Writing good case studies14.11.2007Miia KosonenPhD student
Background• The need to understand what ’good case studies’ looklike and consist of, and how they are reported• The advice...
Structure of the case report (Yin, 1994)Yin has described six illustrative structures:• Linear-analytic (the most common, ...
Types of the case report (van der Blonk, 2003)ComplexityMonologue MultilogueReductionChronology: Facts and events arelogic...
The Magic 71) What is the structure of the report in general? (Yin, 1994)2) How do authors justify and describe their meth...
A word about the analyzed articles• Rothaermel & Sugiyama, 2001, Virtual internet communities andcommercial success: indiv...
Findings• Not surprisingly, all articles more or less followthe standard linear-analytic structure• Selecting the case is ...
Findings• The authors ’respect their cases’ in a sense they focus on providinga rich but coherent story• Implications are ...
Four cases, four styles• Managerial story (R&S): the article adopts a normative approach,organized as a flow of tentative ...
Four cases, four styles• Managerial story (R&S): the article adopts a normative approach,organized as a flow of tentative ...
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Writing good case studies

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Presentation in research workshop at LUT 14.11.2007

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Writing good case studies

  1. 1. Writing good case studies14.11.2007Miia KosonenPhD student
  2. 2. Background• The need to understand what ’good case studies’ looklike and consist of, and how they are reported• The advice ”Follow a recognized structure and presentyour research as an interesting and convincing story”(Darke et al., 1998) is indeed on universal level• Reviewing literature on case studies and qualitativeresearch in general• Analyzing four single-case studies on virtualcommunities• Writing the findings down into an essay
  3. 3. Structure of the case report (Yin, 1994)Yin has described six illustrative structures:• Linear-analytic (the most common, ‘standard’ structure): a literaturereview, methodology, empirical findings, conclusions, andimplications• Comparative: one case is described several times, and the variousdescriptions of the explanations are compared• Chronological: describes events over time in subsequent periods• Theory-building: structured to develop a theoretical argument• Suspense: the outcome is presented first, and the latter parts of thedescription aim at explaining this outcome• Unsequenced: no particular order is seen as important, impliespossibility for rearranging the content
  4. 4. Types of the case report (van der Blonk, 2003)ComplexityMonologue MultilogueReductionChronology: Facts and events arelogically structured along a time line, sothat (historical) causality of events isproduced. The researcher is absent, andworks as an analyst. (format: linear)Play: Describes facts from multipleperspectives, interacting towards oneoutcome or the climax of the case. Theresearcher is present a director of theplay. (format: multilinear to oneoutcome)Biography: Facts and experiencesprovide an interpreted historical ‘portraitof a life’. The researcher is absent, andworks as a selective writer. (format:multiple formats)Voices: Meanings and socialconstructions produce a case ofinteractive complexity. The researcher ispresent as a facilitator. (format: non-linear, interactive and decentralized)
  5. 5. The Magic 71) What is the structure of the report in general? (Yin, 1994)2) How do authors justify and describe their methods to increase credibility?(White et al., 2003)3) How have authors described the process, which has lead them from theresearch questions into the main findings (displaying integrity of thefindings)? (Stake, 1995; White et al., 2003)4) How to display diversity and not focus only on the dominant message?(White et al., 2003)5) How is the validity (credibility - transferability) of the resultscommunicated? The former refers to trustworthiness (Guba & Lincoln,1985), and the latter deals with how to generalize the results into a widercontext (Yin, 1994).6) What is the value of the findings to the audience, ie. theoretical andmanagerial implications?7) How could the style of writing be described? (van der Blonk, 2003). Isthe report a ‘readable package’ and coherent in writing?
  6. 6. A word about the analyzed articles• Rothaermel & Sugiyama, 2001, Virtual internet communities andcommercial success: individual and community-level theorygrounded in the atypical case of TimeZone.com. Published inJournal of Management• Blanchard & Markus, 2004, The experienced “sense” of a virtualcommunity: characteristics and processes. Published in The DATABASE for Advances in Information Systems• Jeppesen & Frederiksen, 2006, Why do users contribute to firm-hosted user communities? The case of Computer-Controlled MusicInstruments. Published in Organization Science• Ley, 2007, Vive Les Roses!: The architecture of commitment in anonline pregnancy and mothering group. Published in Journal ofComputer-Mediated Communication
  7. 7. Findings• Not surprisingly, all articles more or less followthe standard linear-analytic structure• Selecting the case is well justified, but themethods ’just emerge’ (why?)• In addition, the reader cannot follow the stagesof qualitative data analysis; some authors do notgive a single hint about the amount of data andhow they proceeded from the researchquestions into the findings through the analysis.
  8. 8. Findings• The authors ’respect their cases’ in a sense they focus on providinga rich but coherent story• Implications are nicely conjoined and communicated:“The theory… contributes to the understanding of factors that areassociated with an individual’s e-based transactions via a virtualInternet community and the overall success of the virtual communityitself. Thus, we believe that our theorizing attempts are manageriallyrelevant. In particular, the management of site content and of thesite itself are two levers that managers can pull to directly influencethe community of transaction aspect.” (Rothaermel & Sugiyama)“A simple way to allocate firm recognition in return for userinnovation is to openly acknowledge their contributions in the mostvisible fashion. A useful way to do this may be to host examples ofthe user innovations in the firm domain and to credit innovatorsopenly. These points are essentially related to the broader issue offirms’ user community management.” (Jeppesen & Fredriksen, p.57-58)
  9. 9. Four cases, four styles• Managerial story (R&S): the article adopts a normative approach,organized as a flow of tentative propositions. The story’s voice is given tothe authors’ internal consult.• Hybrid story (B&M): the article is an interesting combination of managerialapproach (how to build and maintain virtual communities) and in-depthacademic discussion (eg. theories on sense of community and identity). Thestory’s voice is given to external observer, who desperately strives forlearning about a complex phenomenon.• Scientific story (J&F): the article relies on rich and various data, whichallows authors to dwell deep into their context. Hence, the data talks, but ina well-organized and coherent manner. Taking a strictly neutral and externalperspective to the phenomenon in question, the authors ‘leave their mindsbehind’: a small hint of the researchers’ part in the process, such asconducting qualitative data analysis, would open the case better for thereader.• Human story (L): the article is dedicated to community members’experiences. It fluently describes the community biography and investigatesthe potential explanations for different episodes. This is a convincing story,whose voice is given to an internal observer (been there, done that).
  10. 10. Four cases, four styles• Managerial story (R&S): the article adopts a normative approach,organized as a flow of tentative propositions. The story’s voice is given tothe authors’ internal consult.• Hybrid story (B&M): the article is an interesting combination of managerialapproach (how to build and maintain virtual communities) and in-depthacademic discussion (eg. theories on sense of community and identity). Thestory’s voice is given to external observer, who desperately strives forlearning about a complex phenomenon.• Scientific story (J&F): the article relies on rich and various data, whichallows authors to dwell deep into their context. Hence, the data talks, but ina well-organized and coherent manner. Taking a strictly neutral and externalperspective to the phenomenon in question, the authors ‘leave their mindsbehind’: a small hint of the researchers’ part in the process, such asconducting qualitative data analysis, would open the case better for thereader.• Human story (L): the article is dedicated to community members’experiences. It fluently describes the community biography and investigatesthe potential explanations for different episodes. This is a convincing story,whose voice is given to an internal observer (been there, done that).

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