Methods Useful in Case Study Research

Particular attention must be paid to considering how best to test for reliability and validity when assembling the methods used to conduct case study research. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to use multiple sources of evidence including the use of such approaches to data gathering as interviews, survey questionnaires, field observation, textual analysis, participant observation, analysis of government and other statistical records, and spatial analysis. In fact, case study research most often involves a multimethod approach that is well grounded in data triangulation. This approach helps confirm the validity of findings on the particular case study and may employ an overlapping set of both qualitative and quantitative methods.

During the past 15 years or so, the use of strictly qualitative approaches has gained popularity in human geography as feminist, postmodern, Marxist, and other research approaches in the field have increasingly come to depend on the use of qualitative methods in their work. Deconstructing the more nuanced findings and meanings from data gathered through the use of unstructured and structured interviews, participant observation, and textual analysis often form the heart of this type of work. Feminist scholars in the field, in particular, have depended on ethnographic methods centered in the use of interviews to learn more about the lived experiences of people on the ground in particular places.

In contrast to the early work accomplished by feminist geographers that developed from radical or Marxist approaches (and was thus strongly antipositivist and thus rejected the use of quantitative approaches), other types of human geographers, such as population geographers, have also depended upon various types of quantitative data as a key part of their mixed methodologies. In this type of work, data sources such as census records may be used to help corroborate qualitative findings when using the case study approach. Population geographers also often focus more heavily on spatial analysis in their case study work.