Doing the right thing or doing the thing right: implications of participant withdrawal

Andrea Stevenson Thorpe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses implications of participant withdrawal for inductive research. I describe and analyze how a third of my participants withdrew from a grounded theory study. I position my example, ensuing issues, and potential solutions as reflective of inductive methodologies as a whole. The crux of the problem is the disruption inflicted by withdrawal on inductive processes of generating knowledge. I examine the subsequent methodological and ethical issues in trying to determine the best course of action following withdrawal. I suggest three potential options for researchers: Continuing the study with partial data, continuing the study with all data, and discontinuing the study. Motivated by my experience, and wider theoretical considerations, I present several suggestions and questions, with the aim of supporting researchers in determining the best course of action for their individual field circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-277
Number of pages23
JournalOrganizational Research Methods
Issue number3
Early online date17 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2014


  • ethics in research
  • grounded theory
  • interviewing
  • qualitative research


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