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'Discovering' chronic illness: Using grounded theory


  • Charmaz, Kathy


This paper focuses on using the grounded theory method to study social psychological themes which cut across diverse chronic illnesses. The grounded theory method is presented as a method having both phenomenological and positivistic roots, which leads to confusion and misinterpretations of the method. A social constructionist version and application of grounded theory are introduced after brief overviews of the method and of the debates it has engendered are provided. Next, phases in developing concepts and theoretical frameworks through using the grounded theory approach are discussed. These phases include: (1) developing and refining the research and data collection questions, (2) raising terms to concepts, (3) asking more conceptual questions on a generic level and (4) making further discoveries and clarifying concepts through writing and rewriting. Throughout the discussion, examples and illustrations are derived from two recent papers, 'Disclosing Illness' and 'Struggling for a Self: Identity Levels of the Chronically Ill'. Last, the merits of the method for theoretical development are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Charmaz, Kathy, 1990. "'Discovering' chronic illness: Using grounded theory," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 1161-1172, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:30:y:1990:i:11:p:1161-1172

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    2. Anne Spencer, 2000. "Testing the Additive Independence Assumption in the QALY Model," Working Papers 427, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
    3. São José, José & Barros, Rosanna & Samitca, Sanda & Teixeira, Ana, 2013. "Social Care and Well-being. Experiences and Perspectives of an Old-aged Group," Journal of Spatial and Organizational Dynamics, CIEO-Research Centre for Spatial and Organizational Dynamics, University of Algarve, vol. 1(3), pages 187-201.
    4. Crankshaw, T.L. & Voce, A. & Butler, L.M. & Darbes, L., 2016. "Expanding the relationship context for couple-based HIV prevention: Elucidating women's perspectives on non-traditional sexual partnerships," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 169-176.
    5. repec:spr:syspar:v:31:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11213-017-9423-x is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Broom, Alex & Adams, Jon & Tovey, Philip, 2009. "Evidence-based healthcare in practice: A study of clinician resistance, professional de-skilling, and inter-specialty differentiation in oncology," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 192-200, January.
    7. repec:eur:ejserj:244 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Benson, Outi & Gibson, Susanne & Boden, Zoë V.R. & Owen, Gareth, 2016. "Exhausted without trust and inherent worth: A model of the suicide process based on experiential accounts," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 126-134.

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