Qualitative Comparative Analysis: Opportunities for Case-Based Research
Qualitative research is often case-based, using an array of methods (Bansal & Corley, 2011) and engaging with either theory elaboration that refines preliminary theoretical models and preexisting conceptual ideas (Lee, 1999; Lee, Mitchell, & Sabylinski, 1999) into general theories (Vaughan, 1996) or with theory abduction that seeks new insights and generates new theory (Van Maanen, Sorensen, & Mitchell, 2007). Cross-case analysis is a research method that facilitates the comparison of commonalities and differences in the events, activities, and processes that are the units of analysis in case studies (Kahn & VanWynsberghe, 2008). Researchers who use cross-case analysis are able to (a) delineate the combination of factors that may have contributed to the outcomes of a given case, (b) construct an explanation as to why one case is different from or the same as others, and (c) articulate further the concepts, hypotheses, or theories that are discovered or constructed from the original case. Cross-case analysis enhances researchers’ capacities to understand how relationships may exist among discrete cases, refine and develop concepts (Ragin, 1997) and build or test theory (Eckstein, 2002). Thus, cross-case research enables researchers to provoke their imagination, prompt new questions, reveal new dimensions, produce alternative frameworks, and generate new models (Stretton, 1969).