It’s the Simple Things in Life…Understanding the Grounded Theory Method in Management Research


Topic: Research Methodology
Publication: Organizational Research Methods
Article: Grounded Theory Method in management research: Users’ perspectives.
Blogger: James Grand

Qualitative research is the “art” of taking real-time narratives or observations of human behavior/cognitions and systematically analyzing them for themes, theories and indicators of what is occurring in a given situation.  In truth, such data is collected all the time in organizations.

For example, employees are often asked to provide HR departments with their goals for the year, provide feedback on new company policies, or summarize the information they learned in a training seminar. The real challenge for organizations (and researchers as well) is figuring out how to use these observations to understand their employees and affect meaningful changes just as they would had people provided survey data (quantitative). Grounded Theory Method (GTM, Glaser & Strauss, 1967) provides one such procedure.  In brief, it involves a series of steps in which the transcribed responses of individuals are reduced into increasingly succinct bits of information until common, thematic keywords can be identified that describe the nature of the phenomenon. If this sounds like an onerous process, that’s because it is.

However, the most recent issue of Organizational Research Methods (2008, Vol. 11, Iss. 3) presents an article by Fendt and Sachs that provides a number of recommendations for flattening that learning curve a bit, including tips on how to deal with nonverbal information, researcher bias, and making sense of your data. While these are difficult concepts to describe without a better understanding of GTM, such information is invaluable to researchers and practitioners hoping to use observational data without getting swamped in their analytic efforts. And that simplicity is something we can all appreciate.

Fendt, J., & Sachs, W. (2008). Grounded Theory Method in management
research: Users’ perspectives.
Organizational Research Methods, 11(3), 430-455.

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The
discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research
. New York: De Gruyter.