Case studies are an important research method in areas where innovations are studied. They enable us to study contemporary and complex social phenomena in their natural context. Over the years researchers working from both epistemological perspectives have addressed important methodological issues. A case study is expected to capture the complexity of a single case, and the methodology which enables this has developed not only in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics, but also in practice-oriented fields such as environmental studies, business studies, social work and Counselling. (Yin 1994) Croty (1998, p2) explains that there are four questions which are basic elements of any research process. What methods do we propose to use? What methodology governs our choice and use of methods? What theoretical perspective lies behind the methodology in question? What epistemology informs this theoretical perspective?
This paper is written to present the case study as a research approach, showing that its characterization is not an easy task, due mainly to its many different approaches and applications. In order to demonstrate its application, I have indicated its most common advantages and disadvantages, stressing the important role played by the researcher, who must be careful about generalizations. Soy (1997)
The case study approach refers to a group of methods which emphasize qualitative analysis Yin, (1984, p.23) simplifies it as, data collected from a small number of associations through methods such as participant-observation, in-depth interviews, and longitudinal studies. The essence of case study methodology is triangulation, the combination on different levels of techniques, methods, strategies, or theories.
Crotty (1998, p.5) explains that research conducted using the data collection method of participant observation, is one of many theoretical perspectives which exemplify a constructionist epistemology. Yin (1984, p.23) clarifies that case studies are conducted from the positivist as well as from the interpretist epistemological perspective.
What is a Case Study?
A case study is a research methodology common in social science. Stake (1998, p.7) points out that “As a form of research, case study is defined by interest in individual cases, not by the methods of inquiry used”. He goes on to explain that the methods of investigation are not what’s crucial to case study research, but that the object of study is a ‘case’. Skate (1978, p.5) states that “case studies will often be the preferred method of research because they may be epistemologically in harmony with the readers experience and thus to that person a natural basis for generalization”
The term CASE STUDY is used in a variety of ways:
As an alternative to experimental (scientific) and quantitative (positivist) methods. 2.
As an intensive investigation of single situations which serve to identify and describe basic phenomena. 3.
Focusing on individuals' perceptions of given educational phenomena, carried out largely by means of interviews. 4.
As a study which is almost entirely qualitative in methodology and presentation. 5.
As a type of ethnographic research, incorporating participant observation, qualitative observation and field study. (Ethnographic studies are those that take place within a definable cultural setting). Yin (2003) in Hayes (2006)
The Wikipedia gives Thomas’s (2011) definition as:
Case studies are analyses of persons, events, decisions, periods,
projects, policies, institutions, or other systems that are studied
holistically by one or more methods. The case that is the subject
of the inquiry will be an instance of a class of phenomena that
provides an analytical frame - an object - within which the study
is conducted and which the case illuminates and explicates.
Thomas’s (2011) .
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