Survey Research and Grounded Theory

Survey research is a procedure in quantitative research, where investigators administer a survey to a sample or the entire population to describe attitudes, opinions, behaviours, or characteristics. Researchers collect quantitative data using questionnaires or interviews. The data is then analyzed to describe trends about responses and to test research questions. Survey research is used to describe trends and to determine individual opinions. Survey research helps to identify important beliefs and attitudes of individuals.

Research surveys have several key characteristics: sampling from a population; collecting data through questionnaires; designing instruments; and obtaining a high response rate. There are two basic types of research surveys. The first, cross-sectional, is for researchers interested in collecting data at one point in time or for comparing two or more groups in terms of attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and practices. Longitudinal, the second, allows for the ability to collect data about trends with the same population over a longer period of time. Longitudinal allows for data to demonstrate the changes in a group or subpopulation.

In 1817, a 34-page international survey of national education system, was designed, and represents the earliest survey research in education. Further surveys followed in the 1890s and 1900s. Improvements to sampling techniques and different scales of measurement led to the emergence of the modern survey in the inter-War period. By mid-century, standardized questions through surveys appeared in governmental agencies. Guidelines were written for cleat questions, standardized interview questions, training interviewers, and checking consistency. Surveys administered during the Second World War led to development of techniques for large-scale assessments. The eventual emergence of computers and availability of data archives helped to further establish the popularity of survey research. Modern technology now allows for research survey through electronic means, such as the internet and computer-assisted telephone interviewing.


“First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study” (FNFNES)

o Provided key findings for eight First Nation regions

o Longitudinal study: over 40 years

o Conducted surveys among general population and First Nations people regarding environmental safety of store-bought foods

o Ecozone sampling framework

o Community participation through online surveying

A grounded theory design is a set of procedures used to generate a theory that explains, at a conceptual level, a process about a topic. Grounded theory is used when a researcher seeks to generate a theory because one is not available, or suitable. Grounded theory research is useful for studying processes, actions, or interactions through a step-by-step procedure. Grounded theory allows for a researcher to remain close to the data during analysis.

Grounded theory was developed by sociologists at the University of California in the late 1960s. Grounded theory research consists of three designs. The systematic procedure, designed by Strauss and Corbin, involves using predetermined categories to make connections explicit. Glaser’s emergent design relies on exploring social processes without categories. Finally, Charmaz’s constructivist approach focuses on subjective meanings by participants, explicit values and beliefs by researchers, and suggestive conclusions.

“The steps involved in conducting a grounded theory study are to start with the intent to develop a theory, to locate a process (or action or interaction) to study, to obtain necessary approvals, to sample individuals who have experienced the process, to code data into categories or concepts, and to interrelate the categories to form a theory. Next comes validating the theory and writing the grounded theory report. (Cresswell).”

Six aspects characterize grounded theory. Theorists write memos to themselves throughout this process. This design is used to explore a process around a substantive topic. Sampling is done using a procedure of simultaneous data collection and analysis. Analyzing the data for increasing levels of abstraction is then done by using constant comparative procedures. During analysis, theorists identify a core, central phenomenon which is processed into a theory. This process allows for theory development.


“Toward an IK-Friendly Pedagogy in Mainstream Classrooms: A single site pilot study of non Indigenous faculty perspectives on integrating Indigenous Knowledge into their course instruction”

o Using grounded theory, presents an Indigenous methodological research design

o Offered insight into the challenges of integrating IK

o Allows for Indigenous epistemology to guide research

o Allows for Indigenous theory to guide interpretations

o Analytical technique that honours oral knowledge

o Supports the importance of the researcher’s knowledge in the subject area

o Allows for analysis that has the potential to develop theory

o Allows for interpretation of findings consistent with Indigenous sensibilities

o Allows for further development of the Indigenous Methodologies research theory

o Indigenous epistemology, oral nature of knowledge transmission, relational ethic and sensibility, reciprocity, language and place based contextual aspects

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