Grounded Theory is a research tradition strongly influenced by symbolic interactionism, which was raised and developed by the sociologists Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). This, unlike those presented previously, offers the possibility for the researcher to generate theory through a systematic process of data collection and analysis. This tradition of research assumes that the behaviors that occur naturally in social contexts can be better analyzed from the generation of "bottom-up" categories and concepts. Glasser and Strauss (1967) define GT "as the discovery of theories from data systematically obtained from social research." Grounded Theory was initially developed in the nursing school of the University of California in San Francisco, with the aim of generating theories that supported the studies on the awareness of the proximity of his death, had patients in terminal state .
Glasser and Strauss proposed an innovative methodology that would help them investigate a topic that had not been previously investigated. As we mentioned earlier, his new methodological proposal was rooted in symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969).
According to symbolic interactionism, the meaning of a certain behavior is formed from social interaction. Therefore, this line of thought emphasizes the importance of meaning and interpretation as essential human processes. People create shared meanings through their social interactions, which will later define their reality. GT is very effective at exploring in a holistic way, both the relationships of a particular social group and the behavior of its members, insofar as they affect the life of the individual.
Grounded theory is especially recommended for the study of situations, phenomena and contexts that have not been studied enough, and on which there is not enough literature. Its essential characteristic is that theoretical propositions are not postulated as in other research traditions at the beginning of the study, but that generalizations emerge from the data themselves and not prior to the collection of them. Therefore, theories are constructed on the basis of interaction, fundamentally based on the actions, interactions and social processes that take place between people. Charmaz (2006) proposes the following phases for the implementation of the Grounded Theory:
1. Identification of our area of substantive interest: As it happens in the research traditions previously shown, a study based on GT must also start from the identification of an area of interest and research topic. In the case of this tradition, the selection of the area of interest and the specific topic of research, as well as relying on the personal interests of the researcher, must be based on the identification of an area whose theoretical development has not been satisfactorily covered in the literature. The identification of a theoretical "gap" will provide us with the starting point for the definition of our research design. However, unlike what happens in the rest of the research traditions, at this time we should not conduct a formal review of literature, just an initial screening that allows us to identify the aforementioned lack of theoretical support of the topic that we wish to study.
2. Data collection: As established by (Charmaz, 2006, Strauss & Corbin, 1990) the fundamental techniques of data collection in GT are observations, interviews, document analysis, and in some cases, even the collection of quantitative data from, for example, the completion of questionnaires, the use of social networks or even formal techniques of discourse analysis. The decisions regarding the data collection techniques to be used will be strongly directed by the informants included in our study. Both the data collection techniques and the informants will determine the quality and completeness of the emerging theory of the process. Strauss and Corbin (1990) offer the following recommendations in this regard: a) The context, group and / or individuals to be studied should be chosen on the basis of the main research question; b) The types of data collection techniques that will be used should be chosen according to their convenience to capture the information that we seek to generate our theory; c) In the case of longitudinal studies, it is necessary to make a decision about whether to follow an individual throughout the process, or certain individuals at different points in the process.
3. Open coding and axial coding of data: As we mentioned before, when we carry out a GT study, the data collection and analysis happen simultaneously. The first step in the analysis is based on data coding. Holton (2007) identifies two fundamental types of coding; the substantive (substantive coding) and the theoretical (theoretical coding). The substantive coding aims to conceptualize the empirical substance of the studied topic, that is, to help us analyze the data in which the theory is submerged (grounded). On the other hand, the theoretical coding helps us conceptualize the way in which the substantive codes are related to each other and are integrated to form our emerging theory. Strauss & Corbin (1990) identify three fundamental types of substantive coding: open coding, axial coding and selective coding. Open coding consists of scrutinizing the data (usually texts) by separating them into units of content, or codes, in order to identify concepts, ideas and meanings contained therein. The meticulous examination of the data allows us to identify, and what is more important, to conceptualize meanings in the analyzed texts. To implement this coding strategy, we must examine, segment and compare the data in relation to their similarities and differences. For this, the researcher conscientiously reads the texts under analysis and identifies portions of them that point out ideas, concepts and / or meanings, relevant for the understanding and conceptualization of the topic subject of study. The codes generated from the researcher's interpretation are called "open," while those that come from textual phrases mentioned by our informants (in an interview, for example) are called "in vivo." At the end of an open coding process we will obtain a list, generally extensive, of codes that, when compared and reduced among them, will allow us to obtain a classification of the second degree, composed of the so-called analysis categories (San Martín, 2014). Once the process of open encoding of our data has been concluded, and having obtained a set of categories of analysis, we will proceed to the axial coding. Through axial coding, the researcher identifies possible relationships between the categories obtained in the open coding, grouping them and / or sub-dividing them into sub-categories, as appropriate.
4. Production of "memos": During the open coding and the axial coding of the data, the researcher must annotate in an organized way the decisions that he is taking, as well as the abstractions that he generates. The so-called "memos" are notes that researchers generate as they codify the data, which allows a written record of abstract thinking when creating codes and categories. Strauss and Corbin (1990, p.197) define them as "written records of analysis." The generation of memos is essential in GT because it constitutes a process of reflection by which researchers interpret the data in an analytical manner in order to discover emerging patterns that help develop the sought after substantive theory.
5. Selective coding of data: As mentioned previously, the third type of substantive coding is the so-called selective coding. It occurs as an extension of the axial coding, characterized by a higher level of abstraction. This third coding process is intended to help the researcher identify what the authors of the grounded theory call the "core category." This allows the researcher to express the phenomenon of research through the integration of the categories and sub-categories of open and axial coding. The central category that results from a selective coding process must group the categories in the axial coding phase, in order to explain the phenomenon or phenomena studied in our research.
6. Search for abstract theoretical codes: In parallel to the realization of axial and selective coding, the researcher must also begin to develop what is called "theoretical coding." Unlike the three procedures of substantive coding previously described, in the theoretical coding the researcher tries to identify a series of theoretical codes that allow him to develop an integrated and explanatory substantive theory of the phenomenon object of study. A theoretical code consists of the relational model through which all previously identified codes and substantive categories are related to the central category.
7. Review of the literature: Until now, it is not recommended to carry out an exhaustive review of the literature related to the phenomenon under study. This should be done around the category or central categories emanated from the previous phase. It is in this moment of the investigation when the existing literature in the field will allow us to generate our emergent or substantive theory.
8. Generation of the emerging theory and its integration with preexisting knowledge: GT focuses on the generation of what is called "substantive theory." This differs from formal theory, of a universal nature, in that the substantive theory deals with a type of theoretical construction of inductive order, which allows us to understand singular social realities. The substantive theory is generated from the dynamic analysis of data and therefore differs from the deductive and static nature involved in the processes of generation of formal theories. It is to this particular type of theory, to which we will refer in this eighth phase of the process of implementing a study supported by Grounded Theory.
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