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Where are the grounds for grounded theory? A troubled empirical methodology meets Wittgenstein

James, Fiona


Dr Fiona James
Lecturer in Education/ Chair of the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education Ethics Committee


This article provides a critical exposition of the epistemological underpinnings of a recent redevelopment of Grounded Theory (GT) methodology, ‘Constructivist’ GT. Although proffered as freed from the ‘objectivist’ tenets of the original version, critical examination exposes the essentialism threaded through its integral analytic practices. Movement towards a position critical of an external referent, discernible within Wittgenstein’s later works, is the apparent target of Constructivist GT. However, despite its championing of indeterminate, multiple meanings, the notion of correspondence to the world, discernible within the Tractatus, persists. In order for Constructivist GT to achieve coherence, Socio-Linguistic Realism is suggested here as a stance which would help sharpen its distinction from the atomism of the original version of GT. However, in order for such repositioning to extend to all its analytic practices, particularly coding, further development would be required so that it can accommodate the notion of context bound meanings and language use. As it stands, its fuzzy epistemological position translates into rather ambiguous analytic coding practices. Further, an ill-defined conception of linguistic meanings and the intermittent positing of referents external to the social contexts researched does little to foster a secure methodological position with a clarified notion of grounding.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 21, 2018
Journal Educational philosophy and theory
Print ISSN 0013-1857
Electronic ISSN 1469-5812
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 50
Issue 4
Pages 369-379
Institution Citation James, F. (2018). Where are the grounds for grounded theory? A troubled empirical methodology meets Wittgenstein. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 50(4), 369-379.
Keywords Wittgenstein; Methodology; Theory
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Educational philosophy and theory, 2018. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.


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