Asimwe shares her thoughts on Grounded Theory

This is a very special GUEST POST by my research assistant Asimwe Suedi. Asimwe very kindly agreed to write a post speaking from her experience as former Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Mkombozi. After carrying out monitoring and evaluation with street-connected children over a number of years, she shares her reflections on some of the benefits of Grounded Theory Methodology.

During my four years back I had no idea of how it feels being part of research team, but after graduating my undergraduate degree on Project Planning Management and Community Development, I looked for volunteering work as a researcher. This is what opened the door to me to the world of field research. I volunteered at a street-connected children institution which had different programs and established its research department mainly to see the impacts of the established programs. I was one of the research team member where I got introduced to some few qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methodologies. 

In February 2015 I met a doctoral researcher (Gemma) from Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) and I began working with her as a research assistant. We became a great research team which worked with street-connected children in two districts of Tanzania, Moshi Urban and Arusha Urban. The research was mainly design to investigate how relationships and social networks impact the well-being of street–connected children. This was my first time being introduced to Grounded Theory Methodology as it was the methodology Gemma had decided to use. Before being part of this research I had no any idea of how Grounded Theory Method works. I came to understand the methodology when I got explanations on its procedures and ideas from Gemma who had dedicated enough time to read and understand it well before the research began. At first I was a little scared of the methodology because to me it seemed a very massive work that has no boundaries because with Grounded Theory Methodology “everything is data”.

I did not read much details about the methodology, and this might also be because I was lucky to have a research leader who is very generous to share everything she finds out. Although I did watch some lectures on YouTube and read some research by Kate McAlpine who also used the methodology in Tanzania. So I consider my knowledge on grounded theory to be very little but I have some basis on the procedures on how it works. With Grounded Theory Methodology, data collection and data analysis are continuous and simultaneous. I remember my first three data collections went along with data coding which is the initial part of analytic method, and from there is when I started understanding clearly how Grounded Theory Methodology works. I will go straight to what I currently think and what I liked about grounded theory. 

“Ground theory is a research method that seeks to develop theory that is grounded in data systematically gathered and analysed”. (Michael D. Myers, 2008 [PowerPoint])

What I think and liked about Grounded Theory Methodology
The Grounded Theory Methodology gives more understanding of a situation than the approach of proving or disproving a hypothesis. Using this methodology I have found myself gaining an understanding of different things related to street-connected children that I would never have thought to ask about. Also, I got a better clarification on children’s mentioned examples through an open way of collecting and analysing the data. Through using this methodology I was in a position to question what happens to children who have left home without misrepresenting anyone. For instance I could ask; what could make the children who had experience suffering on the street refuse going to back home or another safe place? By asking these questions the research participants were in a position to widen my understanding about the different circumstances that will make a child reluctant going back home. Some of these reasons are: being afraid of being punished on the wrong things they did before leaving home, a continued labelling of the child as different, lack of forgiveness from family or society, bad household relationships, lack of understanding on what the child has gone through. All this falls under one behaviour but understanding the behaviour requires a person to look at the data and question the reason for why things have happened that way. I find the procedures of data collection and analysis through grounded theory help to find these detailed answers that other methodologies could miss out. 

The most thing I liked about Grounded Theory Methodology is its tendency of developing a binding bond between the researcher and interviewee. This may sound nice to researcher who do it with passion and sound bitter to researchers who do it out of forced options, though the fact is everyone enjoys having a good relationship that binds you and people you are working with. Though am not so sure if this happens with any group of people the research is targeting, with street–connected children the methodology worked so perfect. I feel the bonding has developed through the methodology’s tendency of valuing everything the interviewee says and giving out an active ear to everything, rather than being selfish on what you only want to hear. Also back and forth feedback that is shared on what is going on in the data while seeking more understanding on things that have been said before means you seek information from the same people or same group of people. For example while collecting data some interviewees participated in the discussions more than three times, this was enough to be a good starting point to have a bond and could bring you into another discussion which still will leave you with some data and not the silence that is commonly seen between the interviewer and interviewee. I believe this research has expanded my networks and even after it is done I can maintain my relationship with these children if I want to. 

Concluding thoughts
Grounded Theory Methodology does not possess limited way of expressing things which creates more detailed data, I think the methodology does not have many limitations on how to express things (such as a way of giving responses on questionnaires) related to the topic being researched. As we are commonly used to see everyone has their own preferred way of explaining things, some will do it by giving examples, some will explain differently depending on their own backgrounds (spiritually, culture or education), and some will prefer being more descriptive and some more analytical. I find the Grounded Theory Methodology provides the interviewees freedom to be more open in the collection methods used because everything is considered to be the data therefore the more you hear the more you can understand things. On the side of the researcher, the methodology opens the researcher’s mind rather than leaving the mind closed. While the researcher is collecting and analysing the data s/he has an opportunity of going back and asking where s/he has not understood as well as to think about what is missing from the data and go to ask it from interviewee. 

These have been my experiences of working with Grounded Theory Methodology over the past four months. Your thoughts and comments are warmly welcomed.