Premise of Grounded Theory Social Constructivism or Positivism


Discuss the difference of approaches between positivism and Constructivism perspective in relation to the Grounded Theory and Justification for selection of social constructivism over positivism approach in relevance to Grounded Theory?

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The research study focuses on the appropriateness of Grounded Theory as an effective methodology that social constructivism or positivism act as variant epistemologies with its relevance to practice and politics.  Grounded Theory refers to an inductive methodology and many authors argue its relevance in the qualitative research. It revolves around the systematic generation of theory from the systematic research. The researcher would critically analyze the political, philosophical and practical issues in context positivism approach or social constructivism (Anderson 2015). The researcher would also seek a deeper insight on the strengths and limitations of the grounded theory. The Grounded theory would be taken into consideration in terms social constructivism or positivism in areas of interpretation and application. The application of the Grounded theory along with its relation to qualitative data collection would give a clear insight into the methodological application of a research study.

Foundation of Grounded Theory

Grounded theory states a set of systematic inductive methods for conducting qualitative research aimed at the theory of development. The term grounded theory depends on the following factors: a method consisting of the flexible methodological strategies and the products relating to these types of inquiry. The application of grounded theory has its relevance in the field of data collection and analysis (Engward 2013). The application of the grounded theory is central to the logic and it relies hugely on empirical foundations.  Interpretation and analysis of the grounded theory seeks a deep insight on abstract, conceptual and focused theories that aligns with the phenomenon of empirical foundation.

The significance of the grounded theory has considerable significance as it provides explicit, sequential guidelines for conducting an effective research. However, many authors have argued its competency with the implementation as a social constructivism or positivism approach.  The analytic phases of inquiry align with the specific strategies of the grounded theory. Researchers often argue to have conducted studies of grounded theories without getting a total overview of adopting its distinctive guidelines (Fletcher-Watson 2013). They may incur one or two of the strategies or often misinterpret the application of the social constructivism or positivism approach with the grounded theory. The total application and interpretation of the grounded theory is still under demise.

 The primary aim of the grounded theory is to interpret and generate a new theory. The grounded theory enhances the quality of the research study through identification of new theories from the emerging data. The foundation of the grounded theory is the discovery of theory from systematic application of data.  The exploration of the integral social relationships and behavior of peer groups have suitable implications from the implementation of the grounded theory. The ideology of conjecture and preconception underpin the penetration of the research study in an effective way (Goode and Stroup 2015). Identification of a social process is a basic trait of the grounded theory. Therefore, theoretical approach of social constructivism is evidential in its application.

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In the viewpoint of many authors, from positivism point of view grounded theory is not quite accurate decision for theory deducing.  Scientists suggest that it is usually productive to start with an initial hypothesis, which could be altered, according to the nature of the research. However, from the positivism point of view, the researcher test and suggests a hypothesis without altering the initial idea. However, the application of positivism or social constructivism is in demise in the present. The study would focus on the appropriateness of social constructivism over positivism approach in accordance to grounded theory.

Grounded theory from the Positivisms Perspective

In accordance to the positivism point of view, Grounded theory is not a suitable option for theory deducing. According to some authors, it is safer to conduct a research study upon implementation of a hypothesis, which could be illustrated or changed during the course of the research work.  In that case, the initial idea could be lost which had its introduction earlier in the research study (Hanson 2014). In contrast, from the positivists point of view, the application of hypothesis is granted, only when it is tested, without altering the initial idea implemented in the study. The result forthcoming should either verify or refuse the hypothesis. The grounded theory takes active participation in coding the information gathered by the researcher in a unique manner, which is not the case with the positivist researcher. The application of grounded theory in a research methodology works in a reverse manner from the context of social science research in a positivism approach. In contrast to the positivism research, the grounded theory starts with a research question or with a collective data of qualitative analysis. Therefore, the grounded theory is very much different from the positivism approaches that prefer selecting an existing theoretical framework, and then only gathers or accumulate data and information to identify its relevancy to the phenomenon of the research study (Head 2016).

 The primary aim of the Grounded theory was to pose a strong opposition to the positivists by enhancing the reliability and validity of the qualitative sociology in contrast to the quantitative approaches posted by the positivist researchers in the contemporary world. Scientists like GLASER and STRAUSS were very much resistant towards the positivism approach, as they continuously positioned themselves against the approaches and implementations of the quantitative research initiated by the modern researchers.  Despite several indifferences between Grounded theory and Positivism approach, there is some relation between the two in terms of research penetration by retaining the tone and orientation of the quantitative research rather than implementing procedures with a characteristic cast, which would arguably offer a more detailed understanding of the qualitative approach.

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Grounded Theory from the social constructivism perspective

A later version of the Grounded Theory is known as social constructivist Grounded Theory in relation to pragmatism and relative epistemology, which states that the data and theories are not discovered, but are constructed by the researcher during his interpretation in the field with the selected participants of the study (Holtermann 2015). It relates with the contemporary scenario and is more preferable by the scientists and researchers in contrast to constructivism. The interpretation of data finds its resemblance upon co-operation between the researcher and the participants in alignment with the positions, geographical locations, privileges and values of the researcher. The position of the Grounded theory takes a stand between the realist and postmodernist positions through perceptions of an obdurate reality and simultaneously it reflects on the multiple realities and perspectives of the reality. The application of Grounded theory in the social constructivism context, finds its application in a case-sensitive way without forcing it on the emerging data (Logan 2015). In accordance to the contemporary scenario in the qualitative analysis, Grounded theory from the social constructivism perspective engages first hand information of the empirical world and access the interpretation of the qualitative research in the 21st century. It aligns with the mutual adaptation of data and knowledge gathering by the participant and the researcher through proper understanding of the subject meanings. The constructivism approach further states a story about the individuals, social process and the scenarios by composing it in a successful manner. It does not only reflect the story but also draw favorable implications of the viewer and the viewed. GLASER stated that data is transparent by nature and researchers draw huge implications from the intervention of the social processes through identification of significance by the researcher.

However, the vision of the researcher may not be the standpoint in nature and there are questions regarding its certainty. Social constructivism has its origination from an attempt to relate in terms with the actuality of reality (Malinga and Niedzwecki 2016). In accordance to the contemporary world, social constructivists perceive that knowledge is constructive by nature and identifies its opposition to creation. The ontological issues does not have any heed of importance in the eyes of a social constructivist as the theory focuses more with the adaption of the contemporary knowledge.  The Grounded theory from the social constructivism perspective believes in beliefs based on perspectives of relativity, thus finding its resemblance with the application of the Grounded Theory.

Difference of approaches between positivism and Constructivism perspective in relation to the Grounded Theory

The ideology of positivism and constructivism are variant philosophical stances and there is evidential difference between the core ideas of each philosophy. Both these approaches are stated as epistemologies that represent a variant ideology of what comprises knowledge. The approach of positivism argues that knowledge has its acquisition from observable and measureable facts and ideas. In the contemporary scenario, the positivism approach finds its application as a concrete scientific inquiry. On the other hand, the approach of constructivism states those realities evolve around the construction of social processes (Matravers 2015). Positivists do not have any faith on experiences that are subjective by nature. In this context, the approach of positivism could be approached could be referred as an epistemological stance, where sensory information finds its application as an authentic knowledge. In contrast, of the thinking of the positivists, the social constructivists believe that there is no single reality. According to them, the reality is a subjective interpretation and all human beings have personal perceptions regarding the visualization of their own world.

The hardcore and the natural sciences with likes of chemistry, physics and biology are considered as true sciences by the positivists. This is because; they thought that social sciences lacked penetration of measurable and observable data that could grant them as application of true sciences. For example, a natural scientist would always visit a laboratory for testing any objects, whereas a social scientist perceives the society as a laboratory for further penetration of work (Mishra 2014). Social constructivist usually analyzed the “people”, “experiences”, “life”, “attitudes” and “social processes” in an efficient way. However, the positivists considered them as irrelevant as it could be measured within the course of time. Some scientists have stated their opinion on the fact that the approach of positivism should not only stick to natural sciences but also confine themselves with the application of social sciences. However, upon evolution of social constructivism, these two approaches were considered as separate epistemological stances. In the contemporary world, owing to its connectivity with reality social constructivism has an upper hand over positivism approach in terms of the grounded theory.

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Justification for selection of social constructivism over positivism approach in relevance to Grounded Theory

One of the primary reasons for selecting social constructivism over positivism is its resemblance in the contemporary world as it deals with the reality of social processes, human behaviors and engagement of the viewer and the viewed. The application of positivism does not find much relevance in the qualitative analysis as it relates more on quantitative analysis through gathering of responses from the participants. However, Grounded theory through social constructivism finds more application in terms of the post-modern era of the qualitative research. The social constructivists are more practical in nature and accuracy reflects on their interpretation and data analysis. Grounded theory from the social constructivism perspective states that each individual constructs the experience of the world around him through application of cognitive processes. It further states that the grounded theory has a social rather than an individual focus. (Pabla 2013) While the approach of positivism relates to existing theoretical framework and gathers valuable knowledge and information from the emerging data, therefore, there is narrow scope of understanding the contemporary scenario.

In contrast, social constructivists evaluate the nature and validity of the social environments surrounding its application and contradiction in the contemporary scenario.  Moreover, the application of positivism approach is very much rudimentary by nature, as it revolves around a stagnant concept without many alterations.  The grounded theory in terms of social constructivism identifies the unique and sociological experience of the respondents and often alters the application of the hypothesis in accordance to the nature of the study.

Philosophical approach of Grounded Theory in terms of Positivism and Social Constructivism

The application of the Grounded theory identifies its evaluation through a combination of diverse tradition in sociological, positivism, and symbolic interactions. GLASER implemented eminent identification in positivism that assisted in the coding of the qualitative analysis. In contrast, STRAUSS focused more on the active participation of the respondents in it. The Grounded theory further expresses its excellence in the field of complexity in accordance to sociological culture. It further illustrates the richness and adaptability of the theory in terms of the qualitative research. GLASER recognized the systematic interpretation of the qualitative research though alignment of coding, properties and categories. According to several authors, Grounded theory studies the sociological scenario in a broader context, by relating to the interconnectivity between meaning and the assumptions of the subjects in action (Rihacek and Danelova 2016). Therefore it is predictable that humans relates with the world and reflects on the subjects that revolve around them, whereas  Grounded theory takes active participation in translating and discovering the behavior of human beings accumulated from the application of symbols.

The Grounded theory mainly came into the scenario with the emergence of contradiction and criticism of fundamentalist and structuralism, which were usually speculative and deductive by nature (Schrader 2015). It is considered as one of the most prominent base for the qualitative researcher for enhancing the quality of the research study. Symbolic interactions have a huge impetus on the Grounded theory as it defines the interconnectivity between human beings by means of symbols in the form of language. Grounded theory seeks a deep interest in gathering valuable knowledge about the sharing of sociological meaning that relates to the behavioral pattern and actuality of the participants being studied.

Methodological application

The basic ideology behind the approach of grounded theory is to read a textual database and identify or recognize variables and their interconnectivity with each other. The capability of the theory to understand the variables and its interconnectivity refers to theoretical sensitivity. The application of theoretical sensitivity in terms of grounded theory has its application from the review of literature and implementation of strategies and techniques that could increase sensitivity in an efficient way. It is not necessary that the literature should be textual by nature only; it could also refer to the observations of behavior, interactions and events in a shopping mall as well.

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Open coding is that methodological application of Grounded theory that is bestowed with the ideology of recognizing, naming, categorizing and evaluating phenomenon identified in the text. Each line depicted tries to find an answer in regards to repeated questions in the context. In contrast, the application of axial coding in the grounded theory takes active participation in relating codes within a combination of deductive and inductive approach. In order to simplify any cause, instead of probing for identified relations, Grounded theory seeks a deep insight to emphasize upon casual relationships and fit scenarios into the basic frame of relationships that are generic in nature (Sremac 2015). However, selective coding has a different story to entail. Selective coding in the methodological application of the grounded theory refers to the selection of one category as the integral one and relating all other categories with the selective category (Sremac 2015). The basic ideology is to build a single storyline surrounding which many ideas and explanations would exist. There is a strong belief by the scientists that such a core concept always exists.

Pros and Cons of the Grounded Theory

While the primitive and the modern day researchers interpret the concept of grounded theory in various ways, here are some eminent advantages and disadvantages of the grounded theory.


One of the premiere values of Grounded theory is that it avoids making perceptions and instead focuses on adapting neutral view of the human action in the social context.

Grounded Theory incorporates a methodology supported by suitable strategies and techniques for developing and understanding a social phenomenon, which does not pre-exist or pre-theoretically developed with the application of existing theories and propositions.

 Grounded, theory deals with adoption of new questions, hypothesis and collection of qualitative data that is collective by nature; the interpretation interprets an element of uniqueness in its approach.

As grounded theory is exploratory by nature, therefore, it is identical for penetrating social processes that have gained little attention to prior research, where previous research lacked substance or where a new point of view emerges from the similar topics.

Grounded theory produces the ability to identify the situation specific nature of the knowledge in alignment with the contingent nature of the practice.

Grounded theory procures a strong base that revolves around areas of contradiction and complexity and acknowledges it in an eventful manner.

            The actuality of the phenomenon is readily expressed in the Grounded theory, which adapts readily to the intervention of diverse circumstances.

Grounded Theory often changes in accordance to the scenario that affects behavioral change.


Grounded theory fails to impress in terms of entrenchment of the researcher and therefore, takes active participation in obscuring the agency of the researcher in terms of data construction, analysis and implementation

The large quotient of data gathered by the grounded theory is complex by nature and is readily difficult to manage.

The researcher should have adequate knowledge and lot of extra potential for successful intervention of the Grounded theory.

There are no set rules for intervention of the Grounded theory for the identification of its various categories and therefore, there is an absence of concreteness in the approach.


On the contrary, it concludes that scientists prefer the philosophy of social constructivism to positivism approach in accordance to the contemporary world. With its elusiveness in the qualitative research, the theory relates with the actuality of reality in alignment with the actuality of reality, social processes and human behavior. In contrast, the positivism approach does not imply to the unique coding characteristics of the researcher and therefore, finds less preference in the contemporary scenario. Subjectivism and objectivism are inborn for a society and social constructivist relates to the vision of the society and the human beings by ignoring the ontological issues in it. The philosophical approach of the study aligns the social processes, positivism and symbolic interactions. The methodological application of theory describes the analysis segment, where as advantages and disadvantages of the Grounded theory reciprocates to its intervention in the contemporary world.

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Reference List

Anderson, D., 2015. 13 Archaeological Positivism and Cultural Plurality: Working with Conflicting Views of Mesoamerican Legacies. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, 25(1), pp.119-127

Engward, H., 2013. Understanding grounded theory. Nursing Standard, 28(7), pp.37-41

Fletcher-Watson, B., 2013 Toward a Grounded Dramaturgy: Using Grounded Theory to Interrogate Performance Practices in Theatre for Early Years. Youth Theatre Journal, 27(2), pp.130-138

Goode, J. and Stroup, D., 2015. Everyday Nationalism: Constructivism for the Masses* Social Science Quarterly, 96(3), pp.717-739

Hanson, B., 2014. Objectivities: constructivist roots of positivism. Quality & Quantity, 49(2), pp.857-865

Head, S., 2016 teaching grounded audiences: Burke’s identification in Face book and composition. Computers and Composition, 39, pp.27-40

Holtermann, J., 2015. Getting Real or Staying Positive: Legal Realism(s), Legal Positivism and the Prospects of Naturalism in Jurisprudence. Ratio Juris, p.n/a-n/a

Logan, S., 2015 The semantics of social constructivism. Syntheses, 192(8), pp.2577-2598

Malinga, G. and Niedzwecki, J., 2016. Lightning field behavior around grounded airborne systems. Renewable Energy, 87, pp.572-584

Matravers, M., 2015 Justice and Constructivism Political Studies Review, 13(2), pp.176-183

Mishra, R., 2014. Social Constructivism and Teaching of Social Science JSSER, 5(2)

Pabla, A., 2013. Integrating Rorty and (Social) Constructivism: A View from Harrisian Semiology Social Epistemology, 29(1), pp.95-117

Rihacek, T. and Danelova, E., 2016 The Journey of an Integrationist: A Grounded Theory Analysis Psychotherapy

Schrader, D., 2015. Constructivism and Learning in the Age of Social Media: Changing Minds and Learning Communities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2015(144), pp.23-35

Sremac, S., 2015 A New Model of Religious Conversion: Beyond Network Theory and Social Constructivism, written by Jindra, I. W. Journal of Empirical Theology, 28(2), pp.265-266

Strauss, D., 2015. Between postmodernism, positivism and (new) atheism KOERS, 80(1)