Building theories from case study research academy of management

The study then employed semi-structured interviews Mojtahed et al.

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Guidelines for the conduct of the interview process were obtained from Kvale , Myers and Newman , and Hermanowicz Interview questions possessed characteristics of a SAP perspective in their focus upon the 3Ps of practice, praxis, and practitioner Seidl and Whittington, ; Whittington, , with each forming broad topics for discussion as they pertained to the practice of SISP within each host organisation.

In a review of case-based research in four leading IS journals from to , Doolin discovered interviews to be the primary method of data collection.

Interviews are also the most widely used qualitative data collection method, being extensively used in an array of disparate disciplines Schultze and Avital, In their study of IS research articles that relied primarily on interviewing methods conducted from to , Schultze and Avital found that there was a near-three-fold increase in the frequency in which the method was deployed over the time frame of the study, increasing from 12 papers in to 35 in The coding strategy employed was that proposed by Maykut and Morehouse, Having spent time considering various coding techniques Charmaz, ; Corbin and Strauss, ; Glaser and Strauss, ; Maykut and Morehouse, , it became clear that all of them possessed an inherent similarity; phases predominantly involved an initial sorting of the data, consolidation and ordering of categories, and the search for linkages between and across higher-order categories from which the theory could emerge.

The selected strategy was found to possess such traits and be highly rigourous in its approach. It involves nine discrete cycles of analysis. At each stage of the analytical strategy, the researchers retained the use of the adopted SAP lens and its inherent levels perspective. To clarify how the researchers used a SAP lens, the work of Orlikowski brings this particular element of the research strategy into focus. A clear differentiation exists between the use of formal practice theory Bourdieu, ; Feldman and Orlikowski, ; Giddens, ; Schatzki, and the SAP-based approach utilised for the current study.

Orlikowski provides an illuminating delineation, including a third mode of engaging with practice in the form of practice as a phenomenon.

References on Case Study Research

Employing a practice-as-a-perspective approach for the wider study, the authors were able to avail of the ability to focus upon both macro-level contextual factors and more micro-level activity. Simultaneously, transparent linkages between both dimensions were discovered. The use of a SAP perspective in conjunction with the case study methodology represents a deliberate, reasoned decision.

Such publications elucidate the distinction bestowed upon the approach by the IS academic community.

Further encouragement may be found from related disciplines to have adopted a practice approach, inclusive of leadership as practice Raelin, , accountancy as practice Kornberger and Carter, , business ethics as practice Clegg et al. Evidence exists within the extant SAP literature of the fortitude of the perspective. Johnson et al. Since this is what managers in a learning environment are concerned with mastering, it is highly beneficial to executive education. Second, it removes the level of abstraction associated with traditional strategy research, thus going deeper into the core issues within the field.

So not only are more micro-level processes explored and detailed, but their linkages to the bigger macro-level picture may be traced in addition to the role of the strategy practitioners therein Vaara and Whittington, Finally, the fourth advantage is a culmination of the previous three, in that strategy-as-practice research offers a new and exciting direction for the field.

Case-Study Approaches to Theory Building

It unshackles itself from some of the constraints inherent in some of the more traditional strategy research approaches, allowing strategy practitioners to assume a more central role on the research agenda. The rigour versus relevance debate has been hotly contested in academic publications Desouza et al.

Indeed, it is particularly pertinent for the current study and its adopted research approach. With IS being an applied discipline, this debate has been particularly fervent within the IS community. The main crux of the argument centres on whether IS research can maintain its academic rigour and legitimacy while being in possession of relevancy for the practitioner community.

This duality is one with which the discipline has struggled. The incorporation of a SAP perspective furnishes the study with a relevancy to practitioners while also benefitting from the rigourous empirical investigatory tools afforded by a strict adherence to a robust case study methodology. The SAP lens further instilled a consistency and uniformity of action, focussing data collection and analysis within the broader case study methodology upon those elements most critical for the answering of the research question.

Levels of activity Jarzabkowski and Spee, and strategic episodes predominantly comprising strategic meetings were all concepts that practitioners could relate to and easily understand. Having decided upon the case study methodology, a SAP perspective infiltrated the core sources of evidence employed during data collection, thus reaffirming the rigourous approach employed while maintaining relevancy to the practitioner.

Documentation, archival materials, and physical artefacts were distilled into a multi-level design Kozlowski et al. Specific practices were discerned from each source, as were the practitioners involved and the praxis that transpired.

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The interviewing process was also formatted to examine activity at the macro, meso, and micro levels. The practices associated with SISP, the practitioners involved, the praxis that actually took place in the employed case sites, and strategic episodes represented specific topics of discussion. Subsequently, the rich resources of primary and secondary data accrued were analysed through a SAP lens. The researchers were able to move with confidence through the large quantities of collected data armed with a comprehensive knowledge of the key elements of which to be aware.

The rigour afforded by the implementation of a theoretically driven case study methodology, combined with the relevancy imbued through the implementation of a SAP lens, instilled a novelty to the research approach. It has resulted in a programme of research that the researchers are confident belies the notion that rigour and relevance need to be mutually exclusive. The topic of quality in IS research has been a feature of the extant literature Conboy et al.

Empirical research conducted within the social sciences realm has a recognised set of parameters by which quality can be established Yin, Each of these four tests has specified tactics by which researchers can be guided for case-based studies.

The tests are as follows:. For the current study, the three applicable tests are construct validity, external validity, and reliability. Internal validity is primarily a concern for the case study researcher who wishes to explain how and why x leads to y , i. To view how the researchers established quality, Table 5 provides an overview of the measures taken to ensure that each test was sufficiently satisfied. Table 5 Ensuring quality: measures taken to establish validity adapted from Yin, The authors have cultivated a number of reflections accrued from their experiences with the case study methodology during the conduct of the wider study.

To begin, the framing of a SAP-oriented research question is of paramount importance. A familiarisation with the wider theoretical underpinnings of the domain Bourdieu, ; Foucault, ; Giddens, ; Heidegger, ; Wittgenstein, , in addition to the conceptual base of the SAP field Jarzabkowski et al. The case study methodology alone was found to lack a coherent integrative mechanism with which to answer the research question posed.


While widely cited prescriptive texts Stake, ; Yin, exist to detail the various tools, techniques, and methods that comprise the methodology, an inherent vagueness was found to prevail as to how such a study would be rendered operational. The adoption of a SAP perspective in conjunction with the case study methodology was found to counteract this shortcoming, providing a robust framework Whittington, upon which the research could be based.

At the core of a practice-based study is the requirement to link specific levels of activity. While the case study methodology alone could be used for this research goal, it was only when a practice lens was applied that the authors were able to precisely identify and target those components crucial to the practice of SISP by senior managers. A clear delineation of the levels at which praxis transpires is imperative. The wider study adopted the categorisation of micro, meso, and macro levels Jarzabkowski and Spee, While a precision on the part of the researchers is required to make explicit the boundaries of each level, the pervasive nature of activity both between and across levels forms a key attribute of SAP-based research Johnson et al.

The ultimate dividend is a refinement often found lacking in rudimentary casework. The core tenets of SAP were continuous threads running throughout the entire study. As an integrating mechanism, it was found to instil coherence to the process. Initially, it provided a lens through which to conduct a review of the SISP literature Hughes and McDonagh, , proving to be both a clinical and a novel approach. While the core elements of a SAP perspective are not explicit within the SISP literature, the casting of such a lens over the domain revealed their presence in a tangible, if not disjointed, form.

In addition, the SAP perspective formed a core element of both data collection and analysis. From a data collection standpoint, a SAP-based study must remain diligent to the concept of levels. Decisions need to be made concerning the type of data and the particular levels at which they need to be collected. In regard to data analysis, the onus is on the researchers to first apply their analytical focus to individual levels, before searching for extant linkages both between and across multiple levels.

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The establishment of a clear chain of evidence is a fundamental requirement for such an endeavour. In terms of a limitation of the current study, it follows a prevalent trend within the SAP domain of not precisely complying with the ethnographic approach often espoused within the prescriptive literature. Ethnography has been widely lauded as an ideal match for the study of strategy practice Chia and MacKay, ; Fenton and Langley, ; Jarzabkowski et al.

However, a mere nine studies out of the 48 empirical works reviewed within the domain employed an ethnographic approach. In contrast, the research is dominated by either single-case studies 21 or a small number of multiple-case studies The researchers are confident that a sustained commitment to executing rigourous casework, in conjunction with the interweaving of a SAP perspective throughout all major elements of the research design, has compensated for any perceived shortcomings attributable to the non-utilisation of an ethnographic approach.

Although the SAP perspective finds itself in a relatively nascent stage of its academic tenure, it has garnered a favourable response from scholarly ranks Whittington, During immersion in the field, it was also discovered to have an ability to speak directly to the practitioner. It is hoped that the many benefits it imbues will encourage fellow researchers to consider underpinning core casework with a robust theoretical perspective, be it practice-based or otherwise.