A Case for the Case Study

A Case for the Case Study

A Case for the Case Study

A Case for the Case Study


Since the end of World War II, social science research has become increasingly quantitative in nature. A Case for the Case Study provides a rationale for an alternative to quantitative reserach: the close investigation of single instances of social phenomena.

The first section of the book contains an overview of the central methodological issues involved in the use of the case study method. Then, well-known scholars describe how they undertook case study research in order to undersand changes in church involvement, city life, gender roles, white-collar crimes, family structure, homelessness, and other types of social experience. Each contributor contronts several key questions: What does the case study tell us that other approaches cannot? To what extent can one generalize from the study of a single case or of a highly limited set of cases? Does case study work provide the basis for postulating broad principles of social structure and behavior? The answers vary, but the consensus is that the opportunity to examine certain kinds of social phenomena in depth enables social scientists to advance greatly our empirical understanding of social life.

The contributors are Leon Anderson, Howard M. Bahr, Theodore Caplow, Joe R. Feagin, Gilbert Geis, Gerald Handel, Anthonly M. Orum, Andree F. Sjoberg, Gideon Sjoberg, David A. Snow, Ted R. Vaughan, R. Stephen Warner, Christine L. Williams, and Norma Williams.


This is a collection of essays about the nature and use of the case study in sociology and the other social sciences. We have put together this collection of important articles because we believe that social scientists need to make much more use of the case study approach to studying social life. With the advent of modern quantitative techniques and the wide-scale use of these techniques in the social sciences, we have experienced in the United States the regrettable result of a neglect or a downplaying of research that employs the methods of case studies. We feel that the case study remains an extraordinarily useful and important strategy for social analysis. Here we provide major examples of case studies by prominent social science researchers in a number of substantive fields, together with a reasoned rationale for the case study approach. We seek here to help bring these issues back into the social science, forum, and we expect that the contents of these articles will prove stimulating materials for our fellow scholars in the social sciences.

This collection of essays provides a wide range of information on the nature of the case study. In the introduction we set the case study in the broader framework of methods available to social scientists, and we refer to a number of important examples to illustrate our claims. Then the first essay of the collection, by Gideon Sjoberg, Norma Williams, Ted Vaughan, and Andrée Sjoberg, examines the issue of methods in the social sciences from a broad philosophical perspective and provides a firm rationale for the independent significance and widespread use of case . . .

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