Why Constructivist Grounded Theory?

Now the question appears why is this the best methodology and how it can be applied on our project.

Constructivism, as ideology explains that ideas are constructed by  people and the context in which they are researched. Every time “reality” changes when the context is different and people have a different cultural background. For example if you research the idea of marriage in african culture, american culture and asian culture every context will bring out different ideas.

In the case of our research we were interested how space and place were shaped by the communist regime in Prague. We decided to do three types of research in order to understand better our topic. In the beginning of our project an informative research was developed, trying to find out what Prague was all about, and how communist was perceived there and in the other communist countries. This part helped us understand a bit the context and gave us an idea of what communism is.

The second part, and the most important, was going to Prague for a 5 days field trip. Because of the methodology we are using, we decided to go there with an open minded and with the intention to listen to people and there’s point of view on communism.

Our methodology presumes that the primary data collected from the qualitative research (interviews), has to be coded and compared between it, afterwards it would be compared with our secondary research (online research) and liked with theory and our informative research.

Why is this the best approach? This methodology helped us start from primary data (people’s perception on how space and place was shaped by communism) and after that construct on our findings with the secondary and informative research. In this way we put more accent on people’s experience and their own perception, we also had more theoretical sensitivity. If we were to start from books and theory to understand people’s perceptions we couldn’t bring something new on the filed because we already had an idea of what happened in Czechoslovakia.

A question that is being put now, is how “blank page we could go into our research?” Butler brings up that we all perceive the world in the “law”, which means that we cannot conceive and imagine our world without binding together aspects and ideas that we already have, she talk’s of an already existent really. Corbin and Strauss did not believe in a pre-existing reality, they tried to be more objective in the construction of the grounded theory, however, Charmaz in the construction of constructivist grounded theory was more subjective. we couldn’t detache 100% from the law when we went to do the field trip, but we tried to be as open minded as possible.

Looking on the steps of our methodology, first we gathered all the field trip data we started coding it into categories, such as: architecture, media coverage, perception of communism and crimes of communism, afterwards every thing was correlated with the other researches that we did and  in the end decided that the core category of our research is: the perceptions of communism. All the bits were studied and compared having in mind the core category .

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Constructivist Grounded Theory

After talking a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, I would like to discuss now constructivist grounded theory.

This type of research was developed by Charmaz, a student of Glaser and Strauss, she points out the a researcher has to look beyond date, to seek meaning in ideologies, environment, beliefs and values, all in the context of the participants. There is an underlying assumption that the interaction between the researcher and participants “produces the data, and therefore the meanings that the researcher observes and defines” (Charmaz, 1995, p. 35) also she assumes that “data do not provide a window on reality. Rather, the ‘discovered’ reality arises from the interactive process and its temporal, cultural, and structural contexts” (Charmaz, 2000, p. 524). To enrich these data, Charmaz (1995) has positioned the researcher as coproducer, exhorting them to “add . . . a description of the situation, the interaction, the person’s affect and [their] perception of how the interview went” (p. 33).

Charmaz (2000) developed the theme of writing as a strategy in constructivist grounded theory in her later work, when she advocates a writing style that is more literary than scientific in intent. She has argued that constructivist grounded theorists are impelled to be analytical in their writing but that their style of writing needs to be evocative of the experiences of the participants (Charmaz, 2001). The researcher’s voice need not “transcend experience but re-envis[age] it . . . bring[ing] fragments of fieldwork time, context and mood together in a colloquy of the author’s several selves—reflecting, witnessing, wondering, accepting—all at once” (Charmaz & Mitchell, 1996, p. 299)

Charmaz, K. (1995b). Grounded theory. In J. Smith, R. Harré,&L. Langenhove (Eds.), Rethinking methods in psychology (pp. 27-65). London: Sage

Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 509-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K. (2001). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 675-694). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K.,&Mitchell, R. (1996). The myth of silent authorship: Self, substance, and style in ethnographic writing. Symbolic Interaction, 19(4), 285-302.

Perceptions … quotes from interviews

When looking into how people perceive the reminiscent of the communist architecture, Pavel Kalina stated
“The communist architecture has many negative connotations, of course. They not taken as the good address. “
And then Klara Mergerova stated
“I’m a historian of architecture, so I, myself see the qualities and of course I try to show that there are buildings which were constructed during the communist regime, but which still present some qualities, but I think the general opinion is that those buildings were there to abrupt intrusion and most people refused even to think about qualities connected to the regime”
Digging for perceptions we found different life stories and discovered true feelings and emotions that would have never been found through reading books. Books usually provide definitions which can be shallow, but it is in the emotionally charged words spoken by the people that we truly felt the depth of communism to them
In simple terms what does communism mean to them?
Cab driver: Very bad time, and very bad memories, because I was not allowed to travel, but now I can go anywhere I want to, I don’t even know where I have my passport, because I don’t need it.
Vratislav Brabenec: “Communism is something like a religion…
Vlada Zhmuro: I think the idea of communism (all people equal, share everything blah blah) is not a bad one but its utopian because it goes against human nature.
Karol Ander: It’s a very sensitive issue for anybody.

Grounded Theory – Coding and diagramming & Identifying the core category

In this article I am looking forward to discuss the other two common characteristics of grounded theory: Coding and diagramming and identifying the core category

In the traditional grounded theory, coding the data received is vital for this form of the methodology. Looking into Glaser we can see three form of coding: open, theoretical and constant comparison. (Glaser 1992)

Open coding is the initial step of theoretical analysis, developing codes from the data. This form of coding ends when it locates a core category. Theoretical codes are “conceptual connectors” that develop relationships between categories and their properties (Glaser, 1992, p. 38). Constant comparative coding describes the method of constant comparison that inspires both open and theoretical coding.

Another method used by Strauss and Corbin is conditional or consequential matrix. They described it as “an analytic device to help the analyst keep track of the interplay of conditions/consequences and subsequent actions/interactions and to trace their paths of connectivity” (Corbin & Strauss 1998 p. 199). Using the matrix, the researcher is able to locate an interaction that appears repeatedly in the data and then trace the linkages from this through the micro and macro conditions that might influence it (Corbin & Strauss, 1996).

Diagramming is central to the coding processes, and Strauss and Corbin use it extensively. Initially in the coding process, logic diagrams such as flowcharts are used. When undertaking higher level analysis, researchers use both the conditional/consequential matrix and integrative diagramming, illustrating the complex interplay between the different levels of conditions (Strauss, 1987; Corbin &Strauss, 1990, 1998).

An important feature of the grounded theory is that is does not impose a way of coding or reconstruction of the participants storeys, it offers the research a “smorgasbord table” (Corbin & Strauss 1998, p 8) from which he can chose the best technique that fits its research.


Identifying the core category

Centre to the grounded theory, the core category includes all the theory contrasts and consist in making a “story line” from all the findings and also integrates the researcher as a writer of a theoretical reconstruction. The story line is the final conceptualisation of the core category, and as such, this “conceptual label” must fit the stories/data it represents (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 121). This process acknowledges the reconstruction of the participants’ stories by the researcher and the fulfilment of their obligation to “give voice—albeit in the context of their own inevitable interpretations” (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 281).


Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1996). Analytic ordering for theoretical purposes. Qualitative Inquiry, 2(2), 139-150.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Grounded Theory -Theoretical sensitivity & Treatment of Literature


If in the last articles I discussed a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, now I will like to go a bit in depth with the common characteristics of grounded theory as following: theoretical sensitivity and treatment of the literature.

Theoretical sensitivity is a concept that treats the researcher level of perceptiveness in the research zone, it also has in mind the understanding of the complexity word of the partakers and the scholar ability to construct meaning from the data collected and his skills to “separate the pertinent from that which isn’t” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 44)

Grounded theory implies that the researcher goes to do research with an opened clear mind, as Locke was calling it a “tabula rasa”. This vision can help the research to go in any direction, not giving him the opportunity to get stuck into theoretical or social stereotypes. Of course this is not 100% possible because of the law, in Butler’s view.  She suggests that our representations are made by mixing up ideas and experience together, ours or others, and that we cannot intend a theory without basing or constructing it on something else. Even if Strauss denies a “pre-existing” reality, it is useful to have the law in the mind when we do research.

Strauss and Corbin have suggested different techniques of becoming more sensitive as following: questioning, the flip-flop technique or far-out comparison. They also suggested that is better for the research to use these techniques in the act of theory elaboration, “Theorizing is the act of constructing . . . from data an explanatory scheme that systematically integrates various concepts through statements of relationship” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 25) and that theories themselves are “interpretations made from given perspectives as adopted or researched by researchers” (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 279)

Treatment of literature

The area of literature and its uses are diametrically contested between traditional and evolved grounded theorists. Traditional grounded theory provides the dictum that “there is a need not to review any of the literature in the substantive area under study” (Glaser, 1992, p. 31) for fear of contaminating, constrain-ing, inhibiting, stifling, or impeding the researcher’s analysis of codes emergent from the data (Glaser, 1992). This, again, situates the data as an entity separate from both participant and researcher.

Engaging proactively with the literature from the beginning of the research process, Strauss and Corbin identified many uses for this information (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), interweaving the literature throughout the process of evolved grounded theory as another voice contributing to the researcher’s theoretical reconstruction. In the same way that Strauss and Corbin have viewed the use of techniques to increase theoretical sensitivity, the literature is able to provide examples of similar phenomena that can “stimulate our thinking about properties or dimensions that we can then use to examine the data in front of us” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 45).

The “nontechnical” literature, such as reports and internal correspondence, is seen as a potential source of data, providing information, in particular, about the context within which the participant operates, for example, their employing organization (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This then contributes to an analysis of additional data that is concerned with uncovering the meso and macro conditions that might influence the area of interest identified by the participants (Corbin, 1998).


Corbin, J. (1998). Alternative interpretations: Valid or not? Theory & Psychology, 8(1), 121-128.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Grounded Theory

In the search of the proper research methodology for our project, I had a look into constructivism and now I will talk about grounded theory in the view of Glaser, Strauss, and Corbin.

The new wave of views upon research brought to light very interesting and useful ideas, one of them is grounded theory. This approach makes the researcher to leave all the views settled for his research along side and to start the investigation with clear eyes, without any preconceived ideas to prove or disprove. In this way the accent if put on the constructions of theories “about issues of importance in peoples lives”. (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998)

This requires a process of data collection and interpretation with the purpose of creating theories from people’s experiences and their issues of importance, usually that have a shared interest with the researcher.  In the analysation of data, the research makes comparisons initial data with data, and afterwards with other sources.

Depending on the researcher’s ontological and epistemological beliefs, there are several points of departure along a spiral of methodological development. Engaging in any form of grounded theory study, however, requires the researcher to address a set of common characteristics: theoretical sensitivity, theoretical sampling, treatment of the literature, constant comparative methods, coding, the meaning of verification, identifying the core category, memoing and diagramming, and the measure of rigour (McCann & Clark, 2003).

In the history of grounded theory it can be seen two different approaches: traditional (Glaser) and evolved grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin). For this research we believed that the evolved grounded theory is more appropriate and closer to constructivism.

Strauss and Corbin, in the evolution of grounded theory, acknowledge the importance of a multiplicity of perspectives and “truths” (Strauss, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1990, 1994, 1998) and as such have “extended and emphasised the range of theoretically sensitising concepts that must be attended to in the analysis of human action/interaction” (MacDonald, 2001, p. 137). This enables an analysis of data and a reconstruction of theory that is richer and more reflective of the context in which participants are situated. They insist that theirs is “interpretive work and . . . interpretations must include the perspectives and voice of the people who we study ” (Strauss&Corbin, 1994, p. 274). Such a position clearly implies that this perspective includes relating participants’ stories to the world in which the participants live.

In the following articles I will explain more about evolved grounded theory and I will explain how grounded theory can fuse with constructivism and why is the best approach for our research.

MacDonald, M. (2001). Finding a critical perspective in grounded theory. In R. Schreiber & P. N. Stern (Eds.), Using grounded theory in nursing (pp. 113-158). New York: Springer;

McCann, T., & Clark, E. (2003). Grounded theory in nursing research: Part 3—Application. Nurse Researcher,11(2), 29-39;

Glaser, B. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity: Advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press;

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press;

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago:Aldine;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Constructivism – or how we can we perceive the world in the 21st century

After the Crises of Representation in the 80s, researches looked for new methods to analyse and represent their work. If some of them said that this can be the end of theory, others tried to find different approaches to the use and the development of theory.

One of them can be considered the constructivism methodology. It occurred to that in the need of being academical we apply and use theories form different periods of time expecting the same results as they had before. We apply “Freud” and pretend that it might have the same result, we speak about Foucault and think that his ideas can be the same today. Some of them can and are very useful, explaining our problems but what we constantly forget is to bring them in the spectrum of today’s context. Each scholar, when he did research, was influenced by the historical and cultural context that he lived in, this shaped his view of the world, his creativity and the most important “the meaning of the truth”, however all put together, made his findings important and relevant.

Constructivism, as research paradigm, sustains that there is no objective reality “asserting instead that realities are social constructions of the mind, and that there exist as many such constructions as there are individuals (although clearly many constructions will be shared)” (Guba & Lincoln, 1989, p. 43). To be more specific, suggests that our perceptions can find more than one reality of the subject matter, al being influenced by the different contexts in which the researcher looks. People who reject the objective reality usually find their interest in the relativism ontological position.

Relativists claim that concepts such as rationality, truth, reality, right, good, or norms must be understood “as relative to a specific conceptual scheme, theoretical framework, paradigm, form of life, society, or culture . . . there is a non-reducible plurality of such conceptual schemes” (Bernstein, 1983, p. 8)

Constructivism, epistemologically speaking, underlines the subjective line between the research and the individuals that take part in it. (Hayes & Oppenheim, 1997; Pidgeon & Henwood, 1997). Presuming that, researchers are part of the research, they cannot be seen as objective observers, also their outcomes must be seen as part of this subjectiveness paradigm.

Looking for a methodology that can sustain the research with our ontological and epistemological position, we decided to follow the constructivism grounded theory paradigm.

Bernstein, R. (1983). Beyond objectivism and relativism: Science, hermeneutics, and praxis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 105-117). London: Sage

Hayes, R.,&Oppenheim, R. (1997). Constructivism: Reality is what you make it. In T. Sexton&B. Griffin (Eds.), Constructivist thinking in counseling practice, research and training (pp. 19-41). New York: Teachers College Press.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Habitus and Hexis

Habitus and hexis are two concepts developed by Pierre Bourdieu in his attempt of approaching power within the context of comprehensive theory of society. In his view, habitus is ‘the way society becomes deposited in persons in the form of lasting dispositions, or trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and act in determinant ways, which then guide them’ (Wacquant 2005: 316, cited in Navarro 2006: 16).

Habitus can be also applied in constructing a city identity, it can be understood as the predisposition of a city to respond to current social, economical political or even physical circumstances in a particular way, ways that can be different in other cities.

As an example we can think about the city of Coventry and how it’s bombing in the Second World War shaped the people, industry, architecture and so on. Also in our case, we can see how cities respond to the uprising of different political regimes in history.


If habitus is more an abstract concept, hexis, is the embodiment of it. In this way we can look at cities as human bodies and see the hexis as the marks that time left on the body. In the same way we tattoo our body, cities can be “tattooed” with graffiti, or we can look at a mark left by a disease on the surface of our skin and compare it with “marks” of war or perhaps communism.

The two concepts can be helpful in revealing a city identity or discover the direct appliance of history, it gives us a sense of how strong the city can be and how good can handle with different crises.

prague graffiti

Navarro, Z. (2006) ‘In Search of  Cultural Intepretation of Power’, IDS Bulletin 37(6): 11-22

Wacquant, L. (2005) Habitus. International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology. J. Becket and Z. Milan. London, Routledge

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

How do we create and keep a city identity?

What makes Rome not to be Paris, or how come that Venice is so different from Milano, why we like to visit London but we hate Coventry? These are questions that we ask while we meditate on cities geography. We might never think of them in other context, we might not realise that we like visiting different places for a new experience or we like going in the same places just because the repetition of our visit reconstructs the same feelings all the time.

Living or just visiting a place gives you a sense of identity of what that space represents, enabling you to understand the core values of the architecture and why was build in that way. Also in our time, the identity of a city is very often shaped by media, we can recognize New York from a picture, or a movie, but maybe, never be in familiar terms with Conakry.

Going back to the title, how can a city create and keep an identity? In order to answer to this question, I will like to extrapolate from Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity. If she uses it with the function of understanding gender and how is constructed, we can apply it in the comprehension of how cities identities are build.

Basically performativity means repetition, we reiterate our gender character all the time by the way we walk, dress, speak, act etc, actions that conclude into a formation of identity. In the same way Butler speaks about bodies we can discuss cities. The way in which a city is constructed, the way hoses are arranged, how is decorated, what cultural activates develops, how it smells, what colors are used for government buildings, how the people are dressing etc, creates that city identity. Also the act of repetition and the mark of history can be seen as embedding for its identity.

This act of performativity can be very easy spotted in Hollywood cinema and the construction of cities identities. We all have ideas of how Los Angeles looks like even we never been there, just because we constantly have seen movies shoot in the city and they repeated the same set of values and images almost all the time.

If in Butler’s view performativity has the function of stabilizing identities and betraying anxiety in identity, I believe that cities are the same. This is why, now, we see that every major city tries to be unique and construct buildings that fit the city landscape but in the same time they are matchless.

Stopping the performativity can create anxiety, this can be portrayed very easy in architecture fails as we can see in the pictures bellow, in which we can ask why on heavens name are this buildings here.



Butler J. [1990)(2007), Gender trouble, Routledge: London.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile