Your comment encouraged me to check the viability of grounded theory (GT) as a methodology for use in the interview data analysis. GT is fundamentally an iterative process (Charmaz, 2006; Hadley, 2015). Figure 1 demonstrates the necessity of returning to earlier stages in the GT process because of the need to: collect more data, reanalyse the relevant body of literature in light of insights generated from the data; and reset prior categories and memos after more theoretical relationship have been uncovered. Wolfswinkel and colleagues (2013) present a similar diagramme in their application of GT methodologies to a literature search.
Figure 1. Hadley’s (2015) Grounded Theory flow chart
My intention is to interview ten students from each of the four year groups. As each student’s data is transcribed, I can code and create memos. Then, each new student interview will necessitate a return to the growing data pile as a set of characteristics of personal epistemology in the year group develops. This needs to be done for all four year groups, and at that point, the collected codes and memos and related developed theories becomes the raw data—again—from which the base ontology of characteristics can be drawn.
Initially, I held concerns that with GT, I would not be able to direct any outside theory onto my codes. GT relies on themes emerging from the data. If this were to be held strictly, only luck (and precise questioning) could allow any comparison with other theories of personal epistemology. However, emergence is not the only principle possible in GT. A degree of forcing is acceptable, that utilises abductive reasoning when researchers’ preconceptions are a part of “the natural cognitive processes we use when we compare things” (Walker & Myrick, 2006, p. 553). I need to check the GT literature to see how much GT studies have been informed by existing theoretical models at their inception as opposed to those that are ‘pure’ in the sense that they only consult existing theory after the initial coding. Again, the notion of iteration in research becomes apparent as I find the need to repeatedly return to the literature to ask, at times, deeper, and at other times, more precise questions.
Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage.
Hadley, G. (2015). English for academic purposes in neoliberal universities: A critical grounded theory. System (Vol. 51). Cham: Springer. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2015.04.010
Walker, D., & Myrick, F. (2006). Grounded theory: an exploration of process and procedure. Qualitative Health Research, 16(4), 547–559. http://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305285972
Wolfswinkel, J. F., Furtmueller, E., & Wilderom, C. P. M. (2013). Using grounded theory as a method for rigorously reviewing literature. European Journal of Information Systems, 22, 45–55. http://doi.org/10.1057/ejis.2011.51