Article of the month May: Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research

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    If you read this article, tell us what you thought

    Roger Cowell

    I read this article recently while researching for my Masters dissertation, and found Flyberg’s considerations very helpful when I was considering dropping a case-study of my own work-place. Flyberg’s arguments nearly convinced me, but I decided that my planning was flawed and took inadequate account of the difficulties of ‘insider’ research, and presented some data as structured, descriptive observations. It’s well-worth reading if you are looking at qualitative methodology.

    Gavin Melles

    Discusses the following
    Misunderstanding 1: General, theoretical (context-independent) knowledge is
    more valuable than concrete, practical (context-dependent) knowledge.
    Misunderstanding 2: One cannot generalize on the basis of an individual case;
    therefore, the case study cannot contribute to scientific development.
    Misunderstanding 3: The case study is most useful for generating hypotheses; that
    is, in the first stage of a total research process, whereas other methods are more
    suitable for hypotheses testing and theory building.
    Misunderstanding 4: The case study contains a bias toward verification, that is, a
    tendency to confirm the researcher’s preconceived notions.
    Misunderstanding 5: It is often difficult to summarize and develop general propositions
    and theories on the basis of specific case studies.

    It is amazing that after 50+ years of use of case study that it remains questionable. One of the problems in some applied fields, business, management etc., is that case study often just means an illustrative example rather than a researched object

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