June 01, 2015

On the generalizability of case study research

Writing about web page https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjoboJxaaiE

Introduction

In our second meeting, we came across the discussion about the generalizability of case study research. Here is some or what was discussed and some extra resources that I found.

Why generalizability

screen_shot_2015-06-01_at_110232.pngThe strength of a single case study is the ability to go really deep into the intricate details and relationships of the case, the downside is being too specific and thus effecting the generalizability of the results. Of course generalizability is not the goal of case study research (as was mentioned in the discussion). So where does this leave us? Is our case study research in vain? Of course not, this is because (a) the close study of a certain case or as Yin says the “assessment of the prevalence of a phenomenon” could he inherently valuable maybe the phenomenon is one of a kind! And (b) although the results of our research are not necessarily generalizable, they can (and should be) transferable. Transferability of results refers to the situations where the results can be applied or relevant in another context. This is a more specific than generalizability, which mostly applied to quantitatively generated results using statistical tabulation of samples from a larger population.

Thanks to Michelle for mentioning that Yin talks about two kinds of generalizability; (1) statistical generalizability and (2) analytic generalizability. On the one hand, statistical generalization comes from a sample of the population, requiring an “interpretive second step from these characteristics to theory” (Yin) . On the other hand, an analytic generalization is a direct confrontation of the case study with an established theory.

My (very quick and brief) Internet search revealed that the first use of the term transferability in this meaning is attributed to Lincoln & Guba's Naturalistic Inquiry (1985).

Thinking bout generalizability and transferability

Each and every researcher should give their work a good amount of thinking about the transferable outcomes that wok could provide. Here the transferable element could be anything; the research conclusion obviously or a part of it, a section or sub section from the design phase, the research method especially for those who develop innovative research methods and so on. (Listen to our talk about this at the 35 minute mark -link above).


Read more:

12_generalizability.pdf: Moreau, Jean-Luc. "Generalizability" Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. 2009 Sage Publications.


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  • Dear Asima, you are welcome :) and thanks for the addition, very interesting stuff! by Mohammad Waseem Sandouk on this entry
  • Very informative blog indeed, Mohammad! I will be looking into the websites for career opportunities… by Asima Iqbal on this entry
  • I found Yin to be the most helpful in Case Study; the great value about Yin is that his method is mu… by Mohammad Waseem Sandouk on this entry
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