Differences between approach, method and study in grounded theory

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    Could anyone here explain what is the differences of method, approach and study in grounded theory. I come accrossed people have used these different terms but wonder what is their variations. Thanks

    Enzo Nussio

    Hi Sureena,
    I am not quite sure about the terms you use but I suspect that the fundamental problem lies in the ambiguous name of grounded theory: On the one hand, it describes the theory itself that is the result of a certain activity (1), and on the other hand it describes the activity or methodology (2) that aims at producing such a theory.
    (1) The result of grounded theory is a “grounded theory”: “Theory denotes a set of well-developed categories (e.g., themes, concepts) that are systematically interrelated through statements of relationship to form a theoretical framework that explains some relevant social, psychological, educational, nursing, or other phenomenon” (Corbin and Strauss 1998, 22)
    (2) But grounded theory refers also to the principal elements of how to reach such a theory. These activities include specific elements of theoretical sampling, coding procedures etc. In this sense, grounded theory is a methodology, an activity, an approach, if you want, to eventually produce a “grounded theory” as defined above.
    I don’t know if I am clear enough here and if your problem is really due to this double character of GT, but I hope my comment helps you somehow.
    A good description of this double character can be found in the work of Strübing, I just know his German writings:
    Strübing, Jörg. 2008. Grounded theory: zur sozialtheoretischen und epistemologischen Fundierung des Verfahrens der empirisch begründeten Theoriebildung. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.
    Best. Enzo

    Helen Scott

    Hi Sureena,

    I use the Grounded Theory method to produce a Grounded Theory study.

    Grounded Theory is first and foremost a research method but the term ‘Grounded Theory’ is used in two ways; (1) if you adhere to the strictures of Grounded-Theory-the-research-method you will engage in a research process that will produce (2) a theory-which-is-grounded-in-data ie. a Grounded Theory. Thus both the research method and the output of the research process have the same name – which can be confusing!


    Some people who have used the Grounded Theory method to inform the design of their data collection and data analysis activities – but who have not adhered strictly to the tenets of the Grounded Theory method – might say they have used a Grounded Theory approach.

    Best wishes


    Thank you very much Halen, it is very clear explaination you provided.

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