Traits of Grounded Theory: Process, Sampling, & Comparision

In this post, we will look at some of the traits of grounded theory regardless of the design that is used by a researcher. Generally, there are six core traits of grounded theory and they are

  • Process approach
  • Theoretical sampling
  • Constant comparison
  • Core category
  • Generation of theory
  • Memos

We will only look at the first three in this post and save the rest for a future discussion.

Process Approach

A core trait of grounded theory is its use to examine a process. A process is a sequence of actions among people. As a grounded theory research breaks down the process into steps, these steps become know as categories. The categories can be further broken down into codes.

For example, let’s say a teacher wants to develop a grounded theory about the “process of dropping out of college.” Such a study would involve describing the steps that lead a person to dropout of college. The various steps in this process would come from interviewing students who dropout of college to determine the order of events the precipitated dropout.

Theoretical Sampling

Theoretical sampling involves selecting data to collect based on its use in developing a theory. A grounded theory researcher is always seeking to find data that would be useful in the continual development of a theory.

Returning to our dropout example, a grounded theorist may choose to collect data from student dropouts, teachers, and parents. The reason for selecting these participants is that the researcher may be convinced that these participants have useful information in developing a theory.

It is important to use theoretical sampling while the theory emerges. A grounded theory researcher is constantly collecting and analyzing data simultaneously. This process is mutually beneficial because the sampling helps the analysis while the analysis helps to focus the sampling.

Data collection does not stop until the data becomes saturated. Saturation is the point that new data will not provide any additional information. At what point this happens is at the discretion of the researcher.

Constant Comparison

As information is coded and then put into categories, new information is compared to existing codes and categories. This is a constant comparison. By comparing information constantly it allows for new codes and categories to emerge if current ones do not fit new data. In addition, codes and or categories that were separate may be combined as the data indicates.


Grounded theory involves looking at and describing processes by employing theoretical sampling and constant comparison. These are just some of the characteristics of grounded theory

1 thought on “Traits of Grounded Theory: Process, Sampling, & Comparision

  1. Pingback: Traits of Grounded Theory: Core Category, Theory Generation, Memos | educationalresearchtechniques

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