Grounded theory in medical education research: AMEE Guide No. 70

Med Teach. 2012;34(10):850-61. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.704439. Epub 2012 Aug 22.


Qualitative research in general and the grounded theory approach in particular, have become increasingly prominent in medical education research in recent years. In this Guide, we first provide a historical perspective on the origin and evolution of grounded theory. We then outline the principles underlying the grounded theory approach and the procedures for doing a grounded theory study, illustrating these elements with real examples. Next, we address key critiques of grounded theory, which continue to shape how the method is perceived and used. Finally, pitfalls and controversies in grounded theory research are examined to provide a balanced view of both the potential and the challenges of this approach. This Guide aims to assist researchers new to grounded theory to approach their studies in a disciplined and rigorous fashion, to challenge experienced researchers to reflect on their assumptions, and to arm readers of medical education research with an approach to critically appraising the quality of grounded theory studies.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Research Design*
  • Societies