Distinguishing Grounded Theory from Phenomenology

Grounded Theory vs Phenomenology

Grounded Theory and Phenomenology are two methodologies used in the social sciences, each differing from the other. Grounded theory refers to a methodology used by researchers, while phenomenology is not only a methodology but a philosophy that pays attention to the subjective realities of people and their interpretations. In this article, the differences between Grounded Theory and Phenomenology are examined.

What is Grounded Theory?

Grounded theory, developed by Barney Glaser and Anslem Strauss, is a methodology in which the theory emerges from within the data. This differs from many research methodologies where the researcher creates a research problem and investigates with a pre-existing theoretical framework in mind. Instead, in grounded theory, the researcher enters the field with an open mind and allows the data to guide them. Once the data has been collected, patterns in the data are identified, and the researcher can create codes, concepts, and categories, which form the foundation for new theories.

Sampling in grounded theory differs from conventional methods. While most researchers have a specific sample, grounded theory researchers begin with a single sample where they gather information. Once they realize that all the data has been collected and no new data exists within the sample, they move on to a new sample. This awareness of no new data is referred to as theoretical saturation.

Coding plays a significant role in grounded theory. First, the researcher engages in open coding, where they identify the varied data and try to understand it. Then, they move on to axial coding, where they relate codes to one another and attempt to find relationships. Finally, they engage in selective coding, connecting all the data to a core element or phenomenon so that the data can tell a story. Before writing the final report on the findings, the researcher makes theoretical memos, which allow them to record essential information.

What is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is both a research methodology and a philosophy. Developed by Alfred Schutz, Peter Burger, and Luckmann, phenomenology has influenced several social sciences, such as sociology and psychology. Schutz pointed out that meanings are produced and sustained by individuals in society and believed that the taken-for-granted everyday realities should be analyzed.

According to Schutz, humans do not comprehend the world around them in an objective manner. The world is composed of objects and relations that are meaningful. Understanding this reality of the world means understanding the meaning of structures through which people experience the world. Hence, phenomenology focuses on understanding the subjective meanings that people allocate to the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Grounded Theory is a methodology where the theory emerges from within the data, while Phenomenology is a philosophy and methodology used to understand the subjective human experiences.
  • Grounded Theory is used to explain phenomena, while Phenomenology is used to understand life experiences.
  • Both Grounded Theory and Phenomenology are qualitative research approaches, with Grounded Theory using a variety of methods for data collection, and Phenomenology mostly using interviews.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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