Sunday, January 4, 2009

Grounded Theory Is For Theorizing, Dummy!

How do I begin?

An analogy.

I was walking around surveying the dimensions of a large castle. I stepped inside the main entrance, looked around the large entryway, the inner garden, walked through the hallways and decided to go into one of the rooms. I opened the door, stuck my head to look inside, and suddenly, I found myself in the entrance to yet another giant mansion.

This was what happened to me.

Two weeks ago, I started to read Barney Glaser (1992), and realized that I could not ignore his ranting against Strauss & Corbin (1990, 1st ed.). As much as I enjoyed Corbin & Strauss (2008, 3rd ed.), if I were to be a true scholar, I had to take Glaser's words more seriously. After all, he was the first author of the first book on Grounded Theory, "The Discovery of Grounded Theory" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)--a book which I had not read because when I tried to do so, I could not understand it, and I thought that a latter edition (i.e. Corbin & Strauss, 2008) would be more "up to date."

How wrong I was.

Almost everyone I have talked to (and some dissertations I have read) that have used grounded theory has treated it as a one possible methodology in qualitative research. In fact, some qualitative textbooks also seem to treat it that way. Yet, given everything that I have read so far in Grounded Theory (works using GT, as well as method books on GT), I am coming to realize that GT is not just a method for doing qualitative research, it is a methodology for generating theory using qualitative or quantitative data.

I repeat: Grounded Theory is not just one of several qualitative methods, it is a methodology for a very specific purpose: to generate theory! Thus, it is called Grounded Theory.


Those Creswell texts that put GT as one method amongst others are not correct, especially if we are to properly understand the purpose for which GT was originally conceived (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). GT is for generating theory, therefore, it should not be placed alongside phenomenology or case study methods. Doing so is misleading.

No wonder Barney Glaser sounded like a raving madman in "Emergence vs. Forcing" (1992): he was yelling "wrong, wrong, wrong!" (to Strauss & Corbin who were turning the method into conceptual description, and thus, one of the many variants of qualitative methods).

I get it, Barney. Thanks for hollering.

I've read Corbin & Strauss (2008), "Awareness of Dying" (Glaser & Strauss, 1964) and I've ordered Glaser's "Theoretical Sensitivity" (1978) through interlibrary loan. Yes, interlibrary loan! This is a very important book in the corpus of GT texts, and my university doesn't own a copy of it. Go figure!

I digressed.

Right now, I'm reading the original first edition of GT, "Discovery" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Mind you, the entire title of that book is "The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research." No wonder people are misled. But now that I've read enough on GT to be able to understanding "Discovery" (1967), I see that Glaser's (1992) ranting was justified. He and Strauss had already made all those claims in 1967, and Strauss (with co-author Corbin) went and discarded some very important basic premises in 1990.

I'm still social constructivist. That has not changed. However, given that Kathy Charmaz (the "originator" of Constructivist GT) was trained by both Strauss and Glaser, I should read her version before I finally finish off my proposal.

Glaser is still alive. He holds seminars for dissertators. I am considering going. All the way to Mill Valley, CA. Did I mention that I am kind of intense that way?

Here's the good news: I still LOVE grounded theory! In fact, I love it even more now. I dig theorizing. I really do.


Peggy said...

I read this and your last posting and I am now officially terrified to start my dissertation proposal! ;-)

Lonely Dissertator said...

It is not meant to terrify you. This is MY construction of my process. You do not need to go through what I'm going through. Having said that, I am LOVING it.

SKsfo said...

Hey JB,

I sent you an email a couple of weeks ago (just before the last year ended). Wonder if you received it as there was no reply or receipt acknowledgement.

If you've changed your email address, could you drop me a note by email so that I can forward that email to you again?


Sherman, SFO

Fajita said...

OK, I am learning much as I read your posts. I see the hard work and haystacks you look through and the needles you come up with.

It's kind of fun watching you find them.

And then again, in my own context with proposal writing now only months away, a pragmatic yearning is relentless: Get it done.

I wonder, with so much research candle left after graduation, must the candle burn so bright for the dissertation?

Maybe for you yes.
For me, well, I guess we'll see.

Peace be with you brother.

Anonymous said...

hmmm...u r loving it...

is this some sort of abnormal personality, like the process of being torture ;-P

yeah i love my torturing text book and assignment too (sick hah?!?!) *LOL*

Heather said...

You must have gotten really busy! Are you buried under your books?

Hope you are doing well!


Lonely Dissertator said...

Hmm... so many comments. I wonder why blogger has not been emailing me my comment notifications?

aleja said...

Are you going to next Glaser seminar on March? I would love to hear how it was.

Frances Doyle said...

I think it would depend on your dissertation ideas and topic whether to use the grounded theory. It would be good to know how to write a phd dissertation and know what would be a good theory to use to avoid problems in the long run. Anyway, this would certainly help a lot of student.