Title

Grounded theory in occupational science: Misrepresented or simply misunderstood?

Location

Merritt Room

Start Time

3-10-2015 2:30 PM

End Time

3-10-2015 4:00 PM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Intent: This theoretical paper discusses the different schools of grounded theory methodology and how each of them can be used to enhance our understanding of occupations. It also highlights previous grounded theory studies published in the Journal of Occupational Science to provide relevant examples of methodological limitations within occupational science in particular, and health and social sciences in general.

Argument: It has been suggested that with its close ties to symbolic interactionism and pragmatism, grounded theory methodologies are well suited to study complex occupations (Nayar, 2012). In addition, the focus of grounded theorizing on process (Charmaz, 2014) rather than pure description could move occupational scientists towards answering the questions regarding how and why people engage in occupations rather than simply what occupations they engage in. Although grounded theory techniques are rather universal in that they can be applied to many research questions, what makes grounded theory different in each of these scenarios is the representation of the findings based on different ontological assumptions (Charmaz, 2014). More specifically, although Glaser and Strauss’s original statement of grounded theory implied a post-positivist tradition, some have argued that Glaser’s orientation was highly positivistic (Cooney, 2010), and that he believed in an objective reality that could be discovered by a neutral observer. On the other hand, Corbin and Strauss (2014) have presented a post-positivist tradition of grounded theory, and Charmaz (2014) has promoted a relativist epistemology with an emphasis on constructivist grounded theory. Researchers must recognize these differences and employ the appropriate school of grounded theory to their research based on their own ontological and epistemological assumptions, and present their findings accordingly. Unfortunately, researchers ignore these subtle differences and the description of their methodologies is scant in many published occupational science studies claiming to use grounded theory.

Importance to Occupational Science: Occupational scientists can utilize grounded theory methodologies to advance the study of occupation in a number of ways. First, the focus can be shifted from description to process-oriented research. Second, the focus on theory development could advance the discipline for practical application. Finally, the appropriate application of grounded theory methodologies could enhance interdisciplinary collaborations.

Conclusion: The subtle differences among the schools of thought of grounded theory are often ignored by researchers, thus leading to presentation of research findings that are disjointed from the original goal of grounded theory methodology. However, if employed appropriately, grounded theory methodology can advance the scholarship within occupational science.

References

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory (Second Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Cooney, A. (2010). Choosing between Glaser and Strauss: An example. Nurse Researcher, 17, 4, 18-28.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2014). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (Fourth Edition). SAGE Publications.

Nayar, S. (2012). Grounded theory: A research methodology for occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 19, 1, 76-82.

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Oct 3rd, 2:30 PM Oct 3rd, 4:00 PM

Grounded theory in occupational science: Misrepresented or simply misunderstood?

Merritt Room

Intent: This theoretical paper discusses the different schools of grounded theory methodology and how each of them can be used to enhance our understanding of occupations. It also highlights previous grounded theory studies published in the Journal of Occupational Science to provide relevant examples of methodological limitations within occupational science in particular, and health and social sciences in general.

Argument: It has been suggested that with its close ties to symbolic interactionism and pragmatism, grounded theory methodologies are well suited to study complex occupations (Nayar, 2012). In addition, the focus of grounded theorizing on process (Charmaz, 2014) rather than pure description could move occupational scientists towards answering the questions regarding how and why people engage in occupations rather than simply what occupations they engage in. Although grounded theory techniques are rather universal in that they can be applied to many research questions, what makes grounded theory different in each of these scenarios is the representation of the findings based on different ontological assumptions (Charmaz, 2014). More specifically, although Glaser and Strauss’s original statement of grounded theory implied a post-positivist tradition, some have argued that Glaser’s orientation was highly positivistic (Cooney, 2010), and that he believed in an objective reality that could be discovered by a neutral observer. On the other hand, Corbin and Strauss (2014) have presented a post-positivist tradition of grounded theory, and Charmaz (2014) has promoted a relativist epistemology with an emphasis on constructivist grounded theory. Researchers must recognize these differences and employ the appropriate school of grounded theory to their research based on their own ontological and epistemological assumptions, and present their findings accordingly. Unfortunately, researchers ignore these subtle differences and the description of their methodologies is scant in many published occupational science studies claiming to use grounded theory.

Importance to Occupational Science: Occupational scientists can utilize grounded theory methodologies to advance the study of occupation in a number of ways. First, the focus can be shifted from description to process-oriented research. Second, the focus on theory development could advance the discipline for practical application. Finally, the appropriate application of grounded theory methodologies could enhance interdisciplinary collaborations.

Conclusion: The subtle differences among the schools of thought of grounded theory are often ignored by researchers, thus leading to presentation of research findings that are disjointed from the original goal of grounded theory methodology. However, if employed appropriately, grounded theory methodology can advance the scholarship within occupational science.