What are the stages in grounded theory analysis for qualitative data?

By Priya Chetty on January 14, 2020

Grounded theory analysis in qualitative research is a type of scientific research concerned with the emerging concepts of social phenomena. It refers to situations where data collection is conducted in an unstructured way (Joubish, Khurram, Ahmed, Fatima, & Haider, 2011). The three main qualitative research methods are participant observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups (Jamshed, 2014). Participant observation refers to observing and recording the behavior of a subject as it occurs. In-depth interviews are used to collect data related to the respondent’s perspective through open-ended questions. Focus groups produce data on the perspectives collected from the participants in a group setting (Family Health International, n.d.).

The grounded theory analysis approach to qualitative data

Grounded theory is also related to qualitative research. It is a procedure related to  conceptualization of data. It is inductive and offers the scope of proposing a theory. Involvement of probable relationships is seen in grounded theory which is directly emerged from data analysis. It is preferred by researchers as grounded theory carries the idea of the constant comparative method, i.e. observations from the previous stage of data analysis are compared to the next stage. These stages continue until the subject reaches the point of ‘theoretical saturation’. Stages of the grounded theory include:

  • open coding,
  • explanation of emergent concepts,
  • conceptual coding,
  • refinement of conceptual coding,
  • clustering of concepts,
  • searching for core categories and,
  • development of core theories (Lacey & Luff, 2001). 

Coding and categorizing qualitative data

Coding and categorizing in qualitative data means clustering and classification schemes; linking categories to the concept and forming a theory (Maxwell & Miller, 2008). The three Cs’ of data analysis are Codes, Categories and Concepts. The structure and steps of qualitative data analysis are presented below:

Structure of qualitative data analysis
Figure 1: Structure of qualitative data analysis

Steps in qualitative data analysis

  • Step 1: An initial code is a word or short phrase that denotes a salient feature of visual data.
  • Step 2: This step comprises the development of a large number of codes. The redundant codes will be collapsed and codes will be renamed. After removing redundant codes, codes will be modified from raw data.
  • Step 3: After modifying codes, they will be organized into categories. It explains the major topic will be grouped and every important topic. So there is a long list of categories and sub-categories with related codes.
  • Step 4: Initial list will be modified by combining two categories. So the movement of coding initial data to category identification and from identified category to emerging concepts entail the analysis process.
  • Step 5: Categories and sub-categories will be revisited after removing redundancies and identifying critical elements.
  • Step 6: Final step of this process contains the identification of concepts in relation to identified codes and categories.

An example of an initial coding scheme in grounded theory analysis

In this example case, the first phase involves data collection through observation and interview. Transcription of verbal data retrieved through interviews, TV programmes are then performed in order to conduct thematic analysis. After familiarizing with data, an initial list of ideas is generated. This phase produces the initial codes (Virginia & Victoria, 2006).

Theoretical analysis of open coding in grounded theory analysis
Figure 2: Theoretical analysis of open coding in grounded theory analysis (Bernard, 1996)

Next, the transcripts are coded line by line and labelled into concepts. This process is termed as open coding. Then relationships among codes are sorted and established which is called axial coding. Lastly, the most significant codes are identified as selective coding (Cho & Lee, 2014).

In an interview, Joan, Farideh, Doreen, Grace, Pam, Elena, Anne, Lily and Laura’s responses have been taken. Each respondent answers seven questions. Formation of open coding is given below:

  • In a first question, ‘How often do you shop at KDS’, Joan has responded that ‘depending on the season’, Farideh and Elena have replied ‘once in a week’, Doreen has said ‘twice in a month’, Lily and Laura have said ‘once in a month’. Anne has shopped ‘twice in a year’, Pam has preferred ‘twice or thrice in a week’. But Grace has responded ‘not often’.
  • In the second question, ‘Why do you shop at KDS’, most of the respondents have answered ‘good quality’ in terms of cark parking, nice staff, a wide range of items and spacious space.
  • The third question, ‘How much time do you normally spend in the store’ respondents have spent time ‘couple of hours’ or according to their need.
  • Fourth question, ‘What do you typically buy/intend to buy at KDS’, respondents household items or Christmas gifts.
  • The fifth question, ‘Do you also look elsewhere for the things you have come here to buy?’ explains that all the respondents explore their preferred items to other stores as they have mentioned that  KDS is contained with old fashioned items or clothes.
  • Sixth question tries to find ‘Are there any products/range of products not currently stocked that you would like to see introduced in KDS’ and out of nine respondents, three said ‘No’. Other six respondents have replied that presently KDS doesn’t have ‘Wide range of goods’, ‘Stylizing garments’, ‘Kitchen Goods’, “garden Furniture’ or ‘Bridal Service’.
  • Lastly the question, ‘Are there any products/ranges currently stocked that you never consider buying from KDS’ answers that apart from two respondents, other people suggest the product like electrical goods, Toiletries, furniture, children’s clothes should not be bought from KDS.
How often do you shop at KDS? Depending on the season Once in a week Twice in a month Not often Twice or thrice in a week Once in a week Twice in a year Once in a month At least once a month
Why do you shop at KDS? Good quality Availability of goods under one roof Advice from helpful staff regarding curtain fabrics or sofa, nice toilet Nice staffs, Goods,  habit Nice staff, wide area to roam Good car parking, New checkout system, good staff Curtain at the time of Sale Spacious space, a wide range of goods Car parking, good staffs
How much time do you normally spend in the store A couple of Hours Whole afternoon An hour As little as necessary Not much time As little as necessary A couple of Hours A couple of Hours A couple of Hours
What do you typically buy/intend to buy at KDS?  Bedding, Curtains Fancy items Things for the house Christmas gift Nice cake for Christmas Regular shopping, particularly groceries and other provisions Soft Furnishing Things for house, books Things for myself, books
Do you also look elsewhere for the things you have come here to buy? NA Debenhams Internet and catalogues West End, or to Kensington Market Internet Yes Yes, for books, Waterstone’s Yes, a new store at Guildford
Are there any products/range of products not currently stocked that you would like to see introduced in KDS? Bridal Service Wide range of goods No Quality and Styling of garments No No Kitchen goods Garden furniture New stock of clothes
Are there any products/ranges currently stocked that you never consider buying from KDS?  Electrical Goods Electrical Goods or Furniture Toiletries NA Furniture Shoes Clothes Children’s clothes NA

Table 1: Initial Coding


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  • Family Health International. (n.d.). Qualitative Research Methods Overview. Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide (p. 2).
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  • Maxwell, J., & Miller, B. (2008). Categorising and connecting strategies in qualitative data analysis. In Handbook of emergent methods. New York: Guildford Press.
  • Virginia, B., & Victoria, C. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

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