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Grounded theory: reflections on the emergence vs. forcing debate


  • Judy E. Boychuk Duchscher RN BSN MN,

  • Debra Morgan PhD RN

Judy Boychuk Duchscher,
Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan,
SIAST Kelsey Campus,
1130 Idylwyld Drive,
Saskatchewan S7K 3R5,


Aim.  The aim of this paper is to compare Glaser's model of theory generation, where theory rises directly and rigorously out of the data, devoid of interpretivism, to Strauss's conceptually descriptive approach that encourages directive questioning and supports an interpretive stance.

Background.  The discovery of grounded theory (GT) was born out of a merger between Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, the proverbial ‘fathers’ of GT. Since the co-creation of their approach to theory development through research in 1967, these scholars have taken seemingly divergent paths in further developing and evolving the pragmatic use of GT.

Discussion.  Numerous researchers have used GT as a general method, applying it to both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. In this paper we discuss the stages and strategies of data sampling, collection, coding and analysing used by both Glaser and Strauss. Constant comparative analysis is identified as the primary strategy in the integrated coding and analysing stages of this theorizing method, regardless of the researcher's philosophical or research orientation. We also discuss initial or open coding, advanced coding, memoing, and theoretical sampling, with particular attention to comparing and contrasting the descriptive terms and application strategies that have been suggested by both Glaser and Strauss.

Conclusion.  The reported distinctions in the approach, method, and general intent of GT reflected in this paper are not easy to comprehend. The two methods reflect different basic philosophical paradigms, and therefore represent distinct approaches to GT. Researchers need to be clear about which philosophy and resulting analysis approach they are using, and the effect that approach will have on the research process and outcomes.