"Inferential felonies," are case studies guilty?
Gerring acknowledges that the case study is seen by many as ambiguous, free-form research lacking the methodological rigor for broader generalizations. Therefore, case study researchers who dare to draw inferences and examine their findings in broader contexts are claiming relevance for their work "unlawfully" because they did not follow the "traditonal" laws of research (i.e. representative sample, distinct variables, statistical significance). I admit that I began our class with a bias toward this more positivist perspective. I always have felt that research brings value if it is useful in some way. By 'useful' I mean some form of wider application, can we take what we've learned and make inferences to a broader population or other instances? I'm drawn to the indepth exploration and discovery of case study research, but I'm struggling with the usefulnss of knowing so much about something so particular. Rather than take a clear stance one way or the other, Gerring appears to embrace case studies as existing in both worlds, as both particularizing and generalizing. He says, "Iit seems justifiable for case studies to function on two levels simultaneously, the case itself and some broader class of (perhaps difficult- to- specify) cases" (p.79). Critical to this is identifying the population from which the case is taken, and understanding how the case fits into the larger context. What this speaks to is a well thought out research design -- the one 'law' of research that should never be broken.