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Grounded theory qualitative research is a powerful method of practice, particularly for researchers aiming to explore complex processes through the perspectives and experiences of others. Grounded theory is also a powerful method of practice for researchers seeking to deepen a field of study in which the literature is thin and few theories exist. However, grounded theory is an often-overlooked research method, perhaps due to its inherent messiness. The purpose of this article is to demystify grounded theory practices by walking the reader through a grounded theory study conducted by the author in the field of media arts education. The study’s findings led to the development of The Theory of Dispositions in Filmmaking, which will be used to illustrate the data analysis process. The article will describe the process of moving from raw qualitative data to open, axial, and selective codes. The study will also demonstrate how techniques such as sketching can be used to develop figures and diagrams in order to draw connections between codes and cultivate the data’s visual narrative. Providing readers with an example of grounded theory methods in practice, specifically in the field of media arts education, will hopefully encourage additional studies in the realm of media arts research and education leadership, while also illustrating the methodological process for researchers new to grounded theory.

Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2020


Grounded theory, methods, inclusive filmmaking, media arts education, disposition, Australia


Art Education | Education | Educational Leadership | Humane Education


Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson, Ed.D., is a filmmaker and media arts education researcher. K-Nelson has screened her films at venues such as the Walker Art Center, the D.C. National Museum for Women in the Arts, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Slamdance, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. K-Nelson was a Fulbright Scholar to Iceland in 2005, and was a 2007 Bush Artist Fellow. K-Nelson was named the 2014 Minnesota CASE Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. She is a co-founding member of EDIT Media (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Teaching Media). Her research interests include accessible filmmaking, inclusive films, media arts education, and education leadership. She is currently a Professor of Film at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Methods in Practice: Grounded Theory in Media Arts Education Research