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Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory
A Practical Guide

Second Edition
Additional resources:

February 2015 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

This highly practical book introduces the whole range of grounded theory approaches, providing a comprehensive description of the strategies and techniques employed in this methodology. Unlike most existing books in this area, it is not written from a particular philosophical standpoint, and is the ideal first introduction for any student or researcher looking to use grounded theory in their analysis for the first time.


Birks and Mills’ accessible and highly-readable text is driven by practical case examples throughout to help the reader get to grips with the process of doing grounded theory analysis for themselves. The book deploys a variety of educational activities to guide readers through both the principles and the application of grounded theory, making this an ideal starter text for those new to the approach.


This updated Second Edition:

  • guides the reader through each step of the grounded theory process
  • clearly explains how to memo effectively, using examples
  • includes a chapter which explains the difference between data generation and collection
  • features information on how to use digital resources to manage data
  • discusses the philosophy and ethics of grounded theory within the qualitative paradigm.

Chapter 1: Essentials of Grounded Theory
Chapter 2: Planning a Grounded Theory study
Chapter 3: Quality Processes in Grounded Theory Research
Chapter 4: Positioning the Researcher in a Grounded Theory Study
Chapter 5: Data Generation and Collection
Chapter 6: Data Analysis in Grounded Theory
Chapter 7: Theoretical Integration
Chapter 8: Presenting a Grounded Theory
Chapter 9: Evaluation and Application of Grounded Theory
Chapter 10: Situating Grounded Theory in the Context of Current Debate


Click for online resources

Free resources on the companion website:

  • A practice coding activity
  • Quizzes to accompany each chapter
  • Windows into grounded theory
  • Word games and glossary activities
  • A planning and thesis checklist
  • Links to free SAGE journal articles 
  • Links to suggested videos and websites 
  • PowerPoint slides 

Birks and Mills have produced a wonderful textbook on Grounded Theory for learners at many different levels of study and across multiple disciplines.  The writing is very clear and immensely accessible.  Each chapter begins with clearly stated learning objectives and ends with an interesting and productive learning exercise.  I would recommend this book to any colleague planning to teach, or student hoping to learn about, Grounded Theory.

Pamela A. Saunders
Associate Professor, Georgetown University School of Medicine

Birks and Mills present a thorough introduction to the key writers and principles of Grounded Theory. Their survey provides readers with the fundamental concepts for designing and implementing one of the most utilized methodologies of qualitative inquiry. This is a useful text for researchers interested in not just the basics but the nuances of Grounded Theory processes.

Johnny Saldaña
Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

This updated new edition contains detailed guidance on all aspects of conducting a Grounded Theory study, from planning a study and ensuring its quality, to the presentation of results. The authors are experienced researchers who are skilled in conducting Grounded Theory studies, ensuring that the advice is both practical and relevant. The book also considers how Grounded Theory relates to wider debates about research evidence, funding and impact, and it will be an invaluable resource for students and researchers alike.

Janet Anderson
Senior Lecturer, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London

Mills and Birks' second edition of Grounded Theory is a must read for anyone currently engaged in, teaching, thinking of using, or wanting to revisit Grounded Theory. The authors clearly delineate the history, practice evolution and contestation of Grounded Theory through a well balanced and thorough understanding of the research method. Whether a novice in or well steeped in the tradition, this text provides a clear pathway to taking up Grounded Theory while also detailing the nuances, complexities and limitations of the method. It is a valuable addition to a research method that continues to grow and develop across disciplines.

Patrick Lewis
Associate Professor, University of Regina

The book is thoughtful about research issues and unpicks the complexity in an accessible way, working with you as a reader in what could be described as a work book method, giving activity ideas to increase understanding and reflexivity. Throughout reading this book I felt my anxieties about research were understood and validated. The book supported me to grow in confidence and advance my justification of chosen methods. The book is likely to be a useful resource, to accompany seminal texts, for any student or researcher completing Grounded Theory.

Hannah Nicholls
International Journal of Research & Method in Education

This book provides an accessible guide to using grounded theory with its emphasis on practical guidance about how to use grounded theory methods. The authors provide clear advice about practical techniques inherent in any approach to grounded theory. One of the guide’s strong points is that it links the content of each chapter to a worked example based on the authors’ experience of undertaking grounded theory research.

Alison Allam
SRA - Research Matters Magazine

I did not receive this title as a book - so was unable to review this.

Mrs Vanessa Grace Wilson
Nursing (Chesterfield), Derby University
May 23, 2022

Very complete and interesting book that provides the essentials of Grounded Theory

Dr Antonio Oller-Marcen
Education, Universidad de Zaragoza
February 10, 2021

The book is structured in a way to facilitate the understanding and application of grounded theory (G.T.) methodology to academic research and to make it easy for the reader to review any particular aspect of G.T. by jumping to the relevant chapter. Chapter 1 deals with the essentials of G.T., in particular, the fundamental G.T. methods that are the backbone of this methodology. The subsequent chapters then develop each method in more detail. The authors make it a point in this book to expose the reader to the divergent ideas of the pioneers of G.T., such as Glaser, Strauss and Corbin, and Charmanz. Birks and Mills, however, are careful in their analyses not to intrude upon the reader's choice of alignment. Often, they maintain a neutral stance, although they also tend to give their own interpretations of principles and ideas, or at least, make it clear from which seminal author they derived a particular notion. Of great help and inspiration are the boxes that detail experiences of G.T. researchers in dealing with particular aspects of G.T., such a Carolyn Eyles' use of data from multiple sources (p.66) or Nicholas Ralph's experience on the role of theoretical coding in G.T. (p.120). These experiential extracts help students to understand the use of particular concepts in G.T. through their application in authentic research situations. In addition, Birks and Mills also include useful chapters on how to plan a G.T. study, how to present the findings, and how to ensure and judge the quality of a G.T. study. The philosophical position of the researcher and hence his/her stance with regards to how data is collected or generated is discussed without prejudicing the reader's preference for one world view over others. The final chapter discusses G.T. in relation to the wider picture of academic research debate, and this helps the prospective grounded theorist to understand how his/her study would be placed, viewed, and sometimes judged, depending on the paradigm that the judges adhere to. In conclusion, 'Grounded Theory - A Practical Guide' is a very useful starting point for any academic student intent on pursuing a G.T. research study. It provides a very comprehensive overview of the methodology without overwhelming the reader. The book is the a good springboard for exploring in more detail the major seminal-text authors that have shaped and given different slants to this research methodology.

Mr Richard Zahra
Education, Malta College of Arts, Science And Technology
March 19, 2019

Great book for qualitative research course for specifically ground theory section

Dr Bahadir Namdar
Primary Education/ Science Education Program, Recep Tayyip Erdogan University
February 3, 2018
  • An explanation of how to memo effectively
  • A new chapter which explains the difference between data generation and collection
  • Information on how to use digital resources to manage data
  • Discussion of the philosophy and ethics of grounded theory within the qualitative paradigm.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 2: Planning a Grounded Theory Study

For instructors

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