Grounded Theory: Origin, Characteristics, Examples

Grounded theory  is a systematic method in social sciences that requires the construction of theories from the collection and analysis of data. Unlike the hypothetical deductive method, it is an inductive research methodology.

Grounded theory originated at the Chicago School of Sociology, when Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss decided to publish the book The Discovery of Grounded Theory . In this book they explain how the discovery of theory can be fostered from rigorously collected and analyzed data in social research.

Barney glaser

Glaser and Strauss conceived this approach in the 1960s. Both creators were sociologists, and the theory was developed by both of them. However, they had a different academic and personal training, but at the same time complementary.

Strauss had a recognized track record in implementing qualitative research; While studying at the University of Chicago, he fell in love with this approach. In addition, Strauss was influenced by R. Park, W. Thomas, J. Dewey, GH Mead, E. Huges, and H. Blumer.

For his part, Glaser comes from Columbia University, with a strong tradition of quantitative research. He was inspired and influenced by the works of PF Lazarfesfeld, who was a great innovator in quantitative and qualitative data analysis.

During his training Glaser was influenced by H. Hyman, Barton, B. McPhee, B. Bereldsony, among others. In writing this methodology book, Glaser and Strauss sought to legitimize qualitative research and, furthermore, to demonstrate the possibility of building theories from data.

The Discovery of Grounded Theory was conceived to invite researchers to go beyond simple ethnographic descriptions.

Article index

  • one


  • two

    Characteristics of Grounded Theory

  • 3

    Definition of the grounded theory of different authors

    • 3.1


    • 3.2


    • 3.3


  • 4


    • 4.1

      Mathematics from grounded theory

    • 4.2

      Care for the seriously ill

    • 4.3

      Guilt in psychopaths

    • 4.4

      Caring With Honor Theory

  • 5



Among the most important antecedents of the discovery of grounded theory are the works of Lazarfesfeld (1984) on the construction of empirical indices from concepts.

The foundations of grounded theory are designed through analytical methodology and inductive qualitative analysis procedures, discovered during the 1950s and 1960s by sociology researchers and students.

Characteristics of Grounded Theory

– Grounded theory is inductive, since it seeks to establish or generate theories from observed data. An investigation using this methodology would start with a question or only with the collection of qualitative data. 

– It allows to contrast existing theories with emerging theories.

– The salient theory will be useful both for the academic communities, as well as for the actors involved.

– It is based on the pragmatism of J. Dewey and the symbolic interactionism of H. Blumer.

– The process is flexible, emergent, constantly under construction.

– Uses collection techniques, such as interview, observation, discussion, record of notes, life diaries, among others.

– Researchers collect data and classify it by categories.

– The method itself offers a guide to identify categories and establish relationships between them.

– Unlike other processes, it allows data to be collected and analyzed until the categories are saturated.

– To choose the central category, the other categories must be related to it. In addition, the data must be recurring and the indicators must point towards it.

– After the categorization, the next step is the coding of the categories.

– This approach is based on four steps: open coding of data or information, axial coding of information, selective coding and delimitation of the emerging theory.

– For grounded theory, the important thing is the data, not the researcher.

– The researcher is simply a witness during data collection.

– The researcher must be open to changes until he reaches saturation levels.

– The researcher must have the ability to think abstractly

Definition of the grounded theory  of different authors


For Glaser (1992), grounded theory is an analysis methodology, which starts from the systematic collection of data, to generate an inductive theory on a substantive area.


Strauss (2004) indicates that “Grounded theory is not a theory, but a methodology to discover theories that doze in the data.”


For its part, Charmaz (2005) defines it as a set of systematic inductive methods to carry out qualitative research aimed at the development of the theory.


Mathematics from grounded theory

In 2014 Guillermo Antonio Arriaz Martínez applied the grounded theory from the treatment of the data collected in his master’s degree work entitled Didactic situations in the virtual scene: a view of mathematics education from grounded theory .

Its purpose was to generate a theoretical approach on didactic situations in the virtual setting.

Arraiz concluded that by using this methodology in mathematics education, the researcher will be able to reflectively generate new theoretical postulates.

These postulates will be developed based on the reality and the practice of the profession, thus nurturing knowledge and discipline.

Care for critically ill

In the health field, grounded theory allows nursing professionals to contextualize patient care.

From this it will be possible to better understand the subjective experience of people who have been diagnosed with a serious illness or who are going through the process of death.

This will enable them to provide patients with competent and holistic care. Thanks to grounded theory, the nature of human behavior will be better understood by creating theories about psychosocial phenomena.

Guilt in psychopaths

Contribution of grounded theory to the study of guilt in fraudsters classified as high and low in psychopathy.

To carry out this research, 10 subjects deprived of liberty for the crime of fraud were interviewed, and then a psychopathy checklist was applied to 34 subjects deprived of liberty.

Those with the highest and lowest scores were interviewed. The responses were analyzed applying grounded theory.

Thus, novel categories were found that appeared from the data.  

When comparing the presence of these categories according to the psychopathy scores, it was found that guilt was associated with a more internal and controllable locus.

They also found a link with a sense focused on others, which emphasized the moral aspects of people and their situations.

Caring With Honor Theory

Another example of the application of this approach is the Caring With Honor theory, used in the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), where they provide inpatient and outpatient medical care to veterans.

The theory represents a developmental process by which healthcare professionals engage with veterans through a process of enculturation, connection, witness, honor, caring, and empathy.

When health professionals interact with veterans, especially combat veterans, they begin to understand that they need special, different attention.

This is because they have lived moments that will leave indelible psychological traces. In this process of empathy, the health professional feels a strong commitment to take care of them with honor.


  1. “Informate Texts example” Retrieved from:
  2. Text information: definition, characteristics, background. Recovered from:
  3. Informative texts. Recovered from:
  4. “Informate Texts example” Recovered from:
  5. Informative texts. Recovered from:
  6. “Informate Texts example” Recovered from:

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button