Grounded Theory Online - mentoring

We will work with you, guiding you through the stages in the Grounded Theory research process, supporting you as you progress your study. We meet online, using Skype to share screens.

Listen to Yulia who obtained her PhD from the United Nations University, Netherlands. Her thesis is titled: “Reshaping the big agenda: Transnational politics and domestic resistance: Financial crisis and social protection reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Yulia wrote in her acknowledgements: “I also extend my gratitude to Dr. Helen Scott of the Grounded Theory Online for her invaluable and relentless methodology mentorship at the data collection and initial data analysis stages of the project.” I’m not sure that ‘relentless’ is the right word but the rest is true!

One thing: you should be clear that we are classic grounded theorists and support your methodological development. We are not a replacement supervisor/committee and we do not deal with all contextual matters: however we can help you with Grounded Theory! Email Helen or use the contact form to get in touch.

Online mentoring can be obtained one hour at a time for a fee of £60/hour. We also offer ‘mentoring packs’ of 4 hours mentoring at £200 per pack.

We have put together some packs to show you what you might like to work on and in all cases the work that we do together, is always tailored to your needs.

Mentoring packs

GT Starter Pack 1 designed to start you off on your GT journey. Together we will check whether the GT method is right for your study, consider your research design and early data collection plans and work with you on the GT element of your proposal. The pack comprises 4 x one hour sessions held weekly or fortnightly. Fee: £200. Other time designs can be agreed.

GT Starter Pack 2 designed to support you through the early stages of data collection and open coding. 4 x one hour sessions; with a pattern of 3 x fortnightly sessions and a fourth session four weeks later. Fee: £200. Other time designs can be agreed.

GT Next Steps Pack: One x 3 hour session and one x one hour session reviewing where you are in your study, addressing current issues and supporting your progress to the next stage. Fee: £200.

The packs are mainly for illustration purposes and the principle is that mentees buy four hours at a time at £50 per hour to be used at your convenience: we may, for example, meet for 1.5 hours one week and half an hour the next, depending on the your need. The pace of meeting is also dictated by need and might be weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

Visits can also be arranged where researchers can work alongside mentors face to face over a period of days or weeks. We can help you arrange local accommodation.

If you feel you would benefit from receiving methodological support from one of the Fellows, we recommend that you discuss this with your supervisor/research committee. If they agree with you, they may be able to fund your mentoring/coaching, dissertation review etc.

What happens during the GT mentoring process?

Mie-Na writes of her experience of working with Helen Scott.

Being a mentee

I used classic grounded theory (CGT) methodology to conduct data collection and analysis during 6 months of field research in Nairobi, Kenya as a component of an overseas Fellowship. My study was focused on urban refugee and migrant women.

I believe that the use of CGT was one of the best decisions I made for my field research, as the nature of the method itself allowed me to ‘see’ what was otherwise invisible with relation to behavioral patterns and coping mechanisms of participants. Here I include pieces of memos I had written after 4 or 5 months of being in the field, with relation to CGT’s benefits:

  • It is a method that forced me to “reckon with each interview and piece of fractured data in an intimate way. Forces one to really consider and reflect on patterns and themes, and what is occurring in the lives of participants. It was helpful in preventing one to logically elaborate—or start making analysis based on things not found within the data.”
  • It is a method that allowed me to integrate seemingly “disparate experiences [of participants] in a meaningful and systematic way. For instance, looking for themes across women who were of higher economic status; those that self-identified as those that migrated versus those that were refugees; women of various ages; etc…”

At the outset of considering CGT, I participated in a beginner’s online webinar hosted by Dr. Helen Scott. This was a ‘get to know the basics’ introduction about CGT. It also forced me to consider that this is a participant-centric approach as delineated in the method books, and going into it with any other mindset is a hindrance to the CGT process.

Following the webinar and entering the field, I spent approximately 6 months learning classic CGT by reading resources that included Discovery of Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) and several others listed at the Grounded Theory Institute website not limited to Theoretical Sensitivity (Glaser, 1978), Getting out of the Data (Glaser, 2011), and a recent seminar reader. While these resources were excellent in learning the technical aspects of using CGT method for data collection and analysis, I also made the decision to hire a mentor. While I had outstanding advisors neither of them had used classic GT in field research.

The mentoring process

It is important to note that a mentor does not do your work for you, and data collection, coding, and memoing do not necessarily become easier. As I once told Helen, using classic GT feels like trying to hold water in your hands. She described it as ‘wading through porridge [oatmeal].’

In having a mentor however, the process of navigating and applying the CGT method becomes far less overwhelming. CGT is a wonderful research tool, but it is abstract and ambiguous due to its conceptual nature. I found that technical bumps in the road and inevitable periods of frustration/confusion were mitigated with the guidance of a mentor. Also as Glaser describes, there is indeed a ‘delayed action learning’ curve, so a mentor’s encouragement can push you into the ‘doing’ when you at times feel uncertain. I remember looking back at my notes written during meetings with Helen—months later—and having many ‘ah ha!’ or ‘that’s what she meant’ moments.

On a more specific level, as a mentor Helen:

  • introduced and explained fundamentals about CGT
  • reviewed my research design and provided feedback
  • helped me get started with coding interview data and memoing, and also
  • reviewed initial codes/memos with feedback
  • provided illustrations of coding and memoing, and during the webinar, actually modeled it
  • advised me on small (but important) issues such as labeling memos (this proved invaluable when sifting through 100+ pages of memos).

Given that we were in different locations, we communicated through email, Skype, or by telephone.

In conclusion, please bear in mind that the substantive method resources (e.g., Barney Glaser et al’s books) are critical to building a strong foundation for learning this methodology. However, given that CGT is abstract and conceptual it is tremendously helpful to have a mentor along the way. Helen offered a great deal of technical support through the process of my research, but she also encouraged me during those times when I felt simply confused.

So for the other students out there…go for CGT, and consider a mentor!

Mie-Na Srein, M.A.
Corporate and Outreach Coordinator
Asian Liver Center at Stanford University
15 February 2013