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A research program on intellectual discussion in academic institutions is presented as a case that illustrates a method for constructing grounded practical communication theory. Within a practical discipline perspective, theory is conceived as a rational reconstruction of practices for the purpose of informing further practice and reflection. The theoretical reconstruction of communication practices can be undertaken at three interrelated levels of analysis, here called the technical, problem, and philosophical levels. Based on interpretive discourse analysis of recorded departmental colloquia and interviews with participants, we identify a complex interactional dilemma that arises within this type of communicative situation (problem level), specific techniques by which participants attempt to cope with that dilemma (technical level), and two situated ideals to which they have recourse for reflecting on the normative basis of their own and others' actions (philosophical level). Because of the ways grounded practical theory differs from other theoretical approaches, we argue that existing criteria for evaluating theories must be rethought within this radically reflexive enterprise.