Phenomenological research and grounded theory

Phenomenological research

Phenomenological research and grounded theory are common methods of conducting qualitative research.

Phenomenological research focuses on understanding the impact an experience has on a person’s life. The only sources of information are the people experiencing the event (phenomena). This type of research is often limited to interviews only, (Driessnack, 2007)

Grounded theory research includes a variety of data sources, including diaries, observations, images, and past research. They compare the data they collected with older data and look for differences and contradictions, as well as social patterns.


Driessnack, M., Sousa, V. D., & Mendes, I. C. (2007). An overview of research designs relevant to nursing: part 2: qualitative research designs.


5-“The purpose of phenomenological research is to provide a thorough description of a lived experience. Some researchers will summarize their findings with a written summary that combines the findings into a thorough description or an exemplar of the experience” (Grove 70).

“Grounded theory research is an inductive technique that emerged from the discipline of sociology. The term grounded means the theory developed from the research has its roots in the data from which it was derived. Most scholars base the grounded theory methodology on symbolic interaction theory. George Herbert Mead (Mead, 1934), a social psychologist, developed symbolic interaction theory, which involves exploring how people define reality and how their beliefs are related to their actions. Reality is created by attaching meanings to situations. Meaning is expressed in such symbols as words, religious objects, patterns of behavior, and clothing. These symbolic meanings are the basis for actions and interactions. However, symbolic meanings are different for each individual, and we cannot completely know the symbolic meanings for another individual” (Grove 70-71).

“Grounded theory has been used most frequently to study areas in which little previous research has been conducted and to gain a new viewpoint in familiar areas of research. Through their interviews to understand the perspectives of persons who were dying, Glaser and Strauss (1967) developed grounded theory research as a method and published a book describing it as a qualitative method. Nurses were attracted to the method because of its applicability to the life experiences of persons with health problems and its potential for developing explanations of human behavior (Wuerst, 2012)” (Grove 71).

“Ethnographic research was developed by anthropologists as a method to study cultures through immersion in the culture over time. The word ethnography means “portrait of a people.” Anthropologists study a people’s origins, past ways of living, and ways of surviving through time—in other words, their culture. Culture is the focus of ethnography. Early ethnography researchers studied primitive, foreign, or remote cultures (Savage, 2006). Such studies enabled the researcher who spent a year or longer in another culture to acquire new perspectives about a specific people, including their ways of living, believing, and adapting to changing environmental circumstances. This reflects the emic approach, one of studying behaviors from within the culture that recognizes the uniqueness of the individual (Ponterotto, 2005). The emic view from inside the culture is the typical goal of ethnography” (Grove 74).

I feel as though phenomenological research and grounded research have the most similarities due to the fact they both want to get to the root of the research by analyzing data from the core. Both types of research analyze both, people and experiences. I prefer grounded research because I like to investigate and analyze current and new research to understand it and create a different viewpoint, and maybe even learn about some of my own discoveries related to that research.


Grove, Susan, Jennifer Gray, Nancy Burns. Understanding Nursing Research, 6th Edition.      Saunders, 092014. VitalBook file

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