Friday, 17 July 2015

Field Case Research Approaches

(Young, 2015, p. 16)
I found that there were four key research approaches to undertake field case research. They are: 
  1. Descriptive: “narrative accounts […with] careful analysis”, no judgement, but simply describing what exists (Bassey, 1999, p. 58). This type of case just tells a story with no other construction: no explanation, no theory, no judgement.
  2. Explanatory: “explanations […of] causal or structural patterns” Stenhouse (1985, p. 50, as cited by Bassey, 1999, pp. 27-28) called this ‘ethnographic’. I prefer the simpler title of explanatory research. This type of case tells the story and explains what has happened and why.
  3. Theory-oriented: “particular studies of general issues” leading to “fuzzy generalizations” (Bassey, 1999, p. 58). This is the pool which grounded theory or action research springs from. This type of case tells a story, explains what has happened and why, and then comes up with a theory.
  4. Evaluative: a case or cases explored to provide a value judgement on the soundness of the participants’ or evaluators’ processes, resourcing or organisations, judging “the merit and worth” (Stenhouse, 1985, p. 50, as cited by Bassey, 1999, p. 28). This type of case tells a story, explains what has happened and why, and makes a judgement as to how effective the outcomes were.
You need to think clearly about what your outcome needs to be before you start. If you think you will end up with a theory, then you need to undertake theory-oriented case research; if you want to evaluate something, then go for evaluative case research.

Being clear about your starting point and your research approach – your research philosophy, effectively – will make all your research choices and writing up much easier.
Although you will not be creating a teaching case, you can see by the diagram above that certain research approaches and teaching cases fit easily together to achieve the researcher’s desired outcome.

Be consistent and match your research approach to the outcome you are aiming for.


  • Bassey, M. (1999). Case study research in educational settings. UK: Open University Press.
  • Young, S. J. (2014). Making Cases Impactful: a comparison of teaching methods. New Zealand: University of Auckland Master Thesis.

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