The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects

By Martyn Denscombe | Go to book overview

2

Case studies
The use of case studies has become extremely widespread in social research, particularly with small-scale research. When researchers opt for a case study approach they buy into a set of related ideas and preferences which, when combined, give the approach its distinctive character. True, many of the features associated with the case study approach can be found elsewhere and are not necessarily unique to this strategy. However, when brought together they form a broad approach to social research, with an underlying rationale for the direction and planning of an investigation that separates it from the rationale for survey research or the rationale for experimental research.
Spotlight on one instance. The starting point, and arguably the defining characteristic, of the case study approach, is its focus on just one instance of the thing that is to be investigated. Occasionally, researchers use two or more instances but, in principle, the idea of a case study is that a spotlight is focused on individual instances rather than a wide spectrum. The case study approach, then, is quite the opposite of any mass study. The logic behind concentrating efforts on one case rather than many is that there may be insights to be gained from looking at the individual case that can have wider implications and, importantly, that would not have come to light through the use of a research strategy that tried to cover a large number of instances – a survey approach. The aim is to illuminate the general by looking at the particular.
In-depth study. The prospects of getting some valuable and unique insight depends on being able to investigate things in a way that is different from, and in some senses better than, what is possible using other approaches. What a case study can do that a survey normally cannot is to study things in detail. When a researcher takes the strategic decision to devote all his or her efforts to researching just one instance, there is obviously far greater

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The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Strategies for Social Research 3
  • 1: Surveys 6
  • 2: Case Studies 30
  • 3: Internet Research 41
  • 4: Experiments 61
  • 5: Action Research 73
  • 6: Ethnography 84
  • 7: Phenomenology 96
  • 8: Grounded Theory 109
  • Part II - Methods of Social Research 131
  • 9: Questionnaires 144
  • 10: Interviews 163
  • 11: Observation 192
  • 12: Documents 212
  • Part III - Analysis 231
  • 13: Quantitative Data 236
  • 14: Qualitative Data 267
  • 15: Writing Up the Research 284
  • Frequently Asked Questions 299
  • References 302
  • Index 307
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