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Research spotlight: constructivist grounded theory
  1. David Barrett
  1. Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor David Barrett, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK; david.i.barrett{at}

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Discussion of Kelley MM, Zadvinskis IM, Miller PS, et al (2022). United States nurses’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: a grounded theory. J Clin Nursing 2022; 31: 2167– 80.

Introduction to constructivist grounded theory

Grounded theory (GT) was first developed as a research method in the mid-to-late 1960s by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, stemming from their sociological research into the care of dying patients.1 The fundamental philosophy behind GT is that theory can be generated from the collection and analysis of data. As such, GT offers an alternative to established methods of research rooted in the testing of hypotheses or simple description of phenomena.

Since its development in the 1960s, GT has evolved, matured and become increasingly prevalent within nursing research. Though the core principle of theory being generated from data remains intact, different ‘schools’ of GT have developed over the decades. Two of these reflect the fact that the original pioneers of the method—Glaser and Strauss—moved away from each other theoretically, leading to the development of ‘Glaserian’ and ‘Straussian’ schools of GT.1

Though the Glaserian and Straussian schools have different approaches to data analysis and theory generation, they both remain reliant on a positivist philosophy in which the objective ‘truth’ can be uncovered by a researcher who is detached from this reality. Offering a different viewpoint, Kathy Charmaz proposed constructivist grounded theory (CGT),2 in which researcher cannot be viewed as separate from the emerging findings. In CGT, the researcher does not simply collect data, identify emerging themes and generate theory. Instead, they work with participants to construct a reality that is shaped by all those it includes. During a study then, these unique realities will …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.