Musing on Grounded Theory

As I am nearing the point where I need to submit my doctoral thesis research proposal idea by the end of the month, and then the first draft of the proposal itself by the end of February, I am starting to narrow down my seemingly endless options and consider what will hold my interest for the next two years, as well as what will have enough (workable) depth to allow me to leverage the results of this process in an academic context.

While considering this on my own, I am quite happy that Jane, one of my colleagues at Lancaster University and through the Twitter group #phdchat, is a few steps ahead of me on the path and is doing her own thinking about what appears to be our shared methodology of choice, grounded theory. Her most excellent recent post, Remodelling Grounded Theory – some quotes and the odd note, has me thinking again about some of the reasons why grounded theory started and continues to attract me.

I remember when I first encountered grounded theory through the work of Glaser, it seemed a little rigid and, dare I say it, almost quantitatively qualitative. I had the sense that he wanted his perspective of grounded theory to be objective, as if qualitative research can (or should) be objective, in any way. What does it mean to be objective when we are trying to understand meaning-making, much less so if we are intentionally trying to problematize it (which I mused on regarding transcription itself)?

With a little more learning and more experiences since then, though not necessarily more wisdom, I can now try to articulate a bit about what in Glaser’s work, especially in his essay Remodeling Grounded Theory, does not feel right with my perspective in this research. It seems Glaser works from a different paradigm than I do, and that is how I perceive a certain rigidity he seems to have with how grounded theory is used or understood. I can’t help but think that Glaser approaches grounded theory from a post-positivist perspective, where he seems to make meaning and derive theory about something by finding out what is already in the pattern of the experiences, as if it were objectively sitting there already awaiting his discovery, rather than he as researcher bringing the meaning to the phenomena.

While I am not clear what Glaser means in his reproach to the concept of “Qualitative Data Analysis,” though I think it has something to do with Denzin’s shift (thanks again to one of Jane’s links) that is well-articulated in the work of Kathy Charmaz  where the researcher is clearly a part of the grounded theory research process, with all that it entails.

I again agree with Jane, “More thoughts and deliberations to follow“!