Grounded theory: a methodological spiral from positivism to postmodernism


Jane Mills:


Title. Grounded theory: a methodological spiral from positivism to postmodernism

Aim.  Our aim in this paper is to explain a methodological/methods package devised to incorporate situational and social world mapping with frame analysis, based on a grounded theory study of Australian rural nurses’ experiences of mentoring.

Background.  Situational analysis, as conceived by Adele Clarke, shifts the research methodology of grounded theory from being located within a postpositivist paradigm to a postmodern paradigm. Clarke uses three types of maps during this process: situational, social world and positional, in combination with discourse analysis.

Method.  During our grounded theory study, the process of concurrent interview data generation and analysis incorporated situational and social world mapping techniques. An outcome of this was our increased awareness of how outside actors influenced participants in their constructions of mentoring.

In our attempts to use Clarke's methodological package, however, it became apparent that our constructivist beliefs about human agency could not be reconciled with the postmodern project of discourse analysis. We then turned to the literature on symbolic interactionism and adopted frame analysis as a method to examine the literature on rural nursing and mentoring as secondary form of data.

Findings.  While we found situational and social world mapping very useful, we were less successful in using positional maps. In retrospect, we would argue that collective action framing provides an alternative to analysing such positions in the literature. This is particularly so for researchers who locate themselves within a constructivist paradigm, and who are therefore unwilling to reject the notion of human agency and the ability of individuals to shape their world in some way.

Conclusion.  Our example of using this package of situational and social worlds mapping with frame analysis is intended to assist other researchers to locate participants more transparently in the social worlds that they negotiate in their everyday practice.