Thinking About Data With Grounded Theory

Kathy Charmaz, Linda Liska Belgrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


This article examines qualitative data in an era of neoliberalism and focuses on the place of data in grounded theory studies. Neoliberal values of individual responsibility, self-sufficiency, competition, efficiency, and profit have entered the conduct of research. Neoliberalism fosters (a) reifying quantitative logical-deductive research, (b) imposing surveillance of types and sources of data, (c) marginalizing inductive qualitative research, and (d) limiting access to data in grounded theory studies. Grounded theory relies on data and resists current efforts to abandon data. The method resides in the space between reifying and rejecting data. Data allow us to learn from the stories of those left out and permits research participants to break silences. Data can help us look underneath and beyond our privileges, and alter our views. Grounded theory is predicated on data, but how researchers regard and render data depends on which version of the method they adopt. We propose developing a strong methodological self-consciousness to learn how we affect the research process and to counter the subtle effects of neoliberalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-753
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • co-construction of data
  • constructivist grounded theory
  • institutional review boards
  • methodological self-consciousness
  • neoliberalism
  • pragmatism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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