Revisiting Symbolic Interactionism as a Theoretical Framework Beyond the Grounded Theory Tradition

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The tight bond between grounded theory (GT) and symbolic interactionism (SI) is well known within the qualitative health research field. We aimed to disentangle this connection through critical reflection on the conditions under which it might add value as an underpinning to studies outside the GT tradition. Drawing on an examination of the central tenets of SI, we illustrate with a field study using interpretive description as methodology how SI can be applied as a theoretical lens through which layers of socially constructed meaning can help surface the subjective world of patients. We demonstrate how SI can function as a powerful framework for human health behavior research through its capacity to orient questions, inform design options, and refine analytic directions. We conclude that using SI as a lens can serve as a translation mechanism in our quest to interpret the subjective world underlying patients’ health and illness behavior.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Health Research
Volume25
Issue8
Pages (from-to)1023-1032
Number of pages10
ISSN1049-7323
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

    Research areas

  • interpretive description, research design, research, qualitative, symbolic interactionism, qualitative analysis

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