Detectives of Case Analysis

In Yin’s piece this week he discusses ways in which case studies can be approached systematically while disputing the harsh critique presented by Matthew Miles. I’m not going to pretend to be familiar with the claims cited from Miles in this paper, beyond what Yin presents, but I will say that Yin makes a very clear and concise argument for the application and analysis of case studies.

What better way to frame the concept of building explanations than through a detective / murder case? Yin suggests the detective should consider eye-witness testimony (interview data/observations/qualitative data) which should be weighed for its validity (context-specific factors influencing perspectives, etc). As in a case study, these elements are brought together in order to reveal the full picture. Each study would be approached differently and adjusted for its unique characteristics, just as, I would imagine, a murder case would be (I make this assumption based on years of watching Law&Order). Although Yin does not take this analogy very far, it is really easy to do. Yin states that all qualitative factors should be analyzed alongside and not separate from the qualitative aspects. In terms of our detective, this approach means considering DNA evidence, fingerprints, etc. alongside the views expressed by witnesses and other sources.

When Yin introduces the analogy again, he frames it in a comparative framework. If another murder occurs, the initial explanation for the first case may have to be altered to fit with evidence presented in the second. However, if key elements that are integral to an understanding of each case remain the same we can conclude that the same person murdered both victims! I mean, the researcher can conclude that a cross-case analysis revealed the central elements relevant to the research question and certain minor factors that have less relevance, or none at all, could be unrelated or a result of external factors.



Ramona said...
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Ramona said...

Like you, I think Yin provides a strong argument for using the case study as a systematic, research tool. For example, having the researcher take on a detective mindset during in-case analysis allows them to be more mindful of “red herrings” so that they are better able to pick out the relevant elements of the case study. In hindsight, Yin’s definition of the case study as a research strategy is definitely applicable to the research design of Robinson’s paper on “Strivers 2.0”, the study I ended up analyzing for the peer review assignment. Yin notes that the defining quality of the case study research strategy is that it examines: “(a) a contemporary phenomenon in its real-life context, especially when (b) the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” (Yin, 1981, pg. 59).

In Robinson’s paper, the contemporary phenomenon being studied was the online information seeking and evaluation strategies of “Strivers”, the term Robinson uses for a group of academically inclined high school students who were also highly motivated information seekers. The study was conducted in a rural, American high school using a multi-method approach and the research site was chosen to contextualize the socio-economic aspects of the phenomenon. From the collected data, Robinson drew a relationship between the different online information seeking behaviours and attitudes of the Strivers with their varying socio-economic backgrounds.

Looking back at the paper I wrote, some of the sticking points I had with Robinson’s research design are tied to Miles’ criticisms about how case study analysis is usually conducted (i.e. traditional narrative style and the coding scheme of categories). I enjoyed learning about Yin’s three approaches for reducing the difficulties of in-case analysis because it pinpointed some practical strategies to tackle rich, qualitative data so that the researcher’s case study analysis is more focused and cohesive.

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