Case Study Criticisms

Over the years, case-study methods have not received universal acceptance, which can be seen in the limited exposure that they receive in social science textbooks on methodology; it is not uncommon for a textbook to devote only a few paragraphs to this method. This attitude is attributable in part to some of the criticisms raised about case-study designs. One criticism is that this technique lends itself to distortions or falsifications while the data are being collected. Because direct observation may rely on subjective criteria, in many instances based on general impressions, it is alleged that this data should not be trusted. A second criticism is that it is difficult to draw cause-and-effect conclusions because of the lack of control measures to rule out alternative rival hypotheses. Third, the issue of generalization is important after the data have been collected and interpreted. There will often be a question regarding the population to which the results can be applied.

In the second half of the twentieth century, there appears to have been a resurgence of the use of case-study methods. Part of the impetus for this change came from a reactionary movement against the more traditional methods that collect data in artificial settings. The case-study method plays a significant role in studying behavior in real-life situations, under a set of circumstances that would make it impossible to use any other alternative.

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