One of our customers pointed out that our theme charts (the pie charts we create to illustrate case studies) are examples of using grounded theory. Here’s an example of a chart:

Grounded theory, according to Wikipedia, “is a research method that operates almost in a reverse fashion from traditional research and at first may appear to be in contradiction of the scientific method. Rather than beginning by researching and developing a hypothesis, the first step is data collection, through a variety of methods. From the data collected, the key points are marked with a series of codes, which are extracted from the text. The codes are grouped into similar concepts in order to make them more workable. From these concepts, categories are formed, which are the basis for the creation of a theory, or a reverse-engineered hypothesis. This contradicts the traditional model of research, where the researcher chooses a theoretical framework, and only then applies this model to the studied phenomenon.”

Our theme charts follow the grounded theory approach because we:

  • Start with data collection, not with a hypothesis—our first step is to collect sound bites from social media sites on the web
  • Organize the results using keywords and common expressions and terms (the equivalent of marking key points with codes in grounded theory)
  • Group results into themes (the equivalent of grouping codes into similar concepts and forming categories)
  • Discover insights and draw conclusions from our results (the equivalent of coming up with a theory or a reverse-engineered hypothesis)
  • This approach works well for our clients because we aren’t starting with a pre-conceived idea of how consumers feel about a product and then trying to find data that support that idea. Instead, we collect raw data from the social media universe, analyze it, understand it, and only then draw conclusions about consumer opinion, emotion and behavior online.