Creative Methods Q & A #3

Categories: Creative Methods, Focus Series, MethodSpace Live!, Multimodal, Other, Qualitative

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Creative and Arts-Based Methods are a focus for June and July. Find the whole series here, and follow the link to view the recorded webinar, Get Creative! Research with Pictures & Stories.

More questions were posed during the Get Creative! Research with Pictures & Stories webinar than we had time to discuss. I will answer them in a series of posts. 

Q. Are creative methods useful for a grounded theory method?
Researchers using grounded theory typically collect multiple types of data, so it would seem that multimodal creative methods would be a good fit. I I did a little sleuthing and hope these how-to resources and examples will be helpful if you are considering this kind of design.

I am posting a link to a SAGE Research Methods Reading List about grounded theory. It includes chapters, cases, and videos about using visual and other methods. If your library doesn’t have a subscription, and you would like to access the materials listed here, explore SAGE Research Methods with a free trial. Also, find a selection of articles that illustrate how researchers in very different fields are thinking about and conducting creative grounded theory studies. Alas, not all of these articles are open access.

SAGE Reading List on Grounded Theory

Articles on Creative or Arts-Based Grounded Theory Research

Grounded theory and the analysis of audio-visual texts (Figueroa, 2008)
Abstract. The aim of this article is to propose a methodological basis for the analysis of audio-visual, media-produced data. Based on the difference between the use of audio-visual material as a ‘lens’ through which a certain phenomenon is studied and the study of audio-visual data as a phenomenon in itself, ways are suggested to make use of the grounded theory research method for the study of this specific kind of data, while at the same time still respecting its nature. After discussing the difference between these two possible uses of audio-visual data for research purposes (as a ‘lens’ or as the phenomenon itself), a research procedure based on the grounded theory and Herbert Blumer’s ‘analytical elements’ is proposed for the study of audio-visual media data as a phenomenon in itself.

Evaluation of a multi-modal grounded theory approach to explore patients’ daily coping with breathlessness due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Jørgensen, Dahl, Pedersen, & Lomborg, 2012)
Abstract. Conventional methods have not yet succeeded in capturing the complexity of how people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cope with breathlessness during daily living. We used a multi-modal grounded theory (GT) approach to investigate coping. In this paper, we describe and evaluate the multi-modal GT approach, which encompasses videos of daily life activity, interviews, medical history, demographics, self-rated sensation of breathlessness, and physiological measurements. A formative evaluation was conducted according to the criteria that the data collection should strengthen the participants’ ability to remember and narrate how they cope with breathlessness; capture the multidimensional aspects involved in coping with breathlessness; encompass tools for collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, providing the opportunity to generate, synchronize, and combine data; and be ethically justifiable. The approach should also be consistent with the GT methodology of generating a theory. Striving to develop and perfect the multi-modal GT approach was time-consuming. Apart from this practical challenge, the multimodal GT approach met all evaluation criteria. This approach has the potential to generate new knowledge and may become an important methodological contribution towards understanding the multidimensionality of coping with breathlessness.

Grounded theory as a methodology and method of analyzing visual communication (Kautt, 2017)
Abstract. My contribution focuses on grounded theory methodology (GTM) as a methodology and method of analyzing visual communication. In addition to existing GTM concepts, which link the topic of visibility to actor-related practices, the question of how GTM can be used for a sociological hermeneutics of visually designed objects in the widest sense (things, bodies, pictures, etc.) is discussed. Present understanding of the subject identifies the social complexity of objects as a central reference point of methodological and methodic change of perspective towards a GTM of visual communication (GTMVK). In my examination of the terms practice and structure I discuss to what extent a wider and more systematic inclusion of sociological structural descriptions in the methodological framework of GT and its research practice is indispensable if it wants to accommodate the complexity of its data.

Modeling the creative process: A grounded theory analysis of creativity in the domain of art making (Mace & Ward, 2002)
Abstract. In recent years a number of researchers have attempted to model the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and contextual factors associated with the making of a work of art. However, very few studies have actually focused on understanding and describing what artists actually do during the creation of an artwork. Therefore, in this study grounded theory was used to investigate this phenomenon and to develop a descriptive model of the art-making process. In Study 1, 16 professional visual artists were interviewed over the course of making a work of art, which provided a descriptive database of their working processes from the inception to the completion of the artwork. Grounded theory was used to analyze the data and to develop a dynamic, descriptive model of the art-making process. A second study involving 9 artists was undertaken to determine the validity of this model. The results suggested that the model has adequate content validity and sufficient scope to accommodate the working processes of a range of artists. 

Visual Grounded Theory: A Methodological Outline and Examples from Empirical Work (Koneck, 2011)
Abstract. Grounded theory has not usually been associated with the extensive use of visual data. The author of the paper wants to present a basic introduction to methodological concepts and procedures, which allow researchers to incorporate visual data in their analyses while designing their research projects within the framework of grounded theory. The author also discusses the different approaches of visual data analysis that use the name of grounded theory but do not in fact perform the analysis according to its basic principles. At the outset, the author describes some inspirations that have come from a few researchers who have used the visual data in constructing theories in the grounded theory methodology style of analysis. The status of visual data and a methodological model of visual data analysis in grounded theory (multislice imagining) is also described. The multislice imagining is a grammar of visual narrations analysis that accents the following stages: a) an act of creating pictures and images (analysis of context of creation); b) participation in demonstrating/communicating visual images; c) the visual product, its content and stylistic structure; d) the reception of an “image” and visual aspects of presenting/ representing something. Next, procedures of analyzing the visual data to generate categories on visual processes (transcription, open coding and memo writing) are presented. The presentation is based on examples from the author’s two research projects on a visualization of yoga practice and on a visualization of homelessness. The author also presents a selective coding of visual cases and empirical materials together with theoretical memo examples and comparative analysis. The last described procedure is a theoretical sampling indicating how and where to look for visual data to generate the properties of the category. The paper will end with conclusions and some remarks on future prospects of visual grounded theory.

Analysing image-based data using grounded theory: the Negotiating Resilience Project (Liebenberg, Didkowsky, & Ungar, 2012)
Abstract. The use of image-based methods in social science research is gaining increasing prominence, with much being written about the implementation of these methods in the field. To date however, little has been published regarding the integration of analysis frameworks and images. Increasingly, images are being used in research with marginalised and historically silenced communities as a means of accessing experiences and processes previously unarticulated, exploring the taken-for-granted, and facilitating participant voice in research. Where data sets centre around both narrative and visual data, and where the subjective construction of experience becomes the focus of analysis, grounded theory analytic techniques that emphasise reciprocity with participants can help to generate explanations for patterns of behaviour. In this article we present an exemplar of image-based data analysis using grounded theory. We discuss the process adopted by the Negotiating Resilience Project (NRP) in five countries, of using a social constructionist approach to grounded theory in the analysis of both visual (i.e. video and photographic) and the resulting narrative data.

From text to image—shaping a visual grounded theory methodology (Mey & Dietrich, 2016)
Abstract. Qualitative social and cultural research is increasingly engaging with visual data. Starting from the premise “all is data” in grounded theory methodology (GTM), we propose a general framework to realize a visual grounded theory methodology (VGTM). Referring to exploratory visual methods based on objective hermeneutics, the documentary method, and segment analysis, as well as existing GTM discourses, we discuss how this text-centered procedure can be applied to visual data. We focus on the (re)formulation of procedural steps (such as making an inventory, segmentation and coding, memo writing, and sampling strategies), and the examination of images in relation to GTM logic.

Reference List

Figueroa, S. K. (2008). The grounded theory and the analysis of audio-visual texts. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 11(1), 1-12. doi:10.1080/13645570701605897

Jørgensen, L. B., Dahl, R., Pedersen, P. U., & Lomborg, K. (2012). Evaluation of a multi-modal grounded theory approach to explore patients’ daily coping with breathlessness due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Journal of Research in Nursing, 18(5), 423-440. doi:10.1177/1744987111427418

Kautt, Y. (2017). Grounded theory as a methodology and method of analyzing visual communication. Forum Qualitative Research, 18(3). doi:

Koneck, K. T. (2011). Visual grounded theory: A methodological outline and examples from empirical work. Revija za sociologiju, 41(2), 131-160.

Liebenberg, L., Didkowsky, N., & Ungar, M. (2012). Analysing image-based data using grounded theory: the Negotiating Resilience Project. Visual Studies, 27(1), 59-74. doi:10.1080/1472586X.2012.642958

Mace, M.-A., & Ward, T. (2002). Modeling the creative process: A grounded theory analysis of creativity in the domain of art making. Creativity Research Journal, 14(2), 179-192. doi:10.1207/S15326934CRJ1402_5

Mey, G., & Dietrich, M. (2016). From text to image—shaping a visual grounded theory methodology. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2). doi:

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