Case Study Research in Practice
London: Sage Publications Ltd.
The problem with Case Study is that it is too subjective, not generalizable and therefore of no use to anyone interested in developing policy. It is self-indulgence on the part of the researcher who has every opportunity of using the Case Report as a shield for promoting a personal agenda. Add to this the admission, early in the text, that, “There is no right way to do case study research” and the sceptic could be excused for dismissing the subject of this helpful book as an irrelevance.
Yet, in this enjoyable and accessible account, Helen Simons manages to persuade the reader that case study is a worthwhile approach to a deeper understanding of certain aspects of practice. In fact, it may be a more appropriate way of understanding and expressing a ‘lived experience’ than any randomised controlled trial within the scientific paradigm.
Her stated intention throughout is to provide support for students who are considering case study; “to strengthen their argument” if they choose this approach. This she achieves in a format that is clear and a style that is both personal and scholarly. Its tone is neither strident, nor ‘evangelical’; neither self-justifying nor defensive. Simons offers the advice of a willing, experienced and sympathetic supervisor, who often addresses the reader directly, in what is essentially a practical guide to the subject.
Scattered through the text are detailed examples, some over a page long, that illustrate important issues. There are also twenty ‘memos’ or bullet-pointed comments and instructions that provide a checklist on how to plan, execute and write (and even how to think!) case study.
Additionally there is a bibliography of over two hundred references, though their inclusion doesn’t interrupt the flow of the text. Concluding each chapter is a small list of books and articles for ‘further reading’ – with a short summary of the strengths and relevance of each.
Finally, Simons directly addresses the charges levelled at case study (above). She provides persuasive responses with the quiet self-confidence of someone who has carefully considered the subject.
This book is ideal for the adult learner, at postgraduate level, who is relatively new to the subject and who wishes to understand what case study has to offer as a research approach. It is likely that more detailed information would be needed with respect to some of the more commonly used methods within case study (e.g. interviewing). Other than such technical issues, this book, combined with a knowledgeable supervisor, would be all that was required to perform case study, albeit the student is likely to be surprised by the discipline required of them, despite the helpful warnings the book contains.
Reader in Clinical Medicine