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Grounded Theory and Phenomenology


Grounded theory and phenomenology are two methods of qualitative analysis. According to Tracy (2020), grounded theory is used to explain a particular phenomenon through a “ground up” approach (p. 62). This way suggests addressing data without preconceived theories, building upon research through the concept of a blank slate (Tracy, 2020). Phenomenology is a study that uses conscious human experiences to research a specific situation (Tracy, 2020). The two approaches are diverse in their definitions, however, there are certain parallels between them. This essay will evaluate grounded theory and phenomenology on a compare and contrast basis to assess their similarities and differences.

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At their core, the two methods of qualitative analysis are fundamentally different. Grounded theory approaches data without the use of a pre-existing theoretical basis, whereas phenomenology strongly relies on pre-reflective notions of the human experience. One of the key contrasts between these ways of analysis is the different goals of their studies. Tracy (2020) suggests that grounded theory is focused on the theoretical explanations of the research, whereas phenomenology does not aim at arriving at any particular solution. Instead, it intends to describe the essence of human experiences and capture “the present living moment” (Tracy, 2020, p. 65). Therefore, phenomenology does not serve the goal of coming to conclusions about the studied data, and grounded theory aims to explain the phenomenon’s essential basis.


Although the two approaches might seem almost opposite to each other, there are certain similarities between them. One such parallel can be seen in the expectations of the two methods. Neither approach clearly states what they predict to find in their studies (Tracy, 2020). The aims of the grounded theory and phenomenology are explanation and experience of the phenomenon respectively, however, no specific expectations about the findings of the research are set.


The two methods of qualitative analysis outlined above are essentially different in their procedures and goals. Grounded theory aims at explaining the researched situation, whereas phenomenology focuses on studying the human experiences associated with it and does not serve the goal of understanding the nature of the phenomena. There is, however, a similarity between the two approaches, which suggests no specific expectations for the outcomes of the research.


Tracy, S. J. (2020). Qualitative research methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

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