Analysis Types

Grounded Theory – Methods, Example, Guide

Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory is a systematic methodology that generates theory from data. The researcher begins with a general research question and collects data through interviews, focus groups, or observations. The data is then analyzed to identify patterns and relationships. From these patterns and relationships, the researcher develops a theory that explains the phenomena under study.

In the 1960s, two sociologists, Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, developed grounded theory.

Example of Grounded Theory

An example of grounded theory would be if a researcher wanted to study how people form relationships. They would collect data through interviews and observation, and then analyze this data to look for patterns. These patterns would then be used to develop a theory about how relationships are formed.

Steps in Grounded Theory

There are four main steps in Grounded Theory:

  • Data Collection
  • Data Coding
  • Memoing
  • Theoretical Sampling

Data Collection

Data Collection is the first step and involves collecting data related to the research question. This can be done through interviews, observations, or document analysis.

Data Coding

Data Coding is the second step and involves coding the data collected in order to identify patterns and relationships. This can be done through open coding, axial coding, or selective coding.

Open coding

Open coding is a method used in Grounded Theory to analyze data. It is the process of breaking down data into smaller parts and assigning codes to them. This allows for patterns and relationships to be discovered.

Open coding begins with the raw data, which is then sorted into categories. These categories are then broken down further into subcategories. Codes are assigned to each piece of data, and these codes are used to identify patterns and relationships.

Axial coding

In grounded theory, axial coding is the process of identifying relationships between categories of data. This coding process is used to develop a theory that explains how these relationships work.

Axial coding begins with the identification of core categories, which are then related to each other through a series of axial codes. These codes identify the properties and dimensions of each category, as well as the relationships between them. The aim of axial coding is to produce a theory that is comprehensive, parsimonious, and coherent.

The process of axial coding can be applied to any type of data, but it is particularly useful for qualitative data such as interviews and focus group discussions. This method of coding allows researchers to develop theories that are grounded in empirical evidence.

Selective coding

Selective coding is a process used in Grounded Theory to analyze data. It involves identifying the most important concepts in the data and coding them accordingly. This allows for the development of a theoretical model that explains how these concepts relate to one another. Selective coding is an important step in Grounded Theory, as it allows for the development of a comprehensive understanding of the data.


Memoing is the third step and involves writing memos about the coded data in order to generate ideas and hypotheses. This can be done by brainstorming, mind mapping, or free writing.


Brainstorming is a key component of grounded theory because it allows researchers to generate new ideas and theories. This type of research heavily relies on inductive reasoning, which means that researchers must be open to new perspectives and ideas. Brainstorming allows for this by providing a forum for free-flowing thoughts and ideas.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping involves creating a map of ideas, thoughts, or concepts. The map is typically created by starting with a central idea and then brainstorming related ideas. Once the map is complete, it can be analyzed to identify patterns and relationships.

Mind mapping is an effective way to generate new ideas and insights. It can help you identify relationships among concepts and generate hypotheses. Mind mapping is a valuable tool for grounded theory research.

Free Writing

Free Writing is a technique used to generate new ideas and concepts. This involves writing down whatever comes to mind without editing or censoring oneself. The goal is to produce as much new material as possible in order to later identify patterns and themes.

Free writing can be an effective way to break out of writer’s block and get the creative juices flowing. It can also help researchers to see their data in new ways and generate new hypotheses. However, it is important to keep in mind that free writing is not a magic bullet – sometimes the best ideas come from carefully planned and structured research.

Theoretical Sampling

Theoretical Sampling is the fourth step and involves selecting additional data to collect in order to test hypotheses and refine theory.

When to use Grounded Theory

This research method is ideal for exploring new topics or areas where little previous research has been conducted. It can also be used to build on existing knowledge in a particular area.

This method allows researchers to generate new theories by inductively building upon observed patterns in the data. Grounded theory is particularly well suited for investigating complex social phenomena.

Purpose of Grounded Theory

The main purpose of grounded theory is to produce a theory that explains a phenomenon, or group of phenomena. Theories generated through grounded theory are inductively derived from data, meaning they are not based on pre-existing assumptions or hypotheses. Instead, they emerge from the data itself through the process of constant comparative analysis. This makes grounded theory an ideal methodology for exploratory research.

Advantages of Grounded Theory

There are some advantages to using grounded theory in research.

  • Grounded theory allows for the development of new theories based on data collected from research participants.
  • This is a flexible approach that can be used to investigate a wide range of research questions.
  • It provides a systematic method for data collection and analysis, which helps to ensure that the resulting theory is robust and credible.
  • Grounded theory has a strong tradition of being used in interdisciplinary research, which makes it well suited for investigating complex social phenomena.

Limitations of Grounded Theory

Some Limitations of Grounded Theory are:

  • Grounded theory is limited to explaining observable behavior. It cannot be used to explain why people behave the way they do.
  • It is only useful for explicating relationships between variables that have already been identified.
  • It cannot be used to predict relationships between variables or to identify new variables.
  • It relies heavily on qualitative data, which can be difficult to obtain and analyze.
  • Because grounded theory is inductive in nature, it can be difficult to falsify hypotheses generated by the theory.

About the author

Muhammad Hassan

I am Muhammad Hassan, a Researcher, Academic Writer, Web Developer, and Android App Developer. I have worked in various industries and have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. In my spare time, I enjoy writing blog posts and articles on a variety of Academic topics. I also like to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the IT industry to share my knowledge with others through my writing.