A grounded theory approach calls for an iterative process of data analysis beginning with open coding. I’ve looked to Corbin & Strauss, seminal authors on grounded theory, to learn that open coding involves several steps:
- Apply concepts to data to describe & apply meaning to observed phenomena
- Discover categories to group together similar concepts
- Apply properties to each category
- Define dimensions for each property
I start with a line-by-line analysis of transcripts & field notes. With 27 pages from my first interview alone, this can be a daunting task. As the research progresses, I’m sure I will “get in the groove” and pick out a unit of analysis — such as certain sections — but in these initial phases, I believe it’s important to engage in a more granular analysis. This helps make sure that I’m not missing critical data points or only pulling out the sections that conform to existing models or my own assumptions (important to theoretical sensitivity, a la Corbin & Strauss).
Additionally, notes and memoing help to develop categories, properties & dimensions further. Corbin & Strauss outline the use of:
- Operational notes: research procedure or process adjustments
- Code notes: document & describe potential coding, extending as far as category, general properties and possible dimensions.
- Theoretical notes: notes on the development of a theoretical sensitivity, or general musings that help with constant, iterative question-asking
- Memos: Researcher’s own analysis related to the formation of a theory, including emerging thoughts and ideations
- Diagrams: Conceptualize models, relationships among data, etc.
Memos and diagrams are particularly important for the development of abstract, creative ideation, which lends to complexity & robustness in theory development.
As I write about notes & memos, I’m merely quoting what best practices research methodologies call for when utilizing grounded theory. I see the value. Yet, my challenge comes back to resources. My first priority is gathering data, transcribing field notes and applying a first-glance level of analysis & open coding. This eats up far more than the 10 hours each week I have earmarked for this project. So, being a pragmatist, I see my “first-glance” analysis I’m performing at this point as kin to the formalized notes & memoing Corbin & Strauss call for.