Grounded Theory and Pragmatism: The Curious Case of Anselm Strauss


  • Antony Bryant Leeds Metropolitan University



Pragmatism, grounded theory, Anselm Strauss, Richard Rorty, John Dewey


Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE's stories featuring Sherlock Holmes are justly famous the world over. In The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1993) one story entitled Silver Blaze contains an exchange between Holmes and a Scotland Yard detective as follows: Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time." Holmes: "That was the curious incident." In similar fashion I wish to draw attention to the curious case of Anselm STRAUSS: There is already a good deal of work pointing to the continuities between the Grounded Theory Method (GTM) and the Pragmatism of John DEWEY and Charles PEIRCE. This has usually focused on Anselm STRAUSS with his Chicago-influenced Pragmatist background, although STRAUSS himself never articulated the way in which Pragmatism informed or could be brought to bear on the method as it evolved from the 1960s onwards. This paper argues that many of the contentious issues surrounding GTM can be resolved if they are understood against the context of some of the core tenets of Pragmatism, particularly the ways in which some of the more recent Pragmatists such as Richard RORTY have brought them back as a focus of attention. In so doing is raises the question of why, given his intellectual background and formation, Anselm STRAUSS did so little to bring Pragmatist ideas into GTM in its later embodiments and extended statements. That is the "curious incident" to which specific attention is drawn at several points in what follows; it remains a perplexing one, with perhaps no convincing solution, unlike the Sherlock Holmes mystery alluded to above. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs090325


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Author Biography

Antony Bryant, Leeds Metropolitan University

Antony BRYANT is currently Professor of Informatics at Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK. His initial studies and his PhD were in the social and political sciences. He later completed a Masters in Computing, followed by several years working as a Systems Analyst and Project Leader for a commercial software developer. He has written extensively on research methods, being Senior Editor of The SAGE Handbook of Grounded Theory (SAGE, 2007)—co-edited with Kathy CHARMAZ with whom he has worked extensively within the area of Grounded Theory and research methods in general. He has worked on government IT projects, and collaborated with major commercial companies. He has developed and taught a wide range of post-graduate courses in South Africa, Malaysia, and China. He is currently Asia-Europe Professor at the University of Malaya, and Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam.


How to Cite

Bryant, A. (2009). Grounded Theory and Pragmatism: The Curious Case of Anselm Strauss. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(3).



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