Purpose – This paper aims to analyse the manner in which “objectivist” grounded theory methodology has progressively developed since 1967 and how it has been employed by management researchers.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper traces the methodological development of grounded theory with particular emphasis on the variations, contradictions and modifications to the methodology both between and within the Glaserian and Straussian Schools. Totally 32 empirical grounded theory studies published in the management literature since 2002 are analysed in order to gauge the impact of these variations on the manner in which researchers have employed the grounded theory methodology.
Findings – It is argued that grounded theory in management research is in danger of losing its integrity. The methodology has become so pliant that management researchers appear to have accepted it as a situation of “anything goes” “Grounded theory” is now loosely used as a generic term to refer to any qualitative approach in which an inductive analysis is grounded in data.
Originality/value – It could be argued that grounded theory cannot continue to be regarded as a moving target, or to be practised as a free-for-all methodology in management research, without risking serious danger of becoming irrelevant. Three suggestions are offered for restoring more discipline into grounded theory studies.