Qualitative grounds for establishing reliability or generality of
Qualitative methods give an upper hand
we start to collect the data for any research work, either we find sources
related to our work or we prepare a questionnaire. Qualitative methods put
open-ended questions and it gives the participants the opportunity to respond in
their own words. The participants are not forced to reply the fix responses.
questions are more useful as:
participant feels free to answer and open up his/her heart
may get an answer which is out of the box and rich in content
allows the researcher the ease to probe initial participant responses – that
is, to ask why or how?
This chapter explains how to use the
case study method and how to apply it for example case study project
designed to examine how one set of users, non-profit organizations, individuals
and other organisations react and behave to a certain governmental decision.
The study examines the issue of whether or not the government’s decision is
beneficial in some way to the participants. Case studies emphasize detailed
contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their relationship.
Critics of the case study method believe that the study of a small number of
cases can offer no grounds for establishing reliability or generality of findings.
Others feel that the intense exposure to study of the case biases the findings.
Some dismiss case study research as useful only as an exploratory tool.
Yet researchers continue to use the case study research method with success in
carefully planned and crafted studies of real-life situations, issues, and
This introduction to case study
research draws upon their work and proposes six important steps that
should be used:
and define the research questions
the cases and determine data gathering and analysis techniques
to collect the data
data in the field
and analyze the data
1. Determine and Define the Research Questions
The researcher establishes the focus of
the study by forming questions about the situation or problem to be studied and
determining a purpose for the study. The research object in a case study is
often a program, an entity, a person, or a group of people. Each object is
likely to be intricately connected to political, social, historical, and
personal issues, providing wide ranging possibilities for questions and adding
complexity to the case study. Case study research generally answers one or more
questions which begin with “how” or “why.” The questions
are targeted to a limited number of events or conditions and their
2. Select the Cases and Determine
Data Gathering and Analysis Techniques
During the design phase of case study
research, the researcher determines what approaches to use in selecting single
or multiple real-life cases to examine in depth and which instruments and data
gathering approaches to use. When using multiple cases, each case is treated as
a single case. Conclusions in each case can then be used as information
contributing to the whole study, but each case remains a single case. Exemplary
case studies carefully select cases and carefully examine the choices available
from among many research tools available in order to increase the validity of
the study. A key strength of the case study method involves using multiple
sources and techniques in the data gathering process.
3. Prepare to Collect the Data
Case study research generates a large
amount of data from multiple sources hence systematic organization of the data
is important to prevent the researcher from becoming overwhelmed by the amount
of data and to prevent the researcher from losing sight of the original
research purpose and questions. Exemplary case studies prepare good training
programs for investigators, establish clear protocols and procedures in advance
of investigator field work and conduct a pilot study in advance of moving into
the field in order to remove obvious barriers and problems. Researchers need to
anticipate key problems and events, identify key people, prepare letters of
introduction, establish rules for confidentiality and actively seek
opportunities to revisit and revise the research design in order to address and
add to the original set of research questions.
4. Collect Data in the Field
Researchers carefully observe the
object of the case study and identify causal factors associated with the
observed phenomenon. Renegotiation of arrangements with the objects of the
study or addition of questions to interviews may be necessary as the study
progresses. Case study research is flexible, but when changes are made, they
are documented systematically. Exemplary case studies use field notes and databases to categorize
and reference data so that it is readily available for subsequent
reinterpretation. Field notes record feelings and intuitive hunches, pose
questions, and document the work in progress. They record testimonies, stories
and illustrations which can be used in later reports. They may warn of
impending bias because of the detailed exposure of the client to special
attention or give an early signal that a pattern is emerging. Maintaining the
relationship between the issue and the evidence is mandatory.
Methods of collecting
qualitative data: Data
collection approaches for qualitative research usually involves:
interaction with individuals on a one to one basis
interaction with individuals in a group setting
Qualitative research data collection methods are time consuming,
therefore data is usually collected from a smaller sample than would be the
case for quantitative approaches – therefore this makes qualitative research
more expensive. The benefit of the qualitative approach is that the information
is richer and has a deeper insight into the phenomenon under study.
The main methods for collecting qualitative data are:
Individual Interviews: Interviews can be
Qualitative interviews should be fairly informal and participants
feel they are taking part in a conversation or discussion rather than in a
formal question and answer situation. Skills are required and involved in
successful qualitative research approaches – which requires careful
consideration and planning
Good quality qualitative research involves:
of the interview schedule
and analysing the interview data
The use of focus groups is sometimes used when it is better to
obtain information from a group rather than individuals. Group interviews can
be used when:
Limited resources (time,
The phenomena being
researched requires a collective discussion in order to understand the
circumstances, behaviour or opinions
Greater insights may be
developed of the group dynamic – or cause and consequence
The aim of the focus group is to make use of participants’
feelings, perceptions and opinions. This method requires the researcher to use
a range of skills:
Observation involves may take place in natural settings and
involve the researcher taking lengthy and descriptive notes of what is
happening. It is argued that there are limits to the situations that can be
observed in their ‘natural’ settings and that the presence of the research may
lead to problems with validity.
Strengths of observation:
offer a flavour for what is happening
give an insight into the bigger picture
be used to assist in the design of the rest of the research
Limitations with observation include:
in people’s behaviour when they know they are being observed
‘snap shot’ view of a whole situation
researcher may miss something while they are watching and taking notes
researcher may make judgements of make value statements or misunderstand
what has been observed
Sometimes, the researcher becomes or needs to become a participant
observer, where they are taking part in the situation in order to be accepted
and further understand the workings of the social phenomenon.
Observation can sometimes obtain more reliable information about
certain things – for example, how people actually behave (although it may not
find out the reasons for why they behave in a particular way). Observation can
also serve as a technique for verifying of nullifying information provided in
face to face encounters. People or environment can be observed. When
environment is researched, it can provide valuable background information that
may inform other aspects of the research.
Techniques for collecting data through observation
Action Research doesn’t just involve asking about it, it involves
doing it. Action Research is a framework that is:
is a practical intervention made – i.e. you do something to make a change
or intervention in a situation that you research
researcher will be actively involved in the planned intervention
– framework of ideas
– methodology being applied
– area of concern
Consider an area within your work that you might want to observe
in order to get an answer, find out more or gain a better understanding.
Think about and plan:
is your aim/purpose?
type of permission you may need to take?
your role/presence will be.
you will record your observation.
you will record.
you will do with your findings.
5. Evaluate and Analyze the Data
The researcher examines raw data using
many interpretations in order to find linkages between the research object and
the outcomes with reference to the original research questions. The case study
method, with its use of multiple data collection methods and analysis
techniques, provides researchers with opportunities to triangulate data in
order to strengthen the research findings and conclusions.
The tactics used in analysis force
researchers to move beyond initial impressions to improve the likelihood of
accurate and reliable findings. Exemplary case studies will deliberately sort
the data in many different ways to expose or create new insights and will
deliberately look for conflicting data to disconfirm the analysis. Researchers
use the quantitative data that has been collected to corroborate and support
the qualitative data which is most useful for understanding the rationale or
theory underlying relationships. When the multiple observations converge,
confidence in the findings increases. Conflicting perceptions, on the other
hand, cause the researchers to investigate more deeply. Another technique, the
cross-case search for patterns, keeps investigators from reaching premature
conclusions by requiring that investigators look at the data in many different
6. Prepare the report
The goal of the written report is to
portray a complex problem in a way that conveys a vicarious experience to the
reader. Researchers pay particular attention to displaying sufficient evidence
to gain the confidence of reader that all avenues have been explored, clearly
communicating the boundaries of the case and giving special attention to
Advantages of Case study as a technique
Case Study, we all know, are defined as
an intensive description and analysis of a single individual or (sometimes)
group. It has got lot of implications
1. Good source of ideas about behaviour
2. Good opportunity for innovation
3. Good method to study rare phenomena
4. Good method to challenge theoretical assumptions
5. Good alternative or complement to understand the psychology
of focus group
Qualitative research can help us to interpret and
better understand the complex reality of a given situation and the implications
of quantitative data, if it is used in perfect combination with quantitative
research provides us complex textual descriptions of how people feel and see a
given research issue. It is the basic strength of qualitative research. To know
and understand the human side of an issue – that is, the often contradictory
behaviours, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals,
qualitative research as a case study comes in handy. Qualitative Case studies
are generally strong precisely where quantitative studies are weaker .George
and Bennett have identified four advantages of case studies in
comparison to quantitative methods: their potential to achieve high conceptual
validity, strong procedure for fostering new hypotheses, usefulness for closely
examining the hypothesized role of causal mechanisms in the context of
individual cases, and their capacity for addressing causal complexity.
refers to the identification and measurement of the indicators that best
present the theoretical concepts that a researcher wants to measure. Many of
the variables that social scientists are interested in, such as democracy,
power, etc., are difficult to measure, so the researcher has to carry out a “contextualized
comparison,” which automatically searches for analytically equivalent phenomena
even if they are expressed in different terms and contexts.
Case studies are
very suitable for serving the heuristic purpose of inductively identifying
additional variables and new hypotheses. Quantitative studies lack procedures
for inductively generating new hypotheses. Moreover, case studies can analyse
qualitatively complex events and take into account numerous variables precisely
because they do not require many cases or a limited number of variables.
examine the operation of causal mechanisms in individual cases in detail.
Within a single case, they look at a large number of intervening variables and
inductively observe any unexpected aspect of the operation of a particular causal
mechanism or help identify what conditions are present in a case that activate the
causal mechanism, which quantitative studies cannot do. However, one must keep in
mind that it is not entirely true that quantitative research does not include
any causality, but with some reservations.
To asses and model
complex causal relations:
Case studies are
able to accommodate complex causal relations, which are finally equal (equifinality),
complex interaction effects, and path dependency. This advantage is relative
rather than absolute. Case studies can allow for equifinality1
by producing generalizations that are narrower and more contingent.
Notwithstanding this advantage, others who prefer quantitative methods
appreciate theories that are more general even if this means that they are vaguer
and more prone to counter examples. Causal mechanisms: “Y happened because of
A, in spite of B,” whereas A means a set of participative causes and B
means a potentially empty space of opposite causes (A cannot be
empty; otherwise, it would not be able to explain Y). The use of case
studies has some additional advantages as well.
First, a case
study is important for developing different views of reality and secondly, case
studies can contribute to the professional development of a researcher.
means that the same end result can be obtained in different ways.