Axial coding and the grounded theory controversy

West J Nurs Res. 1999 Dec;21(6):743-57. doi: 10.1177/019394599902100603.


The purpose of this article is to describe the similarities and differences between two approaches to grounded theory research: grounded theory as espoused by Glaser and grounded theory as espoused by Strauss and Corbin. The focus of the article is the controversy surrounding the use of axial coding. The author proposes a resolution to the controversy by suggesting that one does not need to view either approach as right or wrong; rather, the qualitative and grounded theory researcher can choose an approach, and that choice is based on the goal of the researcher's study. Examples of both approaches, from the author's research study on the experiences of living in a family with a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are provided.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Child
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Family / psychology
  • Humans
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / organization & administration*
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Research Design*
  • Sociology, Medical
  • Symbolism