The term research refers to the organized method used in investigating, experimenting and evaluating a specific situation or aspect and using the insights from such a process to come to a conclusion. Research is based on theories, facts, observation and predictability of results to map a way forward. Research strategies have been classified into either qualitative or quantitative research methods. Qualitative research methods have generally been defined as research that seeks to find data about subject matter that goes beyond simple numerical data. Some of the methods employed by qualitative research include interviews, observation, questionnaires and detailed document analysis. Quantitative research methods on the other hand can be defined as numeric-oriented data research methodology seeking to find exact results. This research paper explores the differences and similarities between case study as a research methodology and the other five research methods.
A quantitative research methodology, case study has been employed in wider context of business research. It is a methodology that reviews a particular incident, event, organization, product or work unit in order to appreciate a particular issues or circumstance. Case study can be used to explore multiple cases in order to make some succinct comparison. Case study, as a research methodology, is commonly employed to appreciate the prevailing conditions that resulted in what is under review. In a sense, case studies are used to evaluate events before and after what the researcher is reviewing. For instance, a case study can be used to look into the failure of a big corporation such Enron. In such a study, the researcher will review the events prior to the failure. The case study will further analyze time period that Enron fell into financial crises and the subsequent failure of the company. Such a study will therefore demystify management errors that may seem to work well at the beginning that end the company in bankruptcy. Case study will be basis for comparison with the other five research methodologies.
The term observation as used in research may have several definitions. One definition that has been forwarded is that observation is the systematic description that captures the events and behaviors of the research subjects . The general concept of observation is a model of study whereby a researcher simply gets the information by either being present and participating with the target subject or just doing so without any involvement with the research subject. In cases where the a researcher takes conceited effort and becoming involved with the research subjects, then such a strategy is referred to as participant observation. There is a second method of observation where a researcher does not participate in the acts and behaviors of the research subject and this kind of research is referred to as non-participant or non-obtrusive observation.
Participant observation is a method of research where a researcher first develops a rapport with the target subject and learns the normal and natural structures of the subjects. Here a researcher assumes the position of the research subject in order to fully comprehend the intricacies of the target subjects . The idea of participatory observation has been widely employed in anthropology and cultural studies in a general category referred to as ethnographic studies. In business research, participate observation can be used to examine the operations of say a processing plant in order to appreciate slow processes or effective ones.
Unlike participant observation, the concept of non-obtrusive observation tries to overcome the human weakness of objectivity and record data about target without elicitation of the information from the subject . Here a researcher simply tries to answer research questions without having to involve the research subjects. This method has been preferred by psychologist when studying the characters of unique personalities such as Alzheimer’s patients or autistic patients. In business research, non participant observation can be carried out in say a banking lounge in order to examine measures that can be eliminated or introduced to make the customer enjoy time at the bank.
In comparison to case study, observation is quite similar to case study since it is an exploratory research methodology with the aim of understanding some particular issue that is not very clear. The difference with case study is that while in the case study the researcher does not need to be present during actual event ort organization, for an observation to work the researcher has to be one site in performing the actual research.
Also a qualitative research methodology, interviews is a research methodology that aims at understanding and gaining in-depth knowledge about the participant’s experience . There are several kinds of interviews and for the purpose of this research informal and in-depth interviews will be examined.
Informal interviews can be likened to an informal conversation between the interviewee with one or several participants . An informal interview is very exploratory in nature as its aim to make use of spontaneously generated answers. Informal interviews lack structured questions and therefore the participants are allowed to respond to any issues as they see fit. For example, an informal conversation can be to discuss the effect of social media on marketing.
On the other hand, an in-depth interview is a structure where the interviewer has a vision or path that the interview is meant to follow. In the most cases the interviewer pre-prepares a set of questions or issues that must be addressed during the interview . For instance, in-depth interviews can be used reasons why the recent Initial Public Offer carried out by Facebook was not successful as initially imagined.
Comparison interviews are quite similar case study since they are qualitative in nature and therefore the expected result is quite open-ended. They are exploratory in nature and thus the researcher has the freedom to explore multiple directions during the course of the research. The difference between the case study and the interviews is that while case studies can have some quantitative bits to it, interviews are purely quantitative in nature.
Textual analysis research methodology is a research method carried out by evaluating text and archived data related to the topic under review . It is a common research method in reviewing the operations of a particular entity such a business. This is so due to the fact that business entities tend to rely on written information to run businesses. Such text include annual reports, memorandums, financial reports and relevant documents, meeting minutes, press releases and other corporate documents. Thus the researcher simply delves into archives and databases to review and evaluate text that is related to the subject matter. It can be applied in researching the extent of tax compliance of difference businesses within a particular industry or location.
Textual analysis is very similar to case study as it explores a particular issue by reviewing historical recording. The difference between the two is that while case studies may use none text sources such as may rely on non text source such as interviews, textual analysis is fully reliant on written information.
Focus group is research methodology where a researcher involves a group that is well knowledgeable on the subject matter in order to explore pertinent issues regarding the subject matter . Here, a skilled moderator directs a group’s discussion using well organized and pre-prepared questions set. A focus group is usually composed of members who have a wealth of information regarding the matter and therefore will give the researcher well organized fully-explored issues. A focus group can be used to explore desirable research destinations in a particular regions say the Middle East.
Well, like the case study methodology, focus groups are effective in exploring a particular incident or event. However, unlike the case study, focus group methodology requires the presence of the researcher during the discussion.
A qualititative research methodology, a biographical research is a research methodology that explores a particular event or organization by reconstructing a ‘personality’ development in the life course (Saunders , 2010). It aims at revealing issues that were not known before and explains the generation from one dimension to the next. For instance, a biographical research methodology can be used to explain how Coca Cola as a product has grown to become a leading brand in the world today.
The case study is very similar to biographical research as it seeks to explore a particular issue who results can used to refer to other cases. The difference however is that while the case study nay reviews different subjects in a research, biographical research uses only one research subject.
Table showing similarities and difference between Case Study and the five other research methods
Similarities with Case Study
Difference with Case Study
Exploratory in Nature
Requires researcher on-site presence
Exploratory in Nature
Reviews a particular event or aspect
Reviews a specific past event
Exploratory in nature
Requires on-site researcher presence.
Each research methodology has a particular function and in most case have different explicabilities. Case study may review different aspects of a similar issue and thus may be best on some circumstance. It is used to explore circumstances that surround a particular event, product or organization. Observation on the other hand is research methodology where the researcher gets firsthand experience about the business environment. Thus it can be used to adjust businesses process to increase efficiency. Textual research is also a qualitative research that explores written information to explore particular issues at hand. It is commonly used to explore situations whose prevalence can be expressed in quantitative extents. A similar research methodology is referred to as biographical analysis. Biographical analysis is research that explores a particular business, product or service by exploring its development overtime. It is used to orient the researcher with life development life cycle of a business or product. Interview is also a common research methodology. An interview is where the researcher directly interacts with a research subject and derives most information from the interviewee. Interview is a form of research that explores information that may only be privy to the interviewee. And finally a focus group is a discussion among knowledgeable persons who will provide the researcher with the necessary information to perform the researcher. Focus groups are used to explore conditions that are not clear and an exhaustive discussion may reveal dimensions not known before. Each of the reviewed research methodologies are best utilized in different circumstances. It is upon the researcher to identify the best research methodology for a particular research issue.
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