Grounded theory has become by far the most widely used framework for systematically analyzing qualitative data in social sciences. In its most recent incarnation, grounded theory has been defined as ‘theory that was derived from data, systematically derived and analyzed through the research process.
In this method, data collection, data analysis, and eventual theory stand in close relationship to one another’ (Strauss and Corbin 1988). It is a research method that operates almost in a reverse fashion from traditional research and, at first, may appear to be in contradiction to the scientific methods.
Rather than beginning by researching and developing a hypothesis, the first step consists in the collection of data about a single subject without any preconceived idea concerning its content or structure, through a variety of methods.
The data set is then content analyzed, and the key points are marked with a series of codes. The codes are then grouped into similar concepts to make them more workable.
From these concepts, categories are formed, which are the basis for the creation of a theory, or a reversed engineered hypothesis.
This contradicts the traditional model of research, where the researcher selects a theoretical framework, and only then applies this model to the phenomenon under study.
The very nature of the grounded theory makes this an inductive approach, meaning that it moves from the specific to the more general.
The method of study is mostly based on three elements: concepts, categories, and propositions, or what is mainly called a hypothesis.
However, concepts are the key elements of analysis since the theory is developed from the conceptualization of data, rather than the actual data.
The primary objective of grounded theory is to expand upon an explanation of a phenomenon by identifying the key elements of that phenomenon and then categorizing the relationships of those elements to the context and progress of the experiment.