Single Case Studies Political Science

Case study is ultimately a method that falls into two forms: the individual, within case study and the comparative across case study, usually limited to a small number of cases.

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Lijphart’s other typologies include those case studies that are chosen specifically for theory-building purposes.Scholars have generally fallen into two camps, those who argue for its usefulness and those who contend it has limited utility in a discipline with a strong quantitative emphasis and reliance on scientific method.Addressing this fundamental question over the potentially ambiguous nature of a case study finding, which alone can neither directly inform nor disprove a generalizable finding, Arend Lijphart (1971) states that because of its singular nature, the case study in and of itself does not directly satisfy the standards of scientific research.He does, however, credit the case study with multiple indirect benefits, making it a valuable component in establishing political science theory.He identifies six types of case studies that fall into roughly two categories: those chosen because the case itself is of interest and that are purely descriptive and those chosen to inform and build theory.Case studies are by definition qualitative, meaning that the focus of the study is not primarily the systematic manipulation of aggregated points of data, an objective exercise, but rather a study that focuses on the quality of the potential data observed, a much more subjective work.This is not to say that case studies are not objective as well: In reality, for a case study to have any influence, it must identify and measure variables to allow for reliable comparison and to build theory that is testable, replicable, and generalizable.Good case study work can be either accumulating (building on previous knowledge) or original (establishing entirely new avenues of research).Political scientists have had an ongoing discussion about the role of the case study approach in their field. More recently, the case study has seen a revival of interest by social scientists as part of a multimethod, holistic approach that includes formal, qualitative, and quantitative methods. However, for some time the individual case study approach had been supplanted by large-N, data-intensive quantitative methods as the preferred technique for empirical studies.

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