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.”
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