Management Grounded Theory
Zhuo Lin, Elaine Hollensbe
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0194


Grounded theory is a commonly used approach to analyzing qualitative data in management studies. It was originally developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss in the 1960s as a means of generating middle-range theories in sociology, and it has since moved across disciplines and developed in different versions (e.g., Glasserian, Straussian, constructivist grounded theory). Grounded theory seeks to construct theory that emerges from the data (i.e., theory “grounded” in data), and is characterized by an iterative process in which the researcher constantly compares the emerging theory, the data, and existing literature, engages in theoretical sampling, and strives for theoretical saturation of the data.


Glaser and Strauss 1967 and Strauss 1987 are classics in grounded theory methods, but many contemporary textbooks provide more accessible, hands-on guidance for learning grounded theory. Birks and Mills 2011, Charmaz 2014, Corbin and Strauss 2015, and Flick 2018 offer practical advice and examples for students on doing grounded theory research. For experienced grounded theory researchers seeking to expand their knowledge, Bryant and Charmaz 2007 and Bryant and Charmaz 2019 dive deeply into specific philosophical, theoretical, and practical issues with the use of grounded theory in various contexts. Dey 1999 offers a critical integration of Glasserian and Straussian grounded theory. Finally, Locke 2001 is a dedicated discussion of grounded theory in management studies.

  • Birks, Melanie, and Jane Mills. Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2011.

    A hands-on, readable guide written for graduate students and researchers who are new to grounded theory. The authors write in a conversational, approachable style to help the reader understand the different stages of doing grounded theory, and they include learning objectives, tables, figures, and examples from actual research projects.

  • Bryant, Anthony, and Kathy Charmaz. The SAGE Handbook of Grounded Theory. London: SAGE, 2007.

    A collection of specific, in-depth discussions of theoretical and practical issues associated with grounded theory. Chapters in this book address topics rarely covered elsewhere, such as teamwork in grounded theory research, teaching grounded theory, as well as grounded theory in the contexts of feminism, diversity, critical theory, and many more. This collection is best suited for those with some experience with grounded theory who would like to further expand their knowledge.

  • Bryant, Anthony, and Kathy Charmaz. The SAGE Handbook of Current Developments in Grounded Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2019.

    An up-to-date overview of grounded theory topics, such as theorizing in grounded theory, data collection and analysis, reflections on using and teaching grounded theory, and the relationship between grounded theory and other qualitative research methods.

  • Charmaz, Kathy. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014.

    An easy-to-read guide to grounded theory, with the focus on doing and writing up grounded theory research. Charmaz covers specific topics such as theoretical sampling, interviewing, coding, Memo Writing, and writing a grounded theory paper.

  • Corbin, Juliet, and Anselm Strauss. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 4th ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2015.

    A landmark volume in grounded theory, this book is a step-by-step guide to forming a research question, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting the research.

  • Dey, Ian. Grounding Grounded Theory: Guidelines for Qualitative Inquiry. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1999.

    A critical examination and conceptual integration of the approaches of Glaser and Strauss to grounded theory.

  • Flick, Uwe. Doing Grounded Theory. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2018.

    An introduction to grounded theory tailored to newcomers to the method. Relatively short (160 pages) and written in second-person voice, it is a practical guide for students doing grounded theory research for the first time.

  • Glaser, Barney G., and Anselm L. Strauss. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine, 1967.

    A classic work in which the authors first conceive the grounded theory approach to qualitative research.

  • Locke, Karen. Grounded Theory in Management Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2001.

    Written by an experienced organizational behavior researcher, this book specifically covers the use of grounded theory in management contexts.

  • Strauss, Anselm L. Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

    A fundamental work of the Straussian approach to grounded theory, this book is especially useful for understanding Strauss’s coding procedures (i.e., open, axial, and selective coding).

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