Lecture#8 Case Studies
Reading: Bryman, Teevan and Bell, 2012 – pp. 38-40;
What is a case Study?
The selection, analysis and writing of an example that either contradicts or supports a wider
paradigm, theory, or popularly held belief.
- The basic case study design involves a detailed and intensive analysis of a single case.
Favorite methods used by case study researchers include:
1. Participant observation
2. Unstructured interviewing
These two methods are particularly helpful in generating an intensive, detailed examination
of a case.
- In case study, researchers aim to provide in-depth information.
- Case studies are often idographic in nature, seeking to provide a rich description of the
Qualitative Case Study Inductive approach (specific Relationship between theory
observations to broader and research
approach) Generation of new
theory from testing of data
Quantitative Case Study Deductive approach (Aimed Guided by specific research
to test theory, begins with a questions derived from social
Issues related to Case Study
- External validity and generalizability of case study research is an issue, because how can a
one single case possibly be a representative of other cases?
(For example, can the case study of Toronto police department be generalizable to all large
urban police departments in Canada?)
Types of Case Study
3 types of case by Yin (1984) which relates to the issue of external validity
1. The critical case
- researcher has a clearly specified hypothesis and use a case study example to test that
2. Extreme/unique case
- Case study is used to highlight differences from the norm (표표표,표표표)
3. Revelatory Case - Observe something or situation which are not normally accessible to the public.
- This can happen when previously unavailable data becomes accessible.
- As noted, sometimes case studies are primarily inductive, used as information to generate
theories. Other times, they may be deductive in nature, providing the data required to assess
- Problem arise when the research involves comparison of 2 or more cases because it is hard
to focus on one specific case where attention is not paid to the specific details of a particular
case and more to the ways in which multiple cases can be contrasted.
- The strength of comparative designs is that they highlight the similarities and differences
between cases, which can be used to assess or generate theories.
5 Misunderstandings About Case Study
1. Not theoretical
2. Can't generalize
3. Not useful for testing hypotheses
4. Contain bias
5. Difficult to summarize
- Discussion among small group of people
- Usually only ONCE, 1-2 hours
- Interaction among group members: Comments trigger chain of responses & explore
different views, reconsider
More naturalistic than one-to-one interview Less naturalistic than observation
Easier to record certain types of data Loses depth of perspective from individual
When do we use focus group?
- When findings can't be generalized
- When generating questions for survey
- Follow up survey results
- Sole method of data collection
- Confidentiality is difficult (in case of sensitive material, in-depth personal interviews are
Lecture #10: Ethnographic/Observational methods Reading: Bryman, Teevan and Bell, 2012 – Chapter 9
Ethnography and participant observation
- Researcher is involved in the activities of people under study.
- Regular observations of members' behaviours by researcher
- Listens and engages in the conversation
- Interviews are held to supplement observations
- Develops an understanding of group cultures and people's behaviour within their culture
- Writes up a detailed account of the setting
- focuses on one aspect of an issue in order to save time (ideal for students)
Participant observation and ethnography is synonymous, although here, ethnography will be
used in a broader sense, including participant observation: the latter will refer specifically to
the observational component of ethnographic research.
- one of the most difficult steps in ethnography is gaining access to the social setting one
wants to research.
Overt versus Covert Ethnography
Tell participants the purpose of research Sneak into a group without telling them that
research is being held
Follows ethical review policy for complete Easier access to closed setting (hard to get in
May limit access Less likely to have negative reaction B/C
participants don't know that they are being
May lead to violent/ uncomfortable reactions Participants' behaviour doesn't intentionally
from participants change to suit the research
Participants' true behaviour may be hidden Difficulty in taking notes
Other methods can't be used
Anxiety/stress about being exposed
Ethical concerns: deception, privacy,
- Using observations that were gathered before the decision was made to conduct a study.
Access to closed setting
- Gaining access to most organizations requires strategic planning, hard work, and sometimes
- Use friends, contacts and colleagues to help gain access
- if possible, get someone in the organization to vouch for you and the value of your research
(Sponsors). - Offer something in return (like a final report).
- Provide a clear explanation of your aims and methods.
- Be prepare to negotiate
Getting access to social settings is a crucial first step in ethnographic research.
Key Informants (연연연연 연연 연연연)
- Ethnographers rely heavily on informants
- Unsolicited offers information are highly attractive to ethnographers because of their
- Solicited accounts can be obtained in 2 ways: by interviewing or by casual questioning
Roles of ethnographers
- Complete participant: a fully functioning member of a social setting but one whose true
identity is unknown to members: in other words, a covert observer. In such cases, the
ethnographer is engaged in regular interaction with people and participants in their daily lives
but assumes the researcher's role in private to write down notes once the situation has
- Participant-as-observer: As above, except that members of the social setting are aware that
the ethnographer is studying them.
- Observer-as-participant: the researcher is mainly an interviewer and observer, and
participates only marginally in the group's activities. (For example, research on the police is
often similar, since the opportunities for genuine participation are limited by legal and safety
- Complete observer: no interaction with the people observed. Most writers do not include
this as a form of ethnography, since by definition there is little or no involvement or
participation. There may be less risk of reactivity (subjects behaving unnaturally because they
know they are being observed) because the researcher is at a distance; but there is also greatly
reduced potential for understanding, because the researcher doesn't ask questions or try in any
way to get into heads of the people under study.
- The participant-as-observer role carries the risk of over-identification and hence of 'going
native', but at the same time it offers an opportunity to get close to people.
- The observer-as-participant role carries the risk of not understanding the social setting and
its people sufficiently and therefore making incorrect inferences.
- Detailed summaries of events and behaviour, and the researcher's initial reflections on them.
- Write down ASAP
- Write down full field notes at the end of the day (details incl. location, people involved, date
- Tape recorder for notes (But time consuming due to transcription)
- Vivid, clear and complete note is needed. Types of field Notes
- Mental Notes: Appropriate when writing down notes should be hidden
- Jotted Notes: Such notes need to be written inconspicuously, preferably out of sight, since
writing in front of research participants may be off-putting for them.
- Full field notes: the main data source in ethnographic research. End of the day note.
The rise of visual ethnography
- Qualitative researchers have used visual materials in at least three ways:
1. as memory aids in the course of fieldwork, where they essentially become components of
the ethnographer's field notes
2. as sources of data in their own right
3. as prompts for discussion by research participants
Realist: the material simply captures an event or setting that then becomes 'fact' for the
ethnographer to interpret along with other data.
Can there be a feminist ethnography?
- Reinharze (1992) considered feminist ethnography important to feminism because: it
documents women's lives and activities, which were previously regarded as marginal and
subsidiary to mens'
- it understands women from their perspective, so that research that 'trivializes females'
activities and thoughts, or interprets them from the standpoint of men in the society or of the
male researcher' is rejected
- it understands women in context
What is 'going native'?
- common term used in ethnography in a non-pejorative way.
- situation where as a result of prolonged immersion in the lives of the people under study,
coupled with a commitment to seeing through their eyes, ethnographers become so wrapped
up in the world of their subjects that they forger their role as researchers.
- Under this circumstances, researchers may find it difficult to maintain a social scientific
perspective on the collection and analysis of data.
The covert role in ethnography
- easier access (because participants don't know that they are being studied, no special
permission is needed)
- less reactivity. (because participants don't know that they are being observed by a
researcher, they tend to speak more naturally than they would otherwise)
- Note taking is difficult in order not to reveal that they are being researched.
- Other method are hard to be used. If the researcher is in a covert role, steering conversations
in a certain direction can increase the risk of detection, and it is essentially impossible to
- Anxiety: stress posed on researchers about detection. - Ethical problems: deception of participants and failure to obtain informed consent.
Violation of privacy.
Open/Public Setting Closed Setting
Overt Role Type1 Type2
Covert Role Type3 Type4
Complete participanParticipant-as obseObserver-as-asparticipComplete observer
- ethnographer: typically a participant observer who uses interviews and documents
- ethnographer may adopt overt or covert role, but the latter comes with serious ethical
- Key informants frequently play an important role in ethnography, but care is needed to
ensure that their impact on the research is not excessive.
Ethical considerations when conducting Ethnography
- Researcher and participants' safety
- Informed consent and voluntary participation in the study
- Power imbalances between researcher and participants (when studying native tribes)
- Participation in illegal activities
- Risk of encouraging certain behaviors to show off for researcher
Lecture#9 Research Ethics Readings: Bryman, Teevan and Bell, 2012 –Chapter 11
- The first priority of a social researcher: to ensure that the people being studied are not
harmed by their participation. (Bryman, 2012)
- In Canada, most research must comply with the TCPS2 (Tri-Council Policy Statement:
Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
- Van den Hoonaard (2001) has suggested that it may be more difficult to get ethics approval
for qualitative research than for quantitative studies. Qualitative research is sometimes
considered less scientific than the qualitative kind, and ethics committees may prefer the
epistemology of the latter, with its derived hypotheses and specific plans. This can be a fatal
problem, because if the REB rejects the research proposal, the work can neither receive
funding nor be carried out.
- In Canada, REB must review and approve the projects even before the potential participants
are asked, if the study involves any human subjects.
General Ethical principles
3 core principles for the conduct of research involving human subjects by the TCPS2:
respect for persons, concern for welfare, and justice.
Respect for persons
- humans should not be treated as mere 'objects' or means to an end (even if the study result is
a worthy one, it can't justify the use of unethical means.
- Research must recognize that