AL Chapman, M Hadfield, CJ Chapman
Journal Issue: 
Volume 45: Issue 3: 2015



In today’s NHS, qualitative research is increasingly important as a method of assessing and improving quality of care. Grounded theory has developed as an analytical approach to qualitative data over the last 40 years. It is primarily an inductive process whereby theoretical insights are generated from data, in contrast to deductive research where theoretical hypotheses are tested via data collection. Grounded theory has been one of the main contributors to the acceptance of qualitative methods in a wide range of applied social sciences. The influence of grounded theory as an approach is, in part, based on its provision of an explicit framework for analysis and theory generation. Furthermore the stress upon grounding research in the reality of participants has also given it credence in healthcare research.

As with all analytical approaches, grounded theory has drawbacks and limitations. It is important to have an understanding of these in order to assess the applicability of this approach to healthcare research. In this review we outline the principles of grounded theory, and focus on thematic analysis as the analytical approach used most frequently in grounded theory studies, with the aim of providing clinicians with the skills to critically review studies using this methodology.