Navigating the grounded theory terrain. Part 1
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Navigating the grounded theory terrain. Part 1

Andrew Hunter Lecturer, Mental health nursing at the school of nursing and midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway
Kathy Murphy Head of school, School of nursing and midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway
Annmarie Grealish Lecturer, Mental health at the school of nursing and midwifery, University of Salford, UK
Dympna Casey Senior lecturer, School of nursing and midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway
John Keady Professor, Older people’s mental health nursing at the school of nursing, midwifery and social work, University of Manchester, UK

Aim The decision to use grounded theory is not an easy one and this article aims to illustrate and explore the methodological complexity and decision-making process. It explores the decision making of one researcher in the first two years of a grounded theory PhD study looking at the psychosocial training needs of nurses and healthcare assistants working with people with dementia in residential care. It aims to map out three different approaches to grounded theory: classic, Straussian and constructivist.

Background In nursing research, grounded theory is often referred to but it is not always well understood. This confusion is due in part to the history of grounded theory methodology, which is one of development and divergent approaches. Common elements across grounded theory approaches are briefly outlined, along with the key differences of the divergent approaches.

Data sources Methodological literature pertaining to the three chosen grounded theory approaches is considered and presented to illustrate the options and support the choice made.

Discussion The process of deciding on classical grounded theory as the version best suited to this research is presented. The methodological and personal factors that directed the decision are outlined. The relative strengths of Straussian and constructivist grounded theories are reviewed.

Conclusion All three grounded theory approaches considered offer the researcher a structured, rigorous methodology, but researchers need to understand their choices and make those choices based on a range of methodological and personal factors. In the second article, the final methodological decision will be outlined and its research application described.

Nurse Researcher. 18, 4, 6-10. doi: 10.7748/nr2011.

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Accepted: 01 December 2010

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