Grounded Theory and Constant Comparative Analysis
Deborah Reed PhD

Orthopaedic Nursing
December 2004 
Volume 23  Number 6
Pages 403 - 404
  PDF Version Available!


  • Grounded Theory

  • The Analysis Process

  • Trustworthiness and Accuracy of the Analysis


    Historically, most clinical research has used quantitative analysis. Readers are generally provided with concise tables that portray statistical interpretations of numerical data analyses. However, some research questions, particularly those that search for meaning or process, do not lend themselves to quantitative methods but must rely instead on qualitative approaches. Data from qualitative research are not numerical data, but are words, stories, and pictures. Data may also include journals and memos, video, and memoirs. It is impossible to reduce these data to numbers to answer the research questions. Just as a variety of quantitative tests may be applied to numerical data, various analytical approaches may be used to examine qualitative data. Readers not familiar with the rigorous processes of qualitative analyses are left to wonder about both the process and the confidence they can have in the results. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief explanation of grounded theory and the constant comparative process that is incorporated as the method of analysis in this study.

    Grounded Theory

    Grounded theory is the second most popular research method used for nursing research (Schreiber & Stern, 2001). It is one approach to study the meaning and process of human behavior related to a problematic experience (Hutchinson & Wilson, 2001). The name implies that the theory is “grounded” in data that are collected using a specific protocol and analyzed according to preset criteria.

    Grounded theory has been used by nurses to identify the meaning that health events hold for patients. Nelson (1990) used grounded theory design to develop a theoretical model to explain rehabilitation after spinal cord injury. Corbin and Strauss (1991) uncovered the ...

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