GTM Intro

Introduction to GTM

Grounded theory methodology (GTM) is designed to enable the discovery of inductive theory. It “allows the researcher to develop a theoretical account of the general features of a topic while simultaneously grounding the account in empirical observations or data”(Martin and Turner 1986, p. 141). Developed four decades ago, GTM has become one of the most frequently adopted qualitative research methods in social science research (Morse 2009).
The GTM literature provides researchers with guidelines, advice, and perspectives regarding its use and to ensure the rigor of the research contribution (see Charmaz 2011; Glaser 1978; Strauss and Corbin 1990; Urquhart 2002). The method is particularly relevant for research on issues for which limited prior research has been conducted and for which theory building is needed (Fernandez 2004; Lehmann 2010; Seidel and Urquhart 2013). In IS research, GTM has been chosen frequently to study technological change and socio- technical behavior in emerging research domains (Birks et al. 2013; Matavire and Brown 2013; Urquhart and Fernandez).
GTM originated in the social sciences with the seminal book of Glaser and Strauss (1967). Later on Glaser and Strauss split, both promoting different variants of GTM (Birks et al. 2013). While Strauss provided researchers with more specific prescriptions on the coding of data and the subsequent development of coding (Strauss and Corbin 1990), Glaser rejected that approach as a limiting the emergent character of theory in GTM. Despite these differences, scholars more recently focus on the overarching fundamental characteristics of GTM that are common across different variants of GTM (Birks et al. 2013), leading to the so-called second generation GTM (Wiesche et al. 2017).
For researchers that want to use GTM in their work, it is beneficial to read the underlying literature that is based on the different schools of thought in GTM along with papers that apply the different procedures of GTM. We proved an overview below that hopefully is helpful for exploratory research endeavors in IS.

GTM Literature


Glaser, B. G., and Strauss, A. L. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Chicago: Aldine.
Glaser, B. G. 1978. Theoretical Sensitivity: Advances in the Methodology of Grounded Theory, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Strauss, A.L. (1987) Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists
Strauss, A.L. and Corbin J.M. (1990). Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded theory procedures
Glaser, B. G. 1992. Emergence vs. Forcing: Basics of Grounded Theory Analysis, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Glaser, B. G. 1998. Doing Grounded Theory: Issues and Discussions, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Glaser, B. G. 2005. The Grounded Theory Perspective III: Theoretical Coding, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Glaser, B. G. 2006. Doing Formal Grounded Theory: A Proposal, Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Charmaz, K. 2006. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis, Los Angeles: Sage.
Bryant, A., and Charmaz, K. 2007. The SAGE Handbook of Grounded Theory, London: Sage.
Birks, M., and Mills, J. 2011. Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide, London: Sage.
Urquhart, C. 2012. Grounded Theory for Qualitative Research: A Practical Quide, London, UK: Sage.

Methodology papers (in IS)

Urquhart, C., Lehmann, H., and Myers, M. D. 2010. “Putting the ‘Theory’ Back into Grounded Theory: Guidelines for Grounded Theory Studies in Information Systems,” Information Systems Journal
Urquhart, C., & Fernandez, W. (2013). Using grounded theory method in information systems: the researcher as blank slate and other myths. Journal of Information Technology, 28, 224–236.
Seidel, S., & Urquhart, C. (2013). On emergence and forcing in information systems grounded theory studies: The case of Strauss and Corbin. Journal of Information Technology, 28(3), 237–260.
Birks, D. F., Fernandez, W., Levina, N., Nasirin, S. (2013). Grounded theory method in information systems research: Its nature, diversity and opportunities. European Journal of Information Systems, 22 (1), 1–8.
Matavire, R., and Brown, I. 2013. “Profiling Grounded Theory Approaches in Information Systems Research,” European Journal of Information Systems (22:1), pp. 119-129.
Wiesche, M., Jurisch, M. C., Yetton, P. W., & Krcmar, H. (2017). Grounded Theory Methodology in Information Systems Research. MIS Quarterly, 41(3), 685–701.

Literature on the procedures of GTM

GTM Procedure Description Reference Examples
Theoretical sampling The process of selecting the data to be collected based on the analysis of sampling
previously collected data
(Glaser and Strauss 1967) (Abraham et al. 2013; Boudreau and Robey 2005)
Role of prior theory The degree to which theories from the extant literature are used to inform GTM data collection and analysis. (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Strauss and Corbin 1990) (Orlikowski 1993; Volkoff et al. 2007)
Open coding The act of attaching initial labels to all available data. (Glaser 1978) (Smolander et al. 2008; Strong and Volkoff 2010)
Axial coding The detailed analysis of one category (around the “axis” of the category). (Strauss 1987) (Smolander et al. 2008)
Selective coding Coding limited to identifying only those instances related to the core category. (Glaser 1978) (Lee 2001)
Theoretical coding A coding step that relates the substantive categories generated from selective coding to one another. (Glaser 1978) (Gasson and Waters 2013)
Constant comparison The process of constantly comparing any unit of data in one category with another unit. (Glaser and Strauss 1967) (Gasson and Waters 2013; Levina and Ross 2003; Zahedi et al. 2006)
Memoing Write-ups of ideas about concepts, categories, and the relationships among them that occur during the analysis. (Glaser 1978) (Gasson and Waters 2013)
Coding paradigm/ coding families The Straussian paradigm is a pattern of analysis for examining data regarding conditions, interactions, tactics, and consequences. Glaser suggests a set of broader theoretical options, i.e., coding families. (Corbin and Strauss 2008; Glaser 1978; Glaser 2005) (Strong and Volkoff 2010)