This week’s readings really harp on the importance of theory and the scientific method. While I agree with the authors for the most part, I’m wondering if theory is always necessary. Perhaps there are some phenomena that are new and/or don’t fit nicely into an established theory. In these cases, a grounded theory approach may be useful. According to the Grounded Theory Institute (http://www.groundedtheory.com),
“Grounded Theory is an inductive methodology. Although many call Grounded Theory a qualitative method, it is not. It is a general method. It is the systematic generation of theory from systematic research. It is a set of rigorous research procedures leading to the emergence of conceptual categories. These concepts/categories are related to each other as a theoretical explanation of the action(s) that continually resolves the main concern of the participants in a substantive area. Grounded Theory can be used with either qualitative or quantitative data.”
Grounded Theory is a research methodology which directs the researcher on issues concerning data collection and describes procedures for data analysis. With Grounded Theory, the researcher doesn’t have any a-priori hypotheses about the phenomenon. Rather, the researcher develops a theory from the ground up via extensive data analysis.
I think Grounded theory is useful for new phenomena or in situations in which using an existing theory would be like putting a square peg into a round hole. I remember reading an article that used Grounded Theory during the dissertation phase of my Ph.D. This article investigated the political and rational roles of a systems development methodology. I found the article relevant and interesting and actually cited it in my own work.
Overall, while I strongly believe in using theory, I also think the importance of theory needs to be balanced. There are some phenomena that are new or don’t neatly fit into established theory; for these phenomena, a Grounded Theory approach may be useful.