A Grounded Theory analysis consists of coding, which is applied until no new findings are added.


The goal is to develop a new theory by means of various empirical data collected with methods such as coding, interviews, or observations.

Thereby, a cycle of data collection and evaluation is followed until the evaluations no longer provide new insights. This results in a theoretical model.


The implementation is circular, with the following steps being carried out several times:

  • Theoretical sampling: the collection of new data triggered by the results of the previous development process
  • Analysis: the analysis of existing data material and the process of theoretical coding,
  • Development: the systematic development of theory building blocks such as concepts, categories, and theories constructed from them, as well as the process of reflection of the procedure.

Central to this is the posing of generative questions, such as Who? When? Where? What? How? How much? Why? Furthermore, connections between the categories are identified, comparisons of phenomena are considered, integration of the categories into a theory is aimed at.

The preparation of memos during the process supports the formation of a theory. It enables the writing and ordering of one's own ideas, associations, hypotheses on the theory as well as the planning steps in the context of evaluations.

This means that the sources are coded in three steps after an empirical survey (e.g., literature search, interviews).

Open Coding

For example, we found ten sources in our literature search on digitization. According to a pre-defined question scheme, the sources are first openly coded. The easiest way to do this is by using a table.





Text Section






"Today, digitization is the carrier of society, the degree of penetration in Germany is low in public administration."

What: digitisation

Who: public management

How much: low degree of penetration 

When: today

Whereby: ?

Why: ?

Where: Germany?



public management

low degree of penetration




Axial Coding

An axial coding follows this. Axial coding aims to establish initial relationships between concepts. The concepts are linked as follows: At the center is the phenomenon or research concern. The phenomenon has arisen from a causal condition and is part of a context. The phenomenon causes actions and interactional strategies that trigger consequences. Axis categories are derived from the relationships.

Selective Coding

The last step is selective coding. The axis categories are linked in such a way that a core category is created. The linking is done by selective coding. There are two options regarding the definition of a core category:

  • Either an axis category already has many relationships with other categories. It is, therefore, automatically suitable as a core category.
  • Otherwise, the network can be imagined as history, and the center of history can be identified.


Core Literature

  • [1] Glaser, Barney G., & Strauss Anselm, L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: strategies for qualitative research. New York, Adline de Gruyter.
  • [2] Glaser, Barney G., Strauss, A. L., & Strutzel, E. (1968). The discovery of grounded theory; strategies for qualitative research. Nursing research17(4), 364.
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