My question is whether the descriptive analysis is a part of grounded theory?

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    My question is whether the descriptive analysis is a part of grounded theory?


    Hi Majddi,

    The answer to your question is that it depends what kind of grounded theory you are using. Over time three grounded theory methodologies have emerged. They include the method described by Strauss and Corbin (a more confirmatory slant on the method), Charmaz’s version (more descriptive in nature) and Classic Grounded Theory which stays tight within the confines of theory development (written by Barney Glaser).

    In both Strauss and Charmaz’s grounded theory styles tend to include more descriptive analysis. The method written about by Charmaz seems to be the most firmly rooted in qualitative data analysis and there for analysis is more descriptive in nature.

    Classic Grounded Theory has at its heart a goal of transcending data. Using Glaser’s analysis methods the researcher looks for patterns of behavior instead of details from data. The result is that that description of data is limited to only short excerpts from the data used to illustrate found behavior patterns.

    There is a lot of literature that you can read but unfortunately most declares that they use grounded theory without necessarily discerning the difference between the three main authors and grounded theory styles. Digging deeper is strongly advised to anyone undertaking a grounded theory study.

    As I am predominantly a Classic Grounded Theory researcher I can point you to three webpages that are accurate and informative (a source of contact and information from Classic Grounded Theory Fellows) (Created and maintained by Barney Glaser) (A journal that publishes Classic Grounded Theory Articles)

    Any of these three methods may be more or less suitable for you depending on your research purposes, goals and area of interest. Good luck.


    Francisco Vieira

    Hi Majddi,

    I think that the Tina’s answer is fantastic!



    Hi Tina,
    Thank you very much for your gorgeous answer. You have helped me and thanks again for your prompt reply.


    I found it helpful to look at other Classic Grounded Theory dissertations and Glaser’s early studies. Through these I was able to figure out how to write up my study results. To educate my committee I conducted a departmental seminar to inform them of the method and how it is fundamentally different than either qualitative or quantitative research. Finally attending seminars with Dr. Glaser (which are still conducted twice a year in the states) increased my credibility with my committee. All of these things I used to argue for an altered dissertation format, defense of the method itself and educate my committee prior to defending my study.

    I found that writing the dissertation was both about proving my abilities to conduct and produce a credible body of research and exhibiting autonomous behaviors among my peers and committee to show I was ready to be an independent researcher. This phenomena might be specifically one valued in the U.S. as I am not fully familiar with the Ph.D. processes in other countries.

    I would like to know about the process in other countries. Do you feel a similar need to prove your ability to be autonomous? Because I was on campus most days I did work closely with my committee and ‘acting like one of them’ was, i think, a part of the proving ground of my work.


    Dear Tina: You are a real expert on the grounded theory and its versions. Taking into account functions ascribed to it, it is naturally to suppose that it has complex composition.
    Could I ask you to enumerate and, if possibly, to characterize briefly the components/structures of the thing called a ‘grounded theory’?
    Thank you.


    If I understand you correctly you are asking me to describe what the ‘end product’ of the study is? If that is the case I will give you what I would consider to be the answer although I am not sure all would agree.

    I think it depends on the type of study you have conducted..I feel that the result of a study that employed Classic Grounded Theory is a theory of an identified pattern of human behavior. This theory is as any scientific theory open for for further testing and refinement. This result is a theoretical framework much like the theoretical framework we write into all of the papers/articles we write.

    Dr. Glaser suggests that the theoretical framework may or may not be applied to further confirmatory research studies. I usually think about my results in terms of how I can create confirmatory studies as follow up-ie develop an instrument or additional studies employing other quantitative or qualitative methods but there are plenty of classic grounded theorists who do many grounded theory studies on varying topics instead.

    Much of what I have read in the mainstream literature has not properly applied the methodology in the first place and as a result did not seem to end up with a theoretical framework. The fundamental organizational difference of a Classic Grounded Theory paper is because the result is a theoretical framework…The classic literature defined problem, literature review, methodology, results, discussion model does not fit the development of a theoretical framework-A literature defined problem means that you are filtering your research population’s main concern and therefore will be unlikely to see their behavioral reactions to resolving their real concern (literature does not always get it right). A literature review also creates a front end filter by which you are viewing data collection and information. In a Classic Grounded Theory study a piece of literature is a data point-no more-no less. the contents of a result and discussion chapter are fundamentally different when you are writing a theoretical framework instead of a result by which reliability and validity needs to be defended. Reliability and validity is reserved for confirmatory studies.

    I think that this idea of a third type of research is not a commonly held understanding and thus difficult to get through a peer review process successfully. I have yet to see ‘theory’ be included in Ph.D. coursework.

    Vlad-If I have missed the purpose of your question and you were referring to a greater description of the method itself I would recommend going to the grounded theory online webpage. Helen Scott and I hold regular beginner online seminars for those interested in learning more about Classic Grounded Theory (for a nominal fee). We are also developing an online asynchronous course for those interested in digging deeper into understanding the method.

    As I said at the beginning all may not agree with me here..and other types of grounded theory studies result in different ‘things’.



    Thank you.
    I agree that it is possible to consider a ‘grounded theory’ as an ‘end product’ of the study.
    It is conceivable also to consider a ‘grounded theory’ as an instrument. It directs particular studies and helps to interpret their results. Moreover, some studies lead to elaborating this instrument. From this point of view, my question is: What is the composition of this instrument?
    It seems to me, that this question is reasonable in the philosophy of science. There are many answers to it. Let me mention some of them.
    According to the informal approach, theory consists of concepts.
    According to the standard reconstruction, theory is a logically ordered system of propositions.
    According to the structuralist approach, theory is a system of abstract models.
    According to the structure-nominative reconstruction, theory is a system that includes many hierarchically ordered subsystems (logical, linguistic, model, problem, operational, axiological etc).
    Is it possible to fill lacunas in the following sentence?
    According to the ground theory approach, theory is/consists of ……….


    First of all- I think you have misinterpreted my statement…I said that A grounded theory can be used to develop an instrument..that is a next step not the theory itself or the initial product of a Classic Grounded Theory study.

    Now onto your discussion of ‘theory’

    I know that I can interpret many of the listed definitions you have here in a variety of ways just on sight. I could given a few days and the will to do so probably align grounded theory in any one or more of the defined ‘philosophical paradigms of theory’. As I said in my previous post very simply but perhaps worded differently this time..A Classic Grounded Theory is an identified pattern of behavior prompted by a focus population’s main concern.

    Much of those different points of view and attempts to define and position theory you have listed seem to be an example of ‘rhetorical wrestle’ as Dr. Glaser would term it. Can we not take the aforementioned definition of Classic Grounded Theory at face value? Dr. Glaser says that undue focus on arguing about what Classic Grounded Theory is or where it fits in the realm of philosophical thought and idea takes time away from actually collecting and analyzing data. I agree here as that work actually increases one’s understanding of the methodology and product in much greater fashion than wrestling with the deeper meaning or ideological alignment of it does.

    Additionally the act of positioning Classic Grounded Theory into a ‘camp’ or defined pigeonhole delimits a researchers flexibility and forces a point of view that may negatively impact his/her ability to remain open to the concerns and behaviors of those exhibited in the data.

    I once had an examiner ask me and I am paraphrasing here: what makes you think you can develop theory. Darwin did theory. How can a grounded theory even come close?

    So perhaps I will ask you? Where does Darwin’s theory sit in your list of definitions? Your question has me trying to remember where my Origin of Species book is so that I can see if he felt the need to define theory before he documented his patterns of observation on paper. Do you know?


    This is really a good discussion about the grounded theory. The grounded theory is always confusing researchers. They think the grounded theory is the best tool that works with their data analysis. However, they realised later at he end it was not the right method for their analysis.

    There is a big concern on how to make the grounded theory the best instrument for analysing the data when the researcher has already predetermined what he/she wants from using data collection tools.

    I am looking for an answer on how to use grounded theory for analysing interview questions or observations when the researcher has already known what he/she is looking for from the data? And is it possible to use some grounded theory processes such as selecting themes and coding, etc. without following the theory from the scratch?

    These things really should be clear to every researcher how not to misjudge using grounded theory with the other theories.


    looking at observational and interview data for themes can be just that a ‘thematic qualitative research analysis’. That is not using grounded theory and it is completely OK to do that.



    In descriptive analysis is related to Quantitative research

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