Traits of Grounded Theory: Core Category, Theory Generation, Memos

In a previous post, we began a discussion on grounded theory traits. There are at least six traits of grounded as listed below.

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

In this post, we will look at the last three characteristics in detail.

Core Category

Qualitative research emphasizes the use of categories. A core category a category which serves as the foundation for the development of a theory. Below is a criteria for developing a core category.

  • It needs to recur frequently in the data
  • It is at the center of the study is it interacts with all aspects of the study
  • It is logical and naturally appears from the data
  • It is highly abstract

It is difficult to provide an example of developing a core category. The point is that this category plays a significant role in understanding the central phenomenon in comparison to other categories you may develop.

Theory Generation

Generating a theory in grounded theory involves the explanation of a process in abstract terms. The theory developed has little external validity because it is grounded so thoroughly in the data. In general, a grounded theory can appear in one of three forms

  • Visual coding paradigm
  • propositions (hypotheses)
  • narrative form

A visual coding paradigm is an illustration of the theory that a researcher creates. There are many examples on the internet of visual representation of a theory.

Propositions are statements that explain the relationships among the various categories of a study.  These statements can also be worded as hypotheses. These hypotheses are often tested in the future quantitatively.

A narrative form involves the development of propositions but rather than being only statements, the statements are connected to create a description of the central phenomenon. This involves a high level of creativity to not only interpret the data but to capture in a narrative description.


Memos are short notes a researcher takes while conducting grounded theory research. They’re similar to field notes but they involve personal reflection rather than raw data. Memos help to shape the data analysis aspect of grounded theory.


Grounded theory is a useful way to assess processes that take place in the real world. These six characteristics provide some basic information about this approach.

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