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A semester of blogs with Yin, Stake, and Gerring

Re-reading my blog postings for semester has been an insightful (and somewhat embarrassing) exercise! I’d forgotten that I kicked things off with a reference to Napolean Dynomite and my love/hate relationship with technology, which doesn’t necessarily bode well given my field of study! Thankfully, I learned how to avoid the technological glitches (type the post in Word FIRST -- then cut and paste it to the blog) and went on to produce some worthwhile reflections that begin to clarify my perspective on case study research.

Admittedly, I began the semester skeptical of the case study approach and not yet convinced that it would be applicable to my dissertation work. My preference was for quantitative research made up of large, representative samples, the “credibility? of statistical significance, and the “reward? of generalizing my results to a larger population. My fixation at the time was the usefulness and application of what was learned. How would knowing a great deal about a particular case ever be useful in a broader context? Gerring’s definition of a case study helped me to appreciate that a single case indeed can be related to a broader set of cases when we understand how it fits into the larger context. In defining a case study as “the intensive study of a single case (a spacially delimited phenomenon observed at a single point in time or over some period of time) where the purpose of that study is – at least in part – to shed light on a lerger class of cases (a population)? (p. 20), Gerring addresses the usefulness factor that I find so important.

Given Stake’s definition of case study research, “We do not study a case (a specific, a complex functioning thing) primarily to understand other cases. Our first obligation is to understand this one case? (p. 4), I wonder how accepting he would be of Gerring’s perspective! What Stake brings to my developing acceptance of the case study approach is the emphasis on inviting the reader into the case through detailed description and “storytelling.? Through “empathic understanding? and “conveying to the reader what experience itself would convey? (Stake, p. 39), the distinct quality of the case approach adds richness to our insights and depth to what we ultimately gain from them. I may not always agree with Stake, but he has opened my eyes to the potential for nuance and detail in empirical research.

Finally, Yin’s detailed protocol further legitimizes the case study approach. I now recognize that it is possible to conduct disciplined yet flexible case research that results in credible new insights and contributes to the ongoing conversations in our field. As the semester winds down and I further analyze the case for the final paper, I clearly see a place for case study research in the study of collaborative processes in virtual teams. In this emergent field of research, it is through such detailed “particularizations? that patterns, relationships, and new meanings will be brought to light.