Contextual positioning: using documents as extant data in grounded theory research

Ralph, Nicholas, Birks, Melanie, and Chapman, Ysanne (2014) Contextual positioning: using documents as extant data in grounded theory research. SAGE Open, 4 (3). pp. 1-7.

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The use of documents as a source of extant data is relatively common in grounded theory (GT) research. While GT promotes the dictum "all is data," finding consistent commentary on how to use documents as data is difficult, especially among seminal works. The need to be aware of the context of extant data is a vital step prior to commencing analysis, especially in view of the lack of physical interaction between the researcher and that data. Contextual positioning is proposed as a tool that can be used to prepare extant data for analysis. Contextual positioning enhances the interactivity of the data collection process and positions the researcher before the document in a more reflexive manner. A model of contextual positioning is presented in this article to assist researchers in positioning extant data (such as documents) more reflexively. A concrete example of the use of this method is outlined to promote understanding of the value of this process.

Item ID: 35553
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2158-2440
Keywords: documents, extant data, grounded theory, qualitative research, reflexivity
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© The Author(s) 2014. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2014 05:55
FoR Codes: 08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0804 Data Format > 080499 Data Format not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939999 Education and Training not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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