Grounded Theory in Nursing Research

  • Grounded theory was developed by Barney Glaser and Anslem Strauss, in the 1960s.
  • Grounded theory has roots in symbolic interactionism and the works of Charles Cooley (1864-1929) and George Herbert Mead (1863-1931).
  • Grounded theory is explained as a package of research methods, which includes data collection, coding and analysing through memoing, theoretical sampling and sorting to writing, using the constant comparative method. (Glaser, 1998).
  • GT has origins in sociology, emphasises the importance of developing an
    understanding of human behaviour through a process of discovery and induction. (Elliott & Lazenbatt, 2005)
Major Concepts
  • Grounded theory is an inductive type of research, based in the observations or data from which it was developed.
  • It uses a variety of data sources, including quantitative data, review of records, interviews, observation and surveys.
  • Concepts are basic units of analysis.
  • Concepts grouped and related to form abstract categories
  • Relationships between categories identified to develop “formal theory”
  • Theory building- concepts, categories, themes are identified and developed
    during the study.
Core Elements of Grounded Theory
  • Attempt to apply systematic and explicit data analysis technique to textual information.
  • Unifying data collection with analysis.
  • Data first, theory last.
Application in Nursing
  • A grounded theory approach provides nursing with a viable means of generating theory grounded in the realities of everyday clinical practice (Elliott & Lazenbatt, 2005).
  • Grounded theory is increasingly being used in research practice, particularly in nursing research. (Elliott & Lazenbatt, 2005).
  1. Elliott M, Lazenbatt A. How to recognize a 'quality' grounded theory research study. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2005 Volume 22 Number 3.
  2. Glaser, B.G. and Strauss, A.L. 1967. The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  3. Glaser, B.G. 1998. Doing grounded theory: Issues and discussions. Mill Valley CA: Sociology Press.
  4. Strauss, Corbin. Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Sage, Newbury Park, 1990.


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