Identification of ambiguity in the case study research typology: what is a unit of analysis?

Niels Nolsøe Grünbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


– At the moment central concepts relating to the case study strategy are insufficiently understood. This is unfortunate in that the truth value of results inferred from case studies may be questioned. Given the fact that case studies are widely employed in many fields the identified ambiguities represent an imperative dilemma of great consequences to the research community in general. Hence, the objectives are to identify ambiguities, explore further consequences of ambiguities and to propose a rival understanding that will remedy the present inconsistencies.

– An analysis of literature was undertaken. Based on a critical assessment of existing theoretical concepts, modifications and novel conceptual ideas are proposed. The proposed framework is, moreover, thoroughly exemplified by a business‐to‐business research example, thereby enhancing applicability when future case studies are undertaken.

– The outcome was a string of generic case study characteristics, an elaboration of ambiguity and consequences of the identified ambiguity, a modification of Yins' case study design typology, and finally an integrative theoretical framework that illustrates an alternative conception of the unit of analysis and the case. Accepting the criticisms and ideas presented makes it easier to identify and demarcate units of analysis that are comparable with the original analyzed unit of analysis. This will enhance the probability of authenticity and fittingness of inferred case results.

– The contributions of this paper will facilitate a higher level of awareness about the assumptions of the paradigmatic posture researchers hold. This will cause researchers to craft more logical coherent designs and conduct better case studies across fields of theories. Moreover, they will to a higher extent be able to understand rival points of view, enabling them to construct more nuanced and astute discussions and novel insights.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Market Research
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)78-97
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

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