saturating these categories till theoretical saturation has been achieved. This leads into subjectivity and not objectivity because there are no predetermined theoretical frameworks or theories being imposed upon the researcher’s lens of analysing the data, therefore the researcher simply analyses the data and interprets the data through developing those codes and categories that describes that the data an abstract level. There is no testing or experimentation of existing theories but there is a sense of inductive theoretical development through forming mini hypotheses as a result of analysing the data followed by testing these mini hypotheses through further data collection and analysis, which contributes to further theorising of the data and eventually leading to theoretical saturation.
What do I think of all this? Exciting in a way because I would not be imposing any theoretical frameworks or existing theories onto my analysis of the data, and I like this because I have always felt that if I used an existing theory or model of the learning process I would be quite limited in what I can really analyse and observe and this is something that I have picked up as a fundamental methodological problem in other literature. It is scary, there is no doubt about that, but I feel that this approach, and the flavour of Grounded Theory, is right for the context of my own research. Additionally, and as I said before, I am beginning to reject the notion of an objective reality. Being an interpretive or constructivist myself, I find that Constructivist Grounded Theory is compatible with my own perspectives of reality, and also the context of my research. My research is exploring a connection between Philosophy and Education (with Psychology and Technology thrown in) that has not really been considered, or theorised, much about before therefore it would probably be quite impossible to apply existing theories into my own research including the combination of existing theories. A new theory, or a new area of theorising, needs to be developed, and that is exactly what I am setting out to achieve. As I said, it is a scary approach, but at the same time the freedom of intellectual creativity and development inherent in Grounded Theory excites and fascinates me, and I am sure that I shall have a lot of fun with it, as well as head banging against the keyboard moments!
There might be a slight problem however: the questionnaire instrument that I have created is predominantly quantitative: most of the questions that I ask are of a variety that entails the collection of quantitative data, with the aim of exploring and identifying relationships between various constructs (variables) of the phenomenon being considered. I might have to increase the number of qualitative research questions in order to use this as further data for the qualitative analysis (Constructivist Grounded Theory can use a variety of text based documents as data: including extant literature), or find some way in which quantitative data could be used within a Constructivist Grounded Theory approach given that the original authors of Grounded Theory (Glass and Strauss) have suggested that Grounded Theory works with quantitative and qualitative data. Perhaps I might have to create my own interpretation of the Grounded Theory method that includes ideas from both Charmaz and Glass and Strauss. Books from other flavours of Grounded Theory shall be read through soon and I shall try to consider ways in which they could be included in my own version of Grounded Theory and whether or not this really is applicable.
As ever, lots to do, and as I have said I have given the book a first read through of specific chapters. The following readings of the book shall simply increase my understanding of the way to use Constructivist Grounded Theory in my research, and why it is applicable. The various arguments for and against this method and other methods shall be complimented by a full exploration of other relevant literature that explores the many aspects of Grounded Theory particularly Constructivist Grounded Theory. Along with thinking about the way that features of other flavours of Grounded Theory could be used whilst staying true to an interpretivist, constructivist perspective but if I have to shift along the Ontological and Epistemological spectrum towards the middle range of perspectives then that is what I shall do: I shall simply let the existing literature guide my thinking on this and try not to fit everything wthin any preexisting conceptions that I might have. Flexibility is a key characteristic of a Grounded Theorist or of any researcher, and this is something that needs to be heeded.
So then, where did I put my candles and coffee?
‘till next time folks, stay grounded, and theoretical, constructively speaking!