Book reviews

Gibson, Barry / Hartman, Jan. Rediscovering Grounded Theory. (2013) London. Sage. Pp 280

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    petr matousek

    Gibson, Barry / Hartman, Jan. Rediscovering Grounded Theory. (2013) London. Sage. Pp 280

    Reviewer: Petr Matoušek


    Rediscovering. That is the word, which brought me to reading this book. Nowadays many authors use the preposition “Re”. Rethinking is the most common, I know that, but what rediscovering means? Does it mean that Grounded Theory was forgotten? By whom? I learnt about Grounded Theory at school and yes, I forgot most of it, but the lesson still goes on… The meaning of rediscovering is not connected with forgetting but with something else; with confusion. There are many different approaches to Grounded Theory. Every author of new approach must build his own version against a previous version of Grounded Theory (p. 44). But both authors of this book are not only writing against the new approaches…..

    In introduction of their book authors ground the method in sociological and philosophical context. Beginning of part I of the book is about theory (What kind of Theory is Grounded Theory?) and constructivism (Constructivism in Grounded Theory). According to my opinion the term rediscovering means here rediscovering Grounded Theory in the way in which that method was discovered. Every action in process of Grounded Theory means rediscovering in context. Action (i.e. making categories, coding…) represents for both authors not only technical tool, but action linked to historical and theoretical ground (background). I believe that this book is not only about Grounded Theory but in its first part it also deals mainly with qualitative research in general. 

    Part I

    The first part of the book is called “What is Grounded Theory?” Structure of four chapters in this part is similar. The chapter begins with review of what was written about any topic in general literature dealing with Grounded Theory. Then authors explore what was written in Discovery (Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Chicago: Aldine) and Theoretical Sensitivity (Glaser, B. (1978) Theoretical Sensitivity: Advances in the Methodology of Grounded Theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press). They go beyond these texts and clarify the meaning of topic in relation to Grounded Theory. Authors connect current version of Grounded Theory to original one. In this moment is good to ask: what is the original version? For authors it is Discovery but often is mentioned also Theoretical sensitivity. The authors work with both of them.

    The main goal of first part of the book is to clarify the meaning of such important terms as concept, categories, and codes. First and second chapters are different in some aspects. Not in structure but the difference consists in their topic. Topics of these two chapters do not speak about terms of Grounded Theory but about something else. The chapter 2, with which part I starts, deals with topic of Grounded Theory as a whole. In this chapter, and I believe that it is underlying chapter of the whole book for understanding authors point of view, is explained what are the existing views on Grounded Theory and what are its core aspects. The chapter 3 deals with important approach to Grounded Theory – constructivism. The question is why one chapter is dedicated only to constructivist Grounded Theory and other forms are omitted? For example – when authors write about theoretical coding in Grounded Theory, – “how different categories are integrated and organized into explaining how the core concern is resolved” – this reminds ATN theory/methodology. According to my opinion it is possible to rediscover Grounded Theory not only under method called Grounded Theory (constructivist grounded theory) but rediscovery is possible also through rethinking another methods – ANT, Reflexive methodology, ethnography etc. The part I is missing inclusion of Grounded Theory in postmodern qualitative methodology.

    Part II

    The part II is also based on original texts of Grounded Theory, but this part is focused on processing grounded theory. It represents practical guidance on how to use Grounded Theory. 10 chapters offer possibilities of how to work in grounded theory mode and explain how practicing of Grounded Theory is done by examples of texts which are based on Grounded Theory principles. Authors use these examples very clearly and understandingly and therefore this practical guide is not only about five or ten principles or steps of how to guide your project from start to finish. Each chapter in part II is very closely connected with chapters in part I. So are for example connected chapter 5 Coding in Grounded Theory (part I) and chapter 9 Rediscovering coding in Grounded Theory (part II). We find subchapter Open coding in both this chapters. In part I is this field applied on rules of coding in Glaser´s Theoretical Sensitivity (p. 92) and the field in part II is applied on  finding data and recognizing the  connection with your project (p. 153). The rules from part I are presented throughout whole chapter in part II and translated into skills and tips (162). For this reason is good to read the book as a whole and not only its second part.


    The book is in my opinion useful to students or those who are new in field of Grounded Theory but not only to them. Especially the first part represents very clear and detailed study of original emphasis and readers would explore or rediscover new context of original texts. This first part of Rediscovery offers readers chance to rethink not only the essence of Grounded Theory but also Construnctivist Grounded Theory. I use myself this book with my students in my class of method of qualitative research.  

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