The focus of grounded theory and phenomenology methods are differentiated by Creswell (1998) as follows: - purpose of a Grounded theory method is developing theory whilst that of the phenomenology method is understanding a concept or phenomenon.
Phenomenology is grounded in philosophy and was founded by Hurssel whilst studying consciousness as experienced by the participant. The goal of a phenomenological study is to describe the lived experience of the participants and the meaning of that experience from the participants’ perspective. Phenomenology is based on the assumption that one can only describe the world as experienced by the studied individual and is neither a subjective nor an objective description (Merleau-Ponty 1962). Phenomenology therefore seeks to describe psychological structures. When using the phenomenology method, a researcher is required to approach the data without prejudice and it is therefore advisable not to use literature as a source of data (Baker et al, 1992). The principal method of data collection when using a phenomenology method is the interview. It is also important for the researcher to show the participant a copy of the interview in order to confirm the meanings assigned to the experience (Wimpenny & Gass, 2000). Descriptive and Interpretive are the two most common types of phenomenology. Descriptive focuses on describing what we know whilst interpretive focuses on describing and interpreting human experience.
Grounded theory was developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) when studying the experience of dying patients and has its roots grounded in sociology. The grounded theory method is based on symbolic interactionism which focuses on the processes of people’s social interactions and the meanings they assign to events. These interactions are said to be symbolic as something (language, words, symbols) is used to convey their meaning and facilitate the interaction (Denzin, 1989). Because Symbolic interactonism is a branch of interpetivism, Grounded theory is based on the assumption that people develop meanings to an event through experience and social interaction. The meanings that people assign to these events eventually build their behaviour (Baker et al 1992). Grounded Theory therefore seeks to explain social processes. Not only does the Grounded theory develop theory, but can modify and further develop existing theories (McCann & Clark, 2003). Grounded Theorists use literature reviews for theoretical sensitivity and also for theory comparisons. The literature review is also used to justify the study and provide background. Theoretical sensitivity enables researchers to enter the field of study with an awareness and understanding of the data so as to be able to isolate the appropriate from the inappropriate information (McCann & Clark, 2003). Grounded Theory employs two types of sampling, Purposive and theoretical sampling. Initially purposive sampling is used and initial data collected. Because grounded theory employs a cyclic approach of data collection and analysis, the initial data collected is analysed and further decisions about the participants is made based on the emerging theory. This later sampling is known as theoretical sampling, and the new data collected facilitates comparison of the emerging categories. Grounded Theory uses multiple methods of data collection including observational collection (Wimpenny & Gass, 2000).