Mixed Methods and Case Study Research

Prof. Werner J. Patzelt, Technische Universität Dresden

Case study research inevitably is mixed methods research. This becomes clear as soon as we look at “triangulation”, which is at the core of case study research. This procedure does not only mean “looking at the same data” from different perspectives, i.e. through the lenses or concepts of various research guiding theories. It also means using different data sources to find out the “how” and “why” of a phenomenon under study, and the parallel or sequential use of different methods of data collection. So we kill two birds with one stone if we integrate what ought to be understood about combining various qualitative and quantitative methods with what can be learned about how to study a phenomenon of general interest in a single case, or in a very small sample of cases.

The course will start with an overview of the qualitative and quantitative methods used in the social sciences. So some basic knowledge of these methods will be helpful. Next, some often discussed “background theories” on the nature of social reality and on fitting research approaches will be reviewed and connected to each other.

After this basic introduction, case study research proper will be taught and discussed, integrating those research projects on which participants may be working. The following topics will be covered:

  • What is case study research good for? (like finding explanations for specific cases, making inferences on causal mechanisms, improving or constructing theories, evaluating policy measures …)
  • What is a (good) “case”, and how do we “sample” in case study research? (relationships between single case research, small-n comparative research, and large-n variance-oriented research; including an overview of the various forms of case study research)
  • How do we properly set up an adequate case study design?
  • How is (qualitative and quantitative) data collection done adequately in case study research?
  • What are effective procedures of (qualitative and quantitative) data analysis in case study research?
  • What are criteria for good case study research, and for good case study reports?

Finally, the methodological insights on mixed method research, as they have resulted from discussing concrete case study research so far, will be brought on a more generalizing level, thus becoming applicable to mixed method approaches far beyond case study research. The following topics will be covered:

  • general principles of mixed methods research, illustrated by examples
  • key decisions in developing a mixed methods design
  • major mixed methods designs
  • challenges of mixed methods research, and how to overcome them

After completing this course, participants should be able to develop and work through convincing research designs of their own, either for mixed methods studies in general, or for case studies in particular.

Basic knowledge of social science methodology would be helpful for this course. Participants with an emerging, or ongoing, mixed methods or case study project of their own will enrich the class very much, since in this case course teaching and own research activities can benefit from each other, and manifold research experiences can be shared.

Morning sessions will be devoted to lectures and classroom discussions, afternoon sessions to exercises and seminar presentations by participants, in particular during the second week of the course.