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Some features of the process, such a s problem definition a n d con- struct validation, a r e similar to hypothesis-testing research. Others, such as within-case analysis a n d replication logic, a r e unique to the inductive, case-oriented process.

Overall, the process described here is highly iterative a n d tightly linked to data. This research approach is especially appropriate in new topic areas. The resultant theory is often novel, testable, a n d empirically valid. Finally, framebreaking insights, the tests of good theory fe. Development of theory is a central activity in lack of clarity about the process of actually organizational research. Traditionally, authors building theory from cases, especially regard- have developed theory by combining observa- ing the central inductive process a n d the role of tions from previous literature, common sense, literature.

Glaser a n d Strauss a n d more a n d experience. However, the tie to actual data recently Strauss have outlined pieces of has often been tenuous Perrow, ; Pfeffer, the process, but theirs is a prescribed formula, Yet, a s Glaser a n d Strauss argue, it a n d new ideas have emerged from methodolo- is the intimate connection with empirical reality gists e.

Also, it ap- case studies. Several aspects of this process are pears that no one has explicitly examined when discussed in the literature. For example, Glaser this theory-building approach is likely to b e a n d Strauss 1 detailed a comparative fruitful a n d what its strengths a n d weaknesses method for developing grounded theory, Yin may be.

The first is a roadmap for build- fied a series of procedures for analyzing quali- ing theories from case study research. This tative data. However, confusion surrounds the roadmap synthesizes previous work on qualita- distinctions among qualitative data, inductive tive methods e.

Also, there is a design of case study research e. For example, the pa- existing literature. The result is a more nearly per explores strengths and weaknesses of theory complete roadmap for executing this type of re- building from case studies, situations in which it Table 1 Process of Building Theory from Case Study Research Step Activity Reason Gettlng Started Definition of research question Focuses efforts Posslbly a prlorl constructs Provldes better grounding of construct measures Nelther theory nor hypotheses Retains theoretical flexibility Selecting Cases Specified population Constrains extraneous varlation and sharpens external validlty Theoretical, not random, sampling Focuses efforts on theoretically useful cases-i.

Finally, the work of others such a s Van Maa- Background nen on ethnography, Jick on trian- gulation of data types, a n d Mintzberg on Several pieces of the process of building the- direct research has provided additional pieces ory from case study research have appeared in for a framework of building theory from case the literature. One is the work on grounded the- study research.

These authors building process are evident in the literature. The method relies on tial confusion about how to combine them, continuous comparison of data a n d theory be- when to conduct this type of study, a n d how to ginning with data collection. It emphasizes both evaluate it. More recently, Yin , has described The case study is a research strategy which the design of case study research. He has de- focuses on understanding the dynamics present fined the case study a s a research strategy, de- within single settings.

Examples of case study veloped a typology of case study designs, a n d research include Selznick's description of described the replication logic which is essential TVA, Allison's study of the Cuban missile to multiple case analysis. His approach also crisis, a n d Pettigrew's research on deci- stresses bringing the concerns of validity a n d sion making at a British retailer. Case studies reliability in experimental research design to the can involve either single or multiple cases, and design of case study research.

For ex- Miles a n d Huberman have outlined ample, Harris and Sutton studied 8 dying specific techniques for analyzing qualitative organizations, Bettenhausen a n d Murnighan data. Their ideas include a variety of devices focused on the emergence of norms in 19 such a s tabular displays and graphs to manage laboratory groups, a n d Leonard-Barton a n d present qualitative data, without destroying tracked the progress of 10 innovation projects.

For example, dertaken their own variations a n d additions to the Warwick study of competitiveness and stra- the earlier methodological work e. Many of these authors acknowledge a firm Pettigrew, , a n d the Mintzberg a n d debt to previous work, but they have also devel- Waters study of Steinberg's grocery em- oped their own "homegrown" techniques for pire examines multiple strategic changes within building theory from cases. For example, Sutton a single firm.

For example, Sutton a n d qualitative evidence from interviews and obser- Callahan rely exclusively on qualitative vations. Table 2 summarizes some recent re- to the decision process, there were strong, trian- search using theory building from case studies. Although early identification of the research Building Theory from Case question a n d possible constructs is helpful, it is Study Research equally important to recognize that both a r e ten- tative in this type of research.

No construct is Getting Started guaranteed a place in the resultant theory, no An initial definition of the research question, matter how well it is measured. Also, the re- in at least broad terms, is important in building search question may shift during the research.

Mintzberg , p. At the extreme, some researchers e. In these studies, the research rationale for defining the research question is focus emerged after the data collection had be- the same a s it is in hypothesis-testing research. As Bettenhausen a n d Murnighan , p. Without a research focus, it is easy to become wrote: ". For exam- experiment on group decision making and co- ple, Pettigrew a n d colleagues defined alition formation. Our observations of the their research question in terms of strategic groups indicated that the unique character of change and competitiveness within large British each of the groups seemed to overwhelm our corporations, a n d Leonard-Barton fo- other manipulations.

Such definition of a research question building study of group norms. Admittedly, it is impossible to A priori specification of constructs can also achieve this ideal of a clean theoretical slate.

Although this type of specifi- is important because preordained theoretical cation is not common in theory-building studies perspectives or propositions may bias and limit to date, it is valuable because it permits re- the findings. Thus, investigators should formu- searchers to measure constructs more accu- late a research problem a n d possibly specify rately. If these constructs prove important a s the some potentially important variables, with some study progresses, then researchers have a reference to extant literature.

However, they firmer empirical grounding for the emergent should avoid thinking about specific relation- theory. For example, in a study of strategic de- ships between variables a n d theories a s much cision making in top management teams, Bour- a s possible, especially at the outset of the pro- geois and Eisenhardt identified several cess. Selecting Cases These constructs were explicitly measured in the interview protocol a n d questionnaires.

When Selection of cases is a n important aspect of several of these constructs did emerge a s related building theory from case studies. Harris a n d Sutton , for example, the set of entities from which the research Sam- were interested in the parting ceremonies of ple is to be drawn. Also, selection of a n appro- dying organizations. In order to build a model priate population controls extraneous variation applicable across organization types, these re- a n d helps to define the limits for generalizing the searchers purposefully selected diverse organi- findings.

They chose eight organizations, filling competitiveness illustrates these ideas Petti- each of four categories: private, dependent; pri- grew, In this study, the researchers se- vate, independent; public, dependent; a n d pub- lected cases from a population of large British lic, independent. The sample was not random, corporations in four market sectors. The selec- but reflected the selection of specific cases to ex- tion of four specific markets allowed the re- tend the theory to a broad range of organiza- searchers to control environmental variation, tions.

Multiple cases within each category al- while the focus on large corporations con- lowed findings to be replicated within catego- strained variation due to size differences among ries. Gersick followed a similar strategy of the firms.

Thus, specification of this population diverse sampling in order to enhance the gen- reduced extraneous variation a n d clarified the eralizability of her model of group develop- domain of the findings a s large corporations op- ment. In the Warwick study Pettigrew, , erating in specific types of environments.

Within each of four sen population is unusual when building theory markets, they chose polar types: one case of from case studies. Such research relies on theo- clearly successful firm performance a n d one un- retical sampling i. The cases may be chosen to replicate pre- Finally, the Eisenhardt a n d Bourgeois vious cases or extend emergent theory, or they study of the politics of strategic decision making may be chosen to fill theoretical categories and illustrates theoretical sampling during the provide examples of polar types.

While the course of research. A theory linking the central- cases may be chosen randomly, random selec- ization of power to the use of politics in top man- tion is neither necessary, nor even preferable.

This tactic allowed the initial of interest is "transparently observable. In contrast, traditional, within- experiment hypothesis-testing studies rely on Theory-building researchers typically com- statistical sampling, in which researchers ran- bine multiple data collection methods. While in- domly select the sample from the population. In terviews, observations, a n d archival sources this type of study, the goal of the sampling pro- are particularly common, inductive researchers cess is to obtain accurate statistical evidence on are not confined to these choices.

Some investi- the distributions of variables within the popula- gators employ only some of these data collection tion. Convergent perceptions a d d to the add others e. The ra- conflicting perceptions keep the group from pre- tionale is the same a s in hypothesis-testing re- mature closure. Thus, the use of more investiga- search. That is, the triangulation made possible tors builds confidence in the findings a n d in- by multiple data collection methods provides creases the likelihood of surprising findings.

This allows the with quantitative evidence. Although the terms case to b e viewed from the different perspectives qualitative and case study are often used inter- of multiple observers. A variation on this tactic is changeably e. Moreover, the will view case evidence in divergent ways. For combination of data types can be highly syner- example, interviews can be conducted by two gistic.

Quantitative evidence can indicate rela- person teams, with one researcher handling the tionships which may not be salient to the re- interview questions, while the other records searcher.


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