The mysterious constant comparative method

I’m still struggling with the constant comparative method (CCM) of research (Glaser, 1965). The first problems I had with it are due to its subjective nature. Sometimes, it feels like I’m just assigning to the reading what I think it’s trying to tell me about the rhetorical ecology (Edbauer, 2005) in which the document was created. And then, I think…well, that’s sort of what I’m supposed to be doing. But it’s truly much more than that. My struggles have expanded since I began using it, but I think it’s worth noting what happened when my first issues with this method of research sent me back to the drawing board looking for examples.

When I’m doing something new, and I don’t know where I’m going with it, I look for examples. Examples help me understand how to apply knowledge. I guess I’m a practical person. I love theory, but when I want to get something done, I want someone to show me how it is done. And examples help me with that.

I found these three examples of research published in peer-reviewed journals using the CCM

(psst… you know what? The super-fun part about these examples is they are really interesting to read!).

Johnson, Melissa A, John L. Davis and Sean Cronin. “Mexican Expatriates Vote? Framing and Agenda Setting in U.S. News Coverage About Mexico.” Mass Communication and Society 12 (January 2009): 4–25.

Thompson, Blair. “The Syllabus as a Communication Document: Constructing and Presenting the Syllabus.” Communication Education 56, no. 1 (January 2007): 5-71.

Weber, Kirsten M. and Denise Haunani Solomon. “Locating Relationship and Communication Issues Among Stressors Associated With Breast Cancer.” Health Communication 23 (November 2008): 548–559.

Here’s what I learned from these resources and what I can apply to my own work:

Johnson, Davis, and Cronin:  this article is the furthest in subject matter from technical communication. It’s interesting, but it focuses on topics and theories with which I’m not hugely familiar. It’s a very interesting read, however, and that kept me going. The article addressed SEVEN research questions. Interesting. That helps me feel like I could bust out of my rigid mode of just a very few research questions. Perhaps more would be okay?  I like what was said about intercoder reliability. They actually measured the reliability and determined it to be within an acceptable range. This is worth bringing to my advisor’s attention and working through. I have some good friends in this program, maybe they can code for me to figure out whether my data is reliable? Also, I recall from my editing that some of the professors I have worked with do use an additional coder as a data check. At any rate, this is a great article because it made me start thinking about that. This article described the actual process of the constant comparative method. It was great reading about that in this article.

Thompson:  ONE research question. Interesting! AND–new idea! Theoretical saturation. Important new idea. Here’s where I start to get the idea that I need to read a WHOLE BOOK on CCM. Now. As with the previous article, there is a great description of the mechanics of the CCM. Data categories and the processes are described. So valuable. The content, not just the mechanics, of this research is interesting. The syllabus as a document that is representative of classroom content and interaction among students and teachers is fascinating. They really do a great job of letting you see how a technical document can almost be a living breathing thing. Really! Because it reflects its purpose and its author.

Weber and Solomon:  this research is very close to the research that I am doing. It analyzes online documents and draws conclusions based on their content. There is a valuable list of resources and great description of axial/open coding.

Best thing I learned in reading these research articles: I have a lot to learn.

Resources (other than those already noted):
Edbauer, Jenny. “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 35, no. 4 (Fall 2005): 5-24.

Glaser, Barney G. “The Constant Comparative Method of Qualitative Analysis.” Social Problems 12, no. 4 (1965): 436-445.

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2 Responses to The mysterious constant comparative method

  1. Pingback: Constant comparative method–I totally get it, now. | A very focused blog about school and work

  2. Pingback: Editing my METHODS section | A very focused blog about school and work

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