Case Study Research – Questions in Reliability and Validity

Firmly based in context-dependent knowledge (i.e. rule-based knowledge to virtuoso/expert) Flyvbjerg (2006) presents 5 challenges to our misunderstanding of case study methodology.  While large samples of research data can develop a breadth of knowledge, individual case studies can present a larger work of depth on a specific point of study.  Various established researchers in the field of research methodology (—Campbell, 1975; Eysenck, 1976; Ragin & Becker, 1992) have seen through the challenges of reliability, theory and validity posed to case study research and begun to establish the meaningful research outcomes of the case study methodology.

The main contention found by various researchers is that the case study methodology presents issues with validity of research. As we can see from the visual reminder below, the virtuoso, or expert, comes to be an expert in a field through individual case knowledge. From specific cases that demonstrate both individuality for a study and possible connections to other research studies, a person becomes an expert in a knowledge field with the increased number of individual case studies that contain knowledge connections.


By challenging previous ideas of mis-understandings on case study research, it can be posited that like the natural sciences, the case study and how it is chosen is the objection really for generalizing for validity. Therefore, it is problem dependent and can use “falsification” (Popper, 1959) to generalize. Once we introduce the use of falsification to our research problem, a stronger case (no pun intended) can be made for the strength of case study research.



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