Grounded Theory Generation: A Tool for Transparent Concept Development

28 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2015

Date Written: August 22, 2014


The paradigm wars between quantitative and qualitative methodologists have focused on the validity and reliability of theory testing, with increasing concerns for transparency in both types of work. But not all research topics lend themselves to theory testing, and rather require the generation of new theoretical concepts. The relative lack of attention to the "why" and "how" of qualitative theory generation has stunted innovation, forcing scholars to avoid such work or "reinvent the wheel" rather than build on community accomplishments. This article shows that grounded theory methods from sociology provide useful techniques for theory generation, and can help scholars break through theoretical muddles. These methods have the added benefit of utilizing a workflow management that lends itself to more transparency than is common in much qualitative work.

The article proceeds as follows. The first section reviews transparency standards in theory testing work. The second section introduces the rationale for theory generation. The third section introduces grounded theory. The article then reviews grounded theory-based scholarship in international relations, and finds both theory generation promises and transparency pitfalls in its application. The article concludes by suggesting steps to boost transparency for grounded theory in international relations, and push out the knowledge frontier.

Keywords: grounded theory, qualitative methods, transparency, international relations

Suggested Citation

Tucker, Todd, Grounded Theory Generation: A Tool for Transparent Concept Development (August 22, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Todd Tucker (Contact Author)

Roosevelt Institute ( email )

4079 Albany Post Rd.
Hyde Park, NY 12538
United States

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