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Research Guides

Multiple Case Studies

Nadia Alqahtani and Pengtong Qu

Description

The case study approach is popular across disciplines in education, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine, law, and political science (Creswell, 2013). It is both a research method and a strategy (Creswell, 2013; Yin, 2017). In this type of research design, a case can be an individual, an event, or an entity, as determined by the research questions. There are two variants of the case study: the single-case study and the multiple-case study. The former design can be used to study and understand an unusual case, a critical case, a longitudinal case, or a revelatory case. On the other hand, a multiple-case study includes two or more cases or replications across the cases to investigate the same phenomena (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao, 2003; Yin, 2017). …a multiple-case study includes two or more cases or replications across the cases to investigate the same phenomena

The difference between the single- and multiple-case study is the research design; however, they are within the same methodological framework (Yin, 2017). Multiple cases are selected so that “individual case studies either (a) predict similar results (a literal replication) or (b) predict contrasting results but for anticipatable reasons (a theoretical replication)” (p. 55). When the purpose of the study is to compare and replicate the findings, the multiple-case study produces more compelling evidence so that the study is considered more robust than the single-case study (Yin, 2017).

To write a multiple-case study, a summary of individual cases should be reported, and researchers need to draw cross-case conclusions and form a cross-case report (Yin, 2017). With evidence from multiple cases, researchers may have generalizable findings and develop theories (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao, 2003).

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Lewis-Beck, M., Bryman, A. E., & Liao, T. F. (2003). The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods . Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Yin, R. K. (2017). Case study research and applications: Design and methods . Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Key Research Books and Articles on Multiple Case Study Methodology

Yin discusses how to decide if a case study should be used in research. Novice researchers can learn about research design, data collection, and data analysis of different types of case studies, as well as writing a case study report.

Chapter 2 introduces four major types of research design in case studies: holistic single-case design, embedded single-case design, holistic multiple-case design, and embedded multiple-case design. Novice researchers will learn about the definitions and characteristics of different designs. This chapter also teaches researchers how to examine and discuss the reliability and validity of the designs.

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2017). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches . Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

This book compares five different qualitative research designs: narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. It compares the characteristics, data collection, data analysis and representation, validity, and writing-up procedures among five inquiry approaches using texts with tables. For each approach, the author introduced the definition, features, types, and procedures and contextualized these components in a study, which was conducted through the same method. Each chapter ends with a list of relevant readings of each inquiry approach.

This book invites readers to compare these five qualitative methods and see the value of each approach. Readers can consider which approach would serve for their research contexts and questions, as well as how to design their research and conduct the data analysis based on their choice of research method.

Günes, E., & Bahçivan, E. (2016). A multiple case study of preservice science teachers’ TPACK: Embedded in a comprehensive belief system. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 11 (15), 8040-8054.

In this article, the researchers showed the importance of using technological opportunities in improving the education process and how they enhanced the students’ learning in science education. The study examined the connection between “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge” (TPACK) and belief system in a science teaching context. The researchers used the multiple-case study to explore the effect of TPACK on the preservice science teachers’ (PST) beliefs on their TPACK level. The participants were three teachers with the low, medium, and high level of TPACK confidence. Content analysis was utilized to analyze the data, which were collected by individual semi-structured interviews with the participants about their lesson plans. The study first discussed each case, then compared features and relations across cases. The researchers found that there was a positive relationship between PST’s TPACK confidence and TPACK level; when PST had higher TPACK confidence, the participant had a higher competent TPACK level and vice versa.

Recent Dissertations Using Multiple Case Study Methodology

Milholland, E. S. (2015). A multiple case study of instructors utilizing Classroom Response Systems (CRS) to achieve pedagogical goals . Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 3706380)

The researcher of this study critiques the use of Classroom Responses Systems by five instructors who employed this program five years ago in their classrooms. The researcher conducted the multiple-case study methodology and categorized themes. He interviewed each instructor with questions about their initial pedagogical goals, the changes in pedagogy during teaching, and the teaching techniques individuals used while practicing the CRS. The researcher used the multiple-case study with five instructors. He found that all instructors changed their goals during employing CRS; they decided to reduce the time of lecturing and to spend more time engaging students in interactive activities. This study also demonstrated that CRS was useful for the instructors to achieve multiple learning goals; all the instructors provided examples of the positive aspect of implementing CRS in their classrooms.

Li, C. L. (2010). The emergence of fairy tale literacy: A multiple case study on promoting critical literacy of children through a juxtaposed reading of classic fairy tales and their contemporary disruptive variants . Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 3572104)

To explore how children’s development of critical literacy can be impacted by their reactions to fairy tales, the author conducted a multiple-case study with 4 cases, in which each child was a unit of analysis. Two Chinese immigrant children (a boy and a girl) and two American children (a boy and a girl) at the second or third grade were recruited in the study. The data were collected through interviews, discussions on fairy tales, and drawing pictures. The analysis was conducted within both individual cases and cross cases. Across four cases, the researcher found that the young children’s’ knowledge of traditional fairy tales was built upon mass-media based adaptations. The children believed that the representations on mass-media were the original stories, even though fairy tales are included in the elementary school curriculum. The author also found that introducing classic versions of fairy tales increased children’s knowledge in the genre’s origin, which would benefit their understanding of the genre. She argued that introducing fairy tales can be the first step to promote children’s development of critical literacy.

Asher, K. C. (2014). Mediating occupational socialization and occupational individuation in teacher education: A multiple case study of five elementary pre-service student teachers . Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 3671989)

This study portrayed five pre-service teachers’ teaching experience in their student teaching phase and explored how pre-service teachers mediate their occupational socialization with occupational individuation. The study used the multiple-case study design and recruited five pre-service teachers from a Midwestern university as five cases. Qualitative data were collected through interviews, classroom observations, and field notes. The author implemented the case study analysis and found five strategies that the participants used to mediate occupational socialization with occupational individuation. These strategies were: 1) hindering from practicing their beliefs, 2) mimicking the styles of supervising teachers, 3) teaching in the ways in alignment with school’s existing practice, 4) enacting their own ideas, and 5) integrating and balancing occupational socialization and occupational individuation. The study also provided recommendations and implications to policymakers and educators in teacher education so that pre-service teachers can be better supported.

Multiple Case Studies Copyright © 2019 by Nadia Alqahtani and Pengtong Qu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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A multiple case study is a research method that uses multiple research sites to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon. It examines multiple cases in order to analyze patterns and the relationships between variables. This type of research method is used in management to gain a deeper understanding of a particular problem or issue. It is a systematic approach to gathering and analyzing data from multiple different sources such as individuals, organizations, or communities. The multiple case study approach allows researchers to gain greater insight into complex problems by considering a variety of perspectives, contexts, and sources of information .

  • 1 Example of multiple case study
  • 2 When to use multiple case study
  • 3 Types of multiple case study
  • 4 Steps of multiple case study
  • 5 Limitations of multiple case study
  • 6 Other approaches related to multiple case study
  • 7 References

Example of multiple case study

  • A multiple case study example could be a study of different companies in the same industry in order to analyze the differences in their strategies and performance. For instance, a researcher may examine three companies in the automotive industry and determine what strategies have been successful and which have not. They may then compare the results of these three companies in order to determine which strategies are most effective.
  • Another example of a multiple case study could be an examination of how different countries have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, the researcher could look at different strategies adopted by countries worldwide and analyze the results of those strategies. They could then compare the results in order to determine which strategies have been most successful in mitigating the spread of the virus.
  • A third example could be a study of different schools and how they have adapted to the online learning environment . The researcher could look at the successes and failures of different schools in order to determine which strategies are most effective in transitioning to remote learning. They could then use these findings to suggest changes and improvements to the schools’ policies and procedures .

When to use multiple case study

A multiple case study approach is a useful tool for researchers looking to gain a deeper understanding of complex issues. This method can be used in a variety of contexts, such as studying organizational management , social phenomena, or public health interventions. It can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the problem by considering a variety of perspectives, contexts, and sources of information. Examples of when multiple case studies can be used include:

  • Examining the effectiveness of a particular policy or program in multiple contexts.
  • Exploring the dynamics of organizational change across different settings.
  • Investigating the impact of a cultural or social phenomenon on different communities.
  • Analyzing the differences in responses to a public health intervention between populations.
  • Understanding the dynamics of an issue in order to inform the development of new policies or practices.

Types of multiple case study

  • Exploratory multiple case study: An exploratory multiple case study is used to explore a research problem in greater detail. It is used when the research question or problem is not well-defined, or when the researcher is uncertain about the best approach to study the problem. This type of multiple case study is often used to generate new ideas and to identify potential research topics.
  • Explanatory Multiple Case Study: An explanatory multiple case study is used to explain a research problem in detail. It is used when the researcher is looking to explain the cause of an event or phenomenon. This type of multiple case study is used to identify patterns and relationships between variables, and to identify potential explanations for the phenomenon being studied.
  • Descriptive Multiple Case Study: A descriptive multiple case study is used to describe a research problem in detail. It is used when the researcher wants to provide a comprehensive overview of a particular topic or phenomenon. This type of multiple case study is useful for providing a detailed description of a particular event or phenomenon and its context.
  • Comparative Multiple Case Study: A comparative multiple case study is used to compare two or more research sites. It is used when the researcher wants to compare and contrast a phenomenon across multiple sites. This type of multiple case study is useful for examining similarities and differences between different research sites.
  • Embedded Multiple Case Study: An embedded multiple case study is used to embed a single case study within a larger research project . It is used when the researcher wants to incorporate a single case study within a larger research project. This type of multiple case study is useful for exploring the complexities of a particular research problem, and for providing an in-depth understanding of a particular phenomenon.

Steps of multiple case study

A multiple case study is a research method that uses multiple research sites to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon. The multiple case study approach allows researchers to gain greater insight into complex problems by considering a variety of perspectives, contexts, and sources of information. The following steps are necessary for conducting a successful multiple case study:

  • Selecting the research sites : The first step in a multiple case study is to select the research sites. This requires careful consideration of factors such as the size and scope of the problem, the availability of data and resources, and the accessibility of the research sites.
  • Gathering data : After selecting the research sites, the next step is to gather data. This can be done through interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other data collection methods .
  • Analyzing the data : Once the data has been gathered, it must be analyzed in order to identify patterns and relationships between variables. This requires careful analysis of the data and may involve using statistical methods such as regression and factor analysis.
  • Drawing conclusions : After the data has been analyzed, the next step is to draw conclusions. This involves synthesizing the data and making sense of it in order to answer the research question.
  • Reporting the results : The final step is to report the results of the multiple case study. This can be done through a written report, a presentation, or a multimedia format.

Limitations of multiple case study

Multiple case studies have some limitations that should be taken into consideration when using this method. These limitations include:

  • The multiple case study approach can be time consuming and resource intensive, as researchers must collect and analyze data from multiple different sources.
  • It can be difficult to identify patterns and relationships between variables when studying multiple cases.
  • The data collected from multiple cases may be difficult to generalize to a larger population.
  • The multiple case study approach is limited to studying phenomena in limited contexts, and does not provide a holistic picture of a phenomenon.
  • It can be difficult to control for all variables in a multiple case study, which can lead to inaccurate results.

Other approaches related to multiple case study

A multiple case study is a research method that uses multiple research sites to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon. Other approaches related to multiple case studies include:

  • Qualitative research : Qualitative research is an empirical research approach which focuses on understanding the perspectives, experiences, and beliefs of people in their contexts. It typically involves interviews, observations, and other forms of data collection.
  • Grounded Theory : Grounded theory is an inductive research method that examines how social processes are created, maintained, and changed. It involves the systematic collection and analysis of data to generate new theory.
  • Action Research : Action research is a type of research that involves the active participation of stakeholders in the research process . It focuses on identifying and resolving practical problems in an organization or community.
  • Gustafsson, J. (2017). Single case studies vs. multiple case studies: A comparative study .
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Research Design in Business and Management pp 171–186 Cite as

Multiple Case Research Design

  • Stefan Hunziker 3 &
  • Michael Blankenagel 3  
  • First Online: 10 November 2021

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This chapter addresses the peculiarities, characteristics, and major fallacies of multiple case research designs. The major advantage of multiple case research lies in cross-case analysis. A multiple case research design shifts the focus from understanding a single case to the differences and similarities between cases. Thus, it is not just conducting more (second, third, etc.) case studies. Rather, it is the next step in developing a theory about factors driving differences and similarities. Also, researchers find relevant information on how to write a multiple case research design paper and learn about typical methodologies used for this research design. The chapter closes with referring to overlapping and adjacent research designs.

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Hunziker, S., Blankenagel, M. (2021). Multiple Case Research Design. In: Research Design in Business and Management. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-34357-6_9

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