Single case study research methodology

Using selected examples from within the International Relations literature[1], this paper aims to provide a brief overview of the main principles and distinctive advantages and limitations of single case study analysis. Divided into three inter-related sections, the paper therefore begins by first identifying the underlying principles that serve to constitute the case study as a particular research strategy, noting the somewhat contested nature of the approach in ontological, epistemological, and methodological terms. The final section of the paper then discusses the most commonly articulated limitations of single case studies; while accepting their susceptibility to criticism, it is however suggested that such weaknesses are somewhat exaggerated.

Single case study research methodology

Introduction Case study research has grown in reputation as an effective methodology to investigate and understand complex issues in real world settings. Case study designs have been used across a number of disciplines, particularly the social sciences, education, business, law, and health, to address a wide range of research Single case study research methodology.

Consequently, over the last 40 years, Single case study research methodology the application of a variety of methodological approaches, case study research has undergone substantial development. Change and progress have stemmed from parallel influences from historical approaches to research and individual researcher's preferences, perspectives on, and interpretations of case study research.

Central to these variations is the underpinning ontological and epistemological orientations of those involved in the evolution of case study research. Researchers who have contributed to the development of case study research come from diverse disciplines and their philosophical underpinnings have created variety and diversity in approaches used.

Consequently, various designs have been proposed for preparing, planning, and conducting case study research with advice on key considerations for achieving success.

Single case study research methodology

As a result, while case study research has evolved to be a pragmatic, flexible research approach, the variation in definition, application, validity, and purposefulness can create a confusing platform for its use. We begin with an overview of the history and evolution of case study research, followed by a discussion of the methodological and philosophical variations found within case study designs.

We end with a summary of the common characteristics of case study research and a table that brings together the fundamental elements that we found common in all case study approaches to research.

Sociologists and anthropologists investigated people's lives, experiences, and how they understood the social and cultural context of their world, with the aim of gaining insight into how individuals interpreted and attributed meaning to their experiences and constructed their worlds JOHANSSON, ; SIMONS, Such investigations were conducted in the natural setting of those experiences with results presented descriptively or as a narrative MERRIAM, As a result, surveys, experiments, and statistical methods anchored in quantitative approaches were favored and considered more rigorous than qualitative designs JOHANSSON, The dominance of research using experimental designs continued through the s and s with quantitative empirical results considered to be gold standard evidence.

Case studies continued to be used during this time, however usually as a method within quantitative studies or referred to as descriptive research to study a specific phenomenon MERRIAM, This context led to a philosophical division in research approaches: Here, anthropologists practiced their methods on university cultures or by conducting lengthy case studies involving field-based observations of groups with the aim of understanding their social and cultural lives CRESWELL et al.

According to JOHANSSONRobert YIN followed this progress, and drawing on scientific approaches to research gained from his background in the social sciences, applied experimental logic to naturalistic inquiry, and blended this with qualitative methods, further bridging the methodological gap and strengthening the methodological quality of case study research.

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He presented a structured process for undertaking case study research where formal propositions or theories guide the research process and are tested as part of the outcome, highlighting his realist approach to qualitative case study research. While still qualitative and inductive, it was deterministic in nature with an emphasis on cause and effect, testing theories, and an apprehension of the truth BROWN, ; YIN, The integration of formal, statistical, and narrative methods in a single study, combined with the use of empirical methods for case selection and causal inference, demonstrated the versatility of case study design and made a significant contribution to its methodological evolution ibid.

The continued use of case study to understand the complexities of institutions, practices, processes, and relations in politics, has demonstrated the utility of case study for researching complex issues, and testing causal mechanisms that can be applied across varied disciplines.

Methods were required that could be used to explore factors such as participants' perspectives and the influence of socio-political contexts on curriculum successes and failures SIMONS, Development of case study research in education, focused on the need to determine the impact of educational programs and provide relevant evidence for policy and practice decisions that supported social and educational change in the United Kingdom and the United States ibid.

STAKEan educational psychologist with an interest in developing program evaluation methods, used a constructivist orientation to case study.

This resulted in placing more emphasis on inductive exploration, discovery, and holistic analysis that was presented in thick descriptions of the case. Similar to STAKE, MERRIAMwas not as structured in her approach as YINbut promoted the use of a theoretical framework or research questions to guide the case study and organized, systematic data collection to manage the process of inquiry.

Key contributors to case study research and major contextual influences on its evolution are included. As the figure highlights, early case studies were conducted in the social sciences.

Limitations of Case Studies

With the dominance of logical positivism from the 's through to the 's and 's case study methodology was viewed with skepticism and criticism. The development of grounded theory in the 's led to a resurgence in case study research, with its application in the social sciences, education, and the humanities.

Over the last 50 years, case study has been re-established as a credible, valid research design that facilitates the exploration of complex issues.Single case studies vs. multiple case studies: A comparative study Johanna Gustafsson a single case study is the best choice (Yin, ).

When a single case most interesting research. Further, qualitative case study research is a flexible method (Merriam, . different research methods, including the case study method, can be determined by the kind of research question that a study is trying to address (e.g., Shavelson & Towne, , pp.

99–). The in-depth study of the single case was also the primary method of investigation in the ear- from the proliferation of large sample studies is undeniable, single-case research designs con-tinue to be underutilized by researchers and Single-Case Research Designs Mckayqxd 11/17/ PM Page For example, YIN () discusses case study research and in the context of presenting case study, refers to it as a research method while emphasizing the procedures used.

The Advantages and Limitations of Single Case Study Analysis

He does not use the terms methodology or strategy. A case study of a place must not only describe its various attributes relevant to the research problem [e.g., physical, social, cultural, economic, political, etc.], but you must state the method by which you determined that this place will illuminate new understandings about the research problem.

The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e. the patient’s personal history). The case study method often involves simply observing what happens to, or reconstructing ‘the case history’ of a single participant or group of individuals (such as a school class or a specific social group), i.e.

the Author: Saul Mcleod.

The Advantages and Limitations of Single Case Study Analysis