Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Case Studies

By Lani Walker
Currently in the Master’s level Research Methods class, we are utilizing the book Architectural Research Methods by David Wang and Linda Groat.  The book covers seven types of research, including historical, qualitative, correlational, experimental, simulation, logical argumentation, and case studies and mixed methods.  This week we have focused on Chapter Twelve in this book; Case Studies.  This article below is a collection of the terms and practices I learned from Chapter Twelve this week.  In this chapter, Case study research is analyzed.    
According to the book Architectural Research Method, a case study is an ‘empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident’.  In general, the primary identifying characteristics for preforming a case study is: a focus involving single or multiple cases studied in their real-life contexts; the ability to explain underlying connections; the importance of theory development throughout research; relying on evidence from a variety of sources; and the power to generalize to theory.  Case studies can be explanatory, descriptive, or exploratory.  A descriptive based case study focuses on describing what is being studied.  An exploratory case study explores that relationship between variables within the case.  An explanatory case study aims to explain why a phenomenon occurs.  In determining whether to use a single case study approach or multiple case study approach, one must consider the nature of the question being proposed, and the role of replication in testing or confirming the outcomes.    

The differing strategies in case study research mentioned in the book include Two-Phase design, Dominate - Less Dominate design, and Mixed Methodology design.  These are combined strategies: strategies which integrate multiple research designs.  Combined strategies are a more integral approach to research because multiple methods of different research are incorporated into one study.  A Two Phase design involves combining two or more strategies in a sequence of distinct phases.  Dominate - Less dominant design entails the insertion of one type of research design within the framework of a distinctly different research design.  Mixed methodology design represents the most complete level of integration among two or more research designs.

The case study is much more than just observing or studying a phenomenon in its natural setting, the case study involves a case in relation to its context from which the case is inseparable.  Criticism of case study research is that here is no basis for generalizing from one case to other case.  Other criticisms of the case study approach are the potential for overcompiliation and oversimplifying the complexities of the situation being studied.  However, the strength of a case study is its capacity to generalize to theory, and its ability to be tested throughout other experiments.  A case study can be compelling and convincing, has the capacity to explain underlying links, has the richness of multiple data sources, and the case study is easily able to generalize to a specific theory. 
Case Studies, as examined in chapter twelve of Architectural Research Methods, will be integral to creating a successful Thesis project for most Masters level students.  Currently, I am looking into a variety of case studies in relation to my Thesis topic, which assist in placing my ideas into the larger body of work in a specific area.  It is crucial for Masters level students to use the foundation of past experiments within case studies in order to form a framework of new and innovative knowledge proposed in a thesis project.  

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