The Use of Theory
Many authors use theories in the explanation of a given phenomenon. A theoretical framework as applied in quantitative research can be defined as the relationship between various variables that are based on hypotheses or propositions with the purpose of specifying how some constructs in a study-related. Based on this assertion, a theory can be presented in terms of a figure, discussion, argument, or even a rationale adopted for the explanation of a given study phenomenon (54). There are different forms of theories depending on how researchers state them. For example, researchers can state their theories as visual models, if-then logic statements, or even as a series of hypotheses (55). Whichever form theory is stated in, its major role in a study is to provide a link between the independent and dependent variables.
Quantitative theories are used deductively at the start of any given study. The major reason why researchers use such theories in a study is to test or even verify them. Such an approach ensures that the theory is used primarily as the background on which the entire study is developed (59).
Researchers use theories in qualitative studies for a variety of reasons. For example, theories are used in such studies as the last outcome out of a study. However, there are other cases whereby theories are used at the beginning for the purpose of providing a background on which to base the research questions used in a particular study (51). As such, the question used, as well as the type of data collected in a qualitative study is determined by the theoretical perspective that a researcher adopts.
Nevertheless, in a case where a theory appears at the end of a study, the researcher inductively relies on the collected data to build a broad theme that can be applied to explain personal experiences or even the development of existing literature.
On the other hand, researchers can adopt the theoretical approach in cases of mixed methods research to guide the qualitative and quantitative process of collecting the required data. The implication is that researchers use theories deductively and inductively to test and verify particular information, as well as in an emerging pattern or theory. For example, there are various approaches in which theories can be used in the collection, analysis, as well as the integration of qualitative and quantitative data (68). Some of these approaches include the transformative framework and the social science framework.
The social science framework is based on the theories used in social sciences and can be presented in the form of a literature review, theory, or a conceptual model (69). On the other hand, over the last decade, the popularity and the use of transformative theories especially in studies adopting the mixed methods approach has increased. The growing popularity of the transformative theories can be attributed to its appropriateness in the mixed methods approach and the general research process (70). This framework relies on various procedures and assumptions to explain the study phenomenon.
Generally, theories are very important in qualitative, quantitative, as well as mixed methods research since they offer readers an explanation with regard to how to study variables relate in a given study (75). For this reason, it is important for researchers to ensure that they take note of where they place their theories to ensure that they provide the intended meaning clearly.
Collecting Case Study Evidence
This chapter provides a review of six sources to explain case study evidence, particularly on the process of collecting evidence from the provided sources (103). In addition, the chapter provides useful information that can be used in the process of collecting data. A case study research is significant in the presentation of reliable data and hence, requires the use of credible evidence to back up any information provided.
Considering the fact that all the information used in a case study research has to be based on a variety of sources, it is evident that the process of collecting data based on provided case studies is highly complex in comparison to other types of research methods (130). The complexity of such an approach is attributable to the fact that the success of research based on a case study depends on the versatility of the methodology adopted by the researcher. In addition, the methodological approach used in such studies follows a given formal procedure for the purpose of ensuring that the researcher has the required control especially in the process of collecting data.
The information used in case study researches can be obtained from several sources such as physical artifacts, participant-observation, direct observation, interviews, archival records, or even from documents. However, effective use of these sources of data is determined by the ability of the researcher to master the various procedures used in the collection of data (112). The highlighted sources of evidence for a case study research are significant in ensuring the success of any research work in that a researcher is able to collect reliable and quality data. Such significance to the fact that one gets to compare information collected from various sources (103).
Often, most researchers make use of more than one source of evidence since such an approach ensures that the collected data is rich in terms of quality information. For example, researchers can use data from a number of books, interviews, or even archival records to explain a given study phenomenon.
In spite of the significance of using the six sources of evidence outlined above in research, the maximization of the associated benefits can be achieved through adherence to various principles. There are four principles that are important in the collection of data for any study (118). For example, the proper use of the principles below ensures the collection of valid and reliable evidence. The principles include; the reliance on multiple sources of evidence, the creation of a database for any case study, the maintenance of a chain of evidence, and being careful with electronic sources of data.
As noted earlier, the use of several sources of evidence provides the research with a suitable platform to carry out a comprehensive analysis of information collected from all the sources. The use of a single source of evidence is discouraged especially for case study researches (119). In most cases, studies that are based on multiple sources are likely to be more reliable and valid due to the fact that quality data is involved. Nevertheless, collecting data from several sources is relatively expensive when compared to the use of a single source (122).
Secondly, it is important to ensure the organization and documentation of data collected for any given study. For this reason, the creation of a database can be very effective in the case study research approach. Such an approach can include separate documentation of collected data through an evidentiary base, as well as a report from the researcher (123). Often, the database and researcher’s report comprise of any material obtained from the fieldwork that can be useful in the advancement of the concerned study.
Therefore, such materials are used as additions to numeric or narrative information on a given study phenomenon. The use of a database ensures that all the data collected from given fieldwork is preserved safely for future reference (124). In spite of this, the majority of the books available nowadays on field methods do not recognize the significance of a case study database.
Thirdly, the reliability of any collected information can be increased by maintaining a chain of evidence. This principle stems from the need to ensure that readers can easily follow how any given evidence was derived by examining the steps used in the entire study from research questions to conclusions (127). For this reason, researchers should ensure that their case study reports have adequate citations from reliable sources to enable readers to trace the evidentiary process.
The last principle emphasizes exercising a lot of care when dealing with data collected from electronic sources. Considering the advancement in technology, it is more likely that researchers can get overwhelmed by electronic sources’ wealth (129). In most instances, a case study research approach can compel researchers to answer their research questions broadly especially when overwhelmed by the available information. For this reason, it is important to set limits and cross-check the sources, as well as the information obtained from electronic sources for the purpose of ensuring reliable and quality data for any given case study.
Creswell, John W. Research design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.
Yin, Robert K. Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.