Blue skies and black boxes: The promise (and practice) of grounded theory in human resource management research

Chad Murphy, Anthony C. Klotz, Glen E. Kreiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


We provide an overview of the grounded theory approach, a methodology with significant (and largely untapped) potential for human resources (HR) research. Grounded theory is an abductive, data-driven, theory-building approach that can serve as a conceptual link between inductive and deductive research approaches. We begin by explaining the grounded theory approach in detail and outlining two versions of the method that have been used in high-impact management publications—the Gioia approach and the Tabula Geminus (twin slate) approach. We then provide an overview of the similarities and differences between grounded theory and other inductive and/or qualitative methodologies, namely, ethnography, discourse analysis, rhetorical analysis, and content analysis. Following this discussion, we offer a step-by-step guide to using grounded theory in human resources research, illustrating these principles with data and processes from extant research. Finally, we conclude by discussing best practices for achieving rigor with the grounded theory approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-305
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Resource Management Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

Cite this