Case-studies for research - story-telling or scientific method?
journal contributionposted on 05.06.2017, 06:10 by McGuire, Linda
This paper argues that case study research is a scientific method. A review of the current literature identifies the strengths and weaknesses of case study research as a scientific method. The strength is the validity arising from the natural setting and therefore the potential fit between theory and reality. The weakness is the difficulty in demonstrating and evaluating validity and reliability of the analysis. The literature review also identifies appropriate criteria for evaluating validity and reliability, enabling a discussion of the implications and lessons for case study researchers. The controversy about the method relates to its use for explanation and prediction or theory testing rather than generating or discovering theory. Supporters and opponents of case study method argue from explicit or implicit positions in the philosophy of science debate. Case study method is defined as part of the modem empiricism philosophy of science movement (requiring inter subjective certification) as opposed to the relativism movement (science is subjective).1 This paper accepts Hunt's (1991) argument that there is no single logic of scientific discovery, but that there is a unifying logic of justification of scientific research. This justification logic can be applied to explanatory case study research. The critical test is the plausible rival hypothesis. But the criteria for evaluating validity and reliability are derived from case study and not other methods, in particular experimental and quasi- experimental designs.