October 15, 2015

Initial thoughts about Constructivist Grounded Theory

The more I consider my own perspectives of reality and the way that researchers acquire knowledge of reality, the more I lean towards Grounded Theory as part of my Ph.D. research design. Grounded Theory, regardless of its flavour, is a research methodology that guides the researcher into constructing a theory of a phenomenon from an interpretation of the data itself using a series of codes, concepts and categories. It is a method of abstract and conceptual thinking where theory is built from these codes, concepts and categories and relies on logical, reasonable interpretations of the data and extensive documentation (in my case, the Ph.D. thesis and probably some part of the appendices).

Grounded Theory was originally a marriage between two different perspectives of reality from two different sociologists: Barney Glaser and his stance on Positivism, and Anseim Strauss and his stance on a more interpretivist approach, and eventually because of these differing stances they both professionally separated and promoted their own versions of Grounded Theory in a series of their respective publications. However, despite various flavours of Grounded Theory the variety that is currently receiving a lot of attention from me, and therefore selected as the preferred flavour of Grounded Theory, is Constructivist Grounded Theory, whose Philosophical roots lie in Pragmatism and Relativism and is developed by a student of Glaser and Strauss called Kathy Charmaz.

I first came across Constructivist Grounded Theory right at the beginning of the Ph.D. over a year ago but had not given it much thought at the time: what attracted me initially at the beginning was the term “constructivism,” which immediately suggests that some sort of marriage between the researcher, the participants, and the construction of reality. Now that I have gone back to re-examining my research design, Constructivist Grounded Theory is my favourite type of Grounded Theory so far. There are arguments made by various authors, particularly Glaser, that suggests that Constructivist Grounded Theory goes against the principles behind the development of Grounded Theory, but it can also be suggested that Grounded Theory was originally conceived at the time when Positivism and Realism were the dominant philosophies of research. Constructivist Grounded Theory was developed in the 1990s at a time when Social Science research paradigms began to lean more towards Constructivism, Interpretivism and Relativism based Philosophies.

I shall be using Constructivist Grounded Theory as part of my research design to build a new theory of the phenomenon being investigated, primarily because of the social constructivist orientation and also because it encourages the development of a literature review prior to data collection whereas the other varieties of Grounded Theory advocates the development of a literature review after the data collection and analysis and I do not really agree with that perspective.

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