The three types of qualitative research designs are phenomenological, grounded theory, and ethnographic research. Compare the differences and similarities between two of the three types of qualitative studies and give an example of each.
Phenomenological and Grounded Theory Research: A Comparison
Qualitative research designs provide researchers with the tools to gain a deeper understanding of human experiences and behaviors. Within the field of qualitative methodology, phenomenological research, grounded theory research, and ethnographic research are three common approaches. While each has distinct characteristics, phenomenological and grounded theory designs share some similarities yet also differ in important ways.
Phenomenological research aims to understand and describe the essence of lived experiences around a particular phenomenon (Creswell & Poth, 2018). It seeks to illuminate the meaning of everyday experiences from the perspective of those living it. For example, a phenomenological study by van Manen (2016) explored the experience of parenting a child with autism. Through in-depth interviews with 10 parents, the study revealed themes around feelings of loss, isolation, and the constant need for advocacy.
Grounded theory research also utilizes in-depth interviews but with the goal of generating a theory grounded in or emerging from the data (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). Rather than purely describing a phenomenon, grounded theory aims to build conceptual understandings and make theoretical connections between concepts. For instance, a grounded theory study by Charmaz (2014) analyzed interviews with chronically ill patients to develop a theoretical model of how individuals construct meanings of illness and manage their condition over time.
Both phenomenological and grounded theory designs rely on in-depth, open-ended interviews as the primary data collection method. However, phenomenology focuses more on lived experiences and descriptions, while grounded theory emphasizes theory development through constant comparative analysis between emerging concepts (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Phenomenology aims for essence rather than causation, while grounded theory seeks explanatory frameworks and causal relationships between concepts. In summary, while sharing some commonalities, phenomenological and grounded theory research differ in their goals of illuminating lived experiences versus generating new theories.
Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). Sage Publications.
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00988593
Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory. Sage.
van Manen, M. (2016). Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenological research and writing. Routledge.