Chapter 5 Week three

This week we look at our second qualitative research method, case study research. In some disciplines/sub-fields, case study research is perhaps the most prevalent method for doing research. However, it is important not to be side-tracked by the use of cases in teaching (e.g., the Harvard method). Rather, we need to concentrate on case studies as a strategy for doing research.

This week sees us rounding out they ways in which with collect data, by considering archival (or secondary data) research. We then transition into the analysis of qualitative data. For many students (and academics), they analysis of the data is the most challenging part of qualitative research.

First class


I am somewhat biased as I mainly read in my own area (strategizing in professional service firms), and within that milieu the case study reigns supreme. So, I perhaps over estimate its importance; nevertheless it is a very important methodology. So this week, you will undertake the first steps toward doing a research case study; writing a case-description.

Think back to the journal articles where you have seen case descriptions. If you are not sure what a case description is, no worries, you have a task to do this week that will address that.

Class plan

  • In what ways are case study research and action research similar?

  • How are units of analysis and levels of analysis related?

  • Review the case studies

Prep and tasks

For many of these tasks, you will need to engage in some independent research.

  1. What is an embedded case? — 10 minutes.

  2. Given your ontological/epistemological position, draw a concept map that connects the ideas of “unit of analysis” and “level of analysis”. Your concept map should contain citations to the sources of the ideas you present — 30 minutes.

  3. Select an empirically-based journal article you have enjoyed (it should be an article with which you are already familiar). Be prepared to present/discuss/describe the units of analysis and level of analysis — 30 minutes.

  4. Read Chapter 7 of Myers (Qualitative research in business & management, 2013, pp. 73–91) — 60 minutes.

  5. Read Chapter 12 of Myers (Qualitative research in business & management, 2013, pp. 151–162) — 40 minutes.

  6. What is a case description in the context of qualitative research? (Hint, check out Yin’s work) — 10 minutes.

  7. Where would you place Yin on a positivist — interpretivist spectrum?

  8. Write a short case description. Combine what you know about using documents to collect data, and case study research to write a case description, with a view to investigating focusing on Beca’s internationalisation — 180 minutes.

    • Your are time constrained; you will only be making a initial/draft case.
    • Beca is a New Zealand based engineering consultancy.
    • You may only use secondary (archival) data; you must not do any primary data collection
    • You should consider this to be the exploratory phase of research into how professional service firms internationalise.
    • Spend about one third of your time collecting data, and the rest of it writing the case (mainly as referenced quotes).
    • Keep a research log of what you did and why you did it.
    • Bring your case description (and research log) to class.

5.0.1 Post class reflection

With the first class of the week behind you, it is time for you to reflect on what you have learnt and write-up your learning journal (Section 1.3 ‐ 90 minutes). You can then do your review your allocated learning journals of you peers (Section 1.3 ‐ 60 minutes).

Second class


Qualitative data analysis (QDA) — Anecdotally, one of the big differences between quantitative research and qualitative research is that, in quantitative research one spends a lot of time at the ‘front-end’ working out what is to be done, and the analysis is relative quick. Whereas, with qualitative research, there is less work at the front-end, but the analysis takes much longer. When talking with masters and PhD students about their qualitative research plans, we often end up doubling or tripling the amount of time they set aside to do analysis.

In many ways, thematic analysis, is the swiss-army knife of QDA, and so we start our journey with a look at this flexible tool that can be used in a variety of paradigms. The ‘go-to’ references for thematic analysis are by Miles and Huberman (Qualitative data analysis, 1994; The qualitative researcher’s companion, 2002). Many qualitative research methods courses have Miles and Huberman’s work as required reading.

Class plan

  • How do you do thematic analysis?

  • Which is the better tool, Dedoose or nVivo?

  • Is your coding the same?

  • Is your coding the same?

  • Is thematic coding essentially positivist, interpretivist, or critical in orientation?

  • Is thematic analysis more of a top-down or bottom-up approach?

Prep and tasks

  1. Read Chapter 13 of Myers (Qualitative research in business & management, 2013, pp. 165–181) — 40 minutes.

  2. Explore the SAGE Research Methods site and read about thematic analysis — 40 minutes.

  3. Summarise ‘thematic analysis’ in a paragraph or two, as if it were to be included in chapter 13 of the Myers’ text book — 40 minutes.

  4. Again, using the SAGE Research Methods site search and examine instructions or videos on ‘how’ to do thematic analysis (rather than ‘what’ it is). You might need to use the word “coding” as one of your search terms — 60 minutes.

  5. Sign-up for a free account at Dedoose. Spend some time getting familiar with this QDA software by doing thematic analysis and coding the text in Appendix E — 90 minutes.

  6. Now, on a PC in one of the labs, do the same thing but try out nVivo — 90 minutes.

Post class reflection

With the second class of the week behind you, it is time for you to reflect on what you have learnt and write-up your learning journal (Section 1.3 ‐ 90 minutes). You can then do your review of your allocated peers’ learning (Section 1.3 ‐ 60 minutes).

Given the scheduling, you might choose to do this at the start of the next week.