The method of exploring and analyzing the life or functioning of a social or economic unit, such as a person, a family, a community, an institution, a firm or an industry is called case study method.
The method of exploring and
analyzing the life or functioning of a social or economic unit, such as a
person, a family, a community, an institution, a firm or an industry is called
case study method. The objective of case study method is to examine the factors
that cause the behavioural patterns of a given unit and its relationship with
the environment. The data for a study are always gathered with the purpose of
tracing the natural history of a social or economic unit, and its relationship
with the social or economic factors, besides the forces involved in its
environment. Thus, a researcher conducting a study
using the case study method attempts to understand the complexity of factors that are
operative within a social or economic unit as an integrated totality. Burgess
(Kothari, 1988) described the special significance of the case study in understanding
the complex behaviour and situations in specific detail. In the context of
social research, he called such data as social microscope.
Criteria For Evaluating Adequacy Of Case Study:
John Dollard (Dollard, 1935)
specified seven criteria for evaluating the adequacy of a case or life history
in the context of social research. They are:
1. The subject being studied must be viewed as a specimen in a cultural set up. That is, the case selected from its total context for the purpose of study should be considered a member of the particular cultural group or community. The scrutiny of the life history of the individual must be carried out with a view to identify the community values, standards and shared ways of life.
2. The organic motors of action should be socially relevant. This is to say that the action of the individual cases should be viewed as a series of reactions to social stimuli or situations. To put in simple words, the social meaning of behaviour should be taken into consideration.
3. The crucial role of the family-group in transmitting the culture should be recognized. This means, as an individual is the member of a family, the role of the family in shaping his/her behaviour should never be ignored.
4. The specific method of conversion of organic material into social behaviour should be clearly demonstrated. For instance, case-histories that discuss in detail how basically a biological organism, that is man, gradually transforms into a social person are particularly important.
5. The constant transformation of character of experience from childhood to adulthood should be emphasized. That is, the life-history should portray the inter-relationship between the individual’s various experiences during his/her life span. Such a study provides a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s life as a continuum.
6. The ‘social situation’ that
contributed to the individual’s gradual transformation should carefully and
continuously be specified as a factor. One of the crucial criteria for
life-history is that an individual’s life should be depicted as evolving itself
in the context of a specific social situation and partially caused by it. 7. The life-history details
themselves should be organized according to some conceptual framework, which in
turn would facilitate their generalizations at higher levels. These criteria discussed by
Dollard emphasize the specific link of co-ordinated, related, continuous and
configured experience in a cultural pattern that motivated the social and
personal behaviour. Although, the criteria indicated by Dollard are principally
perfect, some of them are difficult to put to practice. Dollard (1935) attempted to
express the diverse events depicted in the life-histories of persons during the
course of repeated interviews by utilizing psycho-analytical techniques in a
given situational context. His criteria of life-history originated directly
from this experience. While the life-histories possess independent significance
as research documents, the interviews recorded by the investigators can afford,
as Dollard observed, “rich insights into the nature of the social situations
experienced by them”. It is a well-known fact that an
individual’s life is very complex. Till date there is hardly any technique that
can establish some kind of uniformity, and as a result ensure the cumulative of
case-history materials by isolating the complex totality of a human life.
Nevertheless, although case history data are difficult to put to rigorous
analysis, a skilful handling and interpretation of such data could help in
developing insights into cultural conflicts and problems arising out of
cultural-change. Gordon Allport in (Kothari 1988)
has recommended the following aspects so as to broaden the perspective of
case-study data: 1. If the life-history is written in
first person, it should be as comprehensive and coherent as possible.2. Life-histories must be written
for knowledgeable persons. tThat is, if the enquiry of study is sociological in
nature, the researcher should write it on the assumption that it would be read largely by sociologists
only.3. It would be advisable to
supplement case study data by observational, statistical and historical data,
as they provide standards for assessing the reliability and consistency of the
case study materials. Further, such data offer a basis for generalizations.4. Efforts must be made to verify
the reliability of life-history data by examining the internal consistency of
the collected material, and by repeating the interviews with the concerned
person. Besides this, personal interviews with the persons who are
well-acquainted with him/her, belonging to his/her own group should be
conducted.5. A judicious combination of
different techniques for data-collection is crucial for collecting data that
are culturally meaningful and scientifically significant.6. Life-histories or case-histories
may be considered as an adequate basis for generalization to the extent that
they are typical or representative of a certain group.
7. The researcher engaged in the
collection of case study data should never ignore the unique or typical cases.
He/she should include them as exceptional cases.
Case histories are filled with
valuable information of a personal or private nature. Such information not only
helps the researcher to portray the personality of the individual, but also the
social background that contributed to it. Besides, it also helps in the
formulation of relevant hypotheses. In general, although Blummer (in Wilkinson
and Bhandarkar, 1979) was critical of documentary material, he gave due credit
to case histories by acknowledging the fact that the personal documents offer
an opportunity to the researcher to develop his/her spirit of enquiry. The
analysis of a particular subject would be more effective if the researcher acquires
close acquaintance with it through personal documents. However, Blummer also
acknowledges the limitations of the personal documents. According to him, such
documents do not entirely fulfill the criteria of adequacy, reliability, and
representativeness. Despite these shortcomings, avoiding their use in any
scientific study of personal life would be wrong, as these documents become
necessary and significant for both theory-building and practice.
In spite of these formidable
limitations, case study data are used by anthropologists, sociologists,
economists and industrial psychiatrists. Gordon Allport (Kothari, 1988)
strongly recommends the use of case study data for in-depth analysis of a
subject. For, it is one’s acquaintance with an individual that instills a
desire to know his/her nature and understand them. The first stage involves
understanding the individual and all the complexity of his/her nature. Any
haste in analyzing and classifying the individual would create the risk of
reducing his/her emotional world into artificial bits. As a consequence, the
important emotional organizations, anchorages and natural identifications
characterizing the personal life of the individual might not yield adequate
representation. Hence, the researcher should understand the life of the
subject. Therefore, the totality of life-processes reflected in the
well-ordered life-history documents become invaluable source of stimulating
insights. Such life-history documents provide the basis for comparisons that
contribute to statistical generalizations and help to draw inferences regarding
the uniformities in human behaviour, which are of great value. Even if some
personal documents do not provide ordered data about personal lives of people,
which is the basis of psychological science, they should not be ignored. This
is because the final aim of science is to understand, control and make
predictions about human life. Once they are satisfied, the theoretical and
practical importance of personal documents must be recognized as significant.
Thus, a case study may be considered as the beginning and the final destination
of abstract knowledge.
Tags : Research Methodology - Introduction
Last 30 days 2123 views