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CASE STUDY RESEARCH

An Introduction

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WHY CASE STUDY RESEARCH?

The case study method is amongst the most


flexible of research designs, and is particularly
useful in researching issues related to
sustainability and institutional systems. It
incorporates a number of data-gathering
strategies: document analysis, surveys,
participant or non-participant observation,
and participatory or action research.
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WHY CASE STUDY RESEARCH? [contd]

Case study research can serve a variety of


functions: exploratory (enabling researchers to
get a feeling for potentially important variables
and to describe phenomena in the appropriate
contextual setting), for testing hypotheses or
theories (relating to cause and effect in a quasi-
experimental fashion), and for policy analysis
(teasing out prescriptions for action).

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TYPES OF CASE STUDIES

Most Favourable: to illustrate a theory and


show it in a positive light
Exceptional: to validate or falsify a
hypothesis by choosing a least favourable
case
Critical Case: using a case to show the
limitations of previous theories and other
factors that might be operating.
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GENERALIZING FROM CASES

Ones ability to generalize from case


studies increases with the number of case
studies. However, one way to overcome
the limitations of a small number of cases
is to choose ones that have the greatest
variety of characteristics, and that
encompass a range of extremes.

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FOCUSES OF STUDY

Case studies are classified according to the


focus of study. This can include:
Individuals
Communities
Social groups
Organizations and institutions, and
Events, roles, relationships, and interactions.
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PROBLEM OF CASE STUDY RESEARCH

Ideally, one should avoid studying an issue solely


from the perspective of one stakeholder.
Case study researchers are often guilty of two
additional errors: 1) presenting a mass of
indigestible data, or 2) only presenting the
conclusions without showing the logical
inferences from evidence that make those
conclusions possible. Researchers should try to be
both selective and systematic.
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TRIANGULATION

There are different kinds of triangulation (ways


of trapping the answers):
Methodological (different types of research
methods)
Data (different types of data, or replication)
Investigator (using more than one), and
Theoretical (using different theoretical
frameworks).
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CONSTRUCT VALIDITY

This is establishing correct operational


measures for the things being studied. To
meet the test of construct validity, an
investigator must be sure to 1) select the
specific types of changes that are to be studied
and 2) demonstrate that the selected measures
of these changes do indeed reflect the specific
types of changes that have been selected.
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CONSTRUCT VALIDITY [contd]

There are a number of strategies for ensuring


construct validity:
Using multiple sources of evidence to see if
they converge
Building a sold chain of evidence
Circulating a case study report to key
informants for them to review for accuracy.

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INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL VALIDITY

Internal validity involves establishing a causal


relationship between factors or variables;
causality is not the same as correlation
External validity involves establishing the
domain to which ones studies can be
generalized. Unless one is studying a large
number of cases, the ability to generalize is
based on analytical, not statistical, grounds.
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RELIABILITY
Reliability involves demonstrating that the operations of
a study, such as data collection procedures, can be
repeated with the same results (i.e. would a different
researcher, using the same methods, reach the same
conclusions?)
To allay concerns, one documents the steps undertaken
and keeps proper records for instance, transcribing
interviews and explaining how one coded the results.
However, no matter how linear one tries to be, there is
always a certain amount of doubling back.

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RSEOURCES ON CASE STUDY
RESEARCH
Applications of Case Study Research
by Robert K. Yin (Sage Publications,
2012).
Research Design: Successful Designs
for Social Economics Research by
Catherine Hakim (Routledge, 2012).

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