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Reconstructed Grounded Theory: Beyond Comparison?

Sally Bradley
Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom


This paper examines the modifications made to constructed grounded theory for application within an ethnographic study of group work processes in a virtual learning environment. The paper details how the complex professional relationship of educational practitioner research, and the associated ethical issues, together with the variety of data analysed influenced the approach taken. The paper explores how the adaptations to constructed grounded theory process were applied and how this approach can be construed as grounded in grounded theory.

The paper is explicit about the application and adaptation of grounded theory to meet the needs of the research and the epistemology of the researcher. Many studies purporting to use grounded theory are less explicit, this paper is intended to contribute to the discussion and development of a flexible approach to grounded theory, fit for purpose within the restraints of a practitioner based virtual educational ethnographic study.

The relationship of the practitioner researcher (an Associate Lecturer) and the participants (the students) created a dichotomy between the neutrality and social distance of the researcher and the ethical implications for the Associate Lecturer. Whilst the participants were not vulnerable adults, many of the participants were novice learners returning to study and therefore a duty of care was required. The paper explains how the adaptation of constructed grounded theory enhanced the analysis and provided richer data than ethnographic observation alone.

Despite the divergence from constructed grounded theory methods, rigor was achieved through the comparison of the coding produced throughout the analysis of the data. This level of rigor led to the emergence of unanticipated themes which influenced the group work processes. It is my belief that these would not have appeared through generic inductive approaches as they would have been overlooked and ignored without the line by line analysis. The modification of the grounded theory process retained the influence of constructed grounded theory rather than claiming to be rooted in constructed grounded theory. But the techniques applied are not beyond comparison with grounded theory. The research into virtual group work is timely in light of recent UK Government reports and relevant as interest in network delivered learning continues to grow.


Full Paper - .pdf




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