Field notes and theoretical memos in grounded theory

West J Nurs Res. 2007 Feb;29(1):65-79. doi: 10.1177/0193945906292557.


In this article the authors expose some of the mystique surrounding field notes and theoretical memos in a Glaserian grounded theory study. Definitions, types, and content of field notes and theoretical memos are presented. Exemplars from a study of mothers living with serious mental illness are provided to illustrate how these forms of documentation evolved during the course of the study. The authors argue that, although the processes of field noting and memoing may blur as a study progresses, they nevertheless retain their independent functions. The authors contend that without understanding the complementary function of these two types of documentation, data cannot evolve to a higher interpretive level. This article contributes specific ideas for improving the methods used by qualitative nurse researchers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Documentation* / standards
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Nursing Theory
  • Observation
  • Philosophy, Nursing
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design* / standards
  • Research Personnel / psychology
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Writing / standards