Case Study Research

A Multi-method Approach in Qualitative Research

A portion of the following is taken from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 288-289).

In contrast to mixed methods, a multi-method approach in qualitative research is one in Multiple methodswhich the researcher combines two or more qualitative methods to investigate a research question or phenomenon. Although the terms “multi-method” and “multiple methods” are sometimes used to refer to qualitative–quantitative (or mixed-method) research (e.g., Brewer & Hunter, 2006; Snape & Spencer, 2003), this terminology is reserved here for research strategies that incorporate more than one qualitative method and do not include any quantitative methods.

Qualitative multi-method research—due to the additional data collection and analysis considerations—has the potential disadvantage of consuming valuable resources such as time and available research funds. However, this is not always the case and, under the appropriate conditions, multiple qualitative methods can prove very useful toward gaining a more fully developed complexity and meaning in the researcher’s understanding of a subject matter compared to a single-method research design (cf. Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Flick, 2007).

Ethnography is one such example. Observation is the principal method in an ethnographic study; however, it is often supplemented with other qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus group discussions, and/or documentary review in order to provide a more complete “picture” of the issue or phenomenon under investigation. Other applications of multi-method qualitative research are not uncommon. Lambert and Loiselle (2008), for instance, combined focus group discussions and IDIs in a study with cancer patients concerning their “information-seeking behavior.” These researchers found that this multi-method approach enriched the study because one method helped inform the other—for example, group discussions identified relevant questions/issues that were then used in the IDIs—and contributed unique information—for example, the IDIs were effective in obtaining details of patients’ information-seeking processes—as well as contextual clarification—for example, the focus groups were more valuable in highlighting contextual influences on these processes such as the physicians’ preferences or recommendations. Lambert and Loiselle concluded that the multi-method research design “enhanced understanding of the structure and essential characteristics of the phenomenon within the context of cancer” (p. 235).

Research Design Review has published articles on two special types of multiple-method qualitative research—case study and narrative research—each of which is a form of “case-centered” qualitative research, a term coined by Mishler (1996, 1999) and used by others (cf. Riessman, 2008) to denote a research approach that preserves the “unity and coherence” of the research subject throughout data collection and analysis. A six-step approach to case-centered research design is discussed in this article.

Regardless of the particular multi-method design or type of research, a multiple-method approach requires a unique set of qualitative researcher skills. These skills are discussed in this article—“Working with Multiple Methods in Qualitative Research: 7 Unique Researcher Skills.”

Brewer, J., & Hunter, A. (2006). Foundations of multimethod research: Synthesizing styles. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2011). The Sage handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Flick, U. (2007). Designing qualitative research. London: Sage Publications.

Lambert, S. D., & Loiselle, C. G. (2008). Combining individual interviews and focus groups to enhance data richness. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(2), 228–237. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04559.x

Mishler, E. G. (1996). Missing persons: Recovering developmental stories/histories. In R. Jessor, A. Colby, & R. A. Shweder (Eds.), Ethnography and human development: Context and meaning in social inquiry (pp. 73–100). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Mishler, E. G. (1999). Storylines: Craftartitists’ narratives of identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Snape, D., & Spencer, L. (2003). The foundations of qualitative research. In J. Ritchie & J. Lewis (Eds.), Qualitative research practice. London: Sage Publications.

Qualitative Research: Design, Methods, & Online Mode

In 2020, there were 14 articles published in Research Design Review. These articles include those qualitative research design, methods, online modepertaining to broad issues in qualitative research design, such as sample size, as well as more narrow topics concerning specific qualitative methods – focus groups, ethnography, in-depth interviews, and case study research – and the online mode. A compilation of these articles is now available here for download.

In addition to these 14 articles, six compilations of earlier RDR articles were released in 2020 for download. These include:

Generalizability in Case Study Research

Portions of the following article are modified excerpts from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 307-326)

Case study research has been the focus of several articles in Research Design Review. These articles range from discussions on case-centered research (i.e., case study and narrative research) generally — “Multi-method & Case-centered Research: When the Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts,” “Lighting a Path to Guide Case-Centered Research Design: A Six-Step Approach,” and “Ethical Considerations in Case-Centered Qualitative Research” — to articles where the subject matter is specific to case study research — “Case Study Research: An Internal-External Classification.”generalizability

One of the controversies associated with case study research designs centers on “generalization” and the extent to which the data can explain phenomena or situations outside and beyond the specific scope of a particular study. On the one hand, there are researchers such as Yin (2014) who espouse “analytical generalization” whereby the researcher compares (or “generalizes”) case study data to existing theory1. From Yin’s perspective, case study research is driven by the need to develop or test theory, giving single- as well as multiple-case study research explanatory powers — “Some of the best and most famous case studies have been explanatory case studies” (Yin, 2014, p. 7).

Diane Vaughan’s research is a case study referenced by Yin (2014) as an example of a single-case research design that resulted in outcomes that provided broader implications (i.e., “generalized”) to similar contexts outside the case. In both The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA (1996) and “The Trickle-Down Effect: Policy Decisions, Risky Work, and the Challenger Tragedy” (1997), Vaughan describes the findings and conclusions from her study of the circumstances that led to the Challenger disaster in 1986. By way of scrutinizing archival documents and conducting interviews, Vaughan “reconstructed the history of decision making” and ultimately discovered “an incremental descent into poor judgment” (1996, p. xiii). More broadly, Vaughan used this study to Read Full Text