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Abduction: the logic of discovery of Grounded Theory

Abduktion: die Logik der Entdeckung der Grounded Theory
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Reichertz, Jo

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Abstract Grounded Theory (GT), which Anselm Strauss refers to here in an interview decades later, is one of the most successful methods ever developed and has added a more qualitative note to social research. This is, however, not a result of the c1arity and simplicity of this method established by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss but is rather due to the fact that it counteracts the common prejudice, which is to some extent entertained in science, that theories quasi emerge by themselves from the data (without any previous theoretical input). According to this belief, one only has to evoke the theory inherent in the data by means of suitable methods, the theory would then become apparent without the active actions of scientists. The theories are thus believed to emerge slowly in a process of gradual abstraction from the data. Therefore, one of the most famous quotations from The Discovery of Grounded Theory is the following: 'Clearly, a grounded theory that is faithful to the everyday realities of the substantive area is one that has been carefully induced from the data' (Glaser & Strauss, 1967: 239). The incorrectness of such an inductive procedure has already been proven by Popper in general and with respect to GT, by Kelle (1994,2005) and by Strübing (2004: Chapter 27) in particular. Many users of GT therefore regard this approach as an inductive method and are of the opinion, that the approach signals a return to simple "Baconian" inductivism' (Haig, 1995: 2). Representative for many others, here is an example from Qualitative Research in Sociology: Grounded Theory 'is known as an inductive or ground-up approach to data analysis' (Marvasti, 2004: 84). At first the two founders of GT shared this view: 'From its beginnings the methodology of Grounded Theory has suffered from an inductivist self misunderstanding" entailed by some parts of the Discovery book. Although this inductivism plays a limited role in research work of many Grounded Theory studies (including those of the founding fathers) it has often lead to confusion especially among novices who draw their basic methodological knowledge from text books (Kelle 2005: Chapter 24).
Keywords grounded theory; methodology; philosophy of science; qualitative method; social research; abduction; induction; theory; logic
Classification Philosophy of Science, Theory of Science, Methodology, Ethics of the Social Sciences; Methods and Techniques of Data Collection and Data Analysis, Statistical Methods, Computer Methods
Method basic research; development of methods
Free Keywords methods; qualitative research
Collection Title The SAGE handbook of Grounded Theory
Editor Bryant, Anthony; Charmaz, Kathy C.
Document language English
Publication Year 2007
Publisher Sage
City London
Page/Pages p. 214-228
ISBN 978-1-4129-2346-0
Status Postprint; reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works