Application of a Case Study Methodology
The Qualitative Report, Volume 3, Number 3, September, 1997
In the preceding article (Tellis, 1997), the goals and objectives were presented and explained in detail. In this article, the methodology to accomplish those goals and objectives will be examined. The reader will become familiar with the specific techniques that are used in the current study, and supported by the literature that was reviewed in the previous article. That methodology will follow the recommendation of Yin (1994) and has four stages:
Design the case study,
Conduct the case study,
Analyze the case study evidence, and
Develop the conclusions, recommendations and implications.
The article begins with an introduction, that includes some of the background information that is intended to inform the reader. Following that section, each step of the methodology will be explored in detail. Finally a summary will connect all the information in a concise manner.
Case study is an ideal methodology when a holistic, in-depth investigation is needed (Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991). Case studies have been used in varied investigations, particularly in sociological studies, but increasingly, in instruction. Yin, Stake, and others who have wide experience in this methodology have developed robust procedures. When these procedures are followed, the researcher will be following methods as well developed and tested as any in the scientific field. Whether the study is experimental or quasi-experimental, the data collection and analysis methods are known to hide some details (Stake, 1995). Case studies, on the other hand, are designed to bring out the details from the viewpoint of the participants by using multiple sources of data.
Yin (1993) has identified some specific types of case studies: Exploratory, Explanatory, and Descriptive. Stake (1995) included three others: Intrinsic - when the researcher has an interest in the case; Instrumental - when the case is used to understand more than what is obvious to the observer; Collective - when a group of cases is studied. Exploratory cases are sometimes considered as a prelude to social research. Explanatory case studies may be used for doing causal investigations. Descriptive cases require a descriptive theory to be developed before starting the project. Pyecha (1988) used this methodology in a special education study, using a pattern-matching procedure. In all of the above types of case studies, there can be single-case or multiple-case applications.
Case study research is not sampling research; that is a fact asserted by all the major researchers in the field, including Yin, Stake, Feagin and others. However, selecting cases must be done so as to maximize what can be learned in the period of time available for the study.
The unit of analysis is a critical factor in the case study. It is typically a system of action rather than an individual or group of individuals. Case studies tend to be selective, focusing on one or two issues that are fundamental to understanding the system being examined.
Case studies are multi-perspectival analyses. This means that the researcher considers not just the voice and perspective of the actors, but also of the relevant groups of actors and the interaction between them. This one aspect is a salient point in the characteristic that case studies possess. They give a voice to the powerless and voiceless. When sociological investigations present many studies of the homeless and powerless, they do so from the viewpoint of the "elite" (Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991).
Case study is known as a triangulated research strategy. Snow and Anderson (cited in Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991) asserted that triangulation can occur with data,...
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