While the literature is replete with references to case studies and with
examples of case study reports, there seems to be little agreement about
what a case study is.
(Lincoln and Guba 1985: 360)
'What is case study?' is a good example of a question easy to ask and difficult to answer. This chapter examines what various researchers have said about it in recent years. It is not a coherent story but is important background for the reconstruction of the concept that I am putting forward in Chapter 6.
In December 1975 an invitational conference was held at Cambridge, sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation, on 'Methods of case study in educational research and evaluation'. Subsequently Helen Simons edited the conference contributions into a book entitled Towards a Science of the Singular (1980). She noted that:
[case study] has antecedents in the disciplines of sociology, anthro-
pology, history and psychology and the professions of law and medi
cine, each of which developed procedures for establishing the validity
of case study for their respective purposes. But the use of case study in
education has been comparatively recent; its specific relevance to edu-
cation has not been explored to the same degree.
(Simons 1980: 1)
Adelman et al. (1980: 47), reflecting on this conference, wrote:
Over the last ten years there has emerged a tradition of educational
research and evaluation whose procedures, methods and styles of
reporting have come to be collected under the general rubric of 'case