Critical realism and grounded theory

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Book Chapter

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Kempster, S. & Parry, K. (2014). Critical realism and grounded theory. In P. Edwards, J. O’Mahoney & S. Vincent (Eds.) Studying Organizations Using Critical Realism: A Practical Guide (pp. 86-108). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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© Copyright Oxford University Press 2014




This chapter outlines how critical-realist informed grounded theory could be undertaken through providing the necessary detail of the how aspects by application to a specific field of research—namely contrastive explanations of how leadership learning occurs by identifying causal powers. The chapter outlines a structure of seven stages which is illustrated through the case study, namely: (i) subject matter—leadership learning; (ii) ontology—critical realism; (iii) methodology—retroductive grounded theory; (iv) data collection—exploring lived experience through interviews; (v) data analysis—retroduction; (vi) theory development—retroductive explanation; (vii) testing theory—discussion with respondents prior to theory propagation. The chapter seeks to propose that critical realist grounded theory aims to build an explanation of social processes and practices by first identifying generative causal powers that shape such processes and practices; and second to explain how such generative causal powers are contingent upon local emergent causal powers.

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