Relevance and Refinements of Case Studies

  • Blatter J
  • Haverland M
  • Blatter J
  • et al.
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Case studies are an interesting phenomenon in the social sciences. On the one hand, they have played a pivotal role in theory develop-ment and are still popular in almost all fields of the social sciences, with the notable exception of economics. On the other hand, they have been treated by most methodologists with skepticism and disdain. Many classic works in the social sciences illustrate the relevance – even prevalence – of case study research for most of the twentieth century. Developments in ontological reasoning, theory building, and epistemol-ogy, together with the sophistication of statistical techniques, seemed to reduce the appeal of the case study approach in the last decades of the twentieth century and led to the rise of large-N studies. Nevertheless, in recent years, we have witnessed a resurgent interest in case study research, accompanied by intensive methodological reflection. In this first chapter, we begin by illustrating the theoretical relevance of case studies to the scientific discourse in many fields of research with some illustrative examples (Section 1.1). Second, we point to recent changes in social reality and in the social sciences that have revived interest in case studies (Section 1.2). Third, we clarify our epis-temological stance as anti-fundamentalist and differentiated. All three case study approaches that we present are located in the 'epistemo-logical middle-ground', but they have distinct affinities with the main epistemological/methodological camps that currently populate the lit-erature on the philosophy of science (Section 1.3). Before we define our own understanding of case studies (Section 1.5), we briefly address some major contributions to case study methodology (Section 1.4) and explain where we agree with and build on these contributions and where we diverge. In addition, we clarify what we mean when we talk about 'observations' (Section 1.6). We close our introduction with an 1 J. Blatter et al., Designing Case Studies




Blatter, J., Haverland, M., Blatter, J., & Haverland, M. (2012). Relevance and Refinements of Case Studies. In Designing Case Studies (pp. 1–32). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

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