Course Exam—MAIS 640 (Grounded Theory, Exploration, and Beyond)

Course Exam—MAIS 640 (Grounded Theory, Exploration, and Beyond)

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Eventually students graduate, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of their education.  So we’ve expanded the course exam to look at some of the interesting courses beyond your bachelor’s degree.

MAIS 640 introduces students to a research methodology called grounded theory, which has been seeing increasing use among social scientists to develop theories solely based on raw data.  It differs from methodologies that require researchers to test their theories in the field or those put forth by secondary sources, and its creation is not contingent upon studies available in a given literature.

In this three-credit arts course, students will learn to: unpack the provenance, strengths, and limitations of grounded theory; distinguish between exploring and corroborating theory; discuss the logic surrounding relevant research practices; and produce a final project using the foundations and practicalities obtained from course materials.

Who Should Take This Course and Why

I believe students who enjoy or seek a creative, hands-on approach to doing research would benefit from the unique skills this course promotes.  If students are working toward publishing or sharing their research at a conference, for instance, there is an opportunity here to experiment with fresh ideas that might someday contribute to and encourage future studies in areas of great interest to them.

I recommend the course particularly to students who are doubtful of the methodology and may be apprehensive about diving into it with no strict rules on how to build theories.  Discovering the possibilities of important topics that may be largely neglected by scholars, in my opinion, is worth the risk of not perfecting the craft on the first attempt.

Course, Assignments, and Exam Details

The course is divided into three stages: the first prompts students to familiarize themselves with grounded theory and deliberate over their topics; the second gives students the opportunity to collect, code, and analyze their data; and lastly, students will work toward a presentation of their findings in the third stage.

To achieve a credit, students are expected to submit forum reflections (22%), progress reports (10%), ePortfolio journal entries (24%), and the grounded theory research report (44%).

How to Be Successful in the Course

Student’s Advice for the Course

Because grounded theory is investigative by design, students who decide to take the plunge should not expect to exit this course with conclusive work ready for wider accessibility.  I do, however, encourage them to adopt good habits that could serve them as they navigate through each stage of academic work.

Course Tutor Dr. Russ Wilde offers exceptional feedback and is very approachable, so I advise students not to exclude any questions or uncertainties from their assignments.  Except for the report, submissions are generally meant to be short, and there is a set number of each type that must be completed by the end of each stage; thus, I suggest handing them in as early as possible to gain a much clearer sense of how to progress in or improve on theory building and data collection, categorization, and interpretation, among the other processes.  Doing so will also leave plenty of room for writing the report.

Due to time constraints, I found it easier  (thanks to Dr.  Wilde’s advice) to select a topic that didn’t necessitate conducting, for example, interviews, questionnaires, or surveys, but instead gathering social media posts as they are publicly available.  I would tell newcomers to grounded theory to do the same thing I did, though on the other hand, going the other route can allow for better immersion, therefore facilitating potential explanations for the phenomena being studied.

Depending on the research goal, gaps in the data possibly indicate either a need to return to the field or to narrow down the perspective so that the theory is focused and productive.  A brief literature review is only needed for context in the report; otherwise, students should use their experiences and analytical capabilities when engaging with theory.  The notes they take on their data will provide the underpinning for the report.

Ultimately, each student’s journey will be individualized; they must use their best judgement when consulting resources (Dr. Wilde often shares content tailored to general inquiries and specific projects as well) and determining the scope of their investigation.


If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Wilde at  Happy learning!