Basic Social Processes

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Barney G. Glaser
Judith Holton


The goal of grounded theory is to generate a theory that accounts for a pattern of behavior that is relevant and problematic for those involved. The goal is not voluminous description, nor clever verification. As with all grounded theory, the generation of a basic social process (BSP) theory occurs around a core category. While a core category is always present in a grounded research study, a BSP may not be.

BSPs are ideally suited to generation by grounded theory from qualitative research because qualitative research can pick up process through fieldwork that continues over a period of time. BSPs are a delight to discover and formulate since they give so much movement and scope to the analyst's perception of the data. BSPs such as cultivating, defaulting, centering, highlighting or becoming, give the feeling of process, change and movement over time. They also have clear, amazing general implications; so much so, that it is hard to contain them within the confines of a single substantive theory. The tendency is to refer to them as a formal theory without the necessary comparative development of formal theory. They are labeled by a “gerund”(“ing”) which both stimulate their generation and the tendency to overgeneralize them.

In this paper, we shall first discuss the search for, and criteria of, core variables (categories) and how they relate to BSPs. Then we go on to a section on several central characteristics of basic social processes. Lastly, we discuss the relative merits of unit vs. process sociology.


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How to Cite
Glaser, B., & Holton, J. (2023). Basic Social Processes. Grounded Theory Review, 22(2), 69–102. Retrieved from


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