I've spent most of my Thanksgiving break (since Wednesday) conducting deeper single case analyses of my participants. Today I have completed the fourth of five, and I'm pleased with the patterns I'm finding. After I complete the fifth single case analysis either tomorrow or next weekend, I will be able to start organizing the data into categories to form a grounded theory.
My strategy at this point is to continue my immersion into the data without much interference from the literature. From 2011 to early 2013, I have been immersed in the literature, and I believe I have a few theories and models that will fit in well with my grounded theory. I don't know for sure, and I don't want to check as I the data needs to guide the analysis. If I crack open the literature now, I may be tempted to make the data fit a model or theory, which will weaken my grounded theory.
I'm interested to see how my grounded theory supports or aligns with pre-existing theories. Even more so, I'd like to see if my grounded theory shows that another theory or two may be standing on shaky ground because I may have contradictory evidence. However, I would be elated if my grounded theory help link two or more pre-existing theories as my research is at the intersection of multiple disciplines: English language teacher education, sociocultural anthropology, intercultural communication, and adjustment psychology. At this point, I only have feelings and inklings, so I need to be patient and finish the single case analysis.
Because this is a multiple case study, I need to find patterns that are found across all the studies before forming a unified grounded theory. I may be able to create several smaller theories based on a fraction of the multiple cases, but this is less important now. However, my data may reveal that the unique data for each case may help create a more compelling theory.
If you are a well-disciplined and experienced researcher, you may wince at the previous few paragraphs because I seem so naive, but this is the purpose of this post. This is what the mindset is like for someone working on his own research project for the first time from start to finish. To put your mind at ease, once I complete the single case analysis for my fifth and final participant, I plan to revisit the textbooks concerning grounded theory and qualitative data analysis. These will guide me more than my inklings and feelings, which are logged in my data analysis memos.
Another reason I am posting this is that I am a bit giddy with getting this far in my analysis and I love the process of discovery. Every stage of data analysis has been rewarding, and I continue to learn more and more from my data in addition to learning more and more about the research process. Perhaps I'm good at fooling myself, but I believe I'm lucky that I am enjoying the initial stages of data analysis just as much as data collection.
The frustration is that not many others I know care about the whole study. It's like being the only one the theater that laughed at a particular line or situation in the film or play. I wish I could share this joy but I cannot. I'm beginning to understand the mad scientist.