RMC2

PERSPECTIVE

n engl j med 356;18 www.nejm.org may 3, 20071806

subjects or objects? prisoners and human experimentation

Subjects or Objects? Prisoners and Human Experimentation

Barron H. Lerner, M.D., Ph.D.

During the 1950s, inmates at
what was then called Holmes-

burg Prison, in Philadelphia, were
inoculated with condyloma acu-
minatum, cutaneous moniliasis,
and viruses causing warts, herpes
simplex, and herpes zoster.1 For
participating in this research, and
in studies exposing them to diox-
in and agents of chemical warfare,
they were paid up to $1,500 a
month. Between 1963 and 1971,
researchers in Oregon and Wash-
ington irradiated and repeatedly
took biopsy specimens from the
testicles of healthy prisoners; the
men subsequently reported rash-
es, peeling, and blisters on the
scrotum as well as sexual diffi-
culties.2 Hundreds of such exper-
iments induced the federal govern-
ment to essentially ban research
involving prisoners in 1978. The
message: such research is funda-
mentally exploitative and thus un-
ethical.

Yet a recent report by the Insti-
tute of Medicine (IOM) has opened
the closed door, arguing not only
that such research can be per-
formed appropriately but that pris-
oners deserve to be included in
investigative studies — at least
those who might benefit directly.
Examination of the explanations
behind U.S. restrictions on prison
research and their current appli-
cability can provide guidance for
today’s policy debates.

The vulnerability of prisoners
to exploitation has long been
known. As early as 1906, for in-
stance, critics noted how difficult
it would have been for prisoners to
refuse to participate in a cholera
experiment that ultimately killed
13 men.3 Still, investigators pe-
riodically sought out “volunteers”
among such captive populations,

whose institutionalization offered
researchers accessible subjects un-
likely to be lost to follow-up.

Most such research did not seek
to benefit participants. In 1915,
for example, Public Health Service
researcher Joseph Goldberger in-
duced pellagra in healthy Missis-
sippi prisoners, who were offered

parole in exchange for participa-
tion. Those who signed up experi-
enced the very severe symptoms of
the disease, including diarrhea,
rash, and mental confusion.3 Gold-
berger, however, proved his hy-
pothesis that pellagra was a vita-
min-deficiency disease that could
be cured by ingestion of the B vita-
min now known as niacin. Thanks
to this work, as well as the discov-
ery of insulin and the first antimi-
crobial agents, the years between
World War I and World War II
were heady times for scientific re-
search.

World War II turned question-
able experimentation on prisoners
into a cottage industry. As other
Americans risked their lives on the
battlefield, prisoners did their
part by participating in studies
that exposed them to gonorrhea,
gas gangrene, dengue fever, and
malaria.1 Any consideration of
meaningful consent was sub-
sumed by the war imperative.

Ironically, the biggest boost to
such experimentation came as a
result of the postwar Nuremberg

trial of 20 Nazi doctors, which
gave rise to the Nuremberg Code,
a set of principles intended to
prohibit human experimentation
without subjects’ consent. When
defense lawyers implied that
American scientists had conduct-
ed wartime research analogous
to that of the Nazis, one prosecu-
tion witness, Andrew C. Ivy, cited
malaria experiments involving Il-
linois prisoners as an example of
“ideal,” noncoercive research.
Ivy’s 1948 publication of his con-
clusions helped to institutional-
ize prison experimentation for
the next quarter-century.4

It was an experiment involving
another vulnerable population that
halted the prison research enter-
prise. In 1972, an Associated Press
reporter broke the story that poor
southern black men with syphilis
had been deliberately left untreated
for 40 years so researchers could
study the natural course of the dis-
ease. In the environment created by
the civil rights movement and pro-
tests against the Vietnam War,
such research was condemned. The
scandal led to the formation of the
National Commission for the Pro-
tection of Human Subjects of Bio-
medical and Behavioral Research
and eventually the Belmont Report,
which recommended revamping
human experimentation using the
principles of respect for persons,
nonmaleficence, and justice.

In the case of prison research,
the new atmosphere proved espe-
cially restrictive. In 1978, the De-
partment of Health and Human
Services (DHHS) passed regula-
tions that limited federally funded
research involving prisoners in
several ways, stipulating, for ex-
ample, that experiments could
pose no more than minimal risk

The New England Journal of Medicine
Downloaded from nejm.org at COLUMBIA UNIV HEALTH SCIENCES LIB on March 23, 2011. For personal use only. No other uses without permission.

Copyright © 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.

n engl j med 356;18 www.nejm.org may 3, 2007

PERSPECTIVE

1807

to the subjects. The overarching
concern was that prisons were in-
herently coercive environments
in which informed consent could
never be obtained. The fact that
research offered financial rewards,
alleviation of boredom, and the
prospect of earlier parole made
it even more dicey.

This was the prevailing view
until 2004, when the DHHS asked
the IOM to revisit the matter. In
August 2006 the IOM published
its report, which acknowledged
that it might make sense to leave
the situation alone. For example,
the U.S. prison population in-
cludes disproportionate numbers
of vulnerable people: members of
minority groups, the mentally ill,
and persons with HIV infection
and other serious infectious dis-
eases. Prisons are generally over-
crowded and have inadequate
health care services. All these fac-
tors suggested that any easing of
restrictions might lead to the rep-
etition of previous errors.

Nonetheless, the IOM panel,
although sensitive to past “uncon-
scionable abuses,” recommended
that experiments carrying more
than minimal risk be allowed,
with the caveat that studies in-
volving drugs or other biomedical
interventions be required to have
potential benefits for prisoners.
The panel also recommended
several safeguards, such as creat-
ing a public database of prison
experiments, limiting research to
interventions with some demon-
strated safety and efficacy, ensur-
ing that studies include a major-
ity of nonprisoner subjects, and
requiring that proposals be vetted
by institutional review boards that
would include prisoner represen-
tatives.

The panel’s decision makes
sense for several reasons. The first
might be termed historical. For
most of the 20th century, despite

the findings at Nuremberg and
occasional other warnings, hu-
man experimentation was largely
seen as a “good,” something that
would advance science and bene-
fit health. The backlash against
experimentation in prisons oc-
curred during the 1970s, when
authority was being questioned
throughout society. No mecha-
nisms were in place to ensure the
rights of vulnerable subjects. It
thus made sense to ban any risky
research in prisons.

It is often said that those who
ignore history are condemned to
repeat it. But a decision to retain
current restrictions because of past
abuses would ignore several im-
portant developments. Since 1978,
a network of institutional review
boards has been established at the
National Institutes of Health, other
governmental agencies, and re-
search universities throughout the
country. With “informed consent”
now common parlance, study sub-
jects are more aware of their
rights. And, largely owing to the
work of AIDS activists and breast
cancer activists, sick and at-risk
persons, even those from poten-
tially vulnerable populations, now
actively pursue participation in re-
search protocols. Even though not
all these developments are unam-
biguously positive, to ignore them
and the opportunities they may af-
ford prisoners would be to regress.
As the IOM report said, “Respect
for prisoners also requires recog-
nition of their autonomy.”

Another argument in favor of
relaxing restrictions is that the re-
flexive assumption that all prison
research is problematic may not
be accurate. In light of the abuses,
critics have understandably ar-
gued that human experimentation
in prison has failed because it
takes place in a coercive environ-
ment that vitiates any possibility
of informed consent. But that is a

theory that can and should be in-
vestigated empirically through
formal studies of the consent pro-
cess in prisons. Moreover, as phi-
losopher Carl Cohen has argued,
research outside of prisons often
has coercive elements as well —
so to the degree that coercion is
involved, it may have little to do
with imprisonment.5

Finally, reinstituting and then
monitoring prison research would
afford society an opportunity for
ongoing scrutiny and reassess-
ment. Indeed, the IOM panel found
that much unregulated prison re-
search was being conducted despite
the 1978 guidelines. Many of the
notorious prison experiments in-
volved the active deception of study
participants — an abuse more eas-
ily avoided if the whole enterprise
is aboveboard. It is even possible
that research studies, by providing
a window into prison life, would
focus needed attention on deficien-
cies in prison health care.

Still, the new regulations must
be approached with trepidation.
As sociologist Erving Goffman
showed in his 1961 book Asylums,
“total institutions” such as prisons
may run roughshod over the rights
of their inhabitants. Perhaps this
book should be required reading
for any investigator who embarks
on research within prison walls.

Dr. Lerner is an associate professor of med-
icine and public health at Columbia Univer-
sity, New York.

Hornblum AM. They were cheap and avail-
able: prisoners as research subjects in twenti-
eth century America. BMJ 1997;315:1437-4

1.

Welsome E. The plutonium files: Ameri-
ca’s secret medical experiments in the Cold
War. New York: Delta, 1999:362-8

2.

Lederer SE. Subjected to science: human
experimentation in America before the Sec-
ond World War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 199

5.

Harkness JM. Nuremberg and the issue of
wartime experiments on US prisoners: the
Green Committee. JAMA 1996;276:1672-5.

Cohen C. Medical experimentation on
prisoners. Perspect Biol Med 1978;21:357-72.
Copyright © 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Subjects or Objects? Prisoners and Human Experimentation

The New England Journal of Medicine
Downloaded from nejm.org at COLUMBIA UNIV HEALTH SCIENCES LIB on March 23, 2011. For personal use only. No other uses without permission.

Copyright © 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.

Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002
Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD

Quantitative Research and
Theory Building: Dubin’s Method

Susan A. Lynham

The problem and the solution.There are a number of strate-
gies and methods that the theory builder can use to develop
applied theory. Each strategy and method is informed by
assumptions about what makes for knowledge and in turn good
theory—and each is a way of seeing and understanding the phe-
nomenon central to the theory. Dubin, a recognized scholar in
applied theory building, advocates a theory-then-research strat-
egy and quantitative hypothetico-deductive approach to applied
theory building. This chapter focuses on Dubin’s quantitative
method of theory building for applied disciplines, a two-part,
eight-step theory-building method as a specific variation of the
general method of theory-building research in applied disci-
plines presented in chapter 1.

Robert Dubin (1978), in his landmark book Theory Building, cautioned
against knowing and practicing “the form of theory-research” (p. 267) while
not knowing the substance thereof. It is the purpose of this chapter to present
the reader with both the form, that is, the shape, structure, and outward
appearance, as well as the substance, or what might be considered as the
essence, of a quantitative theory-building methodology. The form of
applied theory building is presented by way of a description of the
hypothetico-deductive method and the continual deduction-driven refrain
that is embedded in this hypothetico-deductive approach to applied theory
building. The theory-research cycle that contains Dubin’s two-part, eight-
step theory-building method necessary for the development of valid, trust-
worthy applied theory is then presented in Figure 1. The substance of this
applied theory-building method is a detailed presentation of this two-part,
eight-step process. The chapter concludes with an illustrative summary of
the relationship between Dubin’s two-part, eight-step theory-building
method and the research questions of the study of application, together with
some implications of this explicit theory-building method for research and
practice in human resource development (HRD) and other applied
disciplines.

Advances in Developing Human Resources Vol. 4, No. 3 August 2002 242-276
Copyright 2002 Sage Publications

� Chapter 2

The Form of Dubin’s Quantitative
Theory-Building Method

The shape of Dubin’s (1976, 1978) theory-building research method is
based on two distinct and related conceptual and methodological compo-
nents. The first component is the hypothetico-deductive approach to the
construction of knowledge. This first component in turn informs the second,
namely, a theory-to-research, or “theory-then-research” (Reynolds, 1971,
p. 144), strategy for theory development and verification.

The Hypothetico-Deductive Approach
to Knowledge Construction

The notion of the hypothetico-deductive method implies a predisposition to a
particular perspective of what makes for theory and, therefore, an appropriate
method of theory construction and verification: “A theory in science is a general
statement (or hypotheses) from which particular inferences may be deduced”
and wherein “observations can then be seen as confirming or falsifying hypothe-
ses” (Honderich, 1995, p. 385). Kaplan (1964) described this method as “the
most widely accepted reconstruction of science” (p. 9):

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 243

Part One:
The theory

development side
of the

Theory-Research
Cycle

Part Two:
The research

operation side
of the

Theory-Research
Cycle

1. Units

2. Laws of interaction

3. Boundaries

4. System States

5. Propositions

6. Empirical indicators of
key terms

7. Hypotheses

8. Testing

These four
steps result in
an informed,
conceptual
framework of
the theory

These four
steps result in
an empirically
verified, and
trustworthy
theory

FIGURE 1: Dubin’s Theory-Building Method as an Eight-Step Theory-Research Cycle

According to this reconstruction, the scientist, by a combination of careful observation, shrewd
guesses, and scientific intuition arrives at a set of postulates governing the phenomena in which
he is interested; from these he deduces observable consequences; he then tests these conse-
quences by experiment, and so confirms or disconfirms the postulates, replacing them, where
necessary, by others, and so continuing. (pp. 9-10)

The hypothetico-deductive method of knowledge construction is contained
within the empirical-analytical approach to science (Hultgren & Coomer, 1989)
and view of theory-building inquiry (see Lynham, 2002, Table 1, chap. 1). This
method therefore directs theory-building researcher-theorists in a number of
ways: that their theory-building endeavors should be motivated by a practical/
technical interest of means and ends; should assume that observational data are
the foundation of knowledge; should pursue the purpose of explanation, predic-
tion, and control; and should result in the desired outcome of developing trans-
ferable, generalizable laws and explanations of organizational and human
behavior. This hypothetico-deductive method is therefore central to the two-part
theory-research cycle and eight-step theory-building research method advo-
cated by Dubin (1978) to be discussed in the following sections of this chapter. It
should be noted that the discussions following are not intended to be sufficient to
convey the detailed complexity of Dubin’s theory-building research method but
rather sufficient for the reader to gain a sense of and feel for the basic form and
essence of this theory-building method. Those wishing to employ this method of
applied theory building are urged to consult Dubin’s 278-page book in this regard.

The Two-Part Theory-Research Cycle and Dubin’s
Eight-Step Applied Theory-Building Method

Dubin (1978) contributed a widely recognized research method and
accompanying language for theory building in an applied field. At a concep-
tual level, his method can be presented as a continuous theory-research
cycle composed of two parts, the first being the theoretical side of the cycle
and the second the research operation side of the cycle (Lynham, 2000a)
(also see Figure 1). Successful completion of the first part, or theoretical
side, of the cycle results in an informed, conceptual framework of the theory,
whereas successful completion of the second part, or research operation
side, results in an empirically verified and trustworthy theory (Lynham,
2000a). The task of the theory-researcher is to consistently and conscien-
tiously move through each of the two parts of the cycle, by following the pre-
cise substance of Dubin’s applied theory-building method, which is made
explicit through four theory development and four research operation, or
theory verification, steps, as indicated in Figure 1 (Lynham, 2000a). Follow-
ing the form and substance of this two-part theory-research cycle and eight-
step applied theory-building method is considered necessary and sufficient
to ensure both rigor and relevance in the resulting theory.

244 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

The first task of the theory development side of the cycle, and the first
step in the applied theory-building method, requires identification of the
units of the theory, also known as the concepts of the theory. These units rep-
resent the things or variables whose interactions constitute the subject mat-
ter, or phenomenon, that is the attention of the theory. After the units of the
theory have been identified, the next step in theory development is to specify
how the units interact and relate to one another, which is accomplished by
stipulating the laws of interaction that pertain to the units of the theory. The
laws of interaction show how changes in one or more of the units of the the-
ory influence the remaining units. It is significant to note that describing the
units of the theory and how these units interact (that is, the laws of interac-
tion) makes for the major contribution to knowledge that is generated by the
theory (Dubin, 1978; Lynham, 2000a; Torraco, 1994, 2000).

Next in the theory development process is the task of determining the
boundaries of the theory. This third step in the applied theory-building
method enables the researcher-theorist to determine the limited domain of
the world in which the theory is expected to hold true, or to hold up. Deter-
mining the boundaries of the theory enables the researcher-theorist to set
and clarify the aspects of the real world that the theory is attempting to
model and therefore bounds, or limits, the theoretical domain of the theory
from other aspects of the real world that the theory is not attempting to
model and explain. The fourth step in the applied theory-building method,
and the final step in the theory development side of the cycle, is the specifi-
cation of the system states of the theory. System states indicate the complex-
ity of the real world that the theory is presumed to represent and the different
conditions under which the theory operates. Theories can have numerous or
few system states, but all units of the specified system states are determinant
and measurable and are distinctive for each state of the theoretical system
(Dubin, 1978).

Attention to Steps 1 through 4 completes the theory development part of
the theory-research cycle of the theory-building method as specified by Dubin
(1978). Successful completion of this part of the applied theory-building
process constitutes the conceptual development of the theory and results in
the explicit output of a conceptual or theoretical framework of the theory. To
ensure the informed nature of this theoretical framework, the researcher-
theorist is compelled to rely on thorough and scholarly exploration and
study of current and related literature and research, as well as on her or his
observed experience of the phenomenon in the real world. Once the theoreti-
cal framework of the theory has been developed, the researcher-theorist is
ready to move on to the second part of the theory-research cycle, which also
makes up the research operation side of Dubin’s theory-building method.

The research operation side of the theory-research cycle of theory build-
ing in applied disciplines consists of four steps, which coincide with Steps 5

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 245

through 8 of Dubin’s theory-building method. These four steps involve
specifying the propositions of the theory, identifying the empirical indica-
tors of the theory, constructing the hypotheses of the theory, and finally,
developing and implementing a plan of research to test and thereby confirm
the trustworthiness of the theory.

Specifying the propositions of the theory requires that the researcher-
theorist derive truth statements or logical deductions about the theory in
action. These propositions are grounded in the explanatory and predictive
power embedded in the theoretical framework of the theory constructed dur-
ing the theory development part of the process. This fifth step in Dubin’s
method is of further significance in that it is often at this point in the theory-
building process that the researcher-theorist ends the journey, for this step
marks the point at which the theory is considered developed and made ready
for further translation to and testing in practice. The taking of the rest of this
research operation side of the applied theory-building process can be the
task of the originating researcher-theorist or others who wish to further test
and confirm, or disconfirm, the theory’s explanatory and predictive capabil-
ities and trustworthiness in practice.

Once the propositions of the theory have been specified, the next (and
sixth) step facing the researcher-theorist is to identify the empirical indica-
tors of the theory. Identifying empirical indicators is necessary to make the
proposition statements testable and is needed for each unit in each proposi-
tion whose test is sought (Dubin, 1978).

The seventh step in quantitative theory-building process, and still part of
the research operation side of the cycle, requires that the researcher-theorist
construct hypotheses. This step involves logically substituting the empirical
indicators in the proposition statements with testable, confirmable hypothe-
ses and enables the researcher-theorist to subject the theory to empirical
testing in the real world. The final step in Dubin’s theory-building process is
to engage in the actual testing of the theory through a thoughtfully specified
research plan of ongoing data gathering to enable adequate verification and/
or continuous refinement of the theory. Successful completion of these last
four steps completes the research operation side of the theory-research
cycle and results in an empirically verified and trustworthy theory, as well as
marks the completion of the rigorous theory-building process as outlined by
Dubin (1978).

The Substance of Dubin’s Quantitative
Theory-Building Method

As indicated in Figure 1, Dubin’s quantitative theory-building method is
composed of two parts, one theory development and one research operation,
each of which is further constituted by four specific steps. The essence of

246 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

each of these eight steps that make up this particular applied theory-building
method is further illustrated by way of explicit description and a brief over-
view example application of Steps 1 through 6. The example comprises
extracts of a theory of responsible leadership for performance (Lynham,
2000a) (full documentation is available from the author) and illustrates the
outcomes of Steps 1 through 6 of this theory-building research method in
action.

The Four Steps of Part 1 of Dubin’s
Quantitative Theory-Building Method

As indicated earlier, and in Figure 1, the first part of the theory-research
cycle embedded in Dubin’s eight-step theory-building research method is
constituted by four theory development steps. The first step requires that the
units of the theory be identified. The second step involves establishing the
laws of interaction applicable to the units of the theory. The third step
requires that the boundaries of the theory be determined. And the fourth and
final step in theory development involves specification of the system states
and their effects on the theory. It is worth reemphasizing that the purpose of
this first, theory development part of the theory-building cycle is to develop
an informed theoretical framework, a system of knowledge that explains the
explanatory essence of the theory in action.

Part 1, Step 1: Identifying the units of the theory. The units of a theory are
sometimes described as the concepts of the theory, or the basic ideas that make
up the theory (Cohen, 1991; Dubin, 1978; Reynolds, 1971). The units represent
the things about which the researcher is trying to make sense and are informed
by literature and experience. By translating these concepts to units, the
researcher-theorist is able to identify the things or variables whose interactions
make up the subject matter of attention (Dubin, 1978), in the example provided
that of responsible leadership for performance (Lynham, 1998, 2000a). It must
be noted that units represent the properties of things rather than the things them-
selves (Dubin, 1978).

The units of the theory can also be described as “the things out of which
the theory is built” (Dubin, 1976, p. 26). They are the basic building blocks
from which the researcher-theorist constructs the theory, the raw conceptual
material from which the theory emerges (Cohen, 1991; Torraco, 2000).
Description of the units of the theory enables the researcher-theorist to
answer the first theory development question: What are the units of the
theory?

When identifying and selecting the units of a theory, there are five dichot-
omies of characteristics that must be considered by the researcher-theorist:
(a) unit versus event, (b) attribute versus variable, (c) real versus nominal,

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 247

(d) primitive versus sophisticated, and (e) collective versus member (Dubin,
1978). Further to these dichotomies, Dubin identified five types of units
among which the researcher-theorist must distinguish, namely, enumer-
ative, associative, relational, statistical, and summative units. For further
description of these dichotomies and types of units, consult Dubin’s (1978)
text, chapter 3.

The kinds of units used in the theory are determined by the choices made
by the researcher-theorist regarding these dichotomous characteristics and
unit types. The kinds of units used in a theory are important as they can affect
the theory in a number of ways, for example, its structure, the kinds of expla-
nations and predictions the theory can generate, and the extensiveness of the
tests that can be made of the theory (Dubin, 1978).

A further and important requirement of this step in Dubin’s method of
theory building is to consider the outcome of developing the units of the the-
ory against a number of criteria, identified by Dubin (1978) for this first the-
ory development step. Five criteria can be identified for this first step in the
theory development process, namely, rigor and exactness, parsimony, com-
pleteness, logical consistency, and the degree of conformity to the limita-
tions on employment and combination of the units. A brief description of
each criterion follows.

The criterion of completeness is linked only to the use of associative units
and the resulting possible zero value of these units. By employing associa-
tive units, predictions about the theoretical system, in this example that of
responsible leadership for performance, must include states in which these
units go to zero or even become negative. This issue becomes important for
the eventual testing of the completeness of the theory, that is, of the com-
pleteness of the predictions generated by the theory.

The notion of logical consistency relates to the logic of the types of units
combined in and used to compose the theory. The use of only one type of the-
ory unit confines the results of the theory. For example, the use of only
enumerative or only associative units confines the results “to just the first
quadrant of the Cartesian co-ordinate system” (Dubin, 1978, p. 69). On the
other hand, the combination of enumerative with associative units in a single
theory enables a better spread of data across the “four quadrants of the Car-
tesian co-ordinate system” (Dubin, 1978, p. 70). What units the researcher-
theorist decides to use in the theory therefore influences the kinds of studies
that can later be used to gather and study data on the theory and, ultimately,
be used to verify and refine the theory.

In the development of the units of a theory, the researcher-theorist is required
to uphold three limiting rules regarding the combination of types of units in a
theory. The first rule states that “a relational unit is not combined in the same the-
ory with enumerative or associative units that are themselves properties of that
relational unit” (Dubin, 1978, p. 73). The second rule states,

248 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

Where a statistical unit is employed, it is by definition a property of a collective. In the same the-
ory do not combine such a statistical unit with any kind of unit (enumerative, associative, or rela-
tional) describing a property of members of the same collective. (pp. 74-75)

The third rule states that “summative units have utility in education and commu-
nication with those who are naïve in a field. Summative units are not employed
in scientific models” (Dubin, 1978, p. 78).

The preceding discussion concludes the description of the first step in the
theory development phase of Dubin’s (1978) theory-building method. The
outcome of this section is the identification and description of the units of
the theory, as highlighted in Figure 2 and the application example at the end
of this section, and answers the first theory development question: What are
the units of the theory? The task of the next and second step in the theory
development part of this theory-building inquiry method is to consider the
nature of the relationships between the three units of the theory.

Part 1, Step 2: Establishing the laws of interaction that govern the theory.
The second step of theory development in Dubin’s theory building research
method is the specification of the laws of interaction applicable to the units of the
theory. The laws of interaction describe the interaction among the units of the
theory and enable the researcher-theorist to answer the second theory develop-
ment question: What are the laws of interaction of the theory?

The laws of interaction make explicit and specific the manner in which
the units of the theory interact with one another (Dubin, 1978; Torraco,
1994, 2000). A law of interaction is a statement by the researcher-theorist of
the relationship between units and shows how the units of the theory are
linked to each other. It is important to note that at this stage of the develop-
ment of the theory, these laws of interaction relate to the relationship
between the units of the theory and not to the conceptual dimensions of each
unit of the theory. Dubin (1978) highlighted three general categories or
types of laws of interaction, namely, categoric, sequential, and determinant.

Categoric laws of interaction indicate that values of a unit of the theory
are associated with values of another unit. This type of law is common in the
social sciences and indicates “a greater-than-chance probability that the
units are related” (Dubin, 1978, p. 98). Categoric laws are symmetrical in
nature, meaning that “it does not matter whether one or the other of the units
comes first in the statement of the law” (Dubin, 1978, p. 100). Words typi-
cally employed in this kind of law of interaction are is associated with; for
example, Unit A is associated with Unit B (Dubin, 1978, p. 101).

Two categoric laws of interaction were identified for the theory of
responsible leadership for performance (Lynham, 2000a). The first pertains
to the theory as a whole and the second to the symmetrical nature of the rela-
tionship between the three units of the theory. See the corresponding discus-
sion in the application example at the end of this section.

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 249

Sequential laws are a second type of law of interaction and make use of a
time dimension to describe the relationships between two or more units. A
sequential law of interaction therefore identifies a temporal interval
between the values of two or more units and indicates that the relationship
between the units concerned is unidirectional. As a result, sequential laws
are asymmetrical, with a time lapse between the units being a characteristic
of this type of law of interaction. Words typically employed in this kind of
law of interaction are succeeded by or preceded by; for example, “specified
values of Unit A are succeeded by specified values of Unit B with a time
interval of X” (Dubin, 1978, p. 103).

Two sequential-type laws of interaction were identified for the theory of
responsible leadership for performance (Lynham, 2000a). These are high-
lighted in the corresponding discussion and Figures 3 and 4, as well as in the
application example presented at the end of this section.

At the outset of the development of the example theory, it was suggested
by the researcher-theorist that leadership could and should be thought of as a
system, that is, as a set of defined, interdependent parts that interact within
some defined boundary (Dubin, 1978). The theory of responsible leadership
for performance (Lynham, 2000a) is a systems view of leadership and pres-
ents leadership as a set of three interdependent units, interacting within the
context and boundaries of a performance system (see corresponding discus-
sion and Figure 4, as well as application example at the end of this section).

A determinant law of interaction is one that relates determinate values of
one unit of the theory with determinate values of another unit. Determinant
laws of interaction therefore describe specific relationships between units
with determinate values, and as a result, these laws of interaction are typi-
cally used in the physical sciences where such precise relationships are

250 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

A Framework of

“Responsibleness”

Effectiveness
Ethics
Endurance

Inside/Outside
High/Low Authority
High/Low Impact

Considerations of
“Constituency” Domains of

“Performance”

System Mission
Work Process/es
Social Sub-systems
Individual Performer

FIGURE 2: Responsible Leadership for Performance: A Model of the Units of the Theory and
Supporting Conceptual Dimensions

more common than in the behavioral sciences (Dubin, 1978; Torraco, 2000).
At this time, there are no determinant laws of interaction in the example the-
ory of responsible leadership for performance.

The two types of laws of interaction employed in the example theory,
namely, categoric and sequential laws, govern the relationships between the
three units of the theory (Dubin, 1978; Torraco, 2000). It must be noted that
laws of interaction do not necessarily indicate causality: “A statement of
interaction or relationship is not necessarily a statement of causality”
(Dubin, 1978, p. 92). Furthermore, Dubin (1978) informed us that laws of
interaction are never in themselves measured. Only the values of the units in
a relationship are measured. The scientific law is therefore tested empiri-
cally “if, and only if, values are empirically assigned to the units employed
in the law” (p. 94).

Besides being distinguishable by type, laws of interaction can also be differ-
entiated by levels of efficiency. Dubin (1978) identified four general levels of
efficiency of a law, namely, “(1) presence-absence (lowest level of efficiency);
(2) directionality; (3) covariation; and (4) rate of change (highest level of effi-
ciency)” (p. 109). These levels of efficiency are of a cumulative nature and tend

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 251

Time

Considerations
of “Constituency”

A Framework of “Responsibleness”

Domains of “Performance”

FIGURE 3: A Diagram of the First Sequential Relationship Between the Three Units of the
Theory

INPUT:

Considerations of
“Constituency”

PROCESS:
A Framework of

“Responsibleness”

OUTPUT:
Domains of

“Performance”

Time

FIGURE 4: A Diagram of the Second Sequential Relationship Between the Three Units of the
Theory

to correspond with the scientific sophistication of a specific scientific discipline.
According to Dubin,

As the sophistication improves in a given scientific discipline [so] the laws of interaction
employed in that discipline move to a higher level of efficiency. . . . It should be possible to mea-
sure the level of sophistication of a given discipline by the efficiency of the laws therein
employed. (p. 111)

Dubin further indicated that the lowest level and the second level of efficiency
are often employed in laws of the social and behavioral sciences and are
accepted as indicating scientific precision in these sciences.

Categoric laws of interaction are always at the lowest level of efficiency,
indicating a presence-absence relationship between the units of the theory.
Sequential laws of interaction, on the other hand, “may achieve any level of
efficiency” (Dubin, 1978, p. 111). The laws of interaction of the example
theory are at the first two (lower end) levels of efficiency of a law, namely,
presence-absence and directionality.

In addition to determining the laws of interaction of a theory, the
researcher-theorist must also consider the outcomes of this second step in
Dubin’s theory-building inquiry method against criteria of excellence for
completion of this step. The outcome of determining the laws of interaction
of a theory can be considered against a single criterion, namely, that of parsi-
mony (Dubin, 1978). As explained in the development of the units of the the-
ory, parsimony relates to the degree to which the theory contains a minimum
of complexity and assumptions. Parsimony, as a criterion of theory develop-
ment, also refers to the complexity of the laws of interaction employed in the
theory. The higher the level of efficiency reflected in the laws of interaction,
that is, presence-absence, directionality, covariation, or rate of change, the
more sophisticated and complex the laws of interaction are considered to be.
In the example theory, briefly presented in the application example at the
end of this section, the two categoric laws are at the lowest level of efficiency
(presence-absence), whereas the two sequential laws are at the second low-
est level of efficiency (directionality).

Besides the efficiency level of the laws of interaction of the theory, the
criterion of parsimony also relates to the maximum versus the minimum
number of laws required to relate the units of a theory at least once with each
other (Dubin, 1978). To this end, the key laws of interaction presented in the
example theory (see application example at end of section) are considered a
minimum to make explicit and clear the nature of the interrelationship
between the three units of the theory. By restricting the laws of interaction of
the theory to currently low levels of efficiency and minimum numbers, the
researcher-theorist attempted to ensure further parsimony of her theory of
leadership (Lynham, 2000a). This section concludes the second theory
development step in Dubin’s theory-building method. The outcome of this
step enables the researcher-theorist to answer the second theory develop-

252 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

ment question: What are the laws of interaction of the theory? Once the units
and the laws of interaction of the theory have been established, the next and
third step in this applied theory–building method is to determine the bound-
aries of the theory.

Part 1, Step 3: Determining the boundaries of the theory. The boundaries of a
theory are established to determine and clarify the domains within which the
theory is expected to hold up and apply (Dubin, 1978). It must be remembered
that a theory is an attempt by the researcher-theorist to model some theoretical
aspect of the real world (Torraco, 1997). As such, a theory is limited to an aspect
of the real world that it is trying to model. The boundaries of a theory therefore
establish the real-world limits of the theory and in so doing distinguish the theo-
retical domain of the theory from those aspects of the real world not addressed or
explained by the theory.

The determination and clarification of the boundaries of a theory require
response to the third of the four theory development questions: What are the
boundaries of the theory? By addressing this theory development question,
the researcher-theorist is able to complete Step 3 of Dubin’s theory-building
inquiry method and compare the outcome to the criteria of excellence for
this third theory development step. The boundaries of a theory are important
in that they enable the researcher-theorist to make clear and explicit the lim-
ited portions of the world within which the theory is expected to hold
(Dubin, 1978). Of equal import is that the boundaries of a theory also enable
the researcher-theorist to represent the theoretical framework of the theory
as an empirical and bounded system of knowledge and explanation (Dubin,
1978).

Dubin (1978) distinguished between a closed and an open boundary (p.
126), advocating the use of an open boundary “when there is exchange over
the boundary between the domains through which the boundary extends”
(Torraco, 1994, p. 162). On the other hand, Dubin advocated a closed bound-
ary when “exchange does not take place between the domains through which
the boundary extends” (Torraco, 1994, p. 162).

When using a theory-to-research strategy of theory building, as is inher-
ent to the nature of Dubin’s method of theory building, the boundaries of a
theory are determined not by empirical data but rather through the use of
logic. The boundary of the theory must be chosen, through the logic of the
researcher-theorist, to indicate the “domain over which the [theory] oper-
ates as a system” (Dubin, 1978, p. 141). The boundary of the theoretical sys-
tem acts to specify “the furthest extension over the empirical world that the
[theoretical] model is expected to operate” (Dubin, 1978, p. 141). The
domain of the theory therefore becomes “that portion of the empirical world
included within the boundaries” (Dubin, 1978, p. 141). Dubin (1978) indi-
cated that “the domain of a [theory] is always bounded” and that “to deter-
mine the domain of a [theoretical] model requires the determination of its

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 253

boundaries” (p. 141). By way of example, the boundaries and corresponding
domains of the theory of responsible leadership for performance (Lynham,
2000a) are presented in the application example at the end of this section and
Figure 5.

Once the boundaries of the theory have been determined, the researcher-
theorist is required to compare the resulting boundaries against two step-
related criteria of excellence identified by Dubin (1978), namely, homoge-
neity (including the satisfaction of three specific internal and external
boundary-determining requirements) and generalization.

254 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

Key:

The Closed Boundary of the theory

The Open Boundary of the theory

The Broader External Environment in which the Theory Operates and Other Kinds
of Performance Systems in this Broader External Environment

THE LEGALLY DEFINED, HUMAN POPULATED
PERFORMANCE SYSTEM: The Closed Boundary of the Theory

The External Environment to the Performance System
The Social, Economic, Cultural, Technological and Political

Environment in which the Outside Constituency Resides

The Focused System of Responsible Leadership for Performance

Input

Considerations of
“Constituency”

Process

A Framework
of

“Responsibleness”

Outputs

Domains
of

“Performance”

The Internal Environment to the Performance System

• Cultural • Political • Technology

The Internal-External Environment Boundary of the
Performance System: The Open Boundary of the Theory

© S. A. Lynham, 2000

FIGURE 5: The Boundaries of a Theory of Responsible Leadership for Performance

Note: © S. A. Lynham, 2000.

The criterion of homogeneity requires that “the units employed in the
theory and the laws by which they interact satisfy the same boundary-
determining criteria” (Dubin, 1978, p. 127). Dubin (1978) further specified
that “a theoretical model is said to be bounded when the limiting values on
the units comprising the model are known. The limiting values are always
determinate” (p. 126). In comparing the output of this third theory devel-
opment step with the corresponding boundary-determining criteria, it is
important to first clarify some basic related concepts, namely, boundary
criteria, interior boundary-determining criteria, and external boundary-
determining criteria.

“The boundary-determining criteria of a [theory],” said Dubin (1978),
“apply with equal force to the units employed and the laws of interaction
among these units. The units [of a theory] must fit inside the boundaries
before the [theory] is complete” (pp. 126-127). Internal boundary-
determining criteria are those that are “derived from the characteristics of
the units and the laws employed in the [theory]” (p. 128). Dubin specified
four possible internal boundary-determining criteria, namely, truth tables of
the logician, establishing a “limit of probability on the values taken by the
units employed in a theory” (p. 130), “subsetting the property space” (p. 131),
and alignment between the relationships specified in the laws of interac-
tion and those included in the domain of the theory. External boundary-
determining criteria, on the other hand, “are those imposed from outside
the [theory]” (p. 132).

The application of internal and external boundary-determining criteria is
related to the theory-building strategy employed by the researcher-theorist
in developing the theory. In a research-to-theory strategy of theory building,
these criteria are determined through empirical research and measurement
of the units and laws of interaction employed in the theory. In this type of
theory-building strategy, the empirical data gathered through research are
then used by the researcher-theorist to derive the boundaries of the theory
(Dubin, 1978; Reynolds, 1971). In a theory-to-research strategy of theory
building, the researcher-theorist determines the boundaries of the theory
logically (Dubin, 1978).

The criterion of generalization of a theory relates to domain size of the
theory. Thus, the bigger the domain, the more general the theory (Dubin,
1978). Reducing the number of boundary-determining criteria also serves to
enlarge the domain of the theory. Employing two boundaries in the example
theory and applying two boundary-determining criteria enabled the
researcher-theorist to limit the generalization of this theory of leadership.
As indicated in the application example at the end of this section, the theory
of responsible leadership for performance (Lynham, 2000a) is not an unlim-
ited, unbounded theory of leadership. At the same time, the somewhat broad
domain of the theory can later be shown to have implications for understand-

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 255

ing and including knowledge from other leadership theories into that of the
theory of responsible leadership for performance.

This section concludes discussion of the essences of the third step in the
theory development part of Dubin’s theory-building method. The outcome
of this third step is the determination and clarification of the two boundaries,
one open and one closed, of the example theory, as presented in Figure 5 and
the application example at the end of this section. These boundaries make
clear and explicit the real-world domain over which the example theory is
expected to apply and hold up.

Clarification of the boundaries of the theory enables the researcher-
theorist to answer the third theory development question: What are the
boundaries of the theory? The next and fourth step in the first theory devel-
opment part of Dubin’s applied theory-building method is that of specifying
the system states of the theory.

Part 1, Step 4: Specifying the system states of the theory. A system state is a
condition of the system being modeled in which the units of the theory interact
differently. Thus, a system state represents a condition under which the theory is
operative (Dubin, 1978; Torraco, 1994, 1999, 2000). Specifying the system
states under which the theory is expected to operate requires response to the
fourth and last theory development question: What are the system states of the
theory? Through response to this theory development question, the researcher-
theorist is able to complete Step 4 and the first part (the theory development side)
of Dubin’s applied theory-building method.

Dubin (1976, 1978) defined a system state as a condition of the system
being modeled in which all the units of the system take on characteristic val-
ues that have persistence through time, regardless of the length of the time
interval. All units of the system have values that are determinant, meaning
they are measurable and distinctive for that state of the system.

Dubin (1978) further identified three criteria of importance to the
researcher-theorist when identifying the system states of the theory, namely,
(a) inclusiveness, (b) persistence, and (c) distinctiveness. The criterion of
inclusiveness refers to the need for all the units of the system to be included
in the system state of the theory (Dubin, 1978; Torraco, 1994, 2000). The
criterion of persistence requires that the system state persist through a
meaningful period of time (Dubin, 1978; Torraco, 1994, 2000). And the cri-
terion of distinctiveness requires that all units take on determinant, that is,
measurable and distinctive, values for the system state (Dubin, 1978;
Torraco, 1994, 2000).

The specification of the system states of the theory enables the
researcher-theorist to answer the fourth, theory development, question:
What are the system states of the theory? The completion of this fourth step
also enables the researcher-theorist to conclude the first theory development

256 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

part of the quantitative theory-building method (Dubin, 1978). It should be
recalled that an important outcome of this first theory development part of
Dubin’s two-part, eight-step theory-building method is an informed, con-
ceptual, or theoretical framework of the theory.

At this stage of the theory-building process, the four theory development
questions have been addressed by describing the units, specifying the laws
of interaction, determining the boundaries, and identifying the system states
of the theory. Addressing the four theory development questions thus
enabled the researcher-theorist to develop and present an informed concep-
tual and theoretical framework, that is, a theoretical system of knowledge,
of the example theory, as indicated in the corresponding discussion and Fig-
ure 6, as well as in the application example following.

Application example. At the outset of this section discussion, four steps were
identified as necessary for the development of the example theory of responsible
leadership for performance (Lynham, 2000a), namely, (a) a description of the
units of the theory, (b) specification of the laws of interaction of the theory, (c)
determination of the boundaries of the theory, and (d) identification of the sys-
tem states of the theory. The conclusion of each of these four steps allowed the
researcher-theorist to answer the following four corresponding theory develop-
ment questions and conclude the theory development side of the theory-research
cycle embedded in Dubin’s eight-step applied theory-building method: (a) What
are the units of a theory of responsible leadership for performance? (b) What are
the laws of interaction of a theory of responsible leadership for performance? (c)
What are the boundaries of a theory of responsible leadership for performance?
and (d) What are the system states of a theory of responsible leadership for
performance?

In answering the first of these four theory development questions, three
units and their conceptual dimensions were described for the theory (see
Figure 2). The first unit identified was considerations of constituency, with
three conceptual dimensions being identified as integral to this unit. These
were whether the constituency resides inside or outside the performance
system in which the leadership occurred, whether the constituency has high
or low authority over the performance system concerned, and whether the
constituency has high or low potential impact over that performance system.
The second identified unit of the theory was a framework of responsible-
ness, consisting of three conceptual dimensions, namely, effectiveness, eth-
ics, and endurance (White Newman, 1993). The third unit identified in the
theory was domains of performance. The four conceptual dimensions of this
third unit of the theory included systems mission, work processes, social
subsystems, and the individual performer (Holton, 1999).

The rationale and theoretical support for each of these three units and
their conceptual dimensions were considered in detail. The three units were

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 257

also shown to satisfy the five criteria for identification of the units of a the-
ory, namely, rigor and exactness, parsimony, completeness, logical consis-
tency, and degree of conformity to the limitations on employment and com-
bination of the units.

In answering the second theory development question, four laws of interac-
tion were specified for the example theory of responsible leadership for perfor-
mance, two of a categoric (associative) nature and two of a sequential (temporal)
nature. The first two categoric (associative) laws of interaction are as follows:

• Law 1: All three units of the theory, namely, considerations of con-
stituency, a framework of responsibleness, and domains of perfor-
mance, are associated with and required for responsible leadership
for performance, and

258 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

External Environment to the Performance System which
Informs the Leadership System-in-Focus (RLP)

The Social, Economic, Cultural, Technological and Political Environment
in which the Outside Constituency of the Performance System Resides

Internal Environment to the Performance System in which the
Leadership System-in-Focus (RLP) Operates

•• Technological Political• Cultural

The Performance System in which the Leadership System-in-Focus (RLP) Operates
(Also the Open Boundary of the Theory)

INPUT

Considerations of
“Constituency”

• Inside/Outside
• High/Low

Authority
• High/Low Impact.

PROCESS

A Framework of

“Responsibleness”

• Effectiveness
• Ethics
• Endurance.

OUTPUTS

Domains of
“Performance”

• System Mission
• Work Process/es
• Social Sub-systems
• Individual Performer.

The Leadership System-in-Focus: RLP

© S. A. Lynham, 2000

FIGURE 6: The Theoretical Framework of a Theory of Responsible Leadership for
Performance

Note: © S. A. Lynham, 2000.

• Law 2: Each unit of the theory, namely, considerations of constitu-
ency, a framework of responsibleness, and domains of performance,
interrelates with each other unit of the theory.

These two associative laws gave rise to the first principle that informs the sys-
tem states of the example theory, namely, that in the absence of any one of the
three units and interaction among the units, the theoretical system of responsible
leadership for performance is either unbalanced or destroyed. Law 3, the first
sequential (temporal) law of interaction of the theory, states that considerations
of constituency precede a framework of responsibleness and domains of perfor-
mance in the theory of responsible leadership for performance (see Figure 3).

Law 4, the second sequential law of the theory, illustrated in Figure 4,
specifies that the units of the theory of responsible leadership for perfor-
mance can be thought of in terms of inputs, process, and outputs, where the
unit of considerations of constituency forms the input, the unit a framework
of responsibleness forms the process, and the unit domains of performance
forms the output of the theory. These two temporal laws gave rise to the sec-
ond principle that informs the system states of the theory, namely, that
responsible leadership for performance results only when the three units of
the theory are arranged in an interacting system of inputs, processes, and
outputs (see Figure 4).

The supporting logic to the four laws of interaction of the theory of
responsible leadership for performance was provided. The four laws of
interaction were also shown to satisfy the criterion of parsimony required in
the specification of the laws of a theory.

In response to the third theory development question, two boundaries,
one closed and one open, were determined and clarified, as indicated in Fig-
ure 5. The first boundary, a closed boundary, determined the overall domain
over which the example theory of responsible leadership for performance is
expected to hold up. This boundary was shown to have two distinctions. The
first was that of a legally defined, human-populated performance system,
and the second was the social, political, technical, economic, technological,
and cultural external environment in which the outside constituency of the
performance system resides (see the solid black border line of Figure 5).
These two boundary-determining features—of a legally defined, human-
populated performance system and the social, political, economic, techno-
logical, and cultural external environment in which outside constituency
resides—were shown to separate the domain of the theory from other kinds
of performance systems and the broader external environment not addressed
by the theory. The second boundary, an open boundary, determined in the
development of the theory was shown to exist within the domain of all
legally defined, human-populated performance systems (shown by the dash
line in Figure 5). This second boundary allowed the system of responsible
leadership for performance to be understood as a leadership system-in-

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 259

focus and corresponded with the internal-external boundary of the perfor-
mance system in which the leadership system occurred.

The clarifying logic behind the determination of these two boundaries of
the theory was presented. The two boundaries presented in the theory of
responsible leadership for performance were also shown to satisfy the two
criteria for determining the boundaries of a theory, namely, homogeneity
and generalization.

Finally, to address the fourth and last theory development question, two
system states were identified for the example theory of responsible leader-
ship for performance, namely, that of balance and unbalance. To identify
these system states, the system being focused on in the theory was first
shown to be that of responsible leadership for performance, as presented in
Figure 6.

Some characteristic values of each of the three units of the theory in each
of the two system states of responsible leadership for performance were
identified and shown to satisfy the three criteria of inclusiveness, persis-
tence, and distinctiveness required for the identification of the system states
of a theory. The supporting logic behind the two system states of the theory
was also presented.

This concludes the presentation and discussion of the substance of the
theory development side and the first part of the quantitative theory-building
method. Making explicit the substance of the next part of the theory-building
method requires description of the research operation side of Dubin’s
(1978) theory-building process.

The Four Steps of Part 2 of Dubin’s
Quantitative Theory-Building Method

The second part of the process requires the completion of Steps 5 to 8 of
Dubin’s two-part, eight-step theory-building inquiry method. This part of
the theory-building method therefore includes specifying the propositions
of the theory, identifying the empirical indicators for the key terms within
the theory, constructing hypotheses to enable testing of the theory, and
developing a purposeful research agenda to test the theory and/or its compo-
nent parts in action.

It should be remembered that the second part of Dubin’s theory-building
method, also known as the research operation side of the two-part theory-
building cycle, has as its main purpose the verification, or confirmation, of
the theoretical framework completed during the first theory development
part of the theory-building cycle. Through the address of the four steps cen-
tral to the second part of the theory-building process, the theoretical frame-
work that was the outcome of Part 1 of the process is operationalized by
completing Steps 5 through 7 of Dubin’s eight-step theory-building method

260 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

and then tested through completion of Step 8 in Dubin’s quantitative theory-
building process. Operationalization of the theoretical framework devel-
oped in Part 1 is achieved by first specifying propositions derived from the
framework, then identifying corresponding empirical indicators informed
by the propositions, and finally constructing hypotheses based on the propo-
sitions and informed by the empirical indicators.

Once the theoretical framework has been operationalized, the researcher-
theorist can begin the conduct of related research to test and confirm, or
indeed disconfirm, the theoretical framework in practice, or action. Neither
operationalization nor testing of the theory through research is a one-time
event. Rather, operationalization and testing of the theory should be under-
stood as an ongoing, accumulative process of theory testing, confirmation,
refinement, and further development. This continual refrain between the
theory development and research operation sides of the two-part, eight-step
theory-building inquiry method is meant to ensure that the researcher-theorist
constantly adapts, tests, and readapts the theory until she or he has confi-
dence in the trustworthiness of the theory in explaining action and outcome
in the real world and/or continues to adapt the theory to incorporate new
insights, knowledge, and experience to this predictive and explanatory end.

The sections following provide a brief description of the substance of the
research operation side, second part, involving Steps 5 through 8, of Dubin’s
two-part, eight-step theory-building method. To the extent that the example
theory of leadership was partially operationalized, an application subsec-
tion on the related theory-building steps is included in the related theory-
building step descriptions.

Part 2, Step 5: Specification of the propositions of the theory. Propositions
are, according to Dubin (1978), “truth statements about the theory” (p. 160) and
are concerned with “the ways in which a theoretical model are put to use” (p. 159).
The propositions of a theory are considered true by virtue of being statements
that are logically derived from the theory itself (Dubin, 1978; Torraco, 2000).
Because propositions can be subjected to empirical testing, they, in turn, enable
the theory to be subjected to empirical testing (Torraco, 2000). The identifica-
tion of propositions is therefore a first and necessary step in operationalizing the
theory, or in getting the theory ready to be put to the test. Propositions enable the
researcher-theorist to begin to make predictions from the theoretical framework
about the values of the units of the theoretical framework in the real world. Spec-
ification of the propositions of a theory enables the researcher-theorist to answer
the fifth question in Dubin’s theory-building method and the first research oper-
ation question in this theory-building process: What are the propositions of the
theory?

It is important to note, when considering propositions of a theoretical frame-
work, that these truth statements “are not necessarily truth statements about

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 261

aspects of the real world that the theory represents” (Torraco, 1994, p. 166).
Indeed,

to address the problem of matching the theory with the real world the theory is intended to model,
it is necessary to convert the proposition statements, first to empirical indicators, and then into
hypotheses, and then to test the hypotheses through research. (Torraco, 1994, p. 166)

The issue of the conversion of the propositions of the theory to empirical indica-
tors and hypotheses is dealt with in Part 2, Steps 6 and 7, of Dubin’s theory-
building method.

Dubin (1978) suggested that the propositions of a theory are “constructed
logically and intellectually by the theorist” (p. 164). According to Dubin,
this logic and intellectual nature of propositions make proposition state-
ments “synthetic,” meaning that “these are statements that follow as true
from the [theoretical framework] about which they are made” (p. 164). Fur-
thermore, he indicated that “this synthetic quality of propositions makes
clear that we are not talking at this point about the empirical accuracy of the
proposition statements” (p. 164). According to Dubin (1978) and Torraco
(1994), proposition statements of a theory must be considered true if they
are logically derived from a theoretical system of specified units, laws of
interaction, boundaries, and system states. Dubin emphasized this internal
truth to proposition statements further: “The sole test of the accuracy of a
proposition is whether or not it follows logically from the [theoretical
framework] to which it applies” (p. 164).

Dubin (1978) highlighted three types of proposition statements. The first
type may be made “about the values of a single unit of the [theoretical frame-
work], the value of that unit being revealed in relation to the value of the
other units connected to the unit in question by a law of interaction” (p. 166).
The second type of propositions “may be predictions about the continuity of
a system state that in turn involves a prediction about the conjoined values of
all units in the system” (p. 166). And the third type may involve “predictions
about the oscillation of the system from one state to another . . . and involves
predictions about the values of all units of the system as they pass over the
boundary of one system state into another” (p. 166). According to Dubin,
these three types of predictions “exhaust the logical possibilities” of the pre-
dictions and represent the “full range of truth statements” (p. 166) that can
be logically derived from the theoretical framework about the theory in
action.

“A proposition of a theoretical [framework] is, therefore, a truth state-
ment about the [theoretical framework] in operation” (Dubin, 1978, p. 163).
Typically, proposition statements take the form of “If . . . then” (Dubin,
1978, p. 164). Cohen (1991) referred to propositions as the knowledge
claims of the theory in action. Because propositions are truth statements
about the theory in use, it can be safely assumed that propositions can be

262 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

made from any theoretical framework “that has had its units, laws of interac-
tion, boundaries and system states specified” (Torraco, 1994, p. 166). The
logic of these propositions is informed by the logic of the theoretical frame-
work of the theory.

Further to the specification of the propositions of the theory, Dubin
(1978) indicated that in specifying propositions for a theory, there are three
criteria for consideration by the researcher-theorist, namely, consistency,
accuracy, and parsimony. The criterion of consistency in specifying the
propositions of a theory refers to the notion that the truth of the propositions
“be established by reference to only one system of logic for all the proposi-
tions set forth in the [theoretical framework]” (p. 160). To meet this criterion
in the example theory of responsible leadership for performance (Lynham,
2000a), the logic of the systems framework was used to guide the specifica-
tion of the propositions. A system has specific characteristics, namely, a
name, a purpose, parts, interactions among the parts, and outcomes or out-
puts (Dubin, 1978; Senge, 1990; Swanson, 1994; Von Bertalanffy, 1968).
Each of the propositions of this theory is associated with one or more of
these system characteristics to ensure consistency in the propositions speci-
fied for the theory.

The criterion of accuracy refers to whether the propositions follow logi-
cally from the theoretical framework to which they apply. Each of the propo-
sitions specified for the example theory is informed by and follows from the
specified system of units, laws of interaction, boundaries, and system states
that make up the theoretical framework of the theory. The logic of these
components of the theoretical framework of responsible leadership for per-
formance is maintained in the logic of the specified propositions of the
theory.

The criterion of parsimony, when considered in relation to the specifica-
tion of the propositions of a theory, refers to the use of what Dubin (1978)
called “strategic propositions” (p. 166). Dubin pointed out that “in princi-
ple, every [theoretical framework] should give rise to an infinite number of
propositions” (p. 166). However, it is not the job, in the specification of the
propositions of a theory, to identify all possible propositions for that theory.
It is, according to Dubin, more important to seek some parsimony in the
specification of propositions. This is achieved by reducing the large number
of possible propositions to a handful “that satisfies our sense of what is
important to test in determining whether or not the theory accurately models
the empirical domain it purports to represent” (p. 167). Fifty-three potential
propositions were initially specified from the theoretical framework of
responsible leadership for performance. Through application of the frame-
work of system characteristics indicated in the above criterion of consis-
tency, these propositions were then sorted and reduced to the 8 specified in
the application example following. It was felt by the researcher-theorist that

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 263

these 8 propositions were of a strategic (rather than a trivial) nature in terms
of future testing of the theory.

Application example. Eight propositions were specified for the example the-
ory of responsible leadership for performance (Lynham, 2000a) and covered the
first two types of proposition statements identified by Dubin, namely, the value
of units of the theory in relation to other units and connected by the laws of inter-
action and predictions about the conjoined values of all the units in the theory.
The eight proposition statements logically derived from the theoretical frame-
work of the theory of responsible leadership for performance are as follows.

1. Responsible leadership for performance is a theory of leadership as a
system-in-focus. Leadership is a purposeful, focused system not an indi-
vidual or a process managed by an individual.

2. All systems have a purpose. The purpose of responsible leadership for
performance is to serve the needs and desired outcomes of the constitu-
ency of a performance system by positively affecting multiple domains
of performance in a responsible (effective, ethical, and enduring)
manner.

3. The content of responsible leadership for performance is derived from all
three units of the theory—considerations of constituency, a framework
of responsibleness, and domains of performance. If all three units are not
present and interacting, then there is not responsible leadership for
performance.

4. For leadership to be considered responsible, it must demonstrate, and be
judged to demonstrate, effectiveness, ethics, and endurance. If one of
these three attribute properties is missing from leadership, then that lead-
ership can no longer be considered responsible.

5. The units of the theory—considerations of constituency, a framework of
responsibleness, and domains of performance—are interdependent. If
there is change in one unit, then it can be expected that there will be
changes in the other two units.

6. As responsibleness (effectiveness, ethics, and endurance) increases, per-
formance of the whole performance system can be expected to increase.

7. Constituency is a necessary requirement for leadership. Without constit-
uency, there is no leadership.

8. Without guiding inputs from constituency, and outputs in the form of
performance, the phenomenon of leadership collapses.

Specification of the propositions of the theory enables the researcher-theorist
to answer the research operation question of, What are the propositions of the
theory? Once the propositions of the theory have been specified, the researcher-
theorist is able to proceed to the second step in the operationalization of the the-
ory, and the sixth step in Dubin’s two-part, eight-step theory-building method,
namely, to identify empirical indicators for the theory.

Part 2, Step 6: Identifying empirical indicators of the theory. In the sixth step
of Dubin’s (1978) theory-building method, the researcher-theorist is essentially
concerned with “finding the empirical indicators that produce the values on the

264 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

units employed in the (theoretical) model” (p. 181). Completing this next step
enables the researcher-theorist to answer the theory-operationalizing question,
What are the empirical indicators of the theory?

An empirical indicator is, according to Dubin (1978), “an operation
employed by the researcher[-theorist] to secure measurements of values on
a unit” (p. 182). “In order that a unit be measured to indicate a value on it, the
thing itself must be apprehended by an empirical indicator” (p. 181). Identi-
fication of empirical indicators therefore involves a process of measurement
of the unit concerned. This process of measurement contains two parts;
namely, “both the operation of measuring [must be duplicable by others]
and the results or value produced [must produce equivalent values when
measured by others] by this operation” (p. 182). Empirical indicators must
therefore satisfy the two principal criteria of what Dubin called
“operationism” (p. 183) and “reliability” (p. 185).

Further to these two parts to empirical indicators, Dubin (1978) also
identified two classes of empirical indicators. The first is the class of “abso-
lute indicators,” which refer to indicators that “have no question as to what
they measure” (p. 193). An example of an absolute empirical indicator in the
social sciences would be race, sex, or age. The second class refers to “rela-
tive indicators” (p. 195). “The primary characteristic of a relative indicator
is that it may be employed as an empirical indicator of several different theo-
retical units” (p. 195). An example offered by Dubin of a relative empirical
indicator is income, which can be employed as a measure of both economic
position and social class position.

The types of units used in a theory affect the empirical indicators identi-
fied. The example theory of responsible leadership for performance uses
three types of units, namely, enumerative (considerations of constituency),
associative (domains of performance), and relational (a framework of
responsibleness). It will be recalled that an enumerative unit, like that of
considerations of constituency, “is a characteristic of a thing in all its condi-
tions” (Dubin, 1978, p. 186). “This definition suggests that any empirical
indicator used to establish the value of an enumerative unit has to generate
non-zero values for that unit in whatever conditions the unit is found”
(Dubin, 1978, p. 186). Thus, the indicator used for an enumerative unit in a
theory may never produce a zero value. In the theory of responsible leader-
ship for performance, it is clear that without constituency, there can be no
leadership. An associative unit may be understood as “a property character-
istic of a unit in only some of its conditions” (Dubin, 1978, p. 187). The dif-
ference between an enumerative unit and an associative unit is that an asso-
ciative unit, like that of domains of performance, must have a real zero
value. In the theory of responsible leadership for performance, the unit of
domains of performance can show a zero value of performance output,
meaning that leadership has had no impact on performance in the perfor-

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 265

mance system concerned. Indeed, this associative unit of the theory may be
indexed by a continuum of negative, zero, and positive values.

The third type of unit employed in the example theory is that of a rela-
tional unit, which “is a property characteristic of a thing that can be deter-
mined only by the relation among the properties of the thing” (Dubin, 1978,
p. 188). The unit of responsibleness in the theory of responsible leadership
for performance is of a relational type. Responsible leadership only exists
due to the functional relationship between effectiveness, ethics, and endur-
ance. As indicated in one of the propositions of the theory, unless leadership
demonstrates effectiveness, ethics, and endurance, that leadership cannot be
considered responsible. A zero value in any one of these three property char-
acteristics will render the value of responsible leadership zero, or “not
responsible.”

Further to the requirements for the identification of empirical indicators
of the theory, Dubin (1978) specified two conditions or criteria for the pro-
cess of measurement inherent in the identified empirical indicators of a the-
ory. The first is that the operation of measurement is specified, and the sec-
ond is that the results or values produced by this operation are identified.
Both of these criteria are partially met in the empirical indicators identified
for the example theory. However, more rigorous refinement and specifica-
tion of the operations of measurement and values produced by these opera-
tions will need to be developed by the researcher-theorist. This is, in part,
the task of Step 8, the testing of the theory through research.

Further to these two criteria, it is also required that the values of the unit
indicators comply with the value requirements for the three types of units
employed in the example theory—enumerative, associative, and relational.
The requirements of empirical indicators for the three types of units of the
example theory were taken into account and adhered to in the identification
of the empirical indicators (see Table 1).

Completion of this sixth step in the theory-building method allowed the
researcher-theorist to begin to address the second research operation ques-
tion of, What are the empirical indicators of the theory? It will be recalled
that the completion of the fifth step of Dubin’s (1978) theory-building
method allowed the researcher-theorist to address the first research opera-
tion question: What are the propositions of the theory? A third operation-
related question in the theory-building process is, What are the hypotheses
of the theory? Once the researcher-theorist has responded to all three of
these theory-operationalizing questions, the theory is considered ready to
take to the real world for testing, verification, or confirmation and further
refinement.

This further operationalizing of the theory must occur through the con-
struction of hypotheses (theory-building Step 7), derived from the proposi-
tions and informed by the empirical indicators of the theory. Once the theory

266 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

has been made ready for testing, that is operationalized, it can then be veri-
fied or confirmed through the conduct of testing research (theory-building
Step 8). Refinement of the theory is an ongoing process and occurs through
continued testing and research and the use of the outcomes of this testing
and research to both improve and further prove the theory.

Part 2, Step 7: Constructing the hypotheses to test the theory. Before the the-
ory can be tested and verified through research, hypotheses must be constructed
from the theory, a step that coincides with Step 7 of Dubin’s (1978) theory-building
method. Step 7 is required to establish the link between the theoretical frame-
work and the researcher-theorist’s understanding of the real world (as reflected
in the theoretical framework). This linkage between the theoretical framework
and the real world is made possible by translating some of the propositions of the
theory to testable hypotheses, a process further informed by the empirical indi-
cators identified for the units of the theory. Step 8 is then required to verify the
theory in action in the real world by putting the constructed hypotheses to the test
through research.

Step 7, construction of the hypotheses of the theory, represents the com-
pletion of the theoretical formulation of and from the theoretical framework
of the theory (Dubin, 1978). “An hypothesis,” according to Dubin (1978),
“may be defined as the predictions about the values of the units of a theory in
which empirical indicators are employed for the named units in each propo-
sition” (p. 206). The hypotheses of a theory therefore tell us what the empiri-
cal indicators for the units—in the example theory, for constituency, respon-

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 267

TABLE 1: Example of Two Empirical Indicators for Application Example Theory

Unit Empirical Indicator

Responsibleness Part 1: The value of responsibleness increases as measured by
effectiveness, ethics, and endurance, where effectiveness is
measured by constituency perception of effective leadership
practices (White Newman, 1993), ethics is measured by
constituency perception of ethical leadership habits (Posner &
Kouzes, 1996; White Newman, 1993), and endurance is
measured by constituency perception of the employment of
enduring resources (Collins & Porras, 1994; White Newman,
1993).

Performance Part 2: The value of whole-system performance increases as
measured by mission-related, work process, social subsystem,
and individual units of performance in terms of time, quality,
quantity, and alignment (Gibson, Ivancevich, & Donnelly, 1994;
Holton, 1999; Rummler & Brache, 1995; Swanson, 1996;
Swanson & Holton, 1999).

sibleness, and performance—are and “mirror the propositions” (p. 206) of
the theoretical framework.

Dubin (1978) highlighted two criteria of import in constructing hypothe-
ses of the theory. First, he stated that “every hypothesis is homologous with
the proposition for which it stands” (p. 207), indicating homology between
the hypotheses and their corresponding propositions as a necessary criterion
of excellence for this seventh step in the theory-building process. Second, he
stated that to determine hypotheses, the researcher-theorist must identify
the necessary and sufficient conditions of each unit of the theory. These nec-
essary and sufficient conditions of each unit of the theory are obtained from
the definition, and component parts, of each unit of the theory.

In constructing the hypotheses of the theory, the researcher-theorist is
confronted with a decision of quantity; that is, How many hypotheses are
enough for testing the theory? Dubin (1978) offered some noteworthy
insights in this regard. First, he suggested that “every proposition [in the the-
ory] has the potential of being converted to a large number of hypotheses”
(p. 208). On this point, he proceeded to say that “the general rule is that a
new hypothesis is established each time a different empirical indicator is
employed for any one of the units designated a proposition” (p. 209). He cor-
respondingly further indicated that “this rule establishes the fact that the
number of hypotheses is rapidly expanded as skill and imagination are uti-
lized in developing empirical indicators” (p. 209).

Second, Dubin (1978) did suggest that not all propositions of the theory need
to be converted to hypotheses:

There is no logic that insists that only those [theoretical frameworks] whose propositions are all
testable should be employed in science. Indeed this restriction, representing the extreme posi-
tions of operationalists, has proved needless. All theoretical [frameworks] need to be testable by
converting at least some of their propositions to hypotheses. It is not a requirement, however, that
all propositions of a [theoretical framework] be testable. (p. 209)

Ultimately, this question of a sufficient number of hypotheses, according to
Dubin, “poses a question of research efficiency” (p. 209).

It is therefore clear that various strategies may be employed in the formu-
lation of hypotheses, and these strategies are usually chosen in accordance
with available research time and resources. These strategies can vary from
being extensive, where all the strategic propositions of the theory are tested;
to focusing attention on one or several strategic propositions; to being ad
hoc, where hypotheses are generalized to propositions. An important qual-
ity of these alternative strategies for hypotheses construction is that they
should not be considered mutually exclusive by the researcher-theorist.

Construction of the hypotheses of a theory clearly performs an important
theory-building and research operation function in that it allows the
researcher-theorist to answer the research operation question, What are the
hypotheses of the theory? Stated in another way, the basic question the

268 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

researcher-theorist is concerned with in this seventh step in Dubin’s (1978)
theory-building process is one of, “What is the reality test we can make of
this theoretical [framework]?” (p. 206). The answer to this question is ulti-
mately provided by the hypotheses construction strategy, or strategies,
employed by the researcher-theorist in the conduct of this step in the theory-
building process.

Part 2, Step 8: Testing the theory through a developed plan of research. Step 8
involves the testing of the theory through empirical research. This step repre-
sents the fourth step in the second part of Dubin’s (1978) two-part, eight-step
theory-building method and allows the researcher-theorist to answer the final
research operation and theory verification question: What is the critical research
needed to verify the theory? To address this question, the researcher-theorist
must decide on his or her research stance toward the theory. This stance involves
either proving the adequacy of the theoretical framework or improving the
starting theoretical framework. The choice of research stance will inform and
determine the type and extent of research testing undertaken by the researcher-
theorist. For example, doing research for the purpose of improving the theoreti-
cal model involves descriptive research, whereas doing research to test the the-
ory involves hypothesis testing (Dubin, 1978).

Outcomes, or research results, from this eighth step in Dubin’s quantita-
tive theory-building method also inform the ongoing refinement of the the-
ory. This overlapping link between theory verification and theory refine-
ment is encapsulated in a research stance aimed at continuously improving
the theory.

Implications of Dubin’s Quantitative
Theory-Building Method for
Applied Theory-Building

Dubin (1978) used the concept “perpetual theory building” (p. 220) to
indicate that one is never done with theory building. This notion of ongoing
theory building, of ongoing refinement of the theory, speaks to the recursive
deductive-inductive refrain between the results of research and testing and
the use of those results to further inform and continually develop and
improve the theory. This implies an ongoing refrain between theory devel-
opment, refinement, and research.

The hypothetico-deductive method of theory building, reflected in the
applied theory-building methods of Cohen (1991), Reynolds (1971), Hearn
(1958), and Dubin (1978), is based on the assumption of falsification
(Cohen, 1991; Honderich, 1995; Root, 1993), meaning that until proven
otherwise, the knowledge embedded in the theory is taken to be true. As a
result, theories of this nature are never complete and require continual dis-
course between the theoretical framework of the theory and the theory in

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 269

use. Purposeful testing and refining of the theory are therefore the ongoing
responsibility and challenge of theory building in an applied field.

A Summative Overview of the
Theory-Building Method

The outcomes of this chapter conclude the presentation of Dubin’s two-
part, eight-step quantitative method of theory building for applied disciplines.
The essential form and essence of this theory-building method are summa-
rized by way of an overview presented in Table 2. This table presents a sum-
marizing overview of the relationship between the two parts, eight corre-
sponding steps, and the essential research questions of applied theory
building encapsulated in Dubin’s quantitative theory-building method.

Closing Reflections
Clearly, the task of theory building in an applied field is a series of

repeated and ongoing conversations between research and practice,
between concept development and concept verification, through research in
the real world. As is the experience of this author, the singular completion of
this two-part theory-research cycle and eight-step theory-building method
marks the beginning and not the culmination of the lengthy business and
challenge of building theory in applied disciplines.

Dubin (1978) offered a thoughtful concluding insight to those who brave
this challenge of theory building. He cautioned that the task of building the-
ory is both a heartening and a disheartening one. It is heartening, he sug-
gested, in that when well done, theory building should result in a clear and
simple explanation of how a phenomenon works in the real world. On the
other hand, he explained that when well done, the outcomes of theory build-
ing should result in a clear and simple explanation of how a phenomenon
works in the real world! I remember well the experience of this paradoxical
caution when developing the theory of responsible leadership for perfor-
mance. I also learned from this caution and experience that it is the task of
good applied theories to make what is often tacit or implicit knowledge
explicit. So, when you first unveil the theoretical framework of your newly
developed theory and your practitioner-colleague responds with, “Well,
what’s new about this? I knew this all along,” take that comment as the prom-
ise of one of the greatest compliments of the potential usefulness and
worthiness of your theory. Do not be disheartened by it, for it is usually a
good indicator that the explanation of your theory just helped make your
practitioner-colleague’s implicit knowledge of the phenomenon concerned
explicit for the first time, and that is an essential outcome of theory in
applied disciplines.

270 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

(text continues on p. 275)

271

TABLE 2: The Relationship Between the Two Parts,Eight Steps,and Theory-Building Research Questions in Dubin’s Quantitative The-
ory-Building Method

D: Corresponding
A: The Two Parts B: The Eight Steps Theory-Building
in Dubin’s Theory- in Dubin’s Theory- C: An Operational Description Research Questions
Building Method Building Method of the Theory-Building Steps Addressed

Part 1 Description: 1. Identifying the units • Also known as the concepts of the theory. Involves the
The theory development of the theory translation of the concepts to units, that is, to things or
side of the theory-research variables whose interactions constitute the subject matter
cycle of attention. A theoretical framework is used to specify the
Purpose: To develop manner in which these units interact with each other.
an informed conceptual • Addresses Part 1, Step 1 of Dubin’s theory-building method Attending to this
framework of the theory by developing responses to the first theory development first part and first
Output: An informed question, What are the units of the theory? four theory devel-
theoretical or conceptual • Compares the outcomes of the first theory development step opment steps en-
framework of the theory to five quality criteria for Step 1: rigor and exactness, parsi- ables the researcher-

mony, completeness, logical consistency, and degree of conform- theorist to answer
ity to the combination limitations of the units. the theory-building

2. Establishing the laws • Specifies the interactions among the concepts and units of the research question,
of interaction that theoretical framework. Can the theory be
govern the theory • Addresses Part 1, Step 2 of Dubin’s theory-building method by developed?

developing responses to the second theory development
question, What are the laws of interaction of the theory?

• Compares the outcomes of the second theory development step
to quality criterion of parsimony.

(continued)

272 TABLE 2 Continued

D: Corresponding
A: The Two Parts B: The Eight Steps Theory-Building
in Dubin’s Theory- in Dubin’s Theory- C: An Operational Description Research Questions
Building Method Building Method of the Theory-Building Steps Addressed

3. Determining and • Theoretical frameworks are generally limited portions of the
clarifying the world; therefore, one must explore and set forth the
boundaries of the boundaries within which the theory is expected to hold and
theory apply.

• Addresses Part 1, Step 3 of Dubin’s theory-building method by
developing responses to the third theory development question,
What are the boundaries of the theory?

• Compares the outcomes of the third theory development step
to two quality criteria: homogeneity and generalization.

4. Specifying the system • Specifies the conditions under which the theory is operative and
states of the theory reveals the complexity of the complex portion of the real world

that the theoretical framework is presumed to represent; each
of the units interacts differently in the system states.

• Addresses Part 1, Step 4 of Dubin’s theory-building method by
developing responses to the fourth and final theory development
question, What are the system states of the theory?

• Compares the outcomes of the fourth and final theory develop-
ment step to three quality criteria: inclusiveness, persistence,
and distinctiveness.

Part 2 Description: The 5. Specification of the • Once the four basic theory development steps resulting in a Attending to
research operation side of propositions of the theoretical framework are addressed, the researcher-theorist this second part
the theory-research cycle theory is in a position to derive conclusions that represent logical and and four research

273

Purpose: To build an true deductions about the theoretical framework in operation, operation steps
operationalized and or the propositions of the theoretical framework. enables the
empirically verifiable and • Addresses the first step in Part 2 and corresponding Step 5 of researcher-theorist
trustworthy theory Dubin’s theory-building method by developing responses to the to answer the
Output: an empirically verified following theory operationalization question: What are the theory building
and trustworthy theory propositions of the theory? questions, Can

• Compares the outcomes of the first theory operationalization the theory be
step to three quality criteria: consistency, accuracy, and parsimony. operationalized?

6. Identifying empirical • Enables the researcher-theorist to determine whether the and Can the theory
indicators of the theoretical framework of the theory does in fact represent be verified?
theory the real world by converting each term in each proposition Also enables the

whose test is sought into an empirical indicator, which in turn researcher-theorist
secures measures of values on the units of the theory. to answer the

• Addresses Part 2, Step 6 of Dubin’s theory-building method by ongoing theory-
developing responses to the second theory operationalization building question,
question, What are the empirical indicators of the theory? Can the theory

• Compares the outcomes of the second theory operational- be continually
ization step to two quality criteria: specification of the operation refined and
of measurement and identification of the results or values developed?
produced.

7. Constructing the • This next and seventh theory-building step involves substituting
hypotheses to test the empirical indicators in the proposition statement with
the theory testable hypotheses. The research operation then involves

measuring the values on the empirical indicators of the
hypotheses to determine if the theoretically predicted values
are achieved or approximated in the research test. It is here
where issues of validity arise in the theory-research cycle.

• Addresses Part 2, Step 7 in Dubin’s theory-building method
by developing responses to the third theory operationalization

(continued)

274 TABLE 2 Continued

D: Corresponding
A: The Two Parts B: The Eight Steps Theory-Building
in Dubin’s Theory- in Dubin’s Theory- C: An Operational Description Research Questions
Building Method Building Method of the Theory-Building Steps Addressed

question, What are the hypotheses of the theory?
• Compares the outcomes of this third theory operationalization

Step 2, quality criteria: homology between the hypotheses and
their corresponding propositions and identification of the
necessary and sufficient conditions of each unit of the theory.

8. Testing the theory • This is the eighth and last step in theory building and involves
through a developed testing the theory in practice, that is, against the real world.
plan of research Important in this step is that the empirical indicators employed

in testing the theory have a reasonable level of reliability. The
testing of an applied theory is an ongoing process and must
result in continuous refinement of the theory. The researcher-
theorist is faced with two theory-testing stances, or
combinations thereof, namely, to conduct research designed
to prove the adequacy of the theoretical framework or
research to improve the starting theoretical framework.

• Addresses Step 8 of Dubin’s theory-building method by
developing responses to the following theory verification and
ongoing refinement question: What is the critical research
needed to verify the theory?

• Compares the outcomes of this final and theory verification
step to the quality criteria for the scientific method employed to
test and verify the theory.

The task of building theory in an applied field is a demanding and diffi-
cult one; in fact, it is a grandiose and ambitious challenge (Lynham, 2000b).
Its intent is to bring trustworthy knowledge and action to practice for pur-
poses of improved understanding, action, and outcome. As is too often the
case in applied fields, witnessed by the oversupply of popular atheoretical
literature on the bookshelves of any large bookstore, this task and responsi-
bility should not be forgone for the sake of bringing unsubstantiated knowl-
edge to market before its time. In an applied field, such action is irresponsi-
ble of scholars who act with the full awareness that this knowledge will be
used by practitioners to solve human and organizational problems. The pres-
sure to bring knowledge to market should not transcend scholarship, not in
applied fields like those of HRD and management, where the actions of one
can affect so many and have such huge repercussions on human and organi-
zational performance.

References

Cohen, B. P. (1991). Developing sociological knowledge: Theory and method (2nd ed.).
Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

Collins, J. C., & Porras, J. I. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary compa-
nies. New York: HarperBusiness.

Dubin, R. (1976). Theory building in applied areas. In M. D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook
of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 17-39). Chicago: Rand McNally.

Dubin, R. (1978). Theory building (Rev. ed.). New York: Free Press.
Gibson, J. L., Ivancevich, J. M., & Donnelly, J. H., Jr. (1994). Organizations: Business,

structure, processes (8th ed.). Boston: Irwin.
Hearn, G. (1958). Theory building in social work. Toronto, Canada: University of

Toronto Press.
Holton, E. F., III. (1999). Performance domains and their boundaries. Advances in

Developing Human Resources, 1, 26-46.
Honderich, T. (Ed.). (1995). The Oxford companion to philosophy. New York: Oxford

Press.
Hultgren, F. H., & Coomer, D. L. (Eds.). (1989). Alternative modes of inquiry in home

economics research. Peoria, IL: Glencoe.
Kaplan, A. (1964). The conduct of inquiry: Methodology for behavioral science. San

Francisco: Chandler.
Lynham, S. A. (1998). The development and evaluation of a model of responsible leader-

ship for performance: Beginning the journey. Human Resource Development Interna-
tional, 1(2), 207-220.

Lynham, S. A. (2000a). The development of a theory of responsible leadership for perfor-
mance (Tech. Rep.). St. Paul: University of Minnesota, Human Resource Develop-
ment Research Center.

Lynham / DUBIN’S METHOD 275

Lynham, S. A. (2000b). Theory building in the human resource development profession.
Human Resource Development Quarterly, 11(2), 159-178.

Lynham, S. A. (2002). The general method of theory-building research in applied disci-
plines. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4(3), 221-241.

Posner, B., & Kouzes, J. (1996). Ten lessons for leaders and leadership developers. Jour-
nal of Leadership Studies, 3(3), 3-10.

Reynolds, P. D. (1971). A primer in theory construction. New York: Macmillan.
Root, M. (1993). Philosophy of social science. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
Rummler, G. A., & Brache, A. P. (1995). Improving performance: How to manage the

white space on the organization chart (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organiza-

tion. New York: Currency Doubleday.
Swanson, R. A. (1994). Analysis for improving performance: Tools for diagnosing orga-

nizations and documenting workplace expertise. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
Swanson, R. A. (1996). What I learned this year. St. Paul: University of Minnesota,

Human Resource Development Research Center.
Swanson, R. A., & Holton, E. F., III. (1999). Results: How to assess performance, learn-

ing, and perceptions in organizations. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
Torraco, R. J. (1994). The development and validation of a theory of work analysis. St.

Paul: University of Minnesota, Human Resource Development Research Center.
Torraco, R. J. (1997). Theory-building research methods. In R. A. Swanson & E. F.

Holton III (Eds.), Human resource development handbook: Linking research and
practice (pp. 114-137). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Torraco, R. J. (Ed.). (1999). Performance improvement: Theory and practice. Advances
in Developing Human Resources, 1.

Torraco, R. J. (2000). A theory of knowledge management. Advances in Developing
Human Resources, 5, 38-62.

Von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General systems theory: Foundations, development, applica-
tion. New York: George Braziller.

White Newman, J. B. (1993). The three E’s of leadership: A model and metaphor for
effective, ethical and enduring leadership. Unpublished manuscript, College of St.
Catherine, St. Paul, MN.

276 Advances in Developing Human Resources August 2002

23

Article

Conceptualization: On Theory and Theorizing Using Grounded Theory

Barney G. Glaser

The Grounded Theory Institute

Mill Valley, California, USA

© 2002 Glaser. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons

Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use,

distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

This article explores the use of grounded theory to generate conceptualizations of emergent social

patterns in research data. The naming of patterns and their abstraction across time, place and

people, are discussed. The constant comparative method employed in grounded data analysis is

offered as a developmental tool for enhancing researchers’ abilities to conceptualize and form

emergent theories. Conceptual levels, descriptions, power and flawed approaches to analysis are

explored at length.

Keywords: data analysis; data coding; theory development

Conceptualization is the core category of Grounded Theory (GT). We all know or have an idea what

conceptualization is in general. In this article, I will detail those properties of conceptualization which are

essential for generating GT.

I have discussed at length, in Doing Grounded Theory (Glaser, 1998), the conceptual license that GT

offers. The researcher can use his or her own concepts generated from the data instead of using, and

probably forcing, the received concepts of others, especially those concepts of unduly respected

theoretical capitalists. Actually generating a concept is very exciting and it is where many an effort at GT

stops. This stopping is far short of doing GT through all steps to the end product. The GT perspective in

this article will hopefully move more researchers further toward doing a complete GT.

In Doing GT, I endeavoured to emphasize the complexity of the world and therefore the freedom,

autonomy, and license required to write generated theory that explains what is going on in this world,

starting with substantive areas.

All that GT is, is the generation of emergent conceptualizations into integrated patterns, which are

denoted by categories and their properties. This is accomplished by the many rigorous steps of GT woven

together by the constant comparison process, which is designed to generate concepts from all data. Most

frequently, qualitative data incidents are used.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

http://crossmark.crossref.org/dialog/?doi=10.1177%2F160940690200100203&domain=pdf&date_stamp=2016-11-30

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

24

Through conceptualization, GT is a general method that cuts across research methods (experiment,

survey, content analysis, and all qualitative methods) and uses all data resulting therefrom. Because of

conceptualization, GT transcends all descriptive methods and their associated problems, especially what

is an accurate fact, what is an interpretation, and how is the data constructed. It transcends by its

conceptual level and its 3rd and 4th level perceptions.

By transcending, I do not say implicitly that description is “bad”, “wrong”, or “unfavourable”. Description

is just different with different properties than conceptualization, yet these different properties are

confused in the qualitative research literature. Actually, descriptions run the world, however vague or

precise (and mostly the former). Precious little conceptualization affects the way the world is run. We

have many immensely funded description-producing agencies such as newspapers, police, FBI and so

forth, as well as an immense qualitative data analysis (QDA) research movement.

It is sociologists, psychologists, social psychologists, and other social researchers who are mandated to

conceptualize in the social sciences. GT provides a systematic way to conceptualize carefully and its

audience, though small, is growing. Yet at this point in time, 33 years after Discovery of GT (Glaser &

Strauss, 1967b) was written, many social-psychological researchers still have little or no awareness of

conceptualization, conceptual levels and, therefore, the integration of conceptual hypotheses.

The two most important properties of conceptualization for generating GT are that concepts are abstract

of time, place, and people, and that concepts have enduring grab. The appeal of these two properties can

literally go on forever as an applied way of seeing events. In this article, I start by explicating what a

concept is for GT, then explain its abstraction from time, place, and people, followed by detailed

discussions of conceptual ability required, conceptual levels, conceptual grab, conceptual description,

conceptual conjecture, conceptual foppery and vagary, and conceptual power. Of course, much of this

discussion overlaps.

Pattern Naming

For GT, a concept is the naming of an emergent social pattern grounded in research data. For GT, a

concept (category) denotes a pattern that is carefully discovered by constant comparing of theoretically

sampled data until conceptual saturation of interchangeable indices. It is discovered by comparing many

incidents, and incidents to generated concept, which shows the pattern named by the category and the

subpatterns which are the properties of the category. A GT concept is not achieved by impressioning out

over one incident, nor by preconceived forcing of a received concept on a pattern of incidents. GT is a

form of latent structure analysis, which reveals the fundamental patterns in a substantive area or a formal

area.

The pattern is named by constantly trying to fit words to it to best capture its imageric meaning. This

constant fitting leads to a best fit name of a pattern, to wit a category or a property of a category. Validity

is achieved, after much fitting of words, when the chosen one best represents the pattern. It is as valid as it

is grounded. Some reification cannot be avoided.

In Theoretical Sensitivity (Glaser, 1978), I said that many concepts are “in vivo” concepts; that is, they

come from the words of the participants in the substantive area. Let me be clear: standard QDA

emphasizes getting the “voice” of the participants. In vivo concepts are not such “voice,” in the sense that

what phenomenon they attribute meaning to with a concept is only taken as a GT concept, not taken as a

description. The participants usually just give impressionary concepts based on one incident or even a

groundless idea. They do not carefully generate their concepts from data with the GT methodology and

try to fit many names to an established pattern. They are not establishing a parsimonious theory. They

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

25

may have many concepts that do not fit or work. GT discovers which “in vivo” concepts do fit, work, and

are relevant.

Inviting participants to review the theory for whether or not it is their voice is wrong as a “check” or “test”

on validity. They may or may not understand the theory, or even like the theory if they do understand it.

Many do not understand the summary benefit of concepts that go beyond description to a transcending

bigger picture. GT is generated from much data, of which many participants may be empirically unaware.

GT is applicable to the participants as an explanation of the preponderance of their ongoing behaviour

which is how they are resolving their main concern, which they may not be aware of conceptually, if at

all. It is just what they do! GT is not their voice: it is a generated abstraction from their doings and their

meanings that are taken as data for the conceptual generation.

When naming concepts, GT does not try to give a “concern to understand the world of the research

participants as they construct it” (Glaser, 1998). GT is not “an enquiry that makes sense of and is true to

the understanding of ordinary actors in the everyday world” (Glaser, 1998). GT uncovers many patterns

the participant does not understand or is not aware of, especially the social fictions that may be involved.

Time, Place,

People

The most important property of conceptualization for GT is that it is abstract of time, place, and people.

This transcendence also, by consequence, makes GT abstract of any one substantive field, routine

perceptions or perceptions of others, since there is always a perception of a perception, and an abstraction

from any type of data whether qualitative or quantitative. Hence, GT is a general method.

Thus GT conceptualization transcends. Conceptualization solves and resolves many QDA difficulties

which are not abstract of time and place. QDA focuses on description of time, place and people, so is

confronted with the problem of accuracy, context, interpretation, construction and so forth in trying to

produce what “is”. GT generates conceptual hypotheses that get applied to any relevant time, place, and

people with emergent fit and then is modified by constant comparison with new data as it explains what

behavior obtains in a substantive area.

Most writers on methodology DO NOT have a theoretical clue of what it means to be abstract of time,

place, and people. The result is that GT is down-abstracted to just another QDA with some concepts.

Strauss and Corbin (1998) do this in the following:

Grounded Theory procedures force us to ask, for example: What power is in this situation and

under specified conditions? How is it manifested, by whom, when, where, how, with what

consequences (and for whom or what)? Not to remain open to such a range of questions is to

obstruct the discovery of important features of power in situ and to preclude developing further

conceptualization. Knowledge is after all linked loosely with time and place. We carefully and

specifically build conditions into our theories.

Thus, Strauss and Corbin force descriptions, irrespective of emergence, on the theory to locate its

conditions, to contextualize it and to make it “appear” accurately pinned down, thereby losing its true

abstraction and, hence, generalizability.

Personal distance for accuracy is supposed to be an “attitude” of the QDA researcher. The GT researcher,

in contrast, does not need this attitude to get a description accurate, which is not his goal. The GT method

automatically puts him or her on a conceptual level, which transcends the descriptive data.

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

26

In fact, it is hard to give up time, place, and people for many researchers as it is most natural, taught in

QDA method classes, and requires an ability they may not have fully, if at all, developed.

GT in abstracting allows the researcher to develop a theory on a core variable, such as cutting back,

supernormalizing, credentializing, cultivating, pluralistic dialoging, atmosphering, toning, abusing and so

forth which can be applied to any relevant time or place. This delimiting by conceptualization stands in

stark contrast to QDA’s lengthy descriptions which try to cognitively map an area in a nontranscending

way. There are no QDA rules for delimiting but arbitrary cut off points in the face of data volume and

lengthy descriptive complexity. The QDA researcher’s need to be different, and hence appear original, is

subverted by an inability to assimilate and extend a method devoted to description. GT, of course, simply

generates original concepts and hypotheses as a result of the method.

Relational

Conceptualization is the medium of grounded theory for a simple reason: without the abstraction from

time, place, and people, there can be no multivariate, integrated theory based on conceptual, hypothetical

relationships. Concepts can be related to concepts as hypotheses. Descriptions cannot be related to each

other as hypotheses since there is no conceptual handle. Concepts can relate to a description, but that

single hypothesis is as far as it can go. While concepts are “everything” in GT, many researchers find it

hard to stay on that level to relate them to each other. They relate the concept to a description and go on

and on with description as QDA would have it.

Because GT operates on a conceptual level, relating concept to concept, it can tap the latent structure

which is always there and drives and organizes behavior and its social psychological aspects, all of which

are abstract of objective fact. For example, we have theories now of cautionary control, supernormalizing,

default remodeling, desisting residual selves, atmosphering, toning clients, competitive knowing and

many more (for examples, see my readers Glaser, 1993; 1995a; 1996), none of which could have been

generated without conceptual abstraction.

Place

While a GT may have been generated from a unit, or many units, if adequate theoretical sampling was

used, it does not describe the unit, as I have said many times. The GT gets applied to the unit to explain

behavior or any other unit in which the process has emergent fit. Thus, GT does not generalize from a

researched unit to a larger unit or a similar unit, as a description might. GT generalizes to a transcending

process or other form of core variable, and in the bargain may relate seemingly disparate units to each

other by an underlying process. For example a 4 year medical school may be seen as the same as a 6 week

contractor’s course, from the point of view of credentializing, one property of which is to insure quality

work. I have written at length on this in Theoretical Sensitivity (Glaser, 1978, pp. 109-113).

The delimiting aspect of abstraction is clear. A GT need not describe the whole unit, just a core process

within it. Yet many a researcher doing GT finds it hard to give up unit wholeness or full, accurate

description no matter how good they are at generating abstraction. Thus, they throw in many unit

variables, e.g. face sheet data (sex, age, marital status, etc.) and context, that have not proven themselves

as emergently needed in the generated theory, but are treated as if necessary to understand the GT. But

they are not necessary unless earned into it by making a conceptual difference. Some authors even

generate a good theory, such as host tolerance, but keep going on since, although it resolves the main

concern, it does not fully describe the unit. Conceptual abstraction limits these “overdos.”

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

27

Researchers not clear on the distinction between conceptual and description become easily confused on

whether the theory describes a unit or conceptualizes a process within it. Listen to this confusion in the

writing of a well-known QDA researcher, Jan Morse (1997b):

Conversely, qualitative researchers develop theory that as accurately as possible represents the

empirical world. Data analysis consists of organizing reality with inferences that are subsequently

systematically confirmed in the process of inquiry. Qualitative data theory, as a product, is

abstract but consists on minimal conjecture. These theories are rich in description, and the

theoretical boundaries have been derived from the context and not from the researcher’s arbitrary

goals for delimiting the scope.

Morse continues:

Recall that theory is theory, not fact, but as a theory is confirmed, it is moved into the realm of

fact and is no longer theory. Because of the abstract nature of qualitative data theory, and because

of the conceptual nature of knowledge, QDA, by and large, remains at the level of theory, not

fact. Theory is not reality, but our perception or organization of reality, perhaps closely

resembling reality, but not reality per se. It remains a representation of reality, malleable and

modifiable.

In Morse’s work, as the reader can see in this telling example, there is no end to the confusion and mix

between abstraction and concrete phenomenon or between conceptualization and description.

People

It is hard for many a GT researcher to only relate concepts and not relate concepts to people. People

become labelled or actioned by a concept like it is their whole being. In GT, behaviour is a pattern that a

person engages in, it is not the person. For example, he is a cultivator of people for profit; this is not GT.

In GT, a person engages in cultivating behavior and cultivating is a basic social process. “Labelling”, a

well known sociological theory, has no descriptive place in GT. People are not categorized, behaviour is.

Or labelling as a basic social process does occur: people are labelled by laymen and processed

accordingly. But the GT theorist only describes the labelling of people pattern as a social control process.

Time

Perhaps the most important aspect of conceptualization is that concepts last forever, while descriptions

are soon stale dated. Concepts are timeless in their applicability. For example, awareness context theory

can still be applied 33 years later (see Awareness of Dying, Glaser & Strauss, 1967a). One author (King,

Keohane, & Verba, 1994) makes the point that concepts even last longer than any of the hypotheses in

which they were originally generated:

Max Weber has suggested that the essence of social theory is in the ‘creation of clear concepts’.

Indeed, concepts such as ‘charisma’ or ‘division of labour’ or ‘reference groups’ have been

longer lasting than any valid claims about the causal effects of these concepts. Many such

concepts guide our thinking and theorizing today!

Since GT concepts are rigorously generated and since they can make a continuing mark on us compared

to soon outdated QDA descriptions, the GT researcher has been set up to become enduringly famous or

achieve reknown for his or her best concept. The longevity and history of the concept is continually

associated with his or her name (see, for example, the concept of emotional work by Hochschild, 1983).

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

28

GT does offer fame or reknown to its researcher as opposed to QDA. It offers, also, freedom from

received concepts and theoretical capitalism, because, however enduring received concepts may be, often

these concepts are pure conjecture of little relevance.

Just think, the GT researcher can generate a theory, such as pluralistic dialoguing, that can be applied over

and over for a 100 years or more. What significance for his or her GT research!

Conceptual Ability

GT is an advanced graduate level methodology used for MA and PhD theses. This statement assumes that

there has been an educational institutional sifting that brings people who have conceptual talent to this

level. This institutional sifting of ability puts by the wayside those who have too much difficulty in

conceptualizing.

But at this level ability still varies between the few who got through and have no ability to conceptualize,

those who conceptualize sufficiently well, and those who are very capable. The former drift into QDA,

whatever the methodology, and use a few received, preconceived concepts for a forcing framework that

yields lots of description. The QDA approach is just waiting to be used by those unable, or with little

ability, to conceptualize.

At this level, many who can may still have some skill difficulty in conceptualizing clearly with its

meaning. GT provides the method (constant comparisons) which develops skill to generate the

researcher’s own concepts and at the same time gives him or her the legitimacy to not jump to using the

received concepts that would force the data. So, though some researchers cannot conceptualize, many

more researchers can, than have, heretofore, generated their own categories for a study. In the beginning

they no doubt will exhibit their unskilled, untrained but strong ability to conceptualize using GT

techniques. But ability grows as these techniques are developmental.

Some people have a natural ability to conceptualize based on data. One external examiner (Anonymous,

personal communication, 1999) of a PhD dissertation wrote me of her candidate:

Her grasp and skill in the use of grounded theory methodology is high for her career level.

Whatever problems she may have can and should be solved in her next study. Her generation of

substantive categories and their properties achieve parsimony and scope and fit and worked well.

Her theoretical coding was very weak, but no one at her level is strong on

this.

I have known many other candidates who are similar in conceptual skill (see, for example, Brooks, 1997;

Gibson, 1997). They all show that GT taps methodologically what many people do normally:

conceptualize what is going on in their everyday life, as it now goes on in their research.

Those researchers with little or no conceptual ability, but who have made it to the graduate level, also

have no notion of what the constant comparative method, interchangeability of indices, theoretical

saturation, theoretical sampling, sorting, memos, delimiting, and so forth are, since one needs conceptual

ability to understand these methods based on conceptualization. Their research results, again, are QDA,

based on received concepts, preconceived problems, models forcing the data collection and analysis, and

positivistic data collection techniques.

If the researcher can conceptualize, then he or she will trust to emergence of a theory. It’s part of their

vision and realization that concepts will emerge. Emergence of concepts often happens fast, even too fast,

and the research must be slowed a little to check out best fit concepts and their saturation.

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

29

If the researcher CANNOT conceptualize, then he or she will not trust to emergence of theory. How could

the researcher trust the idea of emergence, when confronted with volumes of unwieldy data, which he or

she cannot get out of, and more specifically, cannot transcend conceptually. For the unable, there are few

or no patterns, no delimiting, just endless description, uncontained except barely by a preconceived

conceptual framework or a preformed model. They have no conceptual pick-up and its associated

problems as they try to analyze the data. They miss many rich concepts and subproblems associated with

them as they endeavor to describe. They even miss the participant’s main concern and its resolving. I get

astounded at this lack of conceptual pickup as they tend to believe as normal that which is really a

problem. For example, in an organization designed to enhance creativity, people are subject to

confrontation sessions to make them think of creative solutions to the challenge. The researcher did not

realize that this technique can easily scare, stultify, and stun a creative mind.

This is why researchers who cannot conceptualize reach out for, and even need, the theory of the

participants, however particularistic and low level it may be. They forget that the participants are the data,

NOT the theorists. The participants, while having great involvement in resolving their main concern,

seldom have a conceptual perception of it as a GT theorist does. And once “some” participants with

conceptual scope hear a grounded theory of their abiding concern, they use it as power to help resolve it.

Relevant concepts have this enlightening effect.

This is why, also, nonconceptualizers turn to, and need computer software to engage in rote sorting based

on forced, received categories. With no ability to conceptualize, the researcher defaults to accuracy

problems of description, particularly the popular ones of social construction of data by interviewers and

the interpretation distortions by the interviewer. They have no way of transcending the data to get at the

core pattern and subpatterns and indeed finds it hard to see patterns much less name them. They are left to

total description, not conceptualization.

A researcher who can adequately conceptualize can use GT and have a good career. But remember, GT is

merely a research option. If conceptualization is difficult for the research, he or she can easily have a

good career in one of the many very worthy QDA methods. I know many a very intelligent researcher

who cannot conceptualize. They are linear describers, good at empirical generalizations, and have

successful careers. Doing GT or not is usually a self-selection phenomenon. Although being able to

conceptualize, or lack of ability, may have to, or should, be pointed out to the researcher by a friend,

colleague or supervisor, though it seldom is.

It works both ways. Good conceptualizers should be made aware of their ability if they do not know, so

they can move faster into conceptual work and skill development. I was never advised by a teacher how

good I was at conceptualizing which slowed my career 15 years. By the same token poor conceptualizers

should be advised to “not fight it”, and put their efforts into another QDA methodology. This other-

reflexivity is vital in the formative years. It is a very sensitive topic for most researchers to hear about

themselves, so be careful.

Conceptual Level

I have written at length on conceptual leverls in Doing Grounded Theory (Glaser, 1998, pp. 135 – 139).

So here I wish only to make a few additional observations. Bear in mind, categories are generated from

the data and properties are generated concepts about categories. There are many examples of this in my

readers. Once discovered, concepts leave the level of people. They become the focus of the research, to be

later applied to people’s social psychological behavior. As the theory generates, and integrates through

memoing and sorting, the conceptual level goes up, often from substantive to formal theory (see my

reader, More Grounded Theory Methodology, Glaser, 1995).

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

30

The goal of GT is to arrive at minimally least the third level of conceptual analysis. First is collecting the

data, then generating categories, then discovering a core category which organizes the other categories by

continually resolving the main concern. From substantive theory one can go to a higher level, called

formal theory. For example, becoming a nurse, a substantive theory, can be generalized to becoming a

professional, a formal theory, and even raised to a higher formal level of becoming in general, a theory of

socialization. This is done by theoretical sampling and constant comparisons (see More Grounded Theory

Methodology, 1995).

Many researchers do not understand or realize the nature, use, and power of categories and their

properties. Most fields of study are just properties of a substantiated category or two followed by

extensive description. If you listen carefully, one hears of many properties of a category as an academic

or professional talks with erudition about their field. The “best” in a field knows the most properties of the

category and their most intricate integration. For example, students of non-political social movements just

talk of the various properties of this category and a few sub-categories. Properties vary categories.

Systems are complex ways properties of categories relate to each other and vary one category in relation

to other categories. Once the research is on a conceptual level, dealing with categories and their properties

becomes the mode, description fades and abstraction of time, place and people take over. The concepts do

not go away: EVER!

Enduring Grab: Theory Bits

Concepts in general, whether conjectured, impressionistic or carefully generated by GT, have instant

“grab”. They can instantly sensitize people, rightly or wrongly, to seeing a pattern in an event or

happening that makes them feel they understand with “know how”. In a word, the person feels like he or

she can explain what they see.

It is impossible to stop the grab of theory bits. The person talking with them can show his or her skill and

power. They can be applied “on the fly”, applied intuitively with no data with the feeling of knowing.

They ring true with credibility. Use of concepts empower people, they compete in conversation well and

in theoretical discussions. They are exciting handles of explanations, running fast ahead of the constraints

of research. They can become stereotypical and routine. As enlightening as a concept is, it can cognitively

stun others in the presence of users, as they stop thinking since all appears understood.

GT emphasizes the productive use of conceptual grab by generating relevant concepts that work and are

integrated into a theory. It keeps grab under control and makes its endurance secured by working it in

application. Of course, many will do and use GT with no idea of this property of conceptualization, but no

matter. Even the concept “grounded theory” is used freely to orient and legitimate QDA research to its

consumers and colleagues. It has enduring grab. QDA researchers muzzle in on the grab of GT concepts

to perk up their descriptions. This bit use works well in QDA.

While interviewing a buddhist swami who studied philosophy of religion at University of California,

Berkeley, he told me he did not get much from most of the course, but what he did get of a lasting nature

were two concepts from a famous sociology professor of religion, Robert Bellah. That’s all he really

remembered. He said Bellah was a genius, but was referring to the two concepts.

Thus we have the enduring grab which carries with it the great respect of the concept generator. Some of

these generators, whether grounded or conjectured, produce concepts that turn them into idols and

theoretical capitalists, virtual owners of their concepts. GT allows many to claim this power modestly and

with the integrity that comes from grounding, while at the same time it reduces the magic of a few

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

31

conjectured concepts coming from a learned man or woman. GT puts morality into this power as it brings

it into reach of many researchers, and takes it out of the hands of a few.

Listen to this description of a famous theoretician, Robert K. Merton, which lauds the “grab” of his

concepts that organize the patterns of much public opinion data. The grab of received concepts is used in

fields having little or no conceptualization. A conceptualizer, like Robert K. Merton, has accumulated

vast conceptual capital and acts like a theoretical capitalist. He controls the capital of production by

requiring that his students use his received, conjectured concepts.

Robert K. Merton has shown us how to relate opinion findings to the history of ideas and to

general social theory. He has demonstrated the use of many conceptual tools, for example,

“reference groups” and “local and cosmopolitan” in interpreting the puzzling variation of public

judgements. His concept of ‘status-set’ has given theoretical relevance to the demographics

included in every poll. His concept of ‘status sequence’ helped us understand the opinions of

socially mobile people.

As a theorist, Robert K. Merton, has identified and clarified a large number of the social

mechanisms that constitute the present state of sociological knowledge. Several of them are

highly relevant to the field of public opinion, for example, ‘the self-fulfilling prophecy’. His

much quoted paradigmatic essays, Social Theory and Social Structure, are brilliant in content and

in style; many of their passages qualify as aphorisms.

In appreciation of these many contributions, the world association for Public Opinion Research is

pleased to present the 2000 Helen S. Dinerman Award to Robert K. Merton. (Speech recounted in

personal communication from H. Zetterberg).

None of these concepts are truly grounded and they pale in the flood of grounded theory concepts coming

from dissertations the world over. It is only time before the enduring grab of grounded concepts yield

awards to their author! The awards can easily make him a great man in some quarters. Students can be

required to use these concepts to honour a “great man”. Rightly or wrongly, the enduring grab of these

grounded, as opposed to conjectured, concepts organizes the patterns in a volume of otherwise disparate

data. GT makes sure the concepts are right and organized right as they are grounded in the data. GT can

generate with ease many concepts like Merton has conjectured with seemingly great thought. The magic

and mystique of these conjectured or impressionistic conceptualizations is over.

The next sections build on these notions of enduring conceptual “grab”.

Conceptual Conjecture

This article is about grounding concepts in the data to which it will be applied. This ensures fit, relevance

and workability. In contrast, conjectured concepts, from wherever, appear to be useful given their grab,

hence apparent but probably with forced fit and relevance. They are all over the literature, and many are

woven into grand theory, based on logical deduction, to wit, conjecture. Once applied they often do not

work either on the conceptual level or data level. But they spawn many theory bits, to make the author or

talker appear learned.

Conjectured, logically deduced concepts became more and more viewed as very “airy”, too abstract, too

reified, irrelevant and not workable in the 1960’s. Lofland (1976) wrote about “undisciplined abstraction

leading to concepts which bear little relation to the social world that they are supposed to refer to, either

because they are not apparently based in any empirical research or are wondrous elaborate edifices of

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

32

theory based on very little empirical research.” Lofland calls for an empirical science “that gives rise to

concepts, yet contains and constrains them by a context of concrete empirical materials.”

Ten years before this statement Discovery of Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was written in

response to this often empty, yet grabbing, conjectured conceptualization. It also gave impetus to QDA

research in order to make research “get real” or “grounded”, with little or no conceptualization. Barry

Gibson put it well: “GT as a method was developed in opposition to the grand theories of the time and

argued for all theory to be grounded in observations of data. The researcher should approach the data with

as few preconceptions as possible in order to see what is going on” (personal communication, 1997).

Preconceptions often mean little or nothing when derived from received grand theory concepts!

At the same time that Discovery of GT was written, Robert K. Merton (1967) wrote “…theory, is logically

interconnected sets of propositions from which empirical uniformities can be derived.” This statement

from a famous theorist such as Merton was virtually a license to conjecture theory. The researcher at the

time experienced great cross pressure between license for logically deducing theory and our demand that

it can only be grounded to be relevant.

Reification was out, grounding was in, and the problem arose as to just how many researchers had

conceptual ability to change to grounding. Our answer was more researchers than were heretofore

allowed to. Anselm and I gave researchers the license to generate concepts on one’s own and ignore the

theoretical capitalists, idols, and great men. They were always there for those who could not

conceptualize on their own.

The research goal changes from theory based on the unobserved to explain more unobserved, to GT

theory generated from observation to explain the observed. In the standard appeal to future research of a

GT article, the author could conjecture a bit based on conceptual deduction from grounded concepts as he

suggests next research steps; the only conjecture allowed which is a form of theoretical sampling.

Put simply, in putting a constraint on conjectural theory, based on the unobserved and thereby distrusted,

GT gained theoretical leverage for social psychology in generating theory that could be trusted as fitting

and relevant to the data. Social theory was rescued by GT from its growing disaffection by laymen and

from being discounted as too airy by them. GT made theory accountable to others as it was right on and

worked.

Conceptual Description

Conceptual description is a frequent occurrence among researchers trying to do GT. They even call it GT,

but it is really a form of QDA. One concept is generated and then the researcher spends the rest of his

time describing it and describing it with incident after incident. There is little or no constant comparative

work to generate conceptual properties of the category based on the interchangeability of indices and

conceptual saturation. The researcher just “incident trips” with no more conceptual analysis. I have

written about this in Doing GT (Glaser, 1998, pp. 162 – 165). The researcher just goes on and on

overdescribing with no more conceptual analysis. Story after story is forced into the concept. It reads like

story sharing at a party once a sharing topic emerges. It is conceptual grab by one concept gone wild.

There are two types of interrelated sources of conceptual description: the researcher’s skill and the

concept’s source. It is done by researchers with limited ability to conceptualize and to relate concepts

theoretically. The thrill of generating one concept is all they need and can handle. Close colleagues, who

are use to QDA, can unawaredly pressure the researcher into lots of description. Some researchers cannot

handle the tedium of conceptualization by constant comparison while coding, collecting by theoretical

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

33

sampling and analyzing, writing up theoretical memos and saturating the concept. In actuality a researcher

may get to 2 or 3 concepts, which is even more strain on conceptual theorizing for the conceptually

unable. Thus, we see many conceptual descriptions.

Mixed into these sources of conceptual description among researchers are the sources of the concept. One

major source is to read through an interview 2 or 3 times for an overview of what’s going on and

conceptualizing it. This overview impression source of a concept can be so grabbing that incident tripping

(called description by others) takes over and that’s it. Since the rigor of line by line study of the interview

and then careful comparing incident to incident and then to concept, and constant theoretical sampling, is

abdicated, there is no control over the tendency to conceptual description. In QDA fashion it appears the

way to explicate the concept. My readers (see Glaser, 1993; 1995a; 1995b; 1996) give many examples of

this.

Another source of concept that leads to incident tripping is the one incident concept. It is usually way

over analyzed and once the incident is conceptualized the tendency is to describe it ad infinitum. A one

incident concept is not a careful generation of a pattern. It is not a pattern. It is a conjecture. Its name can

have tremendous grab and since there is no more analysis, conceptual description ensues. This happens

frequently with beginning researchers who may discuss at length what one incident means. They are not

used to, or trained to, continual coding and analyzing and, therefore, conceptually saturating the concept,

thereby discovering its properties and that it is a true pattern. The one incident may prove to be just that:

ONE INCIDENT, and not relevant to much. In GT, the researcher must keep moving through the data to

see the incident over and over and constantly be comparing and conceptualizing. This is not easy.

Researchers easily default to QDA.

To be sure, conceptual description can also result from a carefully generated concept. The concept can

have so much grab and the researcher be so thrilled, with no taste for the tedium of constant comparison,

and so on, that describing ensues at great length.

A colleague also advised me that there are fields with an overload of received concepts, such as his:

business management, where one starts with the received concepts and tries to force many incidents into

the meaning of the chosen concept. Conceptual description ensues. It is preconception to the max! Bengt

Gustavsson, teacher and author of a GT book in Swedish, says in a writing to me:

to repeat, my main problem as a management teacher is to deconstruct all the fancy, but ill-

grounded, conceptions in the management field, e.g., knowledge management, customer

relationship marketing, virtual organizations employability, and intellectual capital. It turns out

that although they are in vogue, nobody really knows what they stand for (personal

communication, 1998).

Fields like this may have many reified concepts (concepts with no empirical referents) so even conceptual

description is hard. GT in these fields puts grounded concepts into direct competition with the field’s

conceptual jargon, which itself can cause conceptual description to undo the jargon.

The dosage mix between conceptual hypotheses and conceptual description is, of course, the prerogative

of the GT researcher. It is his product.

Conceptual Foppery

Closely related to conceptual description but at the other end of the continuum is conceptual foppery. This

occurs when every incident in sight is conceptualized with no theoretical meaning deriving from a clear

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

34

focus analysis of a main concern and its resolving. Dozens of one incident concepts are offered with no

problem, no theoretical integration, no constant comparison, no realization of prime mover of the people’s

predominant behavior, no proven patterns, etc. No parsimony and scope are sought. The license to

generate has gone wild! Too many concepts go every which way with no relation to “whatever”!

Conceptualization in GT must be done as a careful part of theory generating and emergence, with each

concept earning its way with relevance into the theory.

Concept foppery is engaged in by researchers who can conceptualize one incident easily, but who cannot

compare many incidents. They do not seem to see patterns. The sensitivity of the concept is enough to

imply patterns. They also dip into reification easily without knowing it. There are academic subfields in

business and psychology where concept volume, grounded or not, is the thing with little or no regard for

data.

Close to concept foppery is concept vagary. The concept rings true and is sensitizing at first blush. But

then it seems vague or sufficiently undetailed so the reader does not know what is being referred to or

discussed. The grab starts to diminish. Theory bits are often quite vague upon examination. People use

concept vagary like descriptive vagary, in order to not reveal sensitive information. It obfuscates. If vague

concepts are submitted to conceptual description, the description becomes vague also.

GT, of course, does not produce and, perforce, does allow concept vagary if the category and its

properties are carefully generated and saturated conceptually. By definition the concept fits with clarity.

Properties of a category substruct it by showing its degrees, dimensions, aspects, types, etcetera. These

properties become the category’s clear definition.

Conceptual Power

Given our above discussion of conceptualization, especially that of conceptual grab, most people feel the

power of conceptualization and its ability to transcend the descriptive, its ability to generate “wise”

propositions that explain behavior in an area (especially its main concern), its ability to organize and

make meaningful many seemingly disparate incidences, and its ability to be used or applied as a wise

academic and/or consultant.

GT gives the researcher this power. He or she becomes an expert in the substantive area of their study.

The researcher is asked to guest lecture and to consult on the subject. For example, one grounded theorist

who did his dissertation on “enhancing creativity” in bureaucratic organizations gives lectures to many

corporations on this subject as an expert.

Most GT researchers do not fully realize this power of abstractedness. They allude to the power, but

cannot quite formulate it or be precise about it. Yet it is up to the GT researcher to use it and give it and

show it to others not only in the substantive field from whence it was generated, but in other areas, and to

laymen. The GT power gives control by its sensitizing, enduring grab, its generalizability and its being

abstract from time, place and people!

Listen to Wendy Guthrie (2000) allude to this power while not quite being precise about it:

The veterinarian is undisputed in his ability to describe the way things work in his domain. He

does not welcome an outsider telling him what he already knows. The explanatory power

characteristic of grounded theory is where the difference lies. It gives practitioners a new

conceptual understanding and control over actions like never before. Even when confronted by

novel situations, conceptual theory yields powerful predictive ability enabling those with access

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

35

to it to influence the direction ahead with recourse to appropriately selected strategies. Grounded

theory elevates the theorist to an influential level. Description on the other hand, complicates and

distracts.

Guthrie is very close to seeing the power and control of GT. Others are not so close, but feel and see it

strongly. Listen to Jan Morse (1997b),

…the identification of theory or a model that enables the case study to generalize to other cases. It

is important to note that this linkage is done conceptually — in this case using the concepts of

enduring and suffering — and it is this abstraction from the descriptive data that makes the study

more powerful.

So why not just go for the power of GT? Timidity is the answer Jan Morse (1997b) says:

Qualitative researchers are theoretically timid. Some researchers may be more comfortable

staying within the safety zone of their data. They may be unwilling to take the risk inherent in

interpretation and move their analysis beyond the descriptive level. Theorizing is also work: often

researchers make the mistake of submitting their study for publication without making the effort

to do the conceptual work necessary for the development of theory.

She is no doubt right about timidity, but not doing the conceptual work is not quite correct. They simply

do not know nor have training in GT, so they are at loggerheads on how to do conceptualization. After

learning GT, I have seen many a researcher lose the timidity that comes with knowing how to

conceptualize and feeling its power.

Lastly, Jan Morse does not realize the full power of GT. So she sees a continuum with no power valence.

She says, “Qualitative research as a product may be classified according to the level of theoretical

abstraction. This ranges from the most descriptive research to the most abstract, generalizable research,

and it is outlined in Table 9.2.” (Morse, 1997b).
1
The categories of her outline are neutral to the growing

power of abstraction as QDA turns to GT. QDA and GT are confused, as always.

Barry Gibson, a well known GT researcher, extols the conceptualization of GT but does not clearly extol

the power of it. He says:

As stated previously the procedures underlying grounded theory are not designed to yield themes

within the data, but are aimed at developing a theory. By theory what is intended is a conceptual

account of the ‘main concerns’ of those resolving a particular problem. Grounded theories are

therefore conceptual communication concerning observation on how persons resolve particular

problems in a particular area (such as health care or business organizations) (personal

communication, 1998).

He is quite correct but he does not say that these conceptual communications on accounting for the

behaviors in a substantive area are quite powerful. So near and yet so far.

King, Keohane, and Verba, political science researchers, actually turn to briefly bring out the power of

concepts in the following: “Compelling concepts need not be part of a valid causal inference to be

powerful, but to remain powerful, these concepts must be part of a research agenda that seeks to identify

their systemic implications, revealing their link on a causal chain.” To be sure the power of conceptual

grab is there and it does endure, not fade. But endurance is enhanced by the concept being integrated into

a grounded theory that endures also.

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

36

In my section on conceptual grab above, we have seen the power of Robert K. Merton’s concepts to

organize with meaning public opinion findings and to relate them to general social theory. Exercising this

power brings reknown, even fame, since there are so few good conceptualizers. GT, a rigorous

conceptualizing method, gives many an average researcher a chance at such renown.

This is a long paper, and obviously could be longer since there are many more properties of

conceptualization. I have tried to discuss those most pertinent to GT.

Endnotes

1
The table can be found in Morse, 1997b, p. 174. The four types of qualitatively derived theory referred

to are 1) descriptive, 2) interpretive, 3) disclosive, and 4) explanatory.

References

Andriopoulos, C. A. (2000). Mind stretching: A grounded theory for enhancing organizational creativity.

Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Brooks, I. J. (1998). Weighing up change: A grounded theory explaining the response of middle managers

to organisational change. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Canterbury,

Christchurch.

Burawoy, M. et al. (1991). Ethnography unbound: Power and resistance in the modern metropolis.

Berkeley, CA: University of California.

Calvin, A. O. (2000) Hemodialysis patients and end-of-life medical treatment decisions : a theory of

personal preservation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas, Austin.

Coup, A. (1998). Being safe and taking risks: How nurses manage children’s pain. Unpublished master’s

thesis, Massey University.

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (1998a). Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (1998b). Strategies of qualitative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA:

Sage.

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (1998c). The landscape of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks,

CA:

Sage.

Gibson, B. (1997). Dangerous dentaling: A grounded theory of HIV and dentistry. Unpublished doctoral

dissertation, Queens University of Belfast, Belfast.

Glaser, B. G. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity: Advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Mill

Valley, CA:

Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs forcing. Mill Valley, CA:

Sociology

Press.

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

37

Glaser, B. G. (Ed.). (1993). Examples of grounded theory: A reader. Mill Valley,

CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (Ed.). (1995a). Grounded theory1984-1994 (2 vols.). Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (Ed.). (1995b). More grounded theory methodology: A reader. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology

Press.

Glaser, B. G. (Ed.). (1996). Gerund Grounded Theory: The basic social process dissertation. Mill Valley,

CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (1998). Doing grounded theory: Issues and discussions. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (2000). The discovery of grounded theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967a). Awareness of Dying. Chicago: Aldine.

Glaser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967b). Discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research.

Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Gummesson, E. (2000). Qualitative methods in management research (2
nd

.

ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:

Sage.

Gummesson, E. (1999). Total relationship marketing : from the 4Ps-product, price, promotion, place- of

traditional marketing management to the 30Rs-the thirty relationships- of the new marketing

paradigm. Boston, MA : Butterworth-Heinemann.

Guthrie, W. (2000). Keeping Clients in Line: A Grounded Theory Explaining How Veterinary Surgeons

Control Their Clients. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Hartwig, F. & Dearing, B. E. (1979). Exploratory data analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley, CA:

University of California Press.

King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry: Scientific inference in

qualitative research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lee, R. M. (1995). Dangerous fieldwork. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lofland, J. (1976). Doing social life: The qualitative study of human interaction in natural settings. New

York: Wiley.

McCallin, A. (1999). Pluralistic dialogue: A grounded theory of interdisciplinary practice. In Conference

proceedings of the New Zealand Rehabilitation Association Biennial Conference (pp. 115- 122).

Dunedin, NZ: New Zealand Rehabilitation Association.

Marshall, C.. & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research (3
rd

ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:

Sage.

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2002, 1(2)

38

Merton, R. K. (1967). On theoretical sociology: Five essays, old and new. New York: Free Press.

Morse, J. M. (Ed.). (1997a) Completing a Qualitative Project: Details and Dialogue. Thousand Oaks:

Sage.

Morse, J. M. (1997b). Considering theory derived from qualitative research. In J. M. Morse

(Ed.), Completing a Qualitative Project: Details and Dialogue (pp. 163 – 188). Thousand Oaks:

Sage.

Nathan, H. (1986). Critical choices in interviews: Conduct, use, and research role. Berkeley, CA:

Institute of Governmental Studies.

Ragin, C. C. (1987). The comparative method: Moving beyond qualitative and quantitative strategies.

Berkeley, CA: University of California.

Silverman, D. (2000). Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Starrin, B., Dahlgren, L., Larsson, G., & Styrborn, S. (1997). Along the path of discovery: Qualitative

methods and grounded theory. Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y.

Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry. (pp. 158-183). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Zetterberg, H. L. (1997). Sociological endeavor: Selected writings. (R. Swedberg & E. Uddhammar,

Eds.). Stockholm: City University Press.

Place your order
(550 words)

Approximate price: $22

Calculate the price of your order

550 words
We'll send you the first draft for approval by September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Total price:
$26
The price is based on these factors:
Academic level
Number of pages
Urgency
Basic features
  • Free title page and bibliography
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Plagiarism-free guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 24/7 support
On-demand options
  • Writer’s samples
  • Part-by-part delivery
  • Overnight delivery
  • Copies of used sources
  • Expert Proofreading
Paper format
  • 275 words per page
  • 12 pt Arial/Times New Roman
  • Double line spacing
  • Any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard)

Our guarantees

Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.

Money-back guarantee

You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.

Read more

Zero-plagiarism guarantee

Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.

Read more

Free-revision policy

Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.

Read more

Privacy policy

Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.

Read more

Fair-cooperation guarantee

By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.

Read more