Big Conclusions with small N's?

Case Study as a Method in Evaluation Research


  • Petri Virtanen


If the research focus might appear to be small
in terms of quantitative numbers, it does not
necessarily mean that the research questions
are automatically "small scale". The case study
approach has gained a highly popular status in
the social sciences, and in evaluation research
in particular, during recent years. The case
study method has been applied extensively
also in the programme and project evaluations
of EU structural funding. The debate on the
case study method has concerned the issue
of the transferability and generalizability of the
result findings. However, the case study method
is a systematic process that calls for specific
competence in those researchers applying the
method. There are a number of possibilities
to enhance the trustworthiness of the case
study approach. These possibilities - such as
the use of the meta-evaluation approach- are
discussed in the latter part of the article.