Grounded Theory is a type of methodology where data is thoroughly analyzed in a series of steps or procedures. The end result is the formulation of a theory after all the available data has been analyzed. This type of research is used in social science. A study on dying hospital patients by the sociologists Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss lead to the development of Grounded Theory, this theory is incorporated in their book called as ‘Awareness of Dying’.
There are two ways in which Grounded Theory is used
- It is used to describe the application of the procedures and methods laid out by the proponents of the theory in research
- It is used to describe, in turn, a theory that has been formulated according to and based on the principles of Grounded Theory
Stages & Process of Grounded Theory
There are four stages of analysis in Grounded Theory: Codes, Concepts, Categories and Theory
1. Codes: In the first stage, the important key points are targeted such that data can be collected accordingly. The data collected can be quantitative or qualitative; this collection is not restricted and can be collected through various methods like –
- Data collection through observation of the sample for a particular period of time
- Using public or private records to make a data collection
- A group or individual conversation like face to face interview or discussion etc
2. Concepts: Content that is similar is grouped together for better understanding and accessibility
3. Categories: A number of concepts that are similar are categorized together
4. Theory: Lastly, a number of categories are grouped together to form the basis of a theory
Grounded Theory includes both inductive and deductive methods of research. It uses empirical research methods to give hard facts. It seeks to the questions ‘what’ and ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’ of a particular research. It generates concepts that seek to understand and explain the ways in which people cope with their concerns and issues and how they deal with it irrespective of time and space.
Thomas and James have rounded up the main criticisms of Grounded theory. First, its status as a ‘theory’ is questionable. Second, the notion of ‘ground’ is criticized. Third, the usage of inductive knowledge is again questionable. They say that it is not possible to be detached from preconceived notions when formulating the theory. This defies one of the most important concepts of empirical research wherein data is analyzed in the most technical way possible with no room for any preconceptions or emotions. Since, qualitative method of research is often mistakenly equated with grounded theory, qualitative researchers often criticize this equation.
Glaser and Strauss studies the interactions between the dying patient and their relatives to understand the expectations of death by both. The participants were infants and elderly people. While the former was not aware of their impending deaths, the latter was very much aware. Thus, Glaser and Strauss came up with the theory of influence of awareness on the interaction with dying people.
They came up with four types of awareness:
- Closed awareness
- Mutual deception
- Open awareness
These types of awareness impacted the interactions strongly. Thus, if the dying patients were not told that they would die, the nursing was kept to a minimum to avoid open awareness.