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Researching difficult-to-reach and vulnerable groups using grounded theory methods

Cartwright, Luke



This case study describes a research project that used grounded theory methods. The aim of this research was to develop new knowledge about how parents experience their offspring’s problematic drug use. Unstructured interviews were used during the data-gathering phase of the research, and data were collected in two distinct periods. The case study is divided into four sections. Section 1 outlines the approaches used to find and recruit research participants. This section also describes how I engaged with the participants in ways that I hoped would encourage participation and build a rapport. Section 2 outlines significant life events that some of the research participants experienced and the importance of working sensitively with vulnerable participants and how this can contribute to your research endeavor. This section also highlights some of the ethical issues that need to be negotiated during the fieldwork phase of a research project. Section 3 describes the methods used during the data collection and data analysis stages of the project. The processes involved are broken down with each stage being explained. The process is presented as a linear model; however, in grounded theory, it is possible to move back and forth between stages, and the benefits this may bring are explained in this section. Finally, Section 4 offers a reflexive account of the research journey. Reflexivity is an important aspect of qualitative research and this section highlights why it is important.


Cartwright, L. (2017). Researching difficult-to-reach and vulnerable groups using grounded theory methods. In SAGE Research Methods: Cases. Part 2. SAGE Publications.

Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date May 31, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 31, 2017
Journal Sage research methods cases part two
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Book Title SAGE Research Methods: Cases. Part 2
ISBN 9781473992160
Keywords Grounded Theory, Health
Public URL
Publisher URL


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