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

Nicholas Ralph, Melanie Birks, Ysanne Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2014


  • Documents
  • Extant data
  • Grounded theory
  • Qualitative research
  • Reflexivity

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