Pressing for a High-Quality Analysis in Case Study Research

No matter what specific analytic strategy or techniques have been chosen, you must do everything to make sure that your analysis is of the highest quality. At least four principles underlie all good social science research (Yin, 1994a, 1994b, 1997, 1999) and require your attention.

First, your analysis should show that you attended to all the evidence. Your analytic strategies, including the development of rival hypotheses, must exhaus­tively cover your key research questions (you can now appreciate better the importance of defining sharp as opposed to vague questions). Your analysis should show how it sought to use as much evidence as was available, and your interpretations should account for all of this evidence and leave no loose ends. Without achieving this standard, your analysis may be vulnerable to alternative interpretations based on the evidence that you had (inadvertently) ignored.

Second, your analysis should address, if possible, all major rival interpre­tations. If someone else has an alternative explanation for one or more of your findings, make this alternative into a rival. Is there evidence to address this rival? If so, what are the results? If not, should the rival be restated as a loose end to be investigated in future studies?

Third, your analysis should address the most significant aspect of your case study. Whether it is a single- or multiple-case study, you will have demon­strated your best analytic skills if the analysis focuses on the most important issue (preferably defined at the outset of the case study). By avoiding a detour to a lesser issue, your analysis will be less vulnerable to the possibility that the main issue was being avoided because of possibly negative findings.

Fourth, you should use your own prior, expert knowledge in your case study. The strong preference here is for you to demonstrate awareness of current think­ing and discourse about the case study topic. If you know your subject matter as a result of your own previous investigations and publications, so much the better.

The case study in BOX 35 was done by a research team with academic cre­dentials as well as strong and relevant practical experience. In their work, the authors demonstrate a care of empirical investigation whose spirit is worth considering in all case studies. The care is reflected in the presentation of the cases themselves, not by the existence of a stringent methodology section whose tenets might not have been fully followed in the actual case study. If you can emulate the spirit of these authors, your case study analysis also will be given appropriate respect and recognition.

BOX 35

Analytic Quality in a Multiple-Case Study of
International Trade Competition

The quality of a case study analysis is not dependent solely on the techniques used although they are important. Equally important is that the investigator demonstrate expertise in carrying out the analysis. This expertise was reflected in Magaziner and Patinkin’s (1989) book. The Silent War: Inside the Global Business Battles Shaping America’s Future.

The authors organized their nine cases in excellent fashion. Across cases, major themes regarding America’s competitive advantages (and disadvantages) were cov­ered in a replication design. Within each case, the authors provided extensive inter­view and other documentation, showing the sources of their findings. (To keep the narrative reading smoothly, much of the data—in word tables, footnotes, and quan­titative tabulations—were relegated to footnotes and appendices.) In addition, the authors showed that they had extensive personal exposure to the issues being stud­ied, as a result of numerous domestic and overseas visits.

Technically, a more explicit methodological section might have been helpful. However, the careful and detailed work, even in the absence of such a section, helps to illustrate what all investigators should strive to achieve.

Source: Yin K Robert (2008), Case Study Research Designs and Methods, SAGE Publications, Inc; 4th edition.

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