Sep 27, 2012

Case study research

A short note on case study research (from “Case study research: Design and methods” by R. K. Yin):

Case studies are good for “how” and “why” questions, when the researcher has little control over events and the events happen in real-life context. Case study approach allows to retain the holistic character of a complex situation.

Common tendency among different types of case studies: it seeks to illuminate a decision (or a set of decisions), e.g., why they were made, how they were implemented, and with what result. Other tendencies: focus on communities, processes, events.

Definition:
a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a phenomenon within a real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clear. Case studies rely on multiple sources of evidence with data needing to converge in a triangulating fashion. Case studies benefit from the prior development of theoretical propositions to guide data collection and analysis.

Data for case studies comes from many sources of evidence. Most important are documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation (site visits), participant observation and physical artifacts.

Three principles of data collection:

  • using multiple sources of evidence (triangulation of data, investigators, perspectives, methods)
  • creating a case study database (to store all the materials for many case studies in an organized manner)
  • maintaining a chain of evidence (keeping information on how the study moved from one stage to the other, e.g., from study questions to study protocols)