An Introduction on Case Studies in Urbanism


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Everything you've always wanted to know about Case Studies in Urbanism. This is a very long and wordy presentation. The intention is that you can read it without having me presenting it: it works as a small reader.

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An Introduction on Case Studies in Urbanism

  1. 1. AR3U012 Methods “Thesis Plan”Introduction to CASE STUDIES “If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself” John Searle (1983) !"#$$%&%()"%(*+)+,% 1
  2. 2. This presentation is based onTELLIS, W. 1997, Application of a Case Study Methodology, The Qualitative Report, Vol. 3, N. 3, September 1997.Available at QR/QR3-3/tellis2.html 2
  3. 3. What is a case study?A data collection method that involves in-depth studies of specific cases or projects.The method itself is made up of one or more data collection methods (such as interviews and spatial analysis of the cases) in order to compare, learn or describe a process, a place or a group. 3
  4. 4. Why is it useful?Case study is an ideal methodology when a holistic, in-depth investigation is needed (Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991). 4
  5. 5. Research in practice• Case studies have been used in varied investigations, particularly in the human sciences, but they are an essential element for research in the applied sciences, because of its ‘practical’ character (learning from experience/ good practices). 5 5
  6. 6. Types of case studiesYin (1993) has identified some specific types of case studies:• Exploratory (what?)• Explanatory (why?/how?)• Descriptive (how?) 6
  7. 7. Types of case studiesExploratory case studies are sometimes considered as a prelude to social research. Here one wants to discover what are the issues at hand (sometimes totally unexpected ones) 7
  8. 8. Types of case studiesExplanatory case studies may be used fordoing causal investigations.Descriptive cases studies require adescriptive theory to be developed beforestarting the project.In the above types of case studies, there can be single-case or multiple-case applications. 8 8
  9. 9. More types of case studiesStake (1995) included three more types:• Intrinsic - when the researcher has an interest in the case• Instrumental - when the case is used to understand more than what is obvious to the observer• Collective - when a group of cases is studied. 9
  10. 10. Relevance of the casesYou must argue why the cases are RELEVANT for your research.First, cases must be understood in some kind of theoretical framework.Next, their commonalities or underlying similarities and discrepancies must be highlighted.Selecting cases must be done so as to maximise what can be learned in the period of time available for the study.In our case, this depends on a relevant Research Question to help guide your study (what do you want to know?). 10
  11. 11. Selection of case studiesCase studies tend to be selective, focusing on one or two issues that are fundamental to understanding the system/phenomenon being examined (e.g.):Regeneration strategies in LondonTraffic oriented development in the Bay AreaConnections between train stations and Dutch historic centres 11
  12. 12. Good practicesThe role of good examples is obvious. Here, literature research is fundamental.You need to know in advance what a good practice is! Unless you are the first to document it… 12
  13. 13. Example of good practice found in literature Mobility studies in Curitiba 13 13
  14. 14. Example of good practice found in literature Post-Olympic use of facilities in Barcelona. 14 14
  15. 15. Example of good practice found in literature l/placemarke4ng/de‐ss‐roerdam/ hp://www.placemarke4ng.n Waterfront redevelopment in Rotterdam 15 15
  16. 16. Examples of relevance of case studies (or lack of) 16
  17. 17. Housing typologies in London and Toronto 17 17
  18. 18. A comparison between uses of public spaces in Delft and Beijing 18 18
  19. 19. Regeneration strategies in Kinshasa 19 19
  20. 20. Amsterdam, London and Zurich as spaces for creativity 20 20
  21. 21. The role of Pijnacker(NL) as a global city 21 21
  22. 22. Units of analysis• The unit of analysis is a critical factor in the case study. It is typically a system of action (a territory) rather than an individual or group of individuals. Or even one single space. 22
  23. 23. In urbanism, systems of action may vary a lot in size 23 23
  24. 24. Unit of analysis• In Urbanism, this means defining a meaningful spatial problem which can be spatialized into a system of action (a recognisable entity = cities, neighbourhoods, public spaces_ but what kind?). This entity is generally located in a CONTEXT (a territorial system) . 24
  25. 25. A system of spaces or a context• E.g. Trafalgar Square is a public space located in the system of public spaces of London, and it is affected/it affects the city around it 25 25
  26. 26. Difference to architecture• This is perhaps the biggest difference with the architectural object: architectural objects are inserted in a system of action but the nature of their interaction with other spaces in a SYSTEM is different• (although one may argue that some architectural objects are just the same as territorial units in Urbanism. For instance: large train stations). 26 26
  27. 27. Multi-perspectival analysis• Case studies are multi-perspectival analyses. This means that the researcher considers not just his/her own values and perceptions, but also those of the relevant groups of people using/ producing/studying the space and the interaction between them.• This means employing several analytical tools. 27
  28. 28. Triangulation• This means that case studies need triangulated research strategy. 28
  29. 29. Triangulation• The need for triangulation arises from the ethical and scientific need to confirm the validity of the processes.• In case studies, this could be done by using multiple sources of data, different tools of analysis and even different theories to explain causality.• The problem in case studies is to establish meaning rather than location. 29 29
  30. 30. Situated position• Remember the isolationist versus the situated position described in the text ‘Eight Criteria’ (Biggs and Buchler, 2008) 30
  31. 31. Types of triangulationDenzin (1984) identified four types of triangulation• Data source triangulation, when the researcher looks for equivalent data in different contexts• Investigator triangulation, when several investigators examine the same phenomenon• Theory triangulation, when investigators with different view points interpret the same results 31
  32. 32. GeneralizationIt is a frequent criticism of case study research that the results are not widely applicable in real life or to other cases.Yin in particular refuted that criticism by presenting a well constructed explanation of the difference between analytic generalisation and statistical generalisation: "In analytic generalisation, previously developed theory is used as a template against which to compare the empirical results of the case study" (Yin, 1984). 32
  33. 33. Four main applicationsYin (1994) presented at least four applications for a case study model:1. To explain complex causal links in real-life interventions2. To describe the real-life context in which the intervention has occurred3. To describe the intervention itself4. To explore those situations in which the intervention being evaluated has no clear set of outcomes. 33
  34. 34. Single cases?Single cases may be used to confirm or challenge a theory, or to represent a unique or extreme caseHowever, it is difficult to draw definite conclusions from one single case. 34
  35. 35. Not replicable• Some of the early criticism of the case study as a research methodology was that it was unscientific in nature, and because replication was not possible. The literature contains major refutations by Yin, Stake, Feagin, and others whose work resulted in a suggested outline for what a case study protocol could include. 35
  36. 36. In applied sciences…• Generally what we do at the course of Urbanism of TU Delft is to compare our “case” (test area/design area) to cases in literature or in other projects and designs and to analyse it via inter-subjective reasoning (with our colleagues and mentors) 36
  37. 37. Protocol for case study• The protocol suggested by Yin (1994) should include the following sections:1. An overview of the case study project - this will include case study issues in relation to project objectives2. Field procedures - reminders about procedures, credentials for access to data sources, location of those sources3. Case study questions - the questions that the investigator must keep in mind during data collection4. A guide for the case study report - the outline and format for the report (in this case it is the thesis plan) 37
  38. 38. Yin’s chart for evidence Yin’s 1984, p. 80 38
  39. 39. Direct observation• Direct observation in a case study occurs when the investigator makes a site visit to gather data. The observations could be formal or casual activities, but the reliability of the observation is the main concern. Using multiple observers and/ or methods of observation is one way to guard against this problem.Detail from Quentin Massys "Cristo Salvator Mundi", Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerwerp, photo by Needles Eye at Flickr 39
  40. 40. Participant observation• Participant observation is a unique mode of observation in which the researcher may actually participate in the events being studied.This technique could be used in studies of neighbourhoods or organisations. The main concern is the potential bias of the researcher as an active participant. While the information may not be available in any other way, the drawbacks should be carefully considered by the researcher. 40
  41. 41. Action research… is a deliberate intervention in a situation in order to bring about improvements to it or solve a problem. Definitions of action research often talk about problem solving. But I think it is impossible to do any problem solving before you do the problem finding (which involves theoretical research in COMBINATION with action research) 41
  42. 42. Types of Action researchThree main categories of action research were defined by Grundy (1982):Technical action research creates solutions that make a process or a product better (e.g. improving a technology for travelling)Practical action research seeks to improve the professional skills of practitionersCritical or emancipatory action research can be used to challenge the status quo and argue for wide-scale educational reform. 42
  43. 43. Action research is not the same as humanitarian aid. Haitians struggled over bottles of oil thrown from a food aid truck in Gonaïves, Haiti. , Roberto Schmidt/AFP-Getty Images, NYT 2004 43 43
  44. 44. Got ethics?• And action research has to be discussed in terms of an ethical approach to the subjects of the research. 44 44
  45. 45. Stages in action researchAction research is a formative, cyclic process, involving four stages:• Planning• Action• Evaluation and• Reflection. Each stage supports the next and once one cycle is completed, the process begins again with modifications. 45
  46. 46. Action research modelsource: 46 46
  47. 47. Characteristics of action research (to read at home)• Practitioner Based: action researchers are practitioner-researchers. They are integrally involved in the process, not passive observers.• Reflexive: since it involved practitioner-researchers, the process is aims to improve the researchers own practice. It is a self-critical form of research.• Participatory: the change process is driven by participants - those affected by the change, and those with the responsibility of delivering change.• Collaborative: since action research is participatory, all those affected by change should be involved in the action research process, hence action research should be collaborative, unless the change is limited to one teacher.• Situational: action research focuses on a specific situation, not a general educational concern.• Small Scale: since action research is specific to a situation, its use and results tend to be small scale. However, this is not the case in emancipatory action research.• Relevant: action research focuses on problems relevant to the practitioners, not to the academic world. 47
  48. 48. Analysing the data• "Data analysis consists of examining, categorising, tabulating, or otherwise recombining the evidence to address the initial propositions of a study" (Yin, 1994). 48
  49. 49. Data analysis• The analysis of case study is one of the least developed aspects of the case study methodology. The researcher needs to rely on experience and the literature to present the evidence in various ways, using various interpretations. 49
  50. 50. Data analysis• For example, one can use a series of statistical tests to help in the presentation of the data to the reader.• However not all case studies lend themselves to statistical analysis, and in fact the attempt to make the study conducive to such analysis could inhibit the development of other aspects of the study. 50
  51. 51. Alternative expression of data• Miles and Huberman (1984) have suggested alternative analytic techniques of analysis in such situations, such as:1. Graphic expression of comparative data2. Mapping (followed by interpretation of the map)3. Tabulating the frequency of events,4. Ordering the information. This must be done in a way that will not bias the results. 51
  52. 52.    References• Danziger, J. (1985). Social science and the social impacts of computer technology. Social Science Quarterly, 66, 1.       • Denzin, N. (1984). The research act. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.     • Feagin, J., Orum, A., & Sjoberg, G. (Eds.). (1991). A case for case study. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.      King, J., & Kraemer, K. (1985). The dynamics of computing. New York: Columbia University Press.      • Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (1984). Qualitative data analysis: A source book for new methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.     • Sjoberg, G., Williams, N.,Vaughan, T., & Sjoberg, A. (1991). The case study approach in social research. In Feagin, J., Orum, A., & Sjoberg, G. (Eds.), (1991). A case for case study (pp. 27-79). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.     • Stake, R. (1995). The art of case research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.     • Tellis, W. (1997, July). Introduction to case study [68 paragraphs]. The Qualitative Report [On-line serial], 3(2). Available:     • Yin, R. (1984). Case study research: Design and methods (1st ed.). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publishing.     • Yin, R. (1989). Case study research: Design and methods (Rev. ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publishing.     • Yin, R. (1993). Applications of case study research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publishing.     • Yin, R. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing. 52
  53. 53. Thanks for listening and watching Any questions? 53
  54. 54. This presentation was prepared by RobertoRocco, from the Chair Spatial Planning and Strategy of the Delft University ofTechnology. For further information, please write to 54 54