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Conducting the Case Study
The Doctoral Study
Module 1 described in detail how the SLP for this course will produce a document that will begin a working draft of a proposal for your Doctoral Study. Once again, it is important that you not be concerned that the work you do at this early date will obligate you to that topic later on. Your thinking should and will evolve as you take additional courses. However, you should take this assignment and the feedback you receive seriously because it will serve as the template you will follow as you develop your ideas more fully.
In Module 1, we provided the big picture of what you will put together throughout the course. It would be a very good idea to review it again. Note that the “deliverables” are listed for each module.
As a review, the deliverable for Module 1 was as follows:
Module 1: What phenomenon do I want to know more about? Drill down a little – what do I want to know, specifically? Why do I want to know this? What skills do I have that I bring to my doctoral study research on this topic? Do I have any biases or pre-conceived ideas about what I might find if I studied this phenomenon? How sure am I?
Your assignment for this module is to produce a 3- to 4-page paper discussing the following:
Module 2: Have I done any reading on this topic? Do I know how much research has been done concerning this topic? Find and skim 5 or 6 articles/dissertations, books that relate to research conducted on this topic. What theoretical bases do these studies employ? What would my study add to this body of research?
SLP Assignment Expectations
Although the SLP is a less formal document than a case study, it is expected that you follow APA convention at the doctoral level. Also, although you are asked for your opinion, remember that it is good practice to avoid writing in the first person. Instead, focus on stating the facts as you perceive them to be while writing in the third person—and cite supporting sources.
Conducting the Case Study
The following readings are required for Module 2. Optional readings can be found at the end of each section and while not required, may help you understand the material better and be useful to you if you choose to conduct a case study research method for your doctoral study. All readings can be accessed in the Trident Online library, unless linked to another source.
Methods of Data Collection
Data collection in a case study is largely contingent upon the skills of the researcher—as well as the access that the researcher may have to the sources of data. In this method, the researcher is an active participant in the process, so he or she needs to be able to ask good questions, listen impartially, and critically interpret the answers. This process will be framed by the questions and propositions of the study (described in module one) and the ability to process the information collected in an unbiased manner.
To guide the collection of case student data, the researcher relies on a case study protocol. The protocol addresses the following issues (Rowley, 2002, p. 22):
- An overview of the case study project.
- Field procedures, such as use of different sources of information, and access arrangements to these sources.
- Case study questions, or the questions that the case study researcher needs to keep in mind when collecting data. These questions are posed to the researcher, and not to any specific respondents, although they may be used to guide the formulation of questions to interviewees, and members of focus groups. In complex cases studies it is important to differentiate between the questions asked of specific interviewees and used to interrogate documents, questions asked of the individual case, and questions to be asked across multiple cases.
Yin, R.K. (2017). Collecting case study evidence. In Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Fourth Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Inc.
Gagnon, Y. (2010). Stage 5: Collecting data. In The Case Study As Research Method : A Practical Handbook (pp. 55-68). Québec [Que.]: Les Presses de l’Université du Québec (EBSCO ebook Collection)
Farquhar, J. D. (2012). Data collection. In Case study research for business (pp. 65-83). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd (SAGE Research Methods Database)
Beverland, M. & Lindgreen, A. (2010). What makes a good case study? A positivist review of qualitative case research published in Industrial Marketing Management, 1971-2006. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(1), 59-63.
Easton, G. (2005). Critical realism in case study research. Industrial marketing Management, 39(1), 118-128. (Science Direct DataBase)
Johnson, P., Buehring, A., Cassell, C. & Symon, G. (2006). Evaluating qualitative management research: Toward a contingent criteriology. International Journal of Management Review, 8(3), 131-156. (EBSCO: Business Source Complete Database)
The readings from the section above strongly demonstrate that most case studies rely on multiple sources of evidence. Each source adds a unique perspective on the research question – yielding a more complex and rich view of the problem and greater insight into possible solutions. It is important to note that no matter which sources of information are used, three tenets of data collection are always relevant (Rowley, 2002):
- Triangulation – Because case studies collect evidence from two or more sources, findings are corroborated and cross-verified.
- Case Study Database – Evidence that is collected in the course of the study must be kept in an evidence database The final report that is the outcome of the study will be strengthened and validated by the availability of well-organized and complete repository of the evidence. This database may consist of interview notes, documents, recordings, and the researcher’s analytical notes. When preparing the final report, your committee can advise you as to whether or not you should include some of this evidence as an appendix.
- Chain of Evidence – It is critical to maintain a chain of evidence. This means that it should be clear how and where the report draws on different sections of the database, indicated by accurate citations of interviews and documents.
It should not be understated how difficult it can be to analyze case study evidence! Because there is so much rich data from so many sources, the researcher can become overwhelmed. Therefore, it is necessary for the researcher to be highly organized, categorizing the data as it is collected, relating it to the initial propositions of the study, and making tentative assessments as to whether the evidence supports the propositions or suggests something else. These categorizations and assessments may change as the study progresses (in the light of additional evidence), but the process is always tied to the propositions or the researcher may find himself virtually drowning in the data and losing sight of the objectives of the study.
Exceptions do exist, however. Exploratory cases may not use propositions. Instead, the researcher should develop a “conceptual framework” or “story” for organizing the initial assumptions of the researcher as well as the presentation of the data. This framework comprises the developing themes of the study and new evidence is categorized and organized according to these themes so it can be analyzed and verified from multiple sources.
If this seems vague, it is. Data analysis in case studies does not follow a mechanistic process, but often evolves as directed by the data itself. It is often iterative in nature. The readings below will make this clearer. That said, any good case study analysis follows these principles Rowley, 2001, P. 24):
1. The analysis makes use of all of the relevant evidence.
2. The analysis considers all of the major rival interpretations, and explores each of them in turn.
3. The analysis should address the most significant aspect of the case study.
4. The analysis should draw on the researcher’s prior expert knowledge in the area of the case study, but in an unbiased and objective manner.
Yin, R.K. (2017). Analyzing case study evidence. In Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Fourth Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Inc.
Gagnon, Y. (2010). Stage 6: Analyzing data . In The Case Study As Research Method : A Practical Handbook (pp. 69-82). Québec [Que.]: Les Presses de l’Université du Québec (EBSCO ebook Collection)
Gagnon, Y. (2010). Stage 7: Interpreting data. In The Case Study As Research Method : A Practical Handbook (pp.83-92). Québec [Que.]: Les Presses de l’Université du Québec (EBSCO ebook Collection)
Farquhar, J. D. (2012). Managing and analysing data. In Case study research for business (pp. 84-99). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd (SAGE Research Methods Database)
Chapters in the following book goes into much more detail on data collection techniques – including quantitative analysis in case studies.
Gillham, B. (2000). Case Study Research Methods. London: Continuum (EBSCO eBook Collection)
The following is a good all-around reference for case study methods. Chapters 7, 8 and 16 are particularly helpful and cover material on computer-based qualitative data analysis:
Byrne, D. & Ragin, C. C. (2009).The SAGE handbook of case-based methods London, : SAGE Publications Ltd (SAGE Research Methods Database)
Hamilton, L. & Corbett-Whittier, C. (2013). Using technology to manage and analyse your data. InBera/sage Research Methods in Education: Using case study in education research (pp. 147-156).