Without doubt the inclusion of grounded theory processes has taken modern day accident investigation forward to a position where it is able to supply all levels of management with soundly based academically credible data. The move away from the old fashioned ‘tree’ style investigative packages has resulted in a better understanding of underlying causation and the process where all the different facets of the accident causation process culminate in the loss event.
The key maxim of ‘grounded theory’ is to gather the data and then let the theory of causation evolve naturally from it. In the past investigators have used a process where from the minimum of data the formulate a hypothesis and then they use the investigative process to test to see whether circumstances fit their theory. In some instances they even use complicated tree style charts that restrict their selection of hypothesis forcing them to examine particular facts whilst ignoring other more subtile routes of failure. In modern day investigation investigators are expected to be able to gather data, code it, identify key groups of concepts and from this generate theory. Old maxims such as ‘stick to the facts’ have been shown to be unsound as it has now been realised that investigators are not trying to prove or disprove the commission of an offence but to identify the more subtile reasoning behind why something has taken place.
Russell J and Cohn R., cite Allan A in their publication Grounded Theory ((2012) Lennex Corp Edinburgh)
Grounded theory is a research method, which operates almost in a reverse fashion from traditional research and at first may appear to be in contradiction to the scientific method. rather than beginning with a hypothesis, the first step is data collection, through a variety of methods. From the data collected, the key points are marked with a series of codes, which are extracted from the text. the codes are grouped into similar concepts in order to make them more workable. From these concepts categories are formed, which are the basis for the creation of theory, or a reverse engineered hypothesis. This contradicts the traditional model of research, where the researcher chooses a theoretical framework, and then only applies the model to the phenomenon to be studied.
All the accident investigation courses run by Kinaston Associates Ltd. use this process as the basis for developing causation theory. Within the UK this process is carried out utilising statement recording processes which mean that not only is the finished item to be considered academically sound but it also has legal credibility when identifying exposure from both civil and criminal perspectives.