“Theory without empirical research is empty, empirical research without theory is blind.” Pierre Bourdieu (1988: 74).
Qualitative research has been challenged for its subjectivity. However, empirical quantitative methods have been shown to have their own biases that can potentially limit the results of experiments due to the input and language prescribed by the discipline. In fact, an impetus for the adoption of qualitative research methodologies were the restrictive frameworks of traditional quantitative analyses, and the considerable ideological framework that is used to determine what is to be considered an “objective” viewpoint; specifically who is setting up the criteria that determines that objectivity. According to Strauss and Corbin, qualitative research is defined as:
“…Any type of research that produces findings not arrived at by statistical procedures or other means of quantification. It can refer to research about persons’ lives, lived experience, behaviors, emotions, and feelings as well as about organizational functioning, social movements, cultural phenomena and interactions between nations. Some of the data may be quantified as with census or background information about the persons or objects studied, but the bulk of the analysis is interpretative” (Strauss & Corbin 1990: 11).
Grounded Theory is a way of challenging the criticisms of perceived lack of verifiability, and reproducibility, as well as lack of author/researcher reflexivity. The balancing of the rigor necessary for quality research findings, and the reflexivity required to adequately explore critical theoretical viewpoints is important in qualitative research methodologies. Strauss and Corbin define “grounded theory” as:
“…Theory that was derived from data, systematically gathered and analyzed through the research process. In this method, data collection, analysis, and eventual theory stand in close relationship to one another” (Strauss & Corbin 1990: 11).
Seale addresses the conflicts between qualitative and quantitative research and the empiricist potential of the scientific origins of grounded theory:
“Although grounded theory emerged in an era of scientism, and its more technical explications are sometimes unwelcome reminders of this, the spirit that lies behind the approach can be simply explained, and does not have to be attached to a naively realist epistemology, or indeed to an oppressive urge to force readers to regard its products as true for all time. It demands a rigorous spirit of self-awareness and self-criticism, as well as an openness to new ideas that is often a hallmark of research studies of good quality” (Seale 1999: 104).
And that the symbiosis between qualitative and quantitative can result in highly effective research results:
“Quantitative as well as qualitative data can thus be incorporated into a grounded theory approach. This is consistent with one important message of this book…that an insistence on artificial and essentialist divides between data expressed in words and data expressed in numbers damages rather than enhances the quality of social research”(Seale 1999: 102).
Regarding the value of this type of research: “Grounded theories, because they are drawn from data, are likely to offer insight, enhance understanding, and provide a meaningful guide to action” (Strauss & Corbin 1990: 12). Noting that: “…The researcher begins with an area of study and allows the theory to emerge from the data” (1990: 12) which ensures this methodological framework does not come with theoretical pre-conceptions. As it is “both interdisciplinary and international” (Seale 1999) it is a good methodological framework to consider when pursuing research in transnational supply chains.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1988. “Vive la Crise! For Heterodoxy in Social Science.” Theory and Society 17 (5): 773–87.
Seale, Clive. The Quality of Qualitative Research. Bunhill London: Sage Publications Ltd. (1999)
Strauss, Anselm, and Juliet Corbin. Basics of Qualitative Research. Vol. 15. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1990.
@Mark O’Connell 2017, all rights reserved, no reproduction without authorization