Case studies design

Case studies enable a rich and in depth description of data that, besides providing evidence, can enable the discovery of theory. Research design should offset the intrinsic limits of case studies and respond to the needs of using them to inform extrapolations.

Solid evidence from case studies is the cornerstone to go beyond earlier extrapolations (European Commission 2007b; Cullen et al 2008) by embedding them into empirical realities. Therefore, a careful research design is crucial particularly for what concerns the more in depth case level evidence and corresponding case studies1 .

In this regard, it should be underlined in fact that, first of all, generalisation from case studies may be of dubious credibility if the cases are not selected according to a reasoned research design and especially when the cases are exemplary (best practices) rather than representative of the average situation in a given field. The purpose of case level evidence is not only that of building a case study per se, rather they must provide evidence to be used to generate the scenarios and coefficients for eventual quantitative extrapolations.

As such, they cannot be only best practices otherwise the generated case level evidence will bias the extrapolations. Second, case studies should be context embedded in the sense of reflecting the peculiarities of the sectors they operate and of their size. This requires a careful selection of cases to reflect sectoral and size difference and, thus, enable more granular and credible extrapolations. Third, case studies selection should be transparent (to allow other to replicate it in the future) and used systematically.

The reasoned approach to research design that will be applied to this research, inspired by the epistemology of the social science research, will produce a limited set of case level evidence from which input for extrapolation will not be possible to be extracted in a systematic way, however, the reapplication of the principle of solid research design to any future real world case will enable a steady collection of case level evidence and build the fundamental basis for further qualitative and quantitative research.

So our approach, while ensuring a high quality output for this specific research, will also achieve the outcome of setting the basis and agenda for future research and studies in this field.

A case study has been used for this research with the aim of enabling the researcher to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for the participants involved in the situation.

The case study approach has been selected for this thesis as: firstly, the research questions are qualitative in nature (for example, “how” and “why” type of questions); secondly, the behaviour of the participants in the case study (interviewees, FBCBI and their clients/stakeholders/etc. who were observed and vendors participating in the RFP) could not be manipulated by the researcher; the context of the research phenomenon is vital to the understanding and evaluation thereof; and lastly, a clear distinction cannot be made between the research phenomenon and its context. According to Yin (2003), these provide clear reasons to make use of a case study approach.

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