Applying a Systematic Literature Review Process in a Grounded Theory Investigation




Grounded Theory, Systematic Literature Review, Audit Trail, Middle Leadership in Education, Theory Development


This paper offers a critique of the application of a systematic literature review (SLR) process during a grounded theory (GT) investigation. The place of the literature review (LR) within GT has long been discussed, contested, and frequently misunderstood. One of GT’s hallmarks is its inductive nature, allowing salient concepts to ‘arise’ rather than being deduced. Hence, there are differing perspectives on the role of the LR concerning enabling or constraining this inductive process. However, scant guidance is available on conducting LRs for GT studies. Wolfswinkel, Furtmueller and Wilderom (2011) offer a five-stage GT method for reviewing literature. This paper will provide insights into the advantages and disadvantages of their method. Though grounded in theoretical principles surrounding the LR’s purpose in GT, this paper gives practical guidance on operationalising this five-stage SLR process. This is done by demonstrating the application of their stages in a doctoral dissertation. A contemporaneous research audit trail was used to document each stage, reflect on challenges, and justify deviations from the original five stages. Excerpts from the audit trail will be used to illustrate how the process was applied. Based on the findings from applying these stages, tentative advancements to the model will be offered so that other researchers will have more detailed guidance on how a SLR may be conducted within GT studies.

Author Biography

Sinéad O'Mahony, Mary Immaculate College, Thurles, Ireland

Sinéad O’Mahony is a PhD student in Mary Immaculate College, Thurles, Ireland. She is an Irish Research Council Scholar, Primary School Teacher, and Assistant Principal. Her main areas of interest are Middle Leadership in Educational Settings, Teacher Induction and Research Methodologies with particular interest in grounded theory.