Literature Review and Constructivist Grounded Theory Methodology


  • Rodrigo Ramalho The University of Auckland
  • Peter Adams The University of Auckland
  • Peter Huggard The University of Auckland
  • Karen Hoare The University of Auckland



grounded theory methodology, constructivism, literature review, reflexivity, epistemology


In grounded theory research it is commonly discouraged to conduct a literature review before data collection and analysis. Engaging with the literature about the researched area in that stage of the research is described as a constraining exercise rather than a guiding one. This can be a puzzling notion for the researcher engaging with grounded theory methodology (GTM), particularly when she/he is expected to produce a literature review in early stages of the research process, e.g., by ethics committees and/or funding bodies. The current article examines this controversial issue by exploring the different stances taken on the subject by the founders of the methodology, as well as the one introduced by constructivist GTM. The different approaches towards the potential impact of a literature review conducted before data collection and analysis are introduced not only as a methodological issue, but also, and more importantly, as an epistemological one. Reflexivity is described as a key element in ensuring the groundedness of a theory in constructivist GTM and various reflexive strategies are presented. It is suggested that the researcher's epistemological framework should be explicitly explored and acknowledged in early stages of the research.



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Author Biographies

Rodrigo Ramalho, The University of Auckland

Rodrigo RAMALHO is a psychiatrist currently enrolled as a PhD candidate in the School of Population Health, University of Auckland, where he was awarded with The University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship. Founder of the Grounded Theory Network of the University of Auckland, RAMALHO is currently conducting a constructivist grounded theory research focused on smoking cessation. His research interests include constructivist grounded theory, dangerous consumptions, and the interplay of psychological and sociocultural processes in mental health.

Peter Adams, The University of Auckland

Peter ADAMS is a professor specializing in research on addictive consumptions and is associate director of the Centre for Addiction Research, University of Auckland. He has published three sole-authored books, "Gambling, Freedom and Democracy" (Routledge, 2007), "Fragmented Intimacy: Addiction in a Social World" (Springer, 2008) and "Masculine Empire: How Men Use Violence to Keep Women in Line" (Dunmore, 2012). He is interested in social theory applications to addiction studies and ethical dilemmas.

Peter Huggard, The University of Auckland

Peter HUGGARD is a senior lecturer in the Division of Social and Community Health, University of Auckland. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of therapeutic communication; loss, grief and bereavement; vicarious trauma; and self-care.

Karen Hoare, The University of Auckland

Karen HOARE is a nurse practitioner for children and young people and partners with five general practitioners in a practice in South Auckland. Additionally she has a joint appointment as a senior lecturer across the School of Nursing and the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care within the University of Auckland. She completed her PhD using a grounded theory design to investigate how practice nurses use information in their work in New Zealand. She has written a number of papers relating to grounded theory methods.




How to Cite

Ramalho, R., Adams, P., Huggard, P., & Hoare, K. (2015). Literature Review and Constructivist Grounded Theory Methodology. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(3).



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