Study Guide

Topics: Qualitative research, Case study, Scientific method Pages: 26 (6634 words) Published: February 15, 2013
The Qualitative Report Volume 13 Number 4 December 2008 544-559

Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and
Implementation for Novice Researchers
Pamela Baxter and Susan Jack
McMaster University, West Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Qualitative case study methodology provides tools for researchers to study complex phenomena within their contexts. When the approach is applied correctly, it becomes a valuable method for health science research to develop theory, evaluate programs, and develop interventions. The purpose of this paper is to guide the novice researcher in identifying the key elements for designing and implementing qualitative case study research projects. An overview of the types of case study designs is provided along with general recommendations for writing the research questions, developing propositions, determining the “case” under study, binding the case and a discussion of data sources and triangulation. To facilitate application of these principles, clear examples of research questions, study propositions and the different types of case study designs are provided. Key Words: Case Study and Qualitative Methods

To graduate students and researchers unfamiliar with case study methodology, there is often misunderstanding about what a case study is and how it, as a form of qualitative research, can inform professional practice or evidence-informed decision making in both clinical and policy realms. In a graduate level introductory qualitative research methods course, we have listened to novice researchers describe their views of case studies and their perceptions of it as a method only to be used to study individuals or specific historical events, or as a teaching strategy to holistically understand exemplary “cases.” It has been a privilege to teach these students that rigorous qualitative case studies afford researchers opportunities to explore or describe a phenomenon in context using a variety of data sources. It allows the researcher to explore individuals or organizations, simple through complex interventions, relationships, communities, or programs (Yin, 2003) and supports the deconstruction and the subsequent reconstruction of various phenomena. This approach is valuable for health science research to develop theory, evaluate programs, and develop interventions because of its flexibility and rigor. Background

This qualitative case study is an approach to research that facilitates exploration of a phenomenon within its context using a variety of data sources. This ensures that the issue is not explored through one lens, but rather a variety of lenses which allows for multiple facets of the phenomenon to be revealed and understood. There are two key approaches that guide case study methodology; one proposed by Robert Stake (1995) and


The Qualitative Report December 2008

the second by Robert Yin (2003, 2006). Both seek to ensure that the topic of interest is well explored, and that the essence of the phenomenon is revealed, but the methods that they each employ are quite different and are worthy of discussion. For a more lengthy treatment of case study methods we encourage you to read Hancock and Algozzine’s, Doing case study research: A practical guide for beginning researchers (2006). Philosophical Underpinnings

First, both Stake (1995) and Yin (2003) base their approach to case study on a constructivist paradigm. Constructivists claim that truth is relative and that it is dependent on one’s perspective. This paradigm “recognizes the importance of the subjective human creation of meaning, but doesn’t reject outright some notion of objectivity. Pluralism, not relativism, is stressed with focus on the circular dynamic tension of subject and object” (Miller & Crabtree, 1999, p. 10). Constructivism is built upon the premise of a social construction of reality (Searle, 1995). One of the advantages of this approach is the...
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