The Timing of the Literature Review in Grounded Theory Research: An Open Mind Versus an Empty Head

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Abstract

The timing of the literature review in grounded theory has been debated for decades, with previous recommendations to delay the review now under question. Mounting evidence suggests that a preliminary review can enhance theoretical sensitivity and rigor and may lead to innovative insights. However, researchers must acknowledge the influence of prior knowledge during data analysis and theory development to avoid bias. This article critically examines the ongoing debate and recommends that we should not seek to avoid preconceptions but ensure that they are well grounded in evidence and always subject to further investigation, revision, and refutation. If used reflexively, a preliminary literature review may well enhance grounded theory research.

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