Having to justify the value of using case studies in research gets quite wearing….

As an interpretivist researcher I invariably feel I have to justify the case study approach as a lesser way of accessing knowledge.  I was therefore pleased to see Oxford University’s Professor  Bent Flyvbjerg’s LinkedIn posting on this topic, ‘Misunderstanding No. 1 about Case Studies’ .

This statement presents the crux of his argument:

Common to all experts, however, is that they operate on the basis of intimate knowledge of several thousand concrete cases in their areas of expertise. Context-dependent knowledge and experience are at the very heart of expert activity. Such knowledge and expertise also lie at the center of the case study as a research and teaching method; or to put it more generally, still: as a method of learning. Phenomenological studies of the learning process therefore emphasize the importance of this and similar methods: it is only because of experience with cases that one can at all move from being a beginner to being an expert. If people were exclusively trained in context-independent knowledge and rules, that is, the kind of knowledge which forms the basis of textbooks, they would remain at the beginner’s level in the learning process. This is the limitation of analytical rationality: it is inadequate for the best results in the exercise of a profession, as student, researcher, or practitioner.’

He says much more. Read it and see for yourself.


Have a productive day,