Classic Grounded Theory’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

In June a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Discovery of Grounded Theory was held in conjunction with a grounded theory seminar in Mill Valley California. Each year Dr. Barney Glaser accepts applications for the seminar from a small group of PhD candidates from around the globe. The purpose of the seminar is to troubleshoot students’ PhD dissertations and theses. School of Nursing's Dr. Alvita Nathaniel attended this year with a larger group of 31 students, observers, and Fellows of the Grounded Theory Institute attended from the U.S., Kathmandu, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, the Philippine’s, Denmark, the UK, Thailand, Norway, China, and Germany. 

Dr. Glaser was the primary author with Anselm Strauss of the groundbreaking text, The Discovery of Grounded Theory, which was at the forefront of a qualitative revolution during a critical time in social science.  Grounded theory countered the dominant view in the 1960’s that the only scientifically sound form of systematic social inquiry consisted of quantitative methods. Discovery was revolutionary because it challenged some basic dogmatic beliefs about inquiry. Prevailing ideas that grounded theory refuted included claims that qualitative research serves primarily as a foundation for quantitative methods; that qualitative research does not meet standards of rigor; that qualitative methods are biased and poorly ordered, and that qualitative research could produce only descriptive findings rather than theory.

A Public Health Service Research Grant from the Division of Nursing funded Glaser’s earliest research utilizing the method.  That first study culminated in the seminal work, Awareness of Dying.  Encouraged by the interest garnered by the study, Glaser and Strauss wrote The Discovery of Grounded Theory to describe the method they had used to gather and analyze data and develop a grounded conceptual theory.  Glaser was the primary author of Discovery.  Now well into his 80s, he continues to write books and conduct seminars focusing on what is now termed classic grounded theory—the most frequently used qualitative method in nursing. 

As a Fellow of the Grounded Theory Institute, Dr. Alvita Nathaniel is on the editorial board of the Grounded Theory Review.  She also conducts seminars, responds to inquiries, and serves as a mentor to PhD students from around the world.  Nathaniel has been an external examiner for PhD theses (dissertations) in Ireland and New Zealand and has an invitation to serve in that capacity in Switzerland in the upcoming year.