The literature review in grounded theory

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    Ahmad Salih

    As many of us know, there is a debate on the suitability of the literature review in GT studies. 

    I know there are numerous papers on this topic, but I’m interested in learning about the perspectives of the members of this group.


    Dr Mike Lambert

    Ahmad, an interesting paper on this is:


    McGhee, G., Marland, G.R. and Atkinson, J. (2007). Grounded theory research: literature reviewing and reflexivity. Journal of Advanced Nursing 60(3), pp.334-342.


    The authors examine two possibilities – using literature as data in theory building, and doing a literature review in the normal way, before theory building takes place.  They do not come to a conclusion about which is better.  In my thesis on difficulty and challenge in curriculum for gifted students I argued a pragmatic approach, using literature wherever it was useful – before, during and after the investigation.


    Clive Sims

    Personally i think engaging in a piece of research without reviewing the literature is like going to sea without a chart – you’ll end up on the rocks.


    Hi Colleagues,

    I like to take the GT perspective beginning at the beginning of the study and use it throughout. (I believe there is no such thing as theory free observation.)Thus, the articles found in the literature become data along with everything else. As an example, in 1993 I used a meta-modeling approach in my dissertation; I constructed a new meta model, using a GT process, from implicit and explicit models in the literature (reference:

    Johnson, R. B. (1998). Toward a theoretical model of evaluation utilization. Evaluation and Program Planning: An International Journal, 21, 93-110. ).

    In a recent article some colleagues and I provide some thoughts for a mixed methods grounded theory approach (MM-GT). Here is the reference: 

    Johnson, R. B., McGowan, M. W., & Turner, L. A. (2010). Grounded theory in practice: Is it inherently a mixed method? Research in the Schools, 17(2), 65-78. 



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