Understanding, choosing and applying grounded theory: part 1
Evidence and practice    

Understanding, choosing and applying grounded theory: part 1

Terence McCann Professor of mental health nursing, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
Meg Polacsek PhD candidate, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

Background Grounded theory is one of the most widely used qualitative research methodologies. However, it is complex and frequently misinterpreted and misapplied.

Aim To provide a critical overview of grounded theory, to support neophyte researchers’ understanding of a methodology for systematically generating theory from data.

Discussion The uniqueness of grounded theory is evident in the way researchers explicate concepts from the data during research, rather than entering the field with a list of predefined concepts. Adherence to its rigorous standards enables researchers to contribute to knowledge and practice.

Conclusion Grounded theory is particularly useful in nursing and midwifery research, where it can be applied to a broad range of topics. Neophyte researchers should not be deterred by its rigorous standards, although time and effort are required to appreciate the similarities and differences between grounded theory approaches.

Implications for practice A clear understanding of its philosophical foundations and attention to its main features should underpin researchers’ efforts to conduct a high-quality grounded theory study.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2018.e1592


McCann T, Polacsek M (2018) Understanding, choosing and applying grounded theory: part 1. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2018.e1592

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Published online: 29 November 2018

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