Saturday, January 31, 2009


I had lunch today with one of the leading scholars in family qualitative methods in the U.S. and likely in the world.

After talking with her about my dissertation and about Grounded Theory, she encouraged me that I am very much ready to embark on my project, and that it is a very good one.

Then, she introduced me to one of her students: "This is Lonely Dissertator (me). He understands grounded theory more than any student I have ever met."

After all that hard work (and torture), receiving such validation is simply... sweet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The New Electric Company

My kids LOVED it.

When asked what they thought, 7 year-old daughter said, "fantastic!" Even 5-year old son was riveted for the entire 30 minutes. Heck, I was impressed and I did not expect to be.

The new version has some great changes that really work for today's kids.

The Electric Company is a "club" of kids (played by 13-20 year olds) with special SKILLS to do cool things with words. Here they are.

There is an enemy group, Pranksters (I think) and the interaction between the Electric Company and the Pranksters forms a storyline.

The story is fast-paced and woven through a network with nodes that represent cool teaching snippets (not part of the storyline) emphasizing certain aspects of English words e.g. hard versus soft "c".

Those of you teaching English as an alternative language can show clips to your students. Although TEC is targeted towards children 6-9 years old, the ideas and special effects are engaging for kids of all ages. Check out the "Matrix.

My favourite is Music Man. He is the grooviest. Here's Music Man with his love of that silent "e."

The website is great too. It has games, video clips, and you can watch entire episodes on it.

So much creativity and resources put towards teaching and empowering kids. I love it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Research Software -- Helpful Links

Just compiling a list of useful links and notes on qualitative research software and reference management software. This post will be updated from time to time.

Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS)
- Software to help with qualitative research.


Notes: NVivo

  • Handles more than text, can handle simplified Chinese.

Notes: MaxQDA
  • Easy to use.
  • Not as many features as NVivo.
  • Not available through the U, but has direct cheap student price
  • Student software cannot be upgraded.
Reference Management Software (RMS)
- Software that helps to organize bibliography and other references, including the ability to churn out a reference page automatically.


Notes: Refworks

  • Available for free through the U.

Further Questions

  1. Is there a software that handles both qualitative data analysis as well as reference management?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Deadline on Chinese New Year

I have read enough, understood enough, it is now possible to set myself a HARD deadline that can be met.

My hard deadline will be Monday January 26th, 2009. It is also the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year -- the year of the ox.

Thu 22: Complete studying all of the grounded theory works that need to be studied.
Fri 23: Edit first half of proposal already written.
Sat 24: Write second half of proposal.
Sun 25: Complete dissertation proposal.
Mon 26: Send it into adviser and celebrate the New Year!

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.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Difference Between Sociology and Psychology (Theory & Practice)

Ask Metafilter has this great page of answers on the question of the difference between sociology and psychology [link]. I might have read it before, but when I read it this time, all the lights went on like a big Christmas Parade:


[Side note. Read the link above, and then entertain this question: Is Marriage and Family Therapy a sociologically-derived field of therapy?]

In working through Grounded Theory à la Barney Glaser (whose writings tend to be more resolute about "what is" and "what isn't" [read: positivist]), I am beginning to appreciate what Classic Grounded Theory means when it insists on a difference between Theory and Full Conceptual Description. There IS a difference.

Having done my undergrad in one of the top schools of psychology, I understand psychological theory well. A real snob-school will tell you what is and what isn't about psychology--it guards its turf well. Studying the family is about the intersection of sociology and psychology (with sprinklings of anthropology, communication studies, economics, etc). So none of our coursework "taught" us what sociology--specifically--is about. None of that turf-guarding stuff in family studies, and so we end up a little loosey goosey [read: postmodern?].

Anyway, I am having some fun embracing a more boundaried approach to defining what is and what isn't in terms of sociological theory, and even who can do sociological theorizing:

"This book [The Discovery of Grounded Theory] is intended to underscore the basic sociological activity that only sociologists can do: generating sociological theory. Description, ethnography, fact-finding, verfication (call them what you will) are all done well by professionals in other fields and by laymen in various investigatory agencies. But these people cannot generate sociological theory from their work. Only sociologists are trained to want it, to look for it, and to generate it." (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, pp.6-7)

Snobbish, isn't it?

That's okay. I'll play their bluff and pretend to be a sociologist for this dissertation. After all, if MFT is a sociologically-aligned field of therapy (see side note above), then I can very well claim sociology as my field!