Grounded Theory and Situational Analysis


This entry presents two empirical approaches to qualitative analysis: grounded theory (GT) and situational analysis (SA). GT is a systematic method of theory construction through analyzing data, introduced by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss in 1967. GT is inductive, comparative, abductive, and interactive, involving (a) tacking back and forth between collecting and analyzing data, (b) making comparisons throughout the research process, (c) creating and checking theoretical categories, (d) constructing theoretical understandings of puzzling findings, and (e) sustaining interaction with data and nascent theorizing. Primary focus is on human action conceptualized as “basic social processes,” proceeding by coding data, generating categories based on codes, and ultimately integrating categories into a GT of the substantive area.

Developed by Adele Clarke, SA is an extension of GT and shares its pragmatism and interactionism, including a relational ecological framework. SA also braids in Strauss’s social worlds/arenas theory and Michel Foucault’s work on discourse analysis and practice. Taking nonhuman elements explicitly into account positions SA as posthumanist. Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s rhizome and assemblage concepts emphasize relationalities. SA maps “the situation” as the key unit of analysis. Situational maps lay out the major human, nonhuman, discursive, historical, symbolic, cultural, political, and other elements. Social worlds/arenas maps lay out collective actors and their arenas of commitment—organizational and institutional dimensions. Positional maps lay out major positions taken, and not taken, in discourse data in the situation vis-à-vis particular contested or controversial issues.

Both methods critically engage the changing landscapes of contemporary qualitative inquiry.

locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles