Table 6

Example of epistemological approaches that may be used in case study research




Key references


Involves questioning one's own assumptions taking into account the wider political and social environment.

It can possibly neglect other factors by focussing only on power relationships and may give the researcher a position that is too privileged.

Howcroft and Trauth[30] Blakie[31] Doolin[11,32]

Interprets the limiting conditions in relation to power and control that are thought to influence behaviour.

Bloomfield and Best[33]


Involves understanding meanings/contexts and processes as perceived from different perspectives, trying to understand individual and shared social meanings. Focus is on theory building.

Often difficult to explain unintended consequences and for neglecting surrounding historical contexts

Stake[8] Doolin[11]


Involves establishing which variables one wishes to study in advance and seeing whether they fit in with the findings. Focus is often on testing and refining theory on the basis of case study findings.

It does not take into account the role of the researcher in influencing findings.

Yin[1,27,28] Shanks and Parr[34]

Crowe et al. BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011 11:100   doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100

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