Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 12.5 Constructivist grounded theory

12.5 Constructivist grounded theory

Charmaz (2005) argues that the term grounded theory refers to both a method of inquiry, the product of inquiry and most commonly to a specific mode of analysis. Traditional grounded theory is based upon objectivist assumptions founded in positivism, which according to Law (2004) imply arguing that “scientific truths are rigorous sets of logical relations or laws that describe the relations between (rigorous) empirical descriptions” (Law 2004: 16). The founders of grounded theory, Glaser and Strauss (1967), have both harvested positivist approval for their qualitative research.  Glaser (1992) stressed the importance of logical and analytical procedures in the investigation of the external world by an unbiased observer. Strauss and Corbin (1990) drew grounded theory closer to positivist ideals by stressing that verification is an explicit goal. Charmaz (2005) has aimed to move grounded theory in a new direction, away from its positivistic past. She argues for “building on the pragmatist underpinning in grounded theory and developing it as a social constructionist method” (Charmaz 2005: 509). The pragmatist foundation in grounded theory is to be found in the Chicago school, which Charmaz believes we must “review, renew, and revitalize…as grounded theory develops into the 21st century” (Charmaz 2005: 508).

According to Charmaz (2005), constructivist grounded theory consists of doing two things at the same time, collecting data and analyzing them. She therefore emphasizes the phenomenon rather than the methods of studying it. Attention must be given to the empirical realities and the researcher’s position in these realities. Data is not somewhere out there in an external world waiting to be discovered through the use of specific methodological procedures. Instead reality is understood and defined as data in a co-construction between the researcher and the respondents.

Categories arise through our interpretations of data rather than emanating from them or from our methodological practices...Thus, our theoretical analyses are interpretive renderings of a reality, not objective reporting’s of it (Charmaz 2005: 509-510).

Holstein and Gubrium (1995) argue that grounded theory implies struggling with data, comparing data with other data, constructing categories, engaging in theoretical sampling and integrating analytic work. The entire process is interactive. We bring the past and the present into our research, and we interact with our empirical materials. Ideas emerge in a co-construction with research participants, agencies, groups, and colleagues. Neither data nor ideas are mere objects that can be passively observed and compiled.

Grounded theory, in Glaser’s (2002) argument, treats data as something separate from the researcher and implies that it is untouched by the competent researcher’s interpretations. He writes:

The data is what it is and the researcher collects, codes and analyzes exactly what he has…It is what the researcher is receiving, as a pattern…It just depends on the research (Glaser 2002: 1).

To move grounded theory in the direction of constructivist social science, Charmaz (2005) reclaims the Chicago school tradition. This tradition predicates a dynamic, reciprocal relationship between interpretation and action, and it views social life as people fitting together diverse forms of conduct (Blumer 1979: 22). She proposes five steps in order to do this.

  1. Establish intimate familiarity with the setting(s) and the events occurring within it – as well as with the research participant.
  2. Focus on meanings and processes.
  3. Engage in a close study of action.
  4. Discover and detail the social context within which action occurs.
  5. Pay attention to language. (Charmaz 2005: 521-525)

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