Social Research Methods Case Studies
What is a Case Study? • “A strategy for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence” (Robson, 1993, p. 146) • A Case Study may be… • Descriptive • Exploratory • Explanatory • Focussed on • Process - how was it done? • Outcome - does it work?
Types of Case Study • Individual Case Study • Stanley, the ‘jack-roller’ - Shaw. • Set of individual case studies • Three general practice surgeries compared • Community Studies • Family and Kinship in East London, The Azande in the Sudan • Social Group Studies • Outsiders - Becker on Marijuana smokers and musicians • Studies of organizations and institutions • Working for Ford - Benyon; National Front - Fielding • Studies of events, roles and relationships • Housewife - Oakley; Cuban Missile Crisis
How to plan a case study Think about… • Conceptual Framework • Research Questions • Research Design • Sampling/replication strategy • Methods and Instruments • Analysis of Data
Conceptual Framework • Displays the important features of a case study • Shows relationships between features • Makes assumptions explicit • Selective • Iterative • Based on theory • Takes account of previous research • Includes personal orientation • Includes overlaps and inconsistencies
Research Questions • Consistent with conceptual framework • Covers conceptual framework thoroughly • Structured and focussed • Answerable • Forms basis for data collection
Basic Types of Case Study Design Shaded cells are case study research designs From Gerring, John (2007) Case Study Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 28.
Replication Strategy (sometimes called sampling strategy) Literal vs. theoretical replications • Literal = more of the same • Theoretical = different, identified according to a theoretical standpoint. • Must be linked to research questions • Determines the extent to which generalisation is possible (N.B. Theoretical not statistical generalisation.)
Theoretical Replication Choose: • Actors • E.g. Men and women, MEPs from different countries, members of different pressure groups • Settings • E.g. different companies, different branches of political party, range of local authorities. • Events • E.g. Elections, selection meetings, budget group meetings, demonstrations. • Processes • E.g. Negotiating new laws, developing media strategies.
Why select a single case? • Critical case (test case) • Theory well developed. Case will confirm or refute theory. E.g. Festinger et al. When Prophesy Fails • Extreme or unique case • Common in clinical cases. E.g. Fielding - National Front • Representative or typical case • Capture the circumstances of the everyday. E.g. Lynd & Lynd - Middletown study.
Methods and Instruments • Observation • Participant observation • Ethnography • Systematic observation • Interview • Open-ended • Focussed/semi-structured • Structured • Documents/Records E.g. minutes of meetings, patient records, diaries… • Etc.
Analysis of Data • Prepare (lots of data) • May start during data collection • How will the data be organised? • What analysis strategy will you use? • Follow theoretical propositions • Develop descriptive framework
Problems for Validity • Unreliable self-report data • Unsubstantiated observations • Post-hoc, unsystematic summaries • Speculation and overgeneralization
Common pitfalls • Token literature review • Premature theorizing • Phase slippage