Theoretical Sensitivity (1978) – Study Questions

Theoretical Sensitivity

By Barney G. Glaser

Questions and comments prepared by Michael K. Thomas

Theoretical Sensitivity (Glaser, 1978) is widely regarded among practitioners of the grounded theory as the best text on the subject of this methodology. It not only extends and compliments the grounded theory urtext Discovery of Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) but provides a more detailed, lucid, and practical guide to using this methodology. The questions here are designed simply to guide the reader of Theoretical Sensitivity to the essential concepts in the text. Although there are many questions here that generally follow the book paragraph by paragraph, they are NOT intended to be exhaustive. They are not intended to be a sort of homework assignment on the text but, again, are simply meant to be a guide. Reviewing these questions may also be useful for those who have already read the text and may serve as a refresher. Page numbers are usually provided but the there is much repetition in the text and so there is considerable overlap in the questions. The questions are in no way considered to be a substitute for a thorough reading of the text. Further, serious practitioners of grounded theory should also read Discovery as well as other subsequent works by Glaser on grounded theory (e.g. Doing Grounded Theory, 1998). There have been several non-Glaserian treatments of the term grounded theory in recent years, however Theoretical Sensitivity is an essential read for anyone at all interested in grounded theory in particular and research methodology more generally.
Glaser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

Glaser, B. G. (1978). Theoretical Sensitivity. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (1998). Doing Grounded Theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.

Chapter 1 – Theoretical Sensitivity

  1. What does Glaser consider the first purpose of this book to be? (pg. 1)
  2. What does Glaser consider the second purpose of this book to be? (pg. 1)
  3. What are the processes of grounded theory mentioned here (pg. 2)
  4. What is grounded theory based on? (pg. 2)
  5. How does grounded theory contrast with verificational studies? (pg. 2)
  6. What is the first step in gaining theoretical sensitivity (pg. 2-3)
  7. What does Glaser mean by remaining open (pg.3)
  8. What does Glaser mean when he says that “… grounded theory is a perspective on both data and theory”? (pg.3)
  9. What is “immaculate description”? (pg.3)
  10. What does it mean for a theory to have “grab”? (pg. 4)
  11. What else must a good theory have? (pg.4)
  12. What does it mean to force data? (pg. 4)
  13. Explain fit, refit, and emergent fit. (pg. 4)
  14. What is an extant category? (pg. 4)
  15. How is theoretical sensitivity developed? (pg. 4)
  16. What does Glaser mean when he says that a theory should work? (pg. 4)
  17. What does Glaser mean when he says that a theory should be relevant? (pg. 5)
  18. How is relevance achieved? (pg. 5)
  19. What is a BSP? (pg. 5)
  20. What are Basic Structural Conditions? (pg. 5)
  21. What are Basic Social Dimensions? (pg. 5)
  22. What are Basic Structural Processes? (pg. 5)
  23. Explain the notion of modifyability. (pg. 5)
  24. What are pet ideas?
  25. What is doctrinism?
  26. What is the problem of doctrinism and pet ideas from a grounded theory perspective? (pg. 5)
  27. What is tractability? (pg. 5)
  28. What does Glaser mean when he says that grounded theory is “transcending in many ways”? (pg. 6)
  29. What is the delayed action effect? (pg. 6)
  30. Explain temporal pacing. (pg. 6)
  31. What does Glaser men when he says that grounded theory does not confront or synthesize with other theories? (pg. 7)
  32. What is the role of writing in grounded theory? (pg. 7)
  33. What does Glaser men when he says that grounded theory is “ideational?” (pg. 7)
  34. What does it mean to treat “all as data”? (pg. 8)
  35. What does it mean to be a “non-citizen”? (pg. 8)
  36. What is a memo? (pg. 8)
  37. Why does “borrowing” lead to a problem? (pg. 8)
  38. In grounded theory, what is the role of “great men”? (pg. 9)
  39. What is the role of footnotes according to Glaser? (pg. 9)
  40. What is a theoretical serf? (pg. 9)
  41. What does Glaser say about originality? (pg. 10)
  42. Explain the distinctions Glaser makes between Scholarship and Analysis. (pg. 11-12)
  43. Why generate grounded theory? (pg. 12)
  44. What is substantive theory? (pg. 12)
  45. What is the benefit of seeing ideas as conceptual elements that vary under diverse conditions? (pg. 13)
  46. What leads to transferability? (pg. 13)
  47. Explain the six breakthroughs. (pg. 13-14)
  48. What is reciprocal back slapping? (pg. 14)
  49. What does Glaser mean by “…what is actually going on, not what ought to go on.” (pg. 14)
  50. What are the three approaches for dealing with competing theories? (pg. 14)
  51. Why does Glaser say that the grounded theory approach is transcending? (pg. 14-15)
  52. Explain the three general inductive approaches that emerge from data-theory trips? (pg. 15-16)
  53. Glaser claims that “none of these steps can be skipped.” What are the steps he’s talking about? (pg. 16)
  54. Explain double back steps. (pg. 16)
  55. What is memo sparking? (pg. 16)
  56. What is saturation? (pg. 16)
  57. What advice does Glaser give to novice grounded theorists? (pg. 16-17)

Chapter 2 – Theoretical Pacing

  1. What does Glaser mean when he says that GT is a delayed action phenomenon? (pg. 18)
  2. What does Glaser mean by theoretical pacing? (pg. 18-19)
  3. Glaser states, “When the discovery method is paced well it works with life, not against it.” What does this mean? (pg. 19)
  4. What is a “personal recipe?” (pg. 19)
  5. What does Glaser mean when he says that the analyst should be creative? (pg. 20)
  6. Glaser says that analysts may abort their creativity by convincing themselves that the research is “lousy” or that it is “nothing new.” What does he mean by this? (pg. 22)
  7. What is the “immaculate conception?” (pg. 22)
  8. What is reworking? (pg. 22)
  9. There are three stages of a self pacing recipe while collecting, coding and analyzing data: (a) input, (b) the drugless trip, and (c) saturation. What does he mean by this (pg. 22-23)
  10. Explain the difference between reading and coding collected data (pg. 23)
  11. Why does Glaser feel it is better to write than to talk? (pg. 23)
  12. Why is it important to take memo writing as far as possible? (pg. 24)
  13. What does Glaser say are the two rules to overlapping tow or more studies? (pg. 25)
  14. What does Glaser mean by cycling (pg. 25)
  15. What are some of Glaser’s suggestions for energizing research? (pg. 26-27)
  16. What is the difference between a “pet” code and one possible theoretical code? (pg. 27)
  17. What does Glaser suggest for making research “fun?” (pg. 27-28)
  18. What does Glaser mean by a “personal life-cycle interest?” (pg. 28)
  19. What does Glaser say about maintaining freedom? (pg. 29)
  20. Glaser cautions readers on collaboration. What are his warnings? (pg. 29)
  21. What are some of Glaser’s stated advantages and disadvantages of collaboration? (pg. 29)
  22. Glaser states that there are four major sources of respites from research stating that respites are (a) structurally induced, (b) psychologically induced, (c) cycled, and (d) total. Explain each.
  23. What does Glaser say the danger is in reading the literature? (pg. 31)
  24. What is the difference between deductive and inductive research with regard to reading the literature? (pg. 31)
  25. “The result is usually extending and transcending the extant theory rather than verifying a deduced hypothesis or replicating an earlier one.” What does Glaser mean by this? (pg. 31)
  26. “It is hard enough to generate ones own ideas without the “rich” derailment provided by the literature in the same field.” What does Glaser mean by this? (pg. 31)
  27. What does “skip and dip” mean? (pg. 32)
  28. How is theoretical sensitivity increased by reading for style? (pg. 32)
  29. “…remember when reading that what the author presents as his knowledge is, for the grounded theorist, data in a perspective.” What does Glaser mean by this?
  30. Why does Glaser stress the importance of grounded theory seminars? (pg. 33-35)

Chapter 3 – Theoretical Sampling

  1. What is Theoretical Sampling? (pg. 36)
  2. How does theoretical sampling differ from random sampling? (pg. 36)
  3. What is intense theoretical sensitivity? (pg. 36)
  4. What is the difference between theoretical sampling and Leonard Schatzman’s selective sampling? (pg. 37)
  5. What is the difference between inductive and deductive logic? (pg. 37-38)
  6. What does Glaser mean when he says that theory is rooted in data and not an existing body of theory? (pg. 38)
  7. What is the problem with a commitment to pre-conceived hypotheses? (pg. 38)
  8. How does Glaser reconcile theoretical sensitivity with theoretical biases? (pg. 39)
  9. What is the role of theoretical sampling? (pg. 39)
  10. What is the role of theoretical questions? (pg. 40)
  11. Explain Conceptual vs. Logical Elaboration. (pg. 40)
  12. What is the danger of grounding deduction from extant theory? (pg. 41)
  13. What does Glaser mean when he says, “It is only the doctrinaire researcher who may not allow the inductive to correct deductions and emerge as primary, …” (pg. 41)
  14. What is the basic question in theoretical sampling? (pg. 42)
  15. How are sampling groups chosen in grounded theory? (pg. 42)
  16. How is it that groups can be compared? (pg. 42)
  17. What are the benefits of comparing groups? (pg. 42)
  18. What does Glaser mean by the “interchangeability of indicators”? (pg. 43)
  19. What does the interchangeability of indicators allow for? (pg. 43)
  20. Explain the relationship between an indicator and a concept. (pg. 43)
  21. What is the difference between comparing populations and comparing ideational characteristics? (pg. 44)
  22. What are initial decisions about theoretical sampling based on? (pg. 44)
  23. Why is it possible for the analyst to enter the field with complete openness? (pg. 44)
  24. What does Glaser mean by giving up or correcting ideational baggage? (pg. 44)
  25. What does Glaser mean when he says that the researcher “has to believe his data and theoretically sample for it? (pg. 45)
  26. What cautions does Glaser offer in starting research with a pre-existing theory that is grounded? (pg.45-46)
  27. Explain the transition from open coding to selective coding (pg. 46)
  28. Why does Glaser caution against burning up one’s energy in data collection? (pg. 47)
  29. What strategies does Glaser offer for the problems of staying open and keeping in mind current categories? (pg. 47)
  30. What does Glaser mean when he says that “The momentum of sampling itself breeds a forgetfulness about what one is sampling for theoretically?” (pg. 48)
  31. What are the first, second, and third stages of the constant comparative method? (pg. 49-50)
  32. What is the danger of the novice analyst going outside the substantive area too soon? (pg. 50-51)
  33. What are experimental incidents? (pg. 51)
  34. Why should reading the theoretical literature be delayed until after the discovered framework is stabilized? (pg. 51)
  35. What is general substantive theory and how does it relate to substantive theory and formal theory? (pg. 52)
  36. How does one sample for a general substantive theory? (pg. 52)
  37. Why does Glaser suggest that the researcher “jot down after leaving the field”? (pg. 52)
  38. How should one respond to the feeling of theoretical saturation when in the field? (pg. 53)
  39. What are “fact producers?” (pg. 53)
  40. What is secondary analysis? (pg. 53)
  41. What advice does Glaser offer regarding secondary analysis? (pg. 53-54)
  42. Why is the accuracy of facts not so crucial? (pg. 54)

Chapter 4 – Theoretical Coding

  1. What is the role of a conceptual code? (pg. 55)
  2. What are the two basic types of codes and what is the difference between the two? (pg. 55)
  3. What is open coding? (pg. 56)
  4. What is a preconceived code? (pg. 56)
  5. What is the problem with using preconceived codes? (pg. 56)
  6. What is the first rule governing open coding? (pg. 57)
  7. What is the first and most general question to ask of the data? (pg. 57)
  8. What is the next question to ask of the data? (pg. 57)
  9. What is the last question to continually ask of the data? (pg. 57)
  10. What is the second rule governing open coding? (pg. 57-58)
  11. What is the overview approach? (pg. 58)
  12. Why must the analyst do his or her own coding? (pg. 58)
  13. Why should coding be interrupted for memoing? (pg. 58)
  14. What does Glaser say about coding your own data? (pg. 59)
  15. What is “one-upping” and what advice does Glaser offer concerning it? (pg. 59)
  16. What are “face sheet variables?” (pg. 60)
  17. How does saturation occur? (pg. 60)
  18. How does “open coding carry with it verification, correction, and saturation?” (pg. 60)
  19. Why does Glaser warn against premature selectivity? (pg. 61)
  20. When should the analyst cease open coding and begin selective coding? (pg. 61)
  21. How does one selectively code? (pg. 61)
  22. Explain the image on page 62.
  23. What is the concept indicator model? (pg. 62)
  24. How does the concept indicator model on page 62 differ from those on page 63?
  25. Which of the three employs the constant comparison method? (i.e. Which one is the good one?)
  26. What does it mean to discover a concept and its dimensions? (pg. 64)
  27. What is the interchangeability of indicators and why is it important to grounded theory? (pg. 64-65)
  28. What are one-indicator concepts and what is the problem with them? (pg. 65)
  29. What are the sources of constructing typologies? (pg. 65)

Chapter 5 – Theoretical Memos

  1. What is the core stage in the process of generating theory? (pg. 83)
  2. What are memos? (pg. 83)
  3. When does memoing take place? (pg. 83)
  4. What is the “prime rule” of memoing? (pg. 83)
  5. What is a memo fund? (pg. 83)
  6. What are the four basic goals of memoing? (pg. 83)
  7. How long should a memo be? (pg. 84)
  8. How do memos affect ideational development? (pg. 84)
  9. Qualitative methods often emphasize rich description. How does this contrast with grounded theory? (pg. 84)
  10. What is the major objective of grounded theory? (pg. 84)
  11. How do memos relate to description? (pg. 84)
  12. What is the purpose of writing memos on codes? (pg. 84-85)
  13. What does it mean to saturate a code? (pg. 85)
  14. What does en vivo mean? (pg. 85)
  15. Why is freedom important in memo writing? (pg. 85)
  16. What does Glaser men when he says “We are trying to relieve the frequent conflict between the ideas and their proper expression.”? (pg. 85)
  17. What is a memo fund? (pg. 86)
  18. What is the role of a memo fund? (pg. 86-87)
  19. What is memoing fatigue? (pg. 86)
  20. Why should memos be highly sortable? (pg. 87)
  21. Why can’t memos be sorted by machine? (pg. 87)
  22. What six rules does Glaser suggest to make memos sortable? (pg. 87)
  23. What is the principle source of memos? (pg. 88)
  24. Explain the constant comparative process. (pg. 88)
  25. Why is it useful for memoing to slow down the analyst? (pg. 88, 89)
  26. What is the benefit of comparative reasoning? (pg. 88)
  27. What is the “fruitful paradox of constant memoing?” (pg. 88)
  28. What are the negative consequences of insufficient memoing? (pg. 89)
  29. Outline the 12 rules of memoing. (89-92)
  30. Why should memos and data be kept separate? (pg. 89-90)
  31. Why should coding be interrupted for memoing? (pg. 90)
  32. Why should the analyst keep a list of emergent codes handy? (pg. 90)
  33. What is the rule for collapsing codes? (pg. 90)
  34. How should digressions be handled? (pg. 90)
  35. Why should codes rather than people be talked about in memos? (pg. 91)
  36. Why is flexibility important in memoing? (pg. 91)

Chapter 6 – Basic Social Processes

  1. What is the goal of grounded theory? (pg. 93)
  2. What does it mean for a theory to be dense and saturated? (pg. 93)
  3. What is the first delimiting analytic rule of grounded theory? (pg. 93)
  4. How does the analyst find a core category? (pg. 94-96)
  5. What is the difference between a core category and a basic social process? (pg. 96-97)
  6. What is a gerund? (pg. 97)
  7. Why are gerunds often appropriate for naming basic social processes (BSPs)? (pg. 97)
  8. What does Glaser say about stages? (pg. 98)
  9. What is a “coffee stop” and why is this example relevant? (pg. 98)
  10. How does the notion of time connect with stages? (pg. 99)
  11. Explain the advantages of BSPs as conceptual characterizations. (pg. 100-101)
  12. What is a BSSP? (pg. 102)
  13. What is a BSPP? (pg. 102)
  14. How are these three acronyms related? (pg. 102-103)
  15. Why does Glaser use the notion of deviance? (pg. 104-105)
  16. Why would a BSP view be multivariate? (pg. 105-106)
  17. What is the relationship between a BSP and the methodology that produced it? (pg. 106)
  18. What are the two models for finding a BSP? Explain both. (pg. 107-108)
  19. What are the differences between a BSP and a unit? (pg. 109-113)
  20. Why is it important to hold in abeyance the deviance assumption? (pg. 113-114)

Chapter 7 – Theoretical Sorting

  1. What is theoretical sorting? (pg.116)
  2. Why do you think Glaser says theoretical sorting can’t be skipped? (pg.116)
  3. When in the grounded theory process does theoretical sorting take place? (pg.116)
  4. What is the relationship between theoretical sorting and theoretical writing? (pg.116)
  5. What is conceptual sorting? (pg.116)
  6. Why do you think Glaser calls grounded theory a “do-it-yourself” methodology? (pg.116)
  7. What are some of the benefits of theoretical sorting? (pg.117)
  8. What does Glaser say about re-sorting? (pg.117)
  9. How does Glaser say an outline should be created? (pg.117)
  10. Glaser claims that sorting has a corrective function. What does he mean by this? (pg.118)
  11. Why should the analyst stop the sorting process to write more memos? (pg.118)
  12. It is during sorting that that analyst fully appreciates the fullest multivariate nature of grounded theory. Why is this so? (pg.118)
  13. Why does sorting have to be based on theoretical codes? (pg.118)
  14. What should the analyst do if the theoretical integration begins to fall apart? (pg.119)
  15. Explain the relationship between writing and sorting. (pg.119)
  16. What is “conceptual out?” (pg.119)
  17. Why is descriptive sorting a “tyranny?” (pg.119)
  18. How can an anecdote be dealt with conceptually? (pg.119)
  19. How does sorting prevent over-conceptualization and pre-conceptualization? (pg.120)
  20. What is conceptual density? (pg.120)
  21. How is density achieved? (pg.120)
  22. What does Glaser say about the pace of achieving appropriate density? (pg.120)
  23. What is the role of analytical rules? (pg. 120-121)
  24. How does the analyst start sorting? (pg.121)
  25. What is the role of the core variable in sorting? (pg. 121-122)
  26. Explain the promotion and demotion of core variables. (pg.122)
  27. What might lead to an over-proliferation of memos? (pg. 122-123)
  28. What is the purpose of carry forward? (pg. 123)
  29. What does Glaser mean by integrative fit? (pg.123)
  30. Glaser states “…the social organization of the world is integrated and the job of the grounded theorist is to discover it” What does he mean by this and what does it imply? (pg. 123)
  31. Why is there “little waste” in this kind of research? (pg. 123)
  32. What are sorting levels? (pg. 123)
  33. What does Glaser suggest for solving idea problems? (pg.124)
  34. What are some reasons to stop sorting? (pg.124)
  35. What is theoretical completeness? (pg. 124-125)
  36. What is the problem with descriptive or ethnographic completeness? (pg. 125)
  37. What are the problems with comparative, logico-deductive, and scholarly completeness? (pg. 125-126)

Chapter 8 – Theoretical Writing

  1. Why does Glaser place a premium on publication? (pg. 128)
  2. Which form of publication does Glaser say provides the highest rewards? Why? (pg. 128)
  3. What does Glaser mean when he says that writing freezes the ongoing for a moment (pg. 129)
  4. What does Glaser mean by little logic? (pg. 129)
  5. What is the role of the core variable in a manuscript? (pg. 129-130)
  6. What is the general shape of an article in sociology according to Glaser? (pg. 130-132)
  7. What is the purpose of the integrative outline? (pg. 131-132)
  8. What is the difference between presenting generalities in the beginning and the end of a paper? (pg. 133)
  9. What does it mean to write conceptually? (pg. 133-134)
  10. What does Glaser mean when he says that we should write about concepts and not people? (pg. 134)
  11. What is the role of description in the grounded theory write up? (pg. 134)
  12. How does the author assert credibility? (pg. 134)
  13. How does temporal distance help in the write up? (pg. 134)
  14. Why does Glaser think authors should write like talking rather than like writing? (pg. 135)
  15. What are the characteristics of the first draft? (pg. 135)
  16. What is Glaser’s’ stance toward grammar and mechanics? (pg. 135)
  17. What is Glaser’s advice for reworking? (pg. 135-136)
  18. What is “flip-flopping” (pg. 136)
  19. What is Glaser’s advice regarding having colleagues read your drafts (pg. 136-137)
  20. What does Glaser say about submitting to journals? (pg. 137)
  21. What does Glaser say about “footnoting?” (pg. 137-138)
  22. What does it mean to “adumbrate?” (pg. 137)
  23. How does this tie in with his remarks elsewhere about the role of the literature review?
  24. What does Glaser say about reverential, commemorative, and referral footnotes? (pg. 138)
  25. How does integrative placement of grounded theory in existing literature take place? (pg. 138)
  26. While reworking the draft, the author should cover as much literature as possible according to Glaser. Why is this important? (pg. 139)
  27. Why should the author avoid talking while writing? (pg. 139)
  28. What advice does Glaser give to collaborators? (pg. 140)
  29. What is the importance of a deadline? (pg. 140)
  30. What does it mean to outgrow one’s material? (pg. 140-141)
  31. What advice does he give in this regard? (pg. 140-141)

Chapter 9 – Generating Formal Theory

  1. What is formal theory? (pg. 142-144)
  2. Why is generating formal theory more tentative? (pg. 142)
  3. What are Glaser’s three classifications of sources of formal theory? (pg. 142)
  4. What are the problems with derived formal theory? (pg. 143)
  5. What are the five bases for grounding? (pg. 144)
  6. What is substantive theory (pg. 144)
  7. Explain the rewrite approach to extending grounded theory. (pg. 145)
  8. Explain the data approach. (pg. 145-146)
  9. Explain the substantive theory approach. (pg. 146-147)
  10. Explain the BSP approach. (pg. 146-147)
  11. Explain the cumulative knowledge approach. (pg. 147-148)
  12. What is “grand” theory? (pg. 148)
  13. What is “speculative” theory? (pg. 148-149)
  14. What is “comparative analysis? (pg. 149)
  15. What is the purpose of comparative analysis in grounded theory? (pg. 149)
  16. What is the basic criterion for the theoretical sampling of comparison groups? (pg. 150)
  17. What are the implications of what Glaser says about using mixed methods for formal theory? (pg. 151)
  18. Why are descriptive and verification studies not applicable in generating formal theory? (pg. 151)
  19. The application of two rules of comparability mentioned by Glaser used to avoid spuriousness and inaccuracy result in what? Why is this the case? (pg. 151-152)
  20. When theoretically sampling for comparison groups, what must be kept in mind? (pg. 152)
  21. What does Glaser mean by de-densification? (pg. 153)
  22. How is integration achieved for formal theory? (pg. 153-154)
  23. What is a modeled integration? (pg. 154)
  24. Why is saturation less problematic for formal theory? (pg. 154-155)
  25. What are the advantages of BSP integration of a formal theory and a modeled formal theory? (pg. 155)
  26. What is applied formal theory? (pg. 155-156)
  27. What is Glaser’s advice for reading formal theory? (pg. 157)

Chapter 10 – New Directions in Grounded Theory

  1. The “New” directions in grounded theory were written nearly 30 years ago. In what ways are these directions relevant today?
  2. In what ways are they relevant to your field of study and your research?
  3. What are some contemporary trends in grounded theory?
  4. How might grounded theory be situated with other methodologies?
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Posted on 02/21/2012, in Grounded Theory 2012. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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