Beyond misunderstandings

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The practice and promise of case study research in planning

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Beyond Misunderstandings:

Beyond Misunderstandings DSUP Seminar March 3, 2011 The Promise and Practice of Case Study Research in Planning

What is a case study?:

What is a case study? 2 “the intensive study of a single case where the purpose of that study is—at least in part—to shed light on a larger class of cases (a population ).” May include several cases Case study vs. Cross case research Case study research f ocuses on individual cases Cross case research focuses on variables May include quantitative or qualitative approaches Gerring , J. (2007). Case study research : principles and practices. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Agenda:

Agenda 3 Why assess planning’s case study practice? What should vital case study practice entail? What does contemporary case study practice look like? How can planning’s case study practice be improved?

Why assess planning’s case study practice?:

Why assess planning’s case study practice? 4 The case study method is… Influential Widely Used Contested Evolving

Transformative Power of Case Studies:

Transformative Power of Case Studies 5 Making Democracy Work (Putnam, 1993) Regional Advantage (Saxenian, 1994) The Competitive Advantage of Nations (Porter, 1990) Social Capital Silicon Valley Emulation Cluster Strategies

Widely Used Method:

Widely Used Method 6 Presence in planning research, 2005-2009 24 in Journal of the American Planning Association 48 in Journal of Planning Education and Research Case study topics cover the breadth of planning Natural fit for planning

Contested Method:

Contested Method 7 The small-n of case study research makes findings unrepresentative and difficult to generalize Only accommodates qualitative approaches Lacks rigor Difficult to replicate Gerring , J. (2007). Case study research : principles and practices. New York: Cambridge University Press . Gibbert , M., Ruigrok , W., & Wicki , B. (2008). What passes as a rigorous case study? Strategic Management Journal, 29(13), 1465-1474. Markusen , A. (2003). Fuzzy Concepts, Scanty Evidence, Policy Distance: The Case for Rigour and Policy Relevance in Critical Regional Studies. Regional Studies, 37(6), 701 - 717. Yin , R. K. (2009). Case study research : design and methods (4th ed.). Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage Publications.

More Criticisms:

More Criticisms 8 Flyvbjerg’s “Misunderstandings” Context-dependent knowledge < General knowledge Cannot be generalized Not useful for hypothesis testing or theory building Biased Difficult to summarize Flyvbjerg , B. (2006). Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 219-245.

Evolving Method:

Evolving Method 9 “Third generation methods” offer new opportunities Purposeful case selection to enable generalization Policy-calibrated analytical techniques T ypological theorizing Detailed modeling of causal mechanisms Process tracing Use of mixed method approaches Bennett, A., & Elman, C. (2007). Qualitative Methods. Comparative Political Studies, 40(2), 111-121.

What should vital case study practice entail? :

What should vital case study practice entail? 10 Identify the method’s affinity with the nature of planning Determine promising research designs to exploit this “fit” Improved case study practice that guards against methodological criticism

Planners Value Difference:

Planners Value Difference 11 Planning embraces diverse forms of knowledge and many voices Case study research… Can bring together multiple types of evidence Can investigate “causes of effects” and causal mechanisms in ways cross-case research can’t Making Democracy Work (Putnam, 1993) Employed data triangulation Used process-tracing

Planners Value Context:

Planners Value Context 12 Planning deals with “wicked problems” and concrete situations understood through institutional, social, and spatial contexts “Thick” cases clarify contextual settings with… Narrative accounts Data triangulation methods Regional Advantage ( Saxenian , 1994) Developed rich, contextual understandings of environments supporting high-technology industries Democracy as Problem Solving (Briggs, 2008) Described problem-solving initiatives in diverse settings

Planners Act:

Planners Act 13 Planners seek knowledge that can be applied to practical purposes Case study findings can be generalized by… Strategically selecting cases Using replication designs Typological theorizing can produce “middle-range” theories World’s Apart (Duncan, 1999) Exploited theoretical and literal replication to build external validity for findings about persistent poverty in rural areas The Competitive Advantage of Nations (Porter, 1990) Strategically selected cases to generalize the influence of national setting and policies on economic competitiveness

Planners Practice:

Planners Practice 14 Planners learn from practice stories Case studies can produce descriptive stories about planning practice Reinventing cities: equity planners tell their stories ( Krumholz & Clavel , 1994) Told stories of planners at work

Planners Dream:

Planners Dream 15 Planning concerns itself with social transformation and utopia Case studies can challenge the accepted by… Exploiting their suitability for hypothesis generation Presenting the “unfamiliar” and inspiring “moral judgments ” The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jacobs, 1961 ) Compellingly details the impacts of modernist planning Thacher , D. (2006). The normative case study. American Journal of Sociology, 111(6), 1631-1676.

What does contemporary case study practice look like? :

What does contemporary case study practice look like? 16 2005-2009 48 cases in JPER 24 cases in JAPA Framework for assessing Results and summary

Assessment Framework:

Assessment Framework 17

Research objectives:

Research objectives 18 Heuristic and descriptive cases most prevalent

Validity:

Validity 19 Measures to increase internal validity stressed over those aimed at external validity

Methods of analysis:

Methods of analysis 20 Little interaction with methodological literature, particularly 3 rd generation

Case selection techniques:

Case selection techniques 21 Most don’t cite a reason or technique for selecting

Are the cases generalizable?:

Are the cases generalizable? 22 Made difficult by: Lack of case selection rationale Failure to exploit replication designs In several cases this doesn’t seem to be the aim: “ reliance on a limited number of cases limits external validity…and thus only permits a preliminary exploration of interagency differences . ” ( Laurian , 2007) Laurian , L. (2007). Deliberative Planning through Citizen Advisory Boards: Five Case Studies from Military and Civilian Environmental Cleanups. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 26(4), 415-434.

An Overall Assessment:

An Overall Assessment 23 Capturing some of the field-specific promise Descriptive Heuristic Normative But, Flyvbjerg’s “misunderstandings” and other criticisms seem to be accurate understandings of much case study practice Not engaging with 3 rd generation methods Not making methods of case selection and data analysis explicit

How can planning’s case study practice be improved? :

How can planning’s case study practice be improved? 24 Enhance methodological rigor Make design choices explicit Use replication designs Employ promising 3 rd generation methods Strategic case selection Process tracing / Typological theorizing More reflective practice Encourage conversations on case study research among planning scholars Teach case study research

Conclusion:

Conclusion 25 Influential and prevalent method Natural fit for planning Unrealized promise “Case studies…are often published without reflection on choice, representation or generalizability.” Little use of emerging and established case methods Markusen , A. (2003). Fuzzy Concepts, Scanty Evidence, Policy Distance: The Case for Rigour and Policy Relevance in Critical Regional Studies. Regional Studies, 37(6), 701 - 717.

Questions and Discussion:

Questions and Discussion 26

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