October 20, 2010
Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research: A Menu of Qualitative and Quantitative Options
Beginning a case study research entails the critical tasks of case selection and the studying of each case. Therefore, these tasks make case selection and case analysis intertwined and crucial to a successful development of the research. The authors of the article, Seawright and Gerring, state that finding good cases for sampled which are small due to their specificity in topic can prove to be a challenging venture (Gerring 294). This challenge arises from the fact that few cases are chosen in order to represent a larger population and therefore they have to be chosen carefully in order to prevent bias and inaccuracy. The article explains the best way to simplify methodological issues, provide a comprehensive explanation of options to aid in the case selection process and finally it offers new techniques for case selection when there is a large sample to be studied (Gerring 295). These techniques are presented to help the researcher in developing more detailed explanations for choosing those cases and making sure there is a cohesive relationship between the case and the topic being studied.
Case study research is not an easy task to take on because there are many different aspects that can affect the result if the research is not done properly. One of the most predominant problems with case studies is the dangers of selection bias, which manifests itself when a researcher chooses a case purposively instead of randomly (Gerring 294). However, randomly chosen cases are not dismissed from being unrepresentative of the population being studied. As a result, it is important to understand that even though a general idea can be explained by the learned political scientists, modifications and changes must be made to choose the correct form of case study research for whichever topic the person doing the research decides to focus on. In order to have a uniform definition of case study for the reader, the authors define it as “the intensive (qualitative and quantitative) analysis of a single unit or a small number of units (the cases), where the researcher’s goal is to understand a larger class of similar units (a population of cases)” (Gerring 296). It is also important for the reader to understand that the concern of the authors while writing this is primarily causal inference, instead of inferences that can be either descriptive or predictive. Therefore, researchers can’t lean on these techniques to begin defining their study since their topic can differ from the one being the main focus of this article. This article focuses more on cross-case characteristics presented in a case, meaning how the case relates to the population in question.
Techniques for case selection can be said to be the most crucial component of the research. Deciding the technique for case selection that will best apply to the research will end up determining whether the research will be fruitful or whether a re-evaluation of the technique has to be done. Whichever the technique chosen by a researcher, it must be understood that they want “a representative sample and useful variation on the dimensions of theoretical interest” (Gerring 296). It is based on this discussion that the authors of the article devise the seven case study types: typical, diverse, extreme, deviant, influential, most similar and most different. However, it is important to note that the case selection techniques presented in the article apply to some case studies but it is not exhaustive, there can be ways of modifying these existing techniques and combining others to make sure the research being done is correct. The typical case study technique is centered on a case that “exemplifies a stable, cross-case relationship” (Gerring 299). With this technique, the researcher is trying to find a case of some phenomenon...