Australian Social Work

Vol. 65, No. 4, December 2012, pp. 504516

Using Secondary Data for Grounded Theory Analysis
Mary Whitesidea*, Jane Millsb, & Janya McCalmanb
a

La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia; bJames Cook University, Queensland, Australia

Abstract
Grounded theory is well utilised in qualitative research for building theoretical
understanding of complex social processes. Grounded theory data analysis strategies
can be used with different types of data, including secondary data. Despite the potential
advantages of secondary data, it is rarely used for grounded theory studies, largely due to
a perception that researchers are unable to follow the guidelines of this research design
with data that they themselves have not collected. This paper demonstrates the use of
secondary data in a study investigating the substantive area of Indigenous empowerment. Potential pitfalls and advantages of using grounded theory methods to analyse
secondary data are discussed, as well as factors that facilitated the analytic process in this
study. These factors included having a large data set across multiple sites and the use of
literature as a source of data. The findings provide a valuable model for combining
research and practise.
Keywords: Social Work Research; Indigenous Research; Empowerment
As part of a broader goal of increasing research output, social work is seeking models
for combining practice and research (Ryan & Sheehan, 2009). Secondary data analysis
is ‘‘a form of research in which the data collected and processed in one study are
reanalysed in a subsequent study’’ (Rubin & Babbie, 2008, p. 408). Secondary data
are derived from a range of sources including micro level program evaluations. There
are clear benefits associated with using secondary datasets in research, including
efficiencies in time, money, and other resources, and the maximisation of the use of
potentially important data that might otherwise lie dormant (Glaser, 1998; Rubin &
Babbie, 2008). Global changes in the way that research is funded and disseminated
suggest that the use of secondary data will be more widely used in the future.
Government-funded research is being considered a public asset that should be more
accessible and researchers are increasingly required to be prepared to share the
supporting data and deposit data in a repository or archive (Monash University, 2009).
Perhaps most importantly, the use of secondary data reduces research obtrusiveness

*Correspondence to: Dr. Mary Whiteside, Department of Social Work and Social Policy, La Trobe University,
Bundoora, Victoria 3068, Australia. E-mail: Mary.Whiteside@latrobe.edu.au
Accepted 29 October 2011
ISSN 0312-407X (print)/ISSN 1447-0748 (online) # 2012 Australian Association of Social Workers
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2011.645165

2006. Mills. The approach to grounded theory taken in this paper draws from the constructivist tradition. 2006). including theoretical sensitivity. Methods provide a systematic inductive process for collecting and analysing data to build middle-range theories. 2006). Theoretical sampling is important in defining the properties of categories. specifying the conditions under which they .. Strauss & Corbin. Rubin & Babbie. 1997). 2009. cultural. Grounded Theory Grounded theory is one of the most popular designs for qualitative research studies (Birks & Mills. and symbolic interactionism (Charmaz. Rather. 1998). which views knowledge and meaning as constructed through human interaction and the acknowledgement of the influence of social context (Crotty. Mills et al. and engaged in a systematic process of concurrent data generation and analysis (Ezzy.Australian Social Work 505 and decreases the burden placed on respondents (Szabo & Strang. Theoretical sampling is a process by which new data sources are identified on the basis of codes and categories developed in earlier rounds of data generation or collection (Szabo & Strang. Strauss & Corbin. Researchers come to any study with a number of assumptions but in an inductive research design such as grounded theory. 2002. Constructivism. 1967. they are continually compared with each other for similarities and differences between events and incidents. the researcher has no preconceived hypothesis to prove or disprove. 2000. including constructivism. 1998). 2000. Codes and categories are derived through a process of open coding in the first instance and subsequently categorised based on higher-order concepts (Ezzy 2002. Glaser & Strauss. 2006). was seen as most relevant for a study that aimed to explore how people exercise agency within complex historical. 2006. Methodological framing of grounded theory research can be located in a number of differing paradigms of thought.. Liamputtong. Regardless of paradigmatic differences. Theoretical sensitivity occurs when the researcher is insightful. 2009). issues of importance to the substantive area of enquiry are identified through theoretical sensitivity. Liamputtong. 27). 2008). 1997. theoretical sampling. 1998). Since Glaser and Strauss (1967) developed the original version of grounded theory methods under the influence of the postpositivistic tenor of the 1960s. 2009. ‘‘grounded’’ in participant’s experiences’ often with the aim of assisting professional practice or guiding future research (Liamputtong. 2009). (2006) have called ‘‘a spiral of methodological development’’ (p. and developing theoretical constructs (Liamputtong. Bonner & Francis. and relationship contexts.. grounded theory has evolved. constant comparison of data to data. grounded theorists base their practice on interconnected features. identifying the contexts in which they are relevant. Mills et al. political. As codes and categories are identified. Mills et al. postmodernism. open to theoretical leads. in what Mills et al. 2011. This constant comparison of data facilitates the ongoing process of theoretical sampling whereby precise information is sought to shed light on areas that constitute gaps and holes in the developing theory (Charmaz.

Grounded theory can be used with different types of data. it may be necessary to seek additional consent from research participants for the analysis of data generated in an additional study. meaning that new data are not sparking new insights nor revealing new properties of each of these (Charmaz. .506 M. despite the benefits of secondary data and its growing use in research (Rubin & Babbie. and their consequences (Charmaz. 1997). 2006. websites. data ‘‘fit’’. There may be weaknesses in the original research design. Birks & Mills. Ezzy. Issues of concern include the ethics of the secondary study. Glaser & Strauss. If the primary research process has not been well documented. However.. and secondary datasets. The quality of data for secondary analysis may be problematic for a range of reasons. 2003. Specific to grounded theory is the question of whether the use secondary data limits the use of methods associated with this approach. 1998). If reuse of the data is contrary to the original contract. Of primary concern when undertaking secondary analysis are ethical issues. and. 2008). 2003. as well as Glaser and Strauss’ inclusive interpretation of appropriate sources of data for grounded theory studies that includes secondary datasets (Glaser. 1998). which may or may not be feasible (Heaton. Szabo & Strang. Glaser & Strauss. In a grounded theory study. 2006. contemporary data sources such as video/DVD recordings. arise. While Rubin and Babbie (2008) suggested that proposing to use previously collected data may expedite ethical approval because ethical concerns regarding data collection may be avoided. it is interesting to note that it is rarely used by grounded theorists (Birks & Mills. literature. Data may be outdated or some data or information may be missing (Alston & Bowles. Strauss & Corbin. including: numerical data. and therefore. Mills et al. 1998. 2011. the researcher may not even be able to assess the quality of procedures used to originally collect and analyse the data (Rubin & Babbie. are maintained. 2008). 2008. Using Secondary Data Concerns have been voiced in relation to the use of secondary data. 1967). A key aim of this paper is to explore potential reasons for this anomaly and suggest a way forward for grounded theorists considering the use of secondary data as their primary source. 2008). Rubin & Babbie. the quality of the data. 2000. focus group transcripts. interview transcripts. Whiteside et al. 1998). Rubin & Babbie. 2002). and vary. some of which relate broadly to its use in qualitative research and some of which relate specifically to the application of grounded theory methods. and the nature of the relationship between the researcher and the data. more recently. including the data collection methods used (Alston & Bowles. 2007. Marlow. 2006. the researcher also needs to consider whether the reuse of data breaches the contract made between the primary researchers and the research subjects (Heaton. the possibilities for theory construction. 1967. data generation and analysis only finishes when the researcher is satisfied that each category that constitutes the theory is saturated. 2011).

Where the researcher is close to the primary dataset. p. there are benefits in regard to knowing the context of the study but also risks in regard to the potential for the researcher to develop a ‘‘premature certainty about a phenomenon that may be present in the data set’’ (Hinds et al. 1997). Both closeness and distance of the researcher can have potential benefits and disadvantages (Hinds. 2011. an empowerment program designed by and for Indigenous Australians. Further. If the research question posed in the secondary study is not sufficiently different from the original study. This lack of fit may relate to the philosophical perspective and aims of the original researcher. 420). p. The following section presents the aims and objectives of the Empowerment Research Program in which both the primary and secondary studies are located.. 420). Both the original program evaluations and the grounded theory study occurred under the umbrella of the broader James Cook University Empowerment Research Program. Szabo & Strang. 1997. which will have influenced the nature of data they have gathered and may not be congruent with the approach used in the secondary study (Birks & Mills. Where the researcher is more distant. the researcher is less likely to have ‘‘firm or fixed ideas about the phenomena in the data set’’ (Hinds et al. As a consequence of both these issues. & Clarke-Steffen. 1997).. For the researcher.Australian Social Work 507 Data fit may represent difficulties. 1998. . Addressing the Challenges: A Grounded Theory Analysis of a Secondary Dataset The following study to develop theoretical understanding of empowerment in the context of Indigenous Australia provides one example of how some of the challenges associated with using secondary data might be addressed. the data may not be of sufficient fit to be compatible with the new research question or area of substantive enquiry (Heaton. The nature of the relationship between the ‘‘researcher and the researched’’ (Heaton. In contrast. but may lack sensitivity to the study context and the necessary inter-subjective relationship between the researcher and the researched (Heaton. Szabo & Strang. The data used for the study was originally collected for the purposes of evaluating the Family Wellbeing program. Using secondary data means that theoretical sampling occurs within the confines of a preexisting dataset (Birks & Mills. Szabo & Strang. grounded theory methods may be difficult to apply in secondary analysis. there may little value in undertaking a secondary analysis of the same dataset. theoretical sampling requires the researcher to undertake simultaneous targeted data collection and analysis. questions may be raised in this process for which answers are difficult to find or leads may be generated but attempts to follow these may be stymied by the restrictions of the dataset. as it was administered in four different Australian sites. For example. data saturation of categories may not be possible and gaps may exist in the final theoretical construction (Birks & Mills. Vogel. 1998). 2011). 1998) can present additional challenges to the credibility of a study involving secondary data analysis. 1997) resulting in a poorly integrated grounded theory. 1997). 2011.

In essence. Micro level evaluations of the Family Wellbeing program took place in sites across Australia. Data were collected from 47 of 116 Family Wellbeing program participants in two rural and two remote Australian sites. six to 12 months after completing the program.). were identified as case studies for research (Aboriginal Education Development Branch. including the Family Wellbeing program. from the level of chief investigator through to employment of local Indigenous community-based researchers (Mayo. and others not professionally trained. were addressed. researcher closeness. This presented a potential study limitation because respondents were not necessarily the most disadvantaged in their communities. and theoretical sampling. Short. data quality. data fit. & the Empowerment Research Program Team. Partnership between Indigenous and non Indigenous researchers was central to how the team functioned and was reflected in the team’s composition. Established Indigenous initiatives and programs. Focus is then given to the secondary study in order to examine the ways in which some of the research design challenges commonly associated with using secondary data in grounded theory studies.508 M. Rather than the university-based Empowerment Research Program team constructing their own programs to test. Whiteside et al. Information is provided about the nature of the study data. The team included a range of different professionals. The first author conducted the grounded theory study used to illustrate the arguments posed in this paper and the story of how it evolved will be told in first person. The data took the form of reflective diaries and transcripts generated from interviews undertaken with participants. a deliberate decision was made to seek to understand empowerment through programs initiated by Indigenous Australians themselves. and social scientists. nurses.and long-term objectives. who were able to be located and agreed to be interviewed. namely to determine the utility of this program to engage and support individuals and groups to take greater control for their health and wellbeing. to meet one of the short-term objectives of the Empowerment Research Program. Tsey. This 10-year research program had been developed in order to explore the role and contribution of empowerment as a social determinant of health within the context of Indigenous Australia. all had experienced considerable adversity in life and in . Also considered is the use of literature to strengthen the research. The Empowerment Research Program At the time of undertaking the study. such as social workers. 2002). a four-stage personal and community development program. between 1999 and 2003. namely ethics. 2009). I was working within the James Cook University Empowerment Research Program. Participants’ ages ranged between 20 and 60 years and the majority were employed within helping or service roles or identified as parents or members of men’s and women’s groups. developed by the Empowerment Research Program team. the Empowerment Research Program team was what Christie (2006) defined as transdisciplinary. were developed in partnership with Indigenous groups and organisations (see Table 1. however.

. Determine the utility of empowerment interventions as tools to engage and support individuals and groups in Indigen ous settings to take greater control for their health and wellbeing Develop appropriate in-depth qualitative tools to monitor and assess the nature of empowerment interventions. as well as the range of contextual issues that may arise in implement such interventions To develop a theoretical model identifying pathways of empowerment for Indigenous Australians Determine the medium-longer sustainability of empowerment interventions and devise appropriate strategies to promote sustainability Identify the skills. unemployment. their acceptability and effectiveness in a variety of settings. and international significance to the knowledge of evidence based approaches that engage and support individuals and groups to take greater control and responsibility for their health and wellbeing the evaluation discussed the profound impact of wide-ranging difficulties on their lives. In addition to the Family Wellbeing program evaluation questions that specifically related to their impressions of the program. and policy levels Develop a critical mass of interdisciplinary empowerment and community development research expertise from grassroots levels through to doctoral and postdoctoral levels Make contributions of local. and wider community life. family violence. . more specifically in Indigenous communities experiencing high levels of alcohol misuse. . People were open and honest. . Develop appropriate measurement tools to quantify the efficacy of empowerment interventions Assess the role and usefulness of empowerment interventions. the stories people told resonated with theoretical understandings of empowerment in international . and support needs for local Indigenous communitybased empowerment research facilitators and best practice models of organising and providing such support Medium. workplace. revealing very personal information. . They appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Family Wellbeing program and to learn skills to help them better manage their own life situations and to help others.Australian Social Work 509 Table 1 Empowerment Research Program Short and Medium to Longer Term Objectives Short-term objectives . . respondents were asked how they had used the Family Wellbeing program skills and knowledge in their family. training. . organisational. . . These evaluation data were very rich. national. and limited opportunities for gainful employment Explore potential of empowerment interventions as tools to enhance chronic disease management and prevention Develop frameworks to undertake appropriate economic evaluation of complex empowerment interventions Determine the possibilities and limitations of empowerment interventions as tools addressing health inequalities at population levels Develop best practice approaches to collaborative working relationships between academic researchers and relevant stakeholders that would promote the concept of empowerment at community.to longer-term objectives . While the focus of the responses was on the efficacy and impact of the Family Wellbeing program. . Most people expressed concern about the difficulties in their workplaces and communities and the problems they had witnessed in other families. .

2000). 2003. She learnt not to ‘‘lash out’’ during quarrels but to step back and take a more conciliatory approach. Her family and community relationships improved as a result. These data contained multiple stories associated with people’s ability to understand or bring about changes in situations that concerned or distressed them. 2008. sustainability and transferability. Whiteside et al. a study that aimed to develop theoretical understanding of empowerment was designed. She trained to be a program facilitator and ran the program in her . Further. Whiteside et al. benefit. Ruby was quick to apply her new understandings to family and community issues. Ruby (mother of eight children and grandmother of five) was employed at her local community-controlled health centre.. people’s stories of how they had used the knowledge they gained from program participation in their lives was assumed to intrinsically contain rich information about the nature of empowerment. This became an important dataset. 2011). An additional short-term objective of the Empowerment Research Program was to develop a theoretical model to identify pathways of empowerment for Indigenous Australians (see Table 1). She was attracted to the Family Wellbeing program because she held a personal wish to develop a similar program. The existing micro level evaluation data of the Family Wellbeing program were viewed as a highly relevant dataset in the secondary study undertaken. & Earles. who experience being one of the most researched groups historically (Fredericks. The rationale for this objective was that while empowerment is well recognised as important for understanding the experience of groups who have been oppressed and disenfranchised and is viewed in international policy literature as highly relevant for Indigenous cultures experiencing social and health inequalities. Tsey. empowerment as a concept had received inadequate research attention in the Indigenous Australian environment. Zimmerman. 2011). Reduced research burden is of particular significance in the case of research with vulnerable populations such as Australian Indigenous peoples. and significance (NHMRC. both those of their own and of others. it is also considered to be context and population specific (WHO Commission for Social Determinants of Health. With greater skills and more confidence. thus. building capacity. 2006). While the focus of these data was on the efficacy of a particular program. priority. literature (Whiteside. the use of an existing dataset would reduce the need for further respondent burden. The secondary grounded theory study that is the subject of this paper utilised the 47 dairies and interviews as a secondary dataset. not only due to the richness of the data but also because of the extent to which it addressed all of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2003) criteria for health and medical research of Indigenous Australians of community engagement. Examples of the stories people told in their diaries and interviews provided some insight into the nature of the stories for analysis. At the commencement of the primary study. She put careful thought into how to encourage others in her family and community to participate in the Family Wellbeing program.510 M. She found that Family Wellbeing built on and broadened her existing skills and knowledge and helped her to develop a more positive attitude to life’s challenges. Ruby took on a leadership role in her community.

Ruby did not find these new roles easy at first. these related to the fit of the data to the secondary research question and the extent to which the grounded theory methods could be applied to an existing dataset.Australian Social Work 511 community. the use of the data for the purposes of program evaluation and also to build broader understanding of empowerment. 1997). 1998) and provided a clear audit trail to follow.. 2006. Ostensibly. Szabo & Strang. there were a number of challenges that remained. As I am not Indigenous. and its clear analytic guidelines (Charmaz. placing people’s experiences at the centre of the study.. Data Quality My embeddedness in the original research team made access to the data easier. Although I had not been involved in collecting all of the Family Wellbeing program evaluation data. In particular. Mills et al. Rather than risk breaching the original contract made between the primary researchers and the research subjects (Heaton. It was anticipated at the outset that the Family Wellbeing program evaluation data may provide opportunities for subsequent synthesis of findings across sites to build theoretical knowledge. 2009). She became a key member of a housing action group that emanated from her Family Wellbeing program training group and sought to address the acute shortage of housing in her community. The data were analysed using a constructivist grounded theory approach. I was confident in the nature and quality of the data because of my contribution to the original research design. Increasingly. including the philosophical premises of the study and some data collection. as the aim of the secondary study was to examine the . gaps in demographic data or the location of information) I was able to consult the relevant team member to locate the necessary information (Szabo & Strang. Ethical approval for this approach was obtained from four ethics committees: the university ethics review committee as well as health ethics committees in each of the program sites. Ethics Ethical issues associated with both the primary and secondary study were a priority consideration and planned for in the initial conceptualisation of the Empowerment Research Program. 1998. 1998). 1997). she saw herself as someone with the capacity to help and lead others (Whiteside. She had to overcome shyness and nervousness and force herself to be ‘‘out there’’. But once ‘‘there’’. Data Fit Even though many of the barriers that other grounded theorists might face had been circumvented because of my history with the original research study. chosen because of its focus on exploring multiple realities. the data were a good fit (Heaton.g. participants were informed. systematic processes were put in place to minimise the impact of culturally-based misinterpretation. as she had in the primary study. 2006). An Indigenous chief investigator of the Empowerment Research Program undertook to play the role of Indigenous cultural mentor. she found she liked it and felt good about herself. Where there were gaps in information (e. methodological and data-collection procedures were well documented (Heaton. and consented to.

Whiteside. that the new research question. ‘‘what do the data tell me about empowerment for this group of people’’ (as opposed to ‘‘what do the data tell me about the Family Wellbeing program’’) remained at the forefront of analysis. These life changes involved people exercising greater choice and control of their life. One man spoke of spending more time with his family doing ‘‘things that we never been doing . 1997). while the second study involved building theory. Whiteside. One woman addressed her drinking: ‘‘I used to drink a lot [but now] I don’t drink that much. McCalman.. (1997) identified risks associated with being both too close and too distant to the primary data. . Mills et al. . and scrutinising. . Closeness to the Data Hinds et al. The original study sought to evaluate a specific program within different contexts. Tsey. relationships. I needed to ensure. Most research involves having a prior knowledge of at least the literature associated with the field. concept of empowerment. develop a grounded theory of empowerment. Tsey. and the risk of importing preconceived ideas and imposing these on your work (Charmaz. . the hazard for the most part involved being potentially too close. . In order to achieve this goal of breaking new theoretical ground. . Caution had to be exercised in the secondary analysis to avoid replicating the program evaluation and. a coparticipant of Family Wellbeing program. at times. 2000. a housing action group initiated a mediated settlement with traditional owners for land for housing development. 2011). which formed the substantive area of enquiry of the primary study. if not the data itself. The data provided rich descriptions of transformative life changes. strengthening personal growth. now that I’ve stopped drinking. & Wilson.. and community change. I knew many 1 Pseudonyms are used throughout to protect privacy. 2006. going down to the beach*going fishing’’. & Gibson. the focus of the two studies was different. and a participatory action researcher supporting related community projects. taking my family out . In this study. My relationship with the study participants and the data was also a source of strength.. Although I needed to strike a balance between empathising with. and negotiated the release of funding for housing construction (Whiteside et al. 2006).512 M. However. I brought to the research a subtle and nuanced depth of knowledge of the Family Wellbeing program and many of the participants. This was particularly the case at three of the four study sites where I was. a program evaluator. I found this to be a constant challenge when attempting to remain open to theoretical leads in the data. I’ve got things to buy for children’’ (Rose1. which had been analysed in the original study as indicative that empowerment had occurred (Tsey & Every. vigilantly. This is a challenge faced in many research studies. 2006). I risked bringing my own assumptions. instead. Whiteside et al. Site 2). . being uncritical and too certain about phenomena in the data (Hinds et al. A healing centre was established in one community. a program trainer. I needed to consciously place my own assumptions aside and attempt to take a fresh view of the data. which facilitated my understanding of the experiences of the study respondents. Cadet-James. In another community. 2003. Deemal. the data (Hodkinson. 2005).

despite a range of possible pitfalls (Whiteside et al. which varied in relation to location. this related to an issue of language. size. To some extent. adding depth and quality to the research (Hodkinson. One man described himself as ‘‘one of those fellas that’s proud. its wide-reaching currency across disciplines. . 2005). the substantive literature review for my study occurred after open and intermediate coding of the secondary dataset had occurred. I was able to overcome this constraint in the following ways. Because of the inductive nature of grounded theory. I’m not a ‘half caste’ but a person of ‘Aboriginal descent’’’. Firstly. I’m just happy. I compared the categories and their properties in different contexts and under different conditions and found that the emerging theory held true. I stopped to reflect on the story that the codes and initial categories were telling me. 1997).Australian Social Work 513 of the respondents as individuals and the trusting and cooperative relationships I had with them helped to reduce the constraints of my ethnicity and social position. The Use of Literature During the process of concurrent data collection and analysis. There was a rich and growing body of literature examining the elements of empowerment. I theoretically sampled interview data until data saturation was reached in each of the categories that constituted my grounded theory. Terms such as social and . 2002. gaining a sense of the theory that was emerging. Pride was evident in this reflection from a woman in a different site: ‘‘[I am] very strong about who I am . Theoretical Sampling There remained the challenge of being unable to theoretically sample and follow theoretical leads by undertaking additional interviews with study respondents. while dimensionalising them in relation to context. Further opportunities for theoretical sampling were provided by my access to data from multiple sites. Initial sampling was purposive and occurred on the basis of accessing the richest data for open coding. particular personal beliefs and attitudes were a vital element of empowerment across sites and gender and included self-pride. the literature was used as an additional source of comparative data. After coding and writing summaries of the first 10 interviews in this first site. However. I undertook an extensive review of the literature on empowerment in both the Australian and international context. I coded and categorised this data.. and the potential for empowerment approaches to be transformative. 2011). At this stage. despite empowerment being considered a relevant concept for Indigenous cultures who were experiencing social and health inequalities. assuming this was where the richest data lay. the secondary dataset was of sufficient size and depth to enable a high degree of theoretical sampling and the development of theory with sufficient density of categories and properties to construct grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss. Szabo & Strang. little was written specifically about empowerment within the Indigenous Australian context. and gender make-up. . For example. I commenced with the site where the Family Wellbeing program was most comprehensively implemented and evaluated. I’m me’’. Goulding. 1967.

social. . 2007. & Travers. & Tsey. to strengthen the review I included these bodies of literature. Therefore. For example. Study Outcome This secondary study resulted in the development of a theoretical model that delineated interconnected and mutually reinforcing elements of empowerment for Indigenous Australians. for the most part. cultural. and political context. Campbell. 2009. Conclusion In this grounded theory study. communities. I was able to demonstrate that the emergent theory resonated closely with international literature addressing empowerment. Whiteside et al. Kildae & Yow Yeh. Kitau. I was also able to draw on the findings of further Family Wellbeing program micro level evaluations that had occurred since the time the original data used in this study were collected. Tsey. The elements involve particular beliefs and attitudes. However. 2006). it was possible to address and minimise these potential limitations while simultaneously reducing the burden on respondents. thereby clarifying its contribution to the body of knowledge about Australian Indigenous peoples’ empowerment (Charmaz. Social workers frequently have access to secondary data. resiliency. 2000). Where differences were evident.. including program evaluation data collected as part of best practice. and knowledge that enable people to exercise agency and bring about the changes or achievements most important for their situation. existing program evaluation data were successfully used to enhance theoretical knowledge of an important and potentially transformative construct for change. skills. This work has important implications for social workers looking for models to combine research and practice. The resultant grounded theory model provides a useful framework for social workers and other professional groups seeking to effectively work alongside Indigenous groups. McEwan. 2010. both in Australia and in a pilot study in Papua New Guinea (McCalman. indicative of the historical. and organisations (Whiteside et al. A close examination of the usage of each of these terms revealed commonality with the concept of empowerment literature. Whiteside. 2005. 2011). Feeney. & Whiteside. 2008. McCarthy. Tsey. Kitau. Tsey. although none of these terms had an extensive literature base in their own right. which can provide a valuable data source for further research studies. McEwan. emotional wellbeing. healing. McCalman.514 M. and the Empowerment Research Team. While real challenges were present in the use of a research design combining secondary data and grounded theory methods. McCalman. and community development appeared in the literature (Calma. & McGinty. In addition. Tsey. 2011). Pyett. The literature helped me to compare and clarify ideas for theory development and where themes were congruent they served to authenticate the emergent theory. these were. it was evident that understandings of empowerment needed to be modified in the context of Indigenous Australia. in press. I was able to determine where the theory extended the literature.

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