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Grounded Theory Methods and Qualitative Family Research


Department of Sociology, Georgia State University, University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303 (


There is an irony—perhaps a paradox—here: that a methodology that is based on “interpretation” should itself prove so hard to interpret. (Dey, 1999, p. 23)

Among the different qualitative approaches that may be relied upon in family theorizing, grounded theory methods (GTM), developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, are the most popular. Despite their centrality to family studies and to other fields, however, GTM can be opaque and confusing. Believing that simplifying GTM would allow them to be used to greater effect, I rely on 5 principles to interpret 3 major phases in GTM coding: open, axial, and selective. The history of GTM establishes a foundation for the interpretation, whereas recognition of the dialectic between induction and deduction underscores the importance of incorporating constructivism in GTM thinking. My goal is to propose a methodologically condensed but still comprehensive interpretation of GTM, an interpretation that researchers hopefully will find easy to understand and employ.