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Grounded Theory, Deductive Qualitative Analysis,

and Social Work Research

Jane F. Gilgun

Copyright 2010 Jane Gilgun

Smashwords Edition

About the Author

Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA. See Professor Gilgun’s other articles, books, & children’s stories on Smashwords.


This paper updates an earlier version published more than 15 years ago (Gilgun, 1994c). I kept an emphasis on grounded theory research, but I added information on how to use literature reviews and hypothesis-testing in the conduct of qualitative research. These additions are responsive to the understandable demands of funders and dissertation committees who are more likely to support research that has have conceptual models and testable hypotheses. Grounded theory and deductive qualitative analysis have common roots within the Chicago School of Sociology and have great potential for knowledge-building in social work. Social work academics and activists made contributions to the Chicago School and thus can claim being part of the original formulations of grounded theory and analytic induction. Deductive qualitative analysis is an updated version of analytic induction.

Grounded Theory, Deductive Qualitative Analysis

and Social Work Research

Grounded theory and deductive qualitative analysis are important ways to do social work research. They can contribute to knowledge-building not only in the three main areas of social work direct practice--assessment, intervention, and evaluation--but also in policy research, program development and evaluation, and studies of program implementation. The findings of grounded theory and analytic induction are a good fit with the research agenda of social work because they arise out of the interaction of researchers with those whom they research, show multiple meanings and multiple dimensions of human phenomena, and, at their best, show connections between concepts and theories and their concrete indicators in the natural world. This is the world of direct practitioners: complicated, untidy, sometimes confusing, and often intrusive and sometimes traumatizing.

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