The aim of the ‘focusing on the case’ training workshops in 2004/5 was to develop new, systematic and sophisticated ways of examining causality in datasets that were based upon case-study data.
The ‘Focusing on the Case’ training web site, www.durham.ac.uk/case.2004, contains all the presentations, documents, datasets and related web links.
The material is based loosely upon a combination of comparative historical analysis; cluster analysis; fuzzy set social science; and qualitative comparative analysis. In sum this means that the divide between qualitative and quantitative data is crossed several times. A project would start out qualitative, then move to a tabulated format (either using SPSS or using the NVIVO case attributes table), and finally move to a theoretical interpretive moment. Researchers then iterate back to the data-creation stage, re-assigning variable ‘categories’ or fuzzy sets to cases depending on the insights they have into their case-study data. Small numbers of cases can be handled, e.g. 17, or 50, or 65.
Example material is offered on the web site in the following areas:
1. education outcomes in schools in two regions of the UK. In an area where multi-level models are being used (discussed by Byrne (1999, 2002)), a qualitative/quantitative approach is used instead. OFSTED report texts are integrated with numerical data on each school. The outcomes for students are compared with the OFSTED evaluation outcomes.
2. countries of the world are compared over time. Ragin (2000) examined the tendency to have IMF loans and to have anti-IMF riots. Olsen extends the analysis to the growth rates in the recent period. The data set is undergoing a process of improvement through 2005.
3. students in the workshop itself. The workshops were a dialogical meeting-point of people with a variety of backgrounds. Taped discussions have been coded in NVIVO with each participant being a ‘case’. The initial questionnaire survey showing capabilities of each participant was also coded up into NVIVO. The data will be further analysed by the research team as the project comes to a close during 2005.
Further funds have been applied for so that the project can continue into 2006/2007. Expressions of interest in this, or similar, training, can be addressed to Wendy Olsen via the following email address:
Byrne, D. (1999) Complexity theory and the social sciences: an introduction. London ; New York: Routledge.