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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

On Case Study Methodology

Johansson, Rolf


A case study is expected to capture the complexity of a single case, which should be a functioning unit, be investigated in its natural context with a multitude of methods, and be contemporary. A case study and, normally, history focus on one case, but simultaneously take account of the context, and so encompass many variables and qualities. When a physical artefact is the case the gap between case study and history tends to diminish and case studies often become more or less historical case studies. Case study methodology also bridges the gap between quantitative and qualitative methods in the social sciences. Still the different concepts of validation in quantitative and qualitative research sometimes create confusion when they are combined, as they often are in case studies. The case might be studied with an intrinsic interest in the case as such, or with an interest in generalising. When a generalisation is based on the deductive principle, the procedure of testing hypothesis is used. A second mode of generalisation is inductive theory-generation, or conceptualisation. The third mode depends on the principle of abduction. Abduction is the process of facing an unexpected fact, applying some rule and, as a result, positing a case that may be. But there are two kinds of abduction: One is when a case is created from a few facts; for instance, historical data or clues. The other is operative when generalisations are made from known cases and applied to an actual problem situation by making appropriate comparisons. This is also called naturalistic generalisation. In a case study, the different modes of generalisation are often combined. The conclusion is that case studies has the potential for further development through the mastery of the combination on different levels of techniques, methodologies, strategies, or theories, like; the combination of case study and history, which is important when the case is an artefact; the combination of differing quality standards in qualitative and quantitative research, which are difficult to codify; and the combination of different modes of generalisation


Case; Case study; Case Study Methodology; Generalisation

Published in

Open House International
2007, Volume: 32, number: 3, pages: 48-54
Publisher: The Urban International Press

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