Table 8

Potential pitfalls and mitigating actions when undertaking case study research

Potential pitfall

Mitigating action


Selecting/conceptualising the wrong case(s) resulting in lack of theoretical generalisations

Developing in-depth knowledge of theoretical and empirical literature, justifying choices made

Collecting large volumes of data that are not relevant to the case or too little to be of any value

Focus data collection in line with research questions, whilst being flexible and allowing different paths to be explored

Defining/bounding the case

Focus on related components (either by time and/or space), be clear what is outside the scope of the case

Lack of rigour

Triangulation, respondent validation, the use of theoretical sampling, transparency throughout the research process

Ethical issues

Anonymise appropriately as cases are often easily identifiable to insiders, informed consent of participants

Integration with theoretical framework

Allow for unexpected issues to emerge and do not force fit, test out preliminary explanations, be clear about epistemological positions in advance


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

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