Rediscovering Grounded Theory (2014) by Barry Gibson and Jan Hartman

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    Subhi Ashour

    This is a significant text in grounded theory written with PhD and early career researchers in mind. The authors take what I would like to call a ‘purist’ approach to grounded theory by going back to the original grounded theory texts namely Discovery and Theoretical Sensitivity.  They also use ‘exemplar’ grounded theory texts to make their points on how to do grounded theory. Most chapters begin with learning outcomes and end with succinct summaries and there are highlights to keep the reader on track.  One of the authors’ main concerns is when a paper claims to be grounded theory when it has few of the characteristics of grounded theory.  They are clearly not in favour of a remodelling of grounded theory.

     The book comes in two main parts: part one discusses what grounded theory really is while part two goes into a discussion of the practicalities of doing grounded theory research. It takes the authors four chapters in part one to rediscover grounded theory.  The rediscovery is achieved through (1) establishing the basic tenets of grounded theory by going back to the main original grounded theory texts and what the authors of these texts put forward as their vision of grounded theory and (2) through discussing-and often refuting- trends in grounded theory (see for example chapter 3 on constructivism and grounded theory). This is of particular interest to PhD students new to the method. This is so because the authors situate grounded theory in relation to its original aspiration and juxtapose it with current debates and innovations in research in the social sciences. The reader gets an informed sense of what grounded theory does really look like and what its main assumptions are.

    Part two of the book takes the reader through a journey of doing grounded theory research. Some of the main themes explored in this part are theoretical sensitivity, theoretical sampling and coding. Coding, open selective and theoretical, is particularly well explicated in this book. The authors provide ample examples to illustrate the different levels of coding. Another significant point in grounded theory the authors tackle in this book is preconceptions. The authors help their readers, especially those new to the method, in coming to terms with preconceptions when doing grounded theory. In principle, everyone has their own preconceptions and the authors argue that researchers need to reflect on their preconceptions and acknowledge them, but avoid forcing these preconceptions on the emerging theory.    

    When I chose to read this text, I wanted to know more about coding in grounded theory, and whether it is possible, in principle,  to use the grounded theory strategies in coding in research other than grounded theory. After reading the text, you get the impression that grounded theory coding is meant to serve grounded theory research. A grounded theory perspective on coding is something that is not favoured in this particular text. All in all, this is a very interesting text and I expect it  will be an essential reading for those interested in and new to grounded theory research.  

    Lucia Sweet

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, Subhi!


    Thank you for the nice thoughts. 


    Good to know about. I will peruse, then suggest to students that I work with.


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