Case study and theory

Hammersley, M.; Foster, P. and Gomm, R. (2000). Case study and theory. In: Gomm, R.; Hammersley, M. and Foster, P. eds. Case Study Method: Key Issues, Key Texts. London: Sage, pp. 234–258.



A common charge against case study research is that its findings are not generalizable in the way that those of social surveys are. The question often raised is: How do we know that these findings are representative? Some advocates of case study respond to this by arguing that it is directed towards a different kind of general conclusion from that offered by survey research: they suggest that case study work is designed to produce theories. ... Various accounts have been produced of the role of case studies in producing theoretical conclusions. ... Others appeal to interpretive or causal realism, arguing that case study gives access to the inner lives of people, to the emergent properties of social interaction, and/or to the underlying, causal mechanisms which generate human bhaviour. ... Finally, there is the notion of "analytic induction", originally outlined by Znaniecki, which he contrasts with the "enumerative induction" that underpins statistical method ... These various rationales can be organized under two main headings: those which appeal to direct perception of causal relations; and those which emphasize the role of comparative method, in one form or another. We will discuss each type of rationale in turn.

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