Two types of case study methods

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Back to QuestionPro. The analytical research paradigm is not sufficient for investigating complex real life issues, involving humans and their interactions with technology. Further, existing work on empirical research methodology in software engineering has a strong focus on experimental research; the earliest by Moher and Schneider , Basili et al. All have a tendency towards quantitative approaches, although also qualitative approaches are discussed during the later years, e. Recently, a comprehensive view of empirical research issues for software engineering has been presented, edited by Shull et al.

However, the presented studies range from very ambitious and well organized studies in the field, to small toy examples that claim to be case studies.

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Additionally, there are different taxonomies used to classify research. The term case study is used in parallel with terms like field study and observational study, each focusing on a particular aspect of the research methodology. For example, Lethbridge et al. Zelkowitz and Wallace propose a terminology that is somewhat different from what is used in other fields, and categorize project monitoring, case study and field study as observational methods Zelkowitz and Wallace This plethora of terms causes confusion and problems when trying to aggregate multiple empirical studies.

The case study methodology is well suited for many kinds of software engineering research, as the objects of study are contemporary phenomena, which are hard to study in isolation. Case studies do not generate the same results on e.

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As they are different from analytical and controlled empirical studies, case studies have been criticized for being of less value, impossible to generalize from, being biased by researchers etc. This critique can be met by applying proper research methodology practices as well as reconsidering that knowledge is more than statistical significance Flyvbjerg ; Lee However, the research community has to learn more about the case study methodology in order to review and judge it properly. Case study methodology handbooks are superfluously available in e. In the field of information systems IS research, the case study methodology is also much more mature than in software engineering.

For example, Benbasat et al.

Main Goal Of Writing Case Study

It is relevant to raise the question: what is specific for software engineering that motivates specialized research methodology? In addition to the specifics of the examples, the characteristics of software engineering objects of study are different from social science and also to some extent from information systems. The study objects are 1 private corporations or units of public agencies developing software rather than public agencies or private corporations using software systems; 2 project oriented rather than line or function oriented; and 3 the studied work is advanced engineering work conducted by highly educated people rather than routine work.

Additionally, the software engineering research community has a pragmatic and result-oriented view on research methodology, rather than a philosophical stand, as noticed by Seaman The purpose of this paper is to provide guidance for the researcher conducting case studies, for reviewers of case study manuscripts and for readers of case study papers. It is synthesized from general methodology handbooks, mainly from the social science field, as well as literature from the information systems field, and adapted to software engineering needs. Existing literature on software engineering case studies is of course included as well.


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The underlying analysis is done by structuring the information according to a general case study research process presented in Section 2. Links to data sources are given by regular references. Rather it focuses on a set of issues that all contribute to the quality of the research. The minimum requirement for each issue must be judged in its context, and will most probably evolve over time.

We do neither assess the current status of case study research in software engineering. Further, examples are used both to illustrate good practices and lack thereof. This paper is outlined as follows.

1. Ethnography

We first define a set of terms in the field of empirical research, which we use throughout the paper Section 2. We define a case study research process Section 2. Section 3 discusses the design of a case study and planning for data collection. Section 4 describes the process of data collection. In Section 5 issues on data analysis are treated, and reporting is discussed in Section 6.

Section 7 discusses reading and reviewing case study report, and Section 8 summarizes the paper. Checklists for conducting and reading case study research are linked to each step in the case study process, and summarized in the Appendix. Throughout the paper, we use three different case study examples to illustrate the methods.

Case Study Report Format

They illustrate solutions or identify problems in case study research, i. The examples are presented in a format like this and they are denoted study XP, RE and QA after their research area on agile methods extreme programming , requirements engineering and quality assurance, respectively. In order to set the scope for the type of empirical studies we address in this paper, we put case studies into the context of other research methodologies and refer to general definitions of the term case study according to Robson , Yin and Benbasat et al.

The three definitions agree on that case study is an empirical method aimed at investigating contemporary phenomena in their context. Robson calls it a research strategy and stresses the use of multiple sources of evidence , Yin denotes it an inquiry and remarks that the boundary between the phenomenon and its context may be unclear , while Benbasat et al.


  1. Case Study Research Design.
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  4. Definition of Case Study?
  5. Quasi-experiments are similar to controlled experiments, except that subjects are not randomly assigned to treatments. Quasi-experiments conducted in an industry setting may have many characteristics in common with case studies. More strictly, a case study is purely observational while action research is focused on and involved in the change process. In software process improvement Dittrich et al.

    However, when studying the effects of a change, e. In IS, where action research is widely used, there is a discussion on finding the balance between action and research, see e. Avison et al. For the research part of action research, these guidelines apply as well. Easterbrook et al. We prefer to consider ethnographic studies as a specialized type of case studies with focus on cultural practices Easterbrook et al. Our guidelines apply to all these, except assertion which is not considered a proper research method.

    In general, the borderline between the types of study is not always distinct. We prefer to see project monitoring as a part of a case study and field studies as multiple case studies. Finally, a case study may contain elements of other research methods, e. Ethnographic methods, like interviews and observations are mostly used for data collection in case studies.

    Exploratory—finding out what is happening, seeking new insights and generating ideas and hypotheses for new research.

    Two types of case study methods – Blog Help Master Thesis and Best Phd Theses

    Explanatory—seeking an explanation of a situation or a problem, mostly but not necessary in the form of a causal relationship. Improving—trying to improve a certain aspect of the studied phenomenon. Case study methodology was originally used primarily for exploratory purposes, and some researchers still limit case studies for this purpose, as discussed by Flyvbjerg However, it is also used for descriptive purposes, if the generality of the situation or phenomenon is of secondary importance. Case studies may be used for explanatory purposes, e.