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Difference between Grounded Theory and Ethnography

Difference between Grounded Theory and Ethnography

Grounded Theory and Ethnography are two methodologies used by researchers when conducting research. But what is the difference between them? If you’re a social science or anthropology student, or if you’re just curious to understand how they differ, this blog post is for you! We will look at the basics of Grounded Theory and Ethnography, then dive into how they vary in terms of their approaches, scope, and outcomes. We’ll also touch on whether one provides better results than the other so that you can make an informed decision about which methodology best fits your research goals. After reading this post, you’ll understand exactly why Grounded Theory and Ethnography may be beneficial for your study objectives – as well as any potential drawbacks to keep in mind. So let’s get started!

What is Grounded Theory?

  • Grounded Theory is a qualitative research approach that was developed by sociologists Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss in the 1960s. Grounded Theory involves constant comparison of different data sources to generate findings. It uses an inductive methodology, meaning theories are generated from a close examination of the gathered data rather than being based on existing theories.
  • Grounded Theory does not focus on building generalizable substantive theories—rather, it helps to create hypotheses that can then be tested using other techniques. Moreover, Grounded Theory allows for the evolution of theoretical statements based on new information as the study progresses.
  • In this way, Grounded Theory offers insight into phenomena and helps researchers develop meaningful interpretations of data collected through interviews, field observations, or other qualitative methods while developing theoretical knowledge at the same time.

What is Ethnography?

  • Ethnography is an important methodology used in anthropology and other social sciences. The ethnographic study involves a deep immersion into the culture of a particular group, allowing for increased understanding and analytic perspectives on life, social dynamics, language, and history from that population’s point of view.
  • Ethnographers observe, document, and analyze relationships between a specific population or culture to gain insight into how that group makes decisions or navigates life in general. Ethnographic methodologies focus on the movement/contextualization of actions as well as dialogue within the studied group to get a fuller understanding of how things operate within that culture.
  • Ethnographers are often part anthropologists, interviewers, and journalists all rolled up into one researcher of a unique area of the world. By using qualitative research methods such as observation, interviews, surveys, and field notes – ethnographers can build an in-depth view of the cultures they research; further helping us to better understand the complexities that different groups may experience.

Difference between Grounded Theory and Ethnography

Grounded Theory and Ethnography are two distinct yet overlapping research methodologies used to understand human behavior and interaction.

  • Grounded Theory is an inductive approach for generating hypotheses and theories through qualitative data analysis, making use of theoretical sampling to refine the development of new concepts.
  • On the other hand, Ethnography is a holistic approach that seeks to capture cultural context by gathering detailed information about patterns and processes of human culture and identity.
  • Grounded Theory provides powerful tools for exploring relationships between variables while Ethnography allows researchers to gain insight into how individuals and groups interact in their natural settings.

Understanding the differences between Grounded Theory and Ethnography will help researchers in selecting appropriate approaches for their projects.


The main difference between Grounded Theory and Ethnography is that Grounded Theory focuses on developing theory from empirical data while ethnography focuses on the cultural context of a group or community. However, both approaches are concerned with understanding human behavior. If you’re interested in learning more about these research methods, we offer training courses that can help you get started. Contact us to learn more about our services.

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