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Multiple Case Studies
Nadia Alqahtani and Pengtong Qu
The case study approach is popular across disciplines in education, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine, law, and political science (Creswell, 2013). It is both a research method and a strategy (Creswell, 2013; Yin, 2017). In this type of research design, a case can be an individual, an event, or an entity, as determined by the research questions. There are two variants of the case study: the single-case study and the multiple-case study. The former design can be used to study and understand an unusual case, a critical case, a longitudinal case, or a revelatory case. On the other hand, a multiple-case study includes two or more cases or replications across the cases to investigate the same phenomena (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao, 2003; Yin, 2017). …a multiple-case study includes two or more cases or replications across the cases to investigate the same phenomena
The difference between the single- and multiple-case study is the research design; however, they are within the same methodological framework (Yin, 2017). Multiple cases are selected so that “individual case studies either (a) predict similar results (a literal replication) or (b) predict contrasting results but for anticipatable reasons (a theoretical replication)” (p. 55). When the purpose of the study is to compare and replicate the findings, the multiple-case study produces more compelling evidence so that the study is considered more robust than the single-case study (Yin, 2017).
To write a multiple-case study, a summary of individual cases should be reported, and researchers need to draw cross-case conclusions and form a cross-case report (Yin, 2017). With evidence from multiple cases, researchers may have generalizable findings and develop theories (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao, 2003).
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Lewis-Beck, M., Bryman, A. E., & Liao, T. F. (2003). The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods . Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Yin, R. K. (2017). Case study research and applications: Design and methods . Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Key Research Books and Articles on Multiple Case Study Methodology
Yin discusses how to decide if a case study should be used in research. Novice researchers can learn about research design, data collection, and data analysis of different types of case studies, as well as writing a case study report.
Chapter 2 introduces four major types of research design in case studies: holistic single-case design, embedded single-case design, holistic multiple-case design, and embedded multiple-case design. Novice researchers will learn about the definitions and characteristics of different designs. This chapter also teaches researchers how to examine and discuss the reliability and validity of the designs.
Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2017). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches . Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
This book compares five different qualitative research designs: narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. It compares the characteristics, data collection, data analysis and representation, validity, and writing-up procedures among five inquiry approaches using texts with tables. For each approach, the author introduced the definition, features, types, and procedures and contextualized these components in a study, which was conducted through the same method. Each chapter ends with a list of relevant readings of each inquiry approach.
This book invites readers to compare these five qualitative methods and see the value of each approach. Readers can consider which approach would serve for their research contexts and questions, as well as how to design their research and conduct the data analysis based on their choice of research method.
Günes, E., & Bahçivan, E. (2016). A multiple case study of preservice science teachers’ TPACK: Embedded in a comprehensive belief system. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 11 (15), 8040-8054.
In this article, the researchers showed the importance of using technological opportunities in improving the education process and how they enhanced the students’ learning in science education. The study examined the connection between “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge” (TPACK) and belief system in a science teaching context. The researchers used the multiple-case study to explore the effect of TPACK on the preservice science teachers’ (PST) beliefs on their TPACK level. The participants were three teachers with the low, medium, and high level of TPACK confidence. Content analysis was utilized to analyze the data, which were collected by individual semi-structured interviews with the participants about their lesson plans. The study first discussed each case, then compared features and relations across cases. The researchers found that there was a positive relationship between PST’s TPACK confidence and TPACK level; when PST had higher TPACK confidence, the participant had a higher competent TPACK level and vice versa.
Recent Dissertations Using Multiple Case Study Methodology
Milholland, E. S. (2015). A multiple case study of instructors utilizing Classroom Response Systems (CRS) to achieve pedagogical goals . Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 3706380)
The researcher of this study critiques the use of Classroom Responses Systems by five instructors who employed this program five years ago in their classrooms. The researcher conducted the multiple-case study methodology and categorized themes. He interviewed each instructor with questions about their initial pedagogical goals, the changes in pedagogy during teaching, and the teaching techniques individuals used while practicing the CRS. The researcher used the multiple-case study with five instructors. He found that all instructors changed their goals during employing CRS; they decided to reduce the time of lecturing and to spend more time engaging students in interactive activities. This study also demonstrated that CRS was useful for the instructors to achieve multiple learning goals; all the instructors provided examples of the positive aspect of implementing CRS in their classrooms.
Li, C. L. (2010). The emergence of fairy tale literacy: A multiple case study on promoting critical literacy of children through a juxtaposed reading of classic fairy tales and their contemporary disruptive variants . Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 3572104)
To explore how children’s development of critical literacy can be impacted by their reactions to fairy tales, the author conducted a multiple-case study with 4 cases, in which each child was a unit of analysis. Two Chinese immigrant children (a boy and a girl) and two American children (a boy and a girl) at the second or third grade were recruited in the study. The data were collected through interviews, discussions on fairy tales, and drawing pictures. The analysis was conducted within both individual cases and cross cases. Across four cases, the researcher found that the young children’s’ knowledge of traditional fairy tales was built upon mass-media based adaptations. The children believed that the representations on mass-media were the original stories, even though fairy tales are included in the elementary school curriculum. The author also found that introducing classic versions of fairy tales increased children’s knowledge in the genre’s origin, which would benefit their understanding of the genre. She argued that introducing fairy tales can be the first step to promote children’s development of critical literacy.
Asher, K. C. (2014). Mediating occupational socialization and occupational individuation in teacher education: A multiple case study of five elementary pre-service student teachers . Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order Number 3671989)
This study portrayed five pre-service teachers’ teaching experience in their student teaching phase and explored how pre-service teachers mediate their occupational socialization with occupational individuation. The study used the multiple-case study design and recruited five pre-service teachers from a Midwestern university as five cases. Qualitative data were collected through interviews, classroom observations, and field notes. The author implemented the case study analysis and found five strategies that the participants used to mediate occupational socialization with occupational individuation. These strategies were: 1) hindering from practicing their beliefs, 2) mimicking the styles of supervising teachers, 3) teaching in the ways in alignment with school’s existing practice, 4) enacting their own ideas, and 5) integrating and balancing occupational socialization and occupational individuation. The study also provided recommendations and implications to policymakers and educators in teacher education so that pre-service teachers can be better supported.
Multiple Case Studies Copyright © 2019 by Nadia Alqahtani and Pengtong Qu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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- Published: 16 August 2022
Developing an implementation research logic model: using a multiple case study design to establish a worked exemplar
- Louise Czosnek ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2362-6888 1 ,
- Eva M. Zopf 1 , 2 ,
- Prue Cormie 3 , 4 ,
- Simon Rosenbaum 5 , 6 ,
- Justin Richards 7 &
- Nicole M. Rankin 8 , 9
Implementation Science Communications volume 3 , Article number: 90 ( 2022 ) Cite this article
Implementation science frameworks explore, interpret, and evaluate different components of the implementation process. By using a program logic approach, implementation frameworks with different purposes can be combined to detail complex interactions. The Implementation Research Logic Model (IRLM) facilitates the development of causal pathways and mechanisms that enable implementation. Critical elements of the IRLM vary across different study designs, and its applicability to synthesizing findings across settings is also under-explored. The dual purpose of this study is to develop an IRLM from an implementation research study that used case study methodology and to demonstrate the utility of the IRLM to synthesize findings across case sites.
The method used in the exemplar project and the alignment of the IRLM to case study methodology are described. Cases were purposely selected using replication logic and represent organizations that have embedded exercise in routine care for people with cancer or mental illness. Four data sources were selected: semi-structured interviews with purposely selected staff, organizational document review, observations, and a survey using the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool (PSAT). Framework analysis was used, and an IRLM was produced at each case site. Similar elements within the individual IRLM were identified, extracted, and re-produced to synthesize findings across sites and represent the generalized, cross-case findings.
The IRLM was embedded within multiple stages of the study, including data collection, analysis, and reporting transparency. Between 33-44 determinants and 36-44 implementation strategies were identified at sites that informed individual IRLMs. An example of generalized findings describing “intervention adaptability” demonstrated similarities in determinant detail and mechanisms of implementation strategies across sites. However, different strategies were applied to address similar determinants. Dependent and bi-directional relationships operated along the causal pathway that influenced implementation outcomes.
Case study methods help address implementation research priorities, including developing causal pathways and mechanisms. Embedding the IRLM within the case study approach provided structure and added to the transparency and replicability of the study. Identifying the similar elements across sites helped synthesize findings and give a general explanation of the implementation process. Detailing the methods provides an example for replication that can build generalizable knowledge in implementation research.
Peer Review reports
Contributions to the literature
Logic models can help understand how and why evidence-based interventions (EBIs) work to produce intended outcomes.
The implementation research logic model (IRLM) provides a method to understand causal pathways, including determinants, implementation strategies, mechanisms, and implementation outcomes.
We describe an exemplar project using a multiple case study design that embeds the IRLM at multiple stages. The exemplar explains how the IRLM helped synthesize findings across sites by identifying the common elements within the causal pathway.
By detailing the exemplar methods, we offer insights into how this approach of using the IRLM is generalizable and can be replicated in other studies.
The practice of implementation aims to get “someone…, somewhere… to do something differently” [ 1 ]. Typically, this involves changing individual behaviors and organizational processes to improve the use of evidence-based interventions (EBIs). To understand this change, implementation science applies different theories, models, and frameworks (hereafter “frameworks”) to describe and evaluate the factors and steps in the implementation process [ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ]. Implementation science provides much-needed theoretical frameworks and a structured approach to process evaluations. One or more frameworks are often used within a program of work to investigate the different stages and elements of implementation [ 6 ]. Researchers have acknowledged that the dynamic implementation process could benefit from using logic models [ 7 ]. Logic models offer a systematic approach to combining multiple frameworks and to building causal pathways that explain the mechanisms behind individual and organizational change.
Logic models visually represent how an EBI is intended to work [ 8 ]. They link the available resources with the activities undertaken, the immediate outputs of this work, and the intermediate outcomes and longer-term impacts [ 8 , 9 ]. Through this process, causal pathways are identified. For implementation research, the causal pathway provides the interconnection between a chosen EBI, determinants, implementation strategies, and implementation outcomes [ 10 ]. Testing causal mechanisms in the research translation pathway will likely dominate the next wave of implementation research [ 11 , 12 ]. Causal mechanisms (or mechanisms of change) are the “process or event through which an implementation strategy operates to affect desired implementation outcomes” [ 13 ]. Identifying mechanisms can improve implementation strategies’ selection, prioritization, and targeting [ 12 , 13 ]. This provides an efficient and evidence-informed approach to implementation.
Implementation researchers have proposed several methods to develop and examine causal pathways [ 14 , 15 ] and mechanisms [ 16 , 17 ]. This includes formalizing the inherent relationship between frameworks via developing the Implementation Research Logic Model (IRLM) [ 7 ]. The IRLM is a logic model designed to improve the rigor and reproducibility of implementation research. It specifies the relationship between elements of implementation (determinant, strategies, and outcomes) and the mechanisms of change. To do this, it recommends linking implementation frameworks or relevant taxonomies (e.g., determinant and evaluation frameworks and implementation strategy taxonomy). The IRLM authors suggest the tool has multiple uses, including planning, executing, and reporting on the implementation process and synthesizing implementation findings across different contexts [ 7 ]. During its development, the IRLM was tested to confirm its utility in planning, executing, and reporting; however, its utility in synthesizing findings across different contexts is ongoing. Users of the tool are encouraged to consider three principles: (1) comprehensiveness in reporting determinants, implementation strategies, and implementation outcomes; (2) specifying the conceptual relationships via diagrammatic tools such as colors and arrows; and (3) detailing important elements of the study design. Further, the authors also recognize that critical elements of IRLM will vary across different study designs.
This study describes the development of an IRLM from a multiple case study design. Case study methodology can answer “how and why” questions about implementation. They enable researchers to develop a rich, in-depth understanding of a contemporary phenomenon within its natural context [ 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 ]. These methods can create coherence in the dynamic context in which EBIs exist [ 22 , 23 ]. Case studies are common in implementation research [ 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 ], with multiple case study designs suitable for undertaking comparisons across contexts [ 31 , 32 ]. However, they are infrequently applied to establish mechanisms [ 11 ] or combine implementation elements to synthesize findings across contexts (as possible through the IRLM). Hollick and colleagues [ 33 ] undertook a comparative case study, guided by a determinant framework, to explore how context influences successful implementation. The authors contrasted determinants across sites where implementation was successful versus sites where implementation failed. The study did not extend to identifying implementation strategies or mechanisms. By contrast, van Zelm et al. [ 31 ] undertook a theory-driven evaluation of successful implementation across ten hospitals. They used joint displays to present mechanisms of change aligned with evaluation outcomes; however, they did not identify the implementation strategies within the causal pathway. Our study seeks to build on these works and explore the utility of the IRLM in synthesizing findings across sites. The dual objectives of this paper were to:
Describe how case study methods can be applied to develop an IRLM
Demonstrate the utility of the IRLM in synthesizing implementation findings across case sites.
In this section, we describe the methods used in the exemplar case study and the alignment of the IRLM to this approach. The exemplar study explored the implementation of exercise EBIs in the context of the Australian healthcare system. The exemplar study aimed to investigate the integration of exercise EBIs within routine mental illness or cancer care. The evidence base detailing the therapeutic benefits of exercise for non-communicable diseases such as cancer and mental illness are extensively documented [ 34 , 35 , 36 ] but inconsistently implemented as part of routine care [ 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 ].
Additional file 1 provides the Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR).
Case study approach
We adopted an approach to case studies based on the methods described by Yin [ 18 ]. This approach is said to have post-positivist philosophical leanings, which are typically associated with the quantitative paradigm [ 19 , 45 , 46 ]. This is evidenced by the structured, deductive approach to the methods that are described with a constant lens on objectivity, validity, and generalization [ 46 ]. Yin’s approach to case studies aligns with the IRLM for several reasons. The IRLM is designed to use established implementation frameworks. The two frameworks and one taxonomy applied in our exemplar were the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) [ 47 ], Expert Recommendations for Implementing Change (ERIC) [ 48 ], and Proctor et al.’s implementation outcomes framework [ 49 ]. These frameworks guided multiple aspects of our study (see Table 1 ). Commencing an implementation study with a preconceived plan based upon established frameworks is deductive [ 22 ]. Second, the IRLM has its foundation in logic modeling to develop cause and effect relationships [ 8 ]. Yin advocates using logic models to analyze case study findings [ 18 ]. They argue that developing logic models encourages researchers to iterate and consider plausible counterfactual explanations before upholding the causal pathway. Further, Yin notes that case studies are particularly valuable for explaining the transitions and context within the cause-and-effect relationship [ 18 ]. In our exemplar, the transition was the mechanism between the implementation strategy and implementation outcome. Finally, the proposed function of IRLM to synthesize findings across sites aligns with the exemplar study that used a multiple case approach. Multiple case studies aim to develop generalizable knowledge [ 18 , 50 ].
Case study selection and boundaries
A unique feature of Yin’s approach to multiple case studies is using replication logic to select cases [ 18 ]. Cases are chosen to demonstrate similarities (literal replication) or differences for anticipated reasons (theoretical replication) [ 18 ]. In the exemplar study, the cases were purposely selected using literal replication and displayed several common characteristics. First, all cases had delivered exercise EBIs within normal operations for at least 12 months. Second, each case site delivered exercise EBIs as part of routine care for a non-communicable disease (cancer or mental illness diagnosis). Finally, each site delivered the exercise EBI within the existing governance structures of the Australian healthcare system. That is, the organizations used established funding and service delivery models of the Australian healthcare system.
Using replication logic, we posited that sites would exhibit some similarities in the implementation process across contexts (literal replication). However, based on existing implementation literature [ 32 , 51 , 52 , 53 ], we expected sites to adapt the EBIs through the implementation process. The determinant analysis should explain these adaptions, which is informed by the CFIR (theoretical replication). Finally, in case study methods, clearly defining the boundaries of each case and the units of analysis, such as individual, the organization or intervention, helps focus the research. We considered each healthcare organization as a separate case. Within that, organizational-level analysis [ 18 , 54 ] and operationalizing the implementation outcomes focused inquiry (Table 1 ).
During the study conceptualization for the exemplar, we mapped the data sources to the different elements of the IRLM (Fig. 1 ). Four primary data sources informed data collection: (1) semi-structured interviews with staff; (2) document review (such as meeting minutes, strategic plans, and consultant reports); (3) naturalistic observations; and (4) a validated survey (Program Sustainability Assessment Tool (PSAT)). A case study database was developed using Microsoft Excel to manage and organize data collection [ 18 , 54 ].
Conceptual frame for the study
An interview guide was developed, informed by the CFIR interview guide tool [ 55 ]. Questions were selected across the five domains of the CFIR, which aligned with the delineation of determinant domains in the IRLM. Purposeful selection was used to identify staff for the interviews [ 56 ]. Adequate sample size in qualitative studies, particularly regarding the number of interviews, is often determined when data saturation is reached [ 57 , 58 ]. Unfortunately, there is little consensus on the definition of saturation [ 59 ], how to interpret when it has occurred [ 57 ], or whether it is possible to pre-determine in qualitative studies [ 60 ]. The number of participants in this study was determined based on the staff’s differential experience with the exercise EBI and their role in the organization. This approach sought to obtain a rounded view of how the EBI operated at each site [ 23 , 61 ]. Focusing on staff experiences also aligned with the organizational lens that bounded the study. Typical roles identified for the semi-structured interviews included the health professional delivering the EBI, the program manager responsible for the EBI, an organizational executive, referral sources, and other health professionals (e.g., nurses, allied health). Between five and ten interviews were conducted at each site. Interview times ranged from 16 to 72 min, most lasting around 40 min per participant.
A checklist informed by case study literature was developed outlining the typical documents the research team was seeking [ 18 ]. The types of documents sought to review included job descriptions, strategic plans/planning documents, operating procedures and organizational policies, communications (e.g., website, media releases, email, meeting minutes), annual reports, administrative databases/files, evaluation reports, third party consultant reports, and routinely collected numerical data that measured implementation outcomes [ 27 ]. As each document was identified, it was numbered, dated, and recorded in the case study database with a short description of the content related to the research aims and the corresponding IRLM construct. Between 24 and 33 documents were accessed at each site. A total of 116 documents were reviewed across the case sites.
The onsite observations occurred over 1 week, wherein typical organizational operations were viewed. The research team interacted with staff, asked questions, and sought clarification of what was being observed; however, they did not disrupt the usual work routines. Observations allowed us to understand how the exercise EBI operated and contrast that with documented processes and procedures. They also provided the opportunity to observe non-verbal cues and interactions between staff. While onsite, case notes were recorded directly into the case study database [ 62 , 63 ]. Between 15 and 40 h were spent on observations per site. A total of 95 h was spent across sites on direct observations.
Program sustainability assessment tool (survey)
The PSAT is a planning and evaluation tool that assesses the sustainability of an intervention across eight domains [ 64 , 65 , 66 ]: (1) environmental support, (2) funding stability, (3) partnerships, (4) organizational capacity, (5) program evaluation, (6) program adaption, (7) communication, and (8) strategic planning [ 64 , 65 ]. The PSAT was administered to a subset of at least three participants per site who completed the semi-structured interview. The results were then pooled to provide an organization-wide view of EBI sustainability. Three participants per case site are consistent with previous studies that have used the tool [ 67 , 68 ] and recommendations for appropriate use [ 65 , 69 ].
We included a validated measure of sustainability, recognizing calls to improve understanding of this aspect of implementation [ 70 , 71 , 72 ]. Noting the limited number of measurement tools for evaluating sustainability [ 73 ], the PSAT’s characteristics displayed the best alignment with the study aims. To determine “best alignment,” we deferred to a study by Lennox and colleagues that helps researchers select suitable measurement tools based on the conceptualization of sustainability in the study [ 71 ]. The PSAT provides a multi-level view of sustainability. It is a measurement tool that can be triangulated with other implementation frameworks, such as the CFIR [ 74 ], to interrogate better and understand the later stages of implementation. Further, the tool provides a contemporary account of an EBIs capacity for sustainability [ 75 ]. This is consistent with case study methods, which explore complex, contemporary, real-life phenomena.
The voluminous data collection that is possible through case studies, and is often viewed as a challenge of the method [ 19 ], was advantageous to developing the IRLM in the exemplar and identifying the causal pathways. First, it aided three types of triangulation through the study (method, theory, and data source triangulation) [ 76 ]. Method triangulation involved collecting evidence via four methods: interview, observations, document review, and survey. Theoretical triangulation involved applying two frameworks and one taxonomy to understand and interpret the findings. Data source triangulation involved selecting participants with different roles within the organization to gain multiple perspectives about the phenomena being studied. Second, data collection facilitated depth and nuance in detailing determinants and implementation strategies. For the determinant analysis, this illuminated the subtleties within context and improved confidence and accuracy for prioritizing determinants. As case studies are essentially “naturalistic” studies, they provide insight into strategies that are implementable in pragmatic settings. Finally, the design’s flexibility enabled the integration of a survey and routinely collected numerical data as evaluation measures for implementation outcomes. This allowed us to contrast “numbers” against participants’ subjective experience of implementation [ 77 ].
Descriptive statistics were calculated for the PSAT and combined with the three other data sources wherein framework analysis [ 78 , 79 ] was used to analyze the data. Framework analysis includes five main phases: familiarization, identifying a thematic framework, indexing, charting, and mapping and interpretation [ 78 ]. Familiarization occurred concurrently with data collection, and the thematic frame was aligned to the two frameworks and one taxonomy we applied to the IRLM. To index and chart the data, the raw data was uploaded into NVivo 12 [ 80 ]. Codes were established to guide indexing that aligned with the thematic frame. That is, determinants within the CFIR [ 47 ], implementation strategies listed in ERIC [ 48 ], and the implementation outcomes [ 49 ] of acceptability, fidelity, penetration, and sustainability were used as codes in NVivo 12. This process produced a framework matrix that summarized the information housed under each code at each case site.
The final step of framework analysis involves mapping and interpreting the data. We used the IRLM to map and interpret the data in the exemplar. First, we identified the core elements of the implemented exercise EBI. Next, we applied the CFIR valance and strength coding to prioritize the contextual determinants. Then, we identified the implementation strategies used to address the contextual determinants. Finally, we provided a rationale (a causal mechanism) for how these strategies worked to address barriers and contribute to specific implementation outcomes. The systematic approach advocated by the IRLM provided a transparent representation of the causal pathway underpinning the implementation of the exercise EBIs. This process was followed at each case site to produce an IRLM for each organization. To compare, contrast, and synthesize findings across sites, we identified the similarities and differences in the individual IRLMs and then developed an IRLM that explained a generalized process for implementation. Through the development of the causal pathway and mechanisms, we deferred to existing literature seeking to establish these relationships [ 81 , 82 , 83 ]. Aligned with case study methods, this facilitated an iterative process of constant comparison and challenging the proposed causal relationships. Smith and colleagues advise that the IRLM “might be viewed as a somewhat simplified format,” and users are encouraged to “iterate on the design of the IRLM to increase its utility” [ 7 ]. Thus, we re-designed the IRLM within a traditional logic model structure to help make sense of the data collected through the case studies. Figure 1 depicts the conceptual frame for the study and provides a graphical representation of how the IRLM pathway was produced.
The results are presented with reference to the three principles of the IRLM: comprehensiveness, indicating the key conceptual relationship and specifying critical study design . The case study method allowed for comprehensiveness through the data collection and analysis described above. The mean number of data sources informing the analysis and development of the causal pathway at each case site was 63.75 (interviews ( M = 7), observational hours ( M =23.75), PSAT ( M =4), and document review ( M = 29). This resulted in more than 30 determinants and a similar number of implementation strategies identified at each site (determinant range per site = 33–44; implementation strategy range per site = 36–44). Developing a framework matrix meant that each determinant (prioritized and other), implementation strategy, and implementation outcome were captured. The matrix provided a direct link to the data sources that informed the content within each construct. An example from each construct was collated alongside the summary to evidence the findings.
The key conceptual relationship was articulated in a traditional linear process by aligning determinant → implementation strategy → mechanism → implementation outcome, as per the IRLM. To synthesize findings across sites, we compared and contrasted the results within each of the individual IRLM and extracted similar elements to develop a generalized IRLM that represents cross-case findings. By redeveloping the IRLM within a traditional logic model structure, we added visual representations of the bi-directional and dependent relationships, illuminating the dynamism within the implementation process. To illustrate, intervention adaptability was a prioritized determinant and enabler across sites. Healthcare providers recognized that adapting and tailoring exercise EBIs increased “fit” with consumer needs. This also extended to adapting how healthcare providers referred consumers to exercise so that it was easy in the context of their other work priorities. Successful adaption was contingent upon a qualified workforce with the required skills and competencies to enact change. Different implementation strategies were used to make adaptions across sites, such as promoting adaptability and using data experts. However, despite the different strategies, successful adaptation created positive bi-directional relationships. That is, healthcare providers’ confidence and trust in the EBI grew as consumer engagement increased and clinical improvements were observed. This triggered greater engagement with the EBI (e.g., acceptability → penetration → sustainability), albeit the degree of engagement differed across sites. Figure 2 illustrates this relationship within the IRLM and provides a contrasting relationship by highlighting how a prioritized barrier across sites (available resources) was addressed.
Example of intervention adaptability (E) contrasted with available resources (B) within a synthesised IRLM across case sites
The final principle is to specify critical study design , wherein we have described how case study methodology was used to develop the IRLM exemplar. Our intention was to produce an explanatory causal pathway for the implementation process. The implementation outcomes of acceptability and fidelity were measured at the level of the provider, and penetration and sustainability were measured at the organizational level [ 49 ]. Service level and clinical level outcomes were not identified for a priori measurement throughout the study. We did identify evidence of clinical outcomes that supported our overall findings via the document review. Historical evaluations on the service indicated patients increased their exercise level or demonstrated a change in symptomology/function. The implementation strategies specified in the study were those chosen by the organizations. We did not attempt to augment routine practice or change implementation outcomes by introducing new strategies. The barriers across sites were represented with a (B) symbol and enablers with an (E) symbol in the IRLM. In the individual IRLM, consistent determinants and strategies were highlighted (via bolding) to support extraction. Finally, within the generalized IRLM, the implementation strategies are grouped according to the ERIC taxonomy category. This accounts for the different strategies applied to achieve similar outcomes across case studies.
This study provides a comprehensive overview that uses case study methodology to develop an IRLM in an implementation research project. Using an exemplar that examines implementation in different healthcare settings, we illustrate how the IRLM (that documents the causal pathways and mechanisms) was developed and enabled the synthesis of findings across sites.
Case study methodologies are fraught with inconsistencies in terminology and approach. We adopted the method described by Yin. Its guiding paradigm, which is rooted in objectivity, means it can be viewed as less flexible than other approaches [ 46 , 84 ]. We found the approach offered sufficient flexibility within the frame of a defined process. We argue that the defined process adds to the rigor and reproducibility of the study, which is consistent with the principles of implementation science. That is, accessing multiple sources of evidence, applying replication logic to select cases, maintaining a case study database, and developing logic models to establish causal pathways, demonstrates the reliability and validity of the study. The method was flexible enough to embed the IRLM within multiple phases of the study design, including conceptualization, philosophical alignment, and analysis. Paparini and colleagues [ 85 ] are developing guidance that recognizes the challenges and unmet value of case study methods for implementation research. This work, supported by the UK Medical Research Council, aims to enhance the conceptualization, application, analysis, and reporting of case studies. This should encourage and support researchers to use case study methods in implementation research with increased confidence.
The IRLM produced a relatively linear depiction of the relationship between context, strategies, and outcomes in our exemplar. However, as noted by the authors of the IRLM, the implementation process is rarely linear. If the tool is applied too rigidly, it may inadvertently depict an overly simplistic view of a complex process. To address this, we redeveloped the IRLM within a traditional logic model structure, adding visual representations of the dependent and bidirectional relationships evident within the general IRLM pathway [ 86 ]. Further, developing a general IRLM of cross-case findings that synthesized results involved a more inductive approach to identifying and extracting similar elements. It required the research team to consider broader patterns in the data before offering a prospective account of the implementation process. This was in contrast to the earlier analysis phases that directly mapped determinants and strategies to the CFIR and ERIC taxonomy. We argue that extracting similar elements is analogous to approaches that have variously been described as portable elements [ 87 ], common elements [ 88 ], or generalization by mechanism [ 89 ]. While defined and approached slightly differently, these approaches aim to identify elements frequently shared across effective EBIs and thus can form the basis of future EBIs to increase their utility, efficiency, and effectiveness [ 88 ]. We identified similarities related to determinant detail and mechanism of different implementation strategies across sites. This finding supports the view that many implementation strategies could be suitable, and selecting the “right mix” is challenging [ 16 ]. Identifying common mechanisms, such as increased motivation, skill acquisition, or optimizing workflow, enabled elucidation of the important functions of strategies. This can help inform the selection of appropriate strategies in future implementation efforts.
Finally, by developing individual IRLMs and then re-producing a general IRLM, we synthesized findings across sites and offered generalized findings. The ability to generalize from case studies is debated [ 89 , 90 ], with some considering the concept a fallacy [ 91 ]. That is, the purpose of qualitative research is to develop a richness through data that is situated within a unique context. Trying to extrapolate from findings is at odds with exploring unique context. We suggest the method described herein and the application of IRLM could be best applied to a form of generalization called ‘transferability’ [ 91 , 92 ]. This suggests that findings from one study can be transferred to another setting or population group. In this approach, the new site takes the information supplied and determines those aspects that would fit with their unique environment. We argue that elucidating the implementation process across multiple sites improves the confidence with which certain “elements” could be applied to future implementation efforts. For example, our approach may also be helpful for multi-site implementation studies that use methods other than case studies. Developing a general IRLM through study conceptualization could identify consistencies in baseline implementation status across sites. Multi-site implementation projects may seek to introduce and empirically test implementation strategies, such as via a cluster randomized controlled trial [ 93 ]. Within this study design, baseline comparison between control and intervention sites might extend to a comparison of organizational type, location and size, and individual characteristics, but not the chosen implementation strategies [ 94 ]. Applying the approach described within our study could enhance our understanding of how to support effective implementation.
After the research team conceived this study, the authors of the PSAT validated another tool for use in clinical settings (Clinical Sustainability Assessment Tool (CSAT)) [ 95 ]. This tool appears to align better with our study design due to its explicit focus on maintaining structured clinical care practices. The use of multiple data sources and consistency in some elements across the PSAT and CSAT should minimize the limitations in using the PSAT survey tool. At most case sites, limited staff were involved in developing and implementing exercise EBI. Participants who self-selected for interviews may be more invested in assuring positive outcomes for the exercise EBI. Inviting participants from various roles was intended to reduce selection bias. Finally, we recognize recent correspondence suggesting the IRLM misses a critical step in the causal pathway. That is the mechanism between determinant and selection of an appropriate implementation strategy [ 96 ]. Similarly, Lewis and colleagues note that additional elements, including pre-conditions, moderators, and mediators (distal and proximal), exist within the causal pathway [ 13 ]. Through the iterative process of developing the IRLM, decisions were made about the determinant → implementation strategy relationship; however, this is not captured in the IRLM. Secondary analysis of the case study data would allow elucidation of these relationships, as this information can be extracted through the case study database. This was outside the scope of the exemplar study.
Developing an IRLM via case study methods proved useful in identifying causal pathways and mechanisms. The IRLM can complement and enhance the study design by providing a consistent and structured approach. In detailing our approach, we offer an example of how multiple case study designs that embed the IRLM can aid the synthesis of findings across sites. It also provides a method that can be replicated in future studies. Such transparency adds to the quality, reliability, and validity of implementation research.
Availability of data and materials
The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author [LC]. The data are not publicly available due to them containing information that could compromise research participant privacy.
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The authors would like to acknowledge the healthcare organizations and staff who supported the study.
SR is funded by an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (APP1123336). The funding body had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation, or manuscript development.
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Louise Czosnek & Eva M. Zopf
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Eva M. Zopf
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Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
School of Health Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Faculty of Health, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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LC, EZ, SR, JR, PC, and NR contributed to the conceptualization of the study. LC undertook the data collection, and LC, EZ, SR, JR, PC, and NR supported the analysis. The first draft of the manuscript was written by LC with NR and EZ providing first review. LC, EZ, SR, JR, PC, and NR commented on previous versions of the manuscript and provided critical review. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Correspondence to Louise Czosnek .
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This study is approved by Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee - Concord Repatriation General Hospital (2019/ETH11806). Ethical approval is also supplied by Australian Catholic University (2018-279E), Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (19/175), North Sydney Local Health District - Macquarie Hospital (2019/STE14595), and Alfred Health (516-19).
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PC is the recipient of a Victorian Government Mid-Career Research Fellowship through the Victorian Cancer Agency. PC is the Founder and Director of EX-MED Cancer Ltd, a not-for-profit organization that provides exercise medicine services to people with cancer. PC is the Director of Exercise Oncology EDU Pty Ltd, a company that provides fee for service training courses to upskill exercise professionals in delivering exercise to people with cancer.
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Czosnek, L., Zopf, E.M., Cormie, P. et al. Developing an implementation research logic model: using a multiple case study design to establish a worked exemplar. Implement Sci Commun 3 , 90 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43058-022-00337-8
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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s43058-022-00337-8
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- Logic model
- Case study methods
- Causal pathways
- Causal mechanisms
Multiple case study design: the example of place marketing research
- Marek Ćwiklicki ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5298-0210 1 &
- Kamila Pilch 1
Place Branding and Public Diplomacy volume 17 , pages 50–62 ( 2021 ) Cite this article
The objective of this paper is to discuss the specificity of multiple case study (MCS) research design using analysis of research description realized according to this strategy in the field of place branding and place marketing published between 1976 and 2016 in scholarly journals. Selecting cases and cases’ context are most frequently explained in place marketing articles where findings are results of MCS research. The choice of a case study as a research strategy and limitations of the studies are less frequently justified in investigated papers. Our analysis shows that the authors should pay more attention to elements characteristic for methodological rigour in their descriptions of the research method. For this purpose, we prepared a checklist. We have discussed in detail key methodological issues for MCS. Moreover, we have formulated guidelines for improving research methodology’s descriptions in scholarly papers. It should lead to an increase in methodological rigour in future research reports. Therefore, researchers will find out suggestions for studying phenomena within place branding domain.
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The aim of the paper is to discuss the specificity of a multiple case study (MCS) as a research method on the example of place branding (place marketing) research. We present the characteristics of MCS underlying the most problematic issues for its users. In order to exemplify them, we have chosen the area of place marketing. For this purpose, we used the results of systematic literature review applied for English language journals in which the research with MCS was published in the period of 1976–2016.
The questionable nature of methodological considerations related to qualitative research causes “the adoption of a revised editorial policy by some journal to stop accepting submissions of qualitative research” (BPS 2018 ). Among the reasons of not accepting papers based on qualitative research, “low priority” and “lacking practical value” are mentioned. These “allegations” induce to pay more attention to methodological rigour which for some research approaches is more or less determined. The doubts deepen especially in case of studying phenomena with a complex nature in a real context, requiring a qualitative approach for their thorough understanding. We can assign to this group place marketing, including also “place branding”. According to the findings of a study on a research type in place marketing, about 68% of empirical papers published in 1976–2016 in 98 English language journals can be qualified as using a qualitative approach, 28 as a quantitative one, and 4 as a mixed one (Vuignier 2017 ).
The recognized type of a research strategy belonging to a qualitative approach and even sometimes associated with it is case study research. We distinguish between single and multiple case study design. In this paper, our attention is given to MCS as results produced using it are considered to be more solid comparing to a single case study (Yin 2009 , p. 53). This variant is characterized by more complexity in conducting research and bigger resources’ demand. It is a consequence of replication and comparison embodied in this approach. We can find rather more general recommendations described in methodological works in social science than a precise instruction (Eisenhardt 1989 ; Mills et al. 2010 ; Yin 1981 , 2009 ). Therefore, non-dependent publications address solely MCS (Stake 2006 ).
The previous analyses authored by Acharya and Rahman ( 2016 ) and Vuignier ( 2016 , 2017 ) focus on identification of employed research methodology. For example, Acharya and Rahman ( 2016 ) show that case studies dominate as the adopted methodology. They classify case studies based on geographical location and research themes. Vuignier’s ( 2016 , 2017 ) methodology criterion focuses on its type (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed) and perspective (descriptive, explanatory, prescriptive, and critical). Therefore, we perceive our paper as complementary to the previous reviews, with a focus on research methodology. Moreover, it deepens the analysis by examining the adopted methodology.
This paper fits into the discourse described above, trying to fulfil methodological gaps in MCS. Based on analysis of particular descriptions of research based on MCS and applying methodological rigour, we try to dispel the main methodological uncertainties. Moreover, we have formulated guidelines for improving the descriptions of methodology which, we hope, even partially contributes to better understating of MCS research.
In the next part of the paper, we have thoroughly justified why the case study and MCS are the proper methodology for studying phenomena in place marketing. In the second section, we have explained the nature of MSC. Next, we have discussed the criteria of methodological rigour and we have explained the importance of description of methodology in research papers. Afterwards, we present our research method and we discuss research results. In the last part of the paper, we formulate the main conclusions and guidelines for describing MCS in research papers.
Justification for using a case study on place marketing
Place branding is a growing academic field and a popular practice. Places are treated in product categories and those who want to manage them need to provide their consumers with an unforgettable, unique, and satisfying experience (Hankinson 2010 ). Kavaratzis ( 2004 ) emphasizes that the subject of territorial marketing is more than the city itself, but also includes its image. Hence, brand and image concepts become key categories. For the first time, a definition of destination branding was introduced by Ritchie and Ritchie ( 1998 ). Although territorial marketing and place branding is a relatively young research field, many studies were undertaken in recent years. Place branding is a multidisciplinary research field. The following authors are worth mentioning with respect to place branding theories: Aitken and Campelo ( 2011 ), Anholt ( 2007 ), Ashworth and Kavaratzis ( 2010 ), Baker ( 2007 ), Hankinson ( 2007 , 2009 ), Hanna and Rowley ( 2011 ), Kavaratzis ( 2004 ), Kavaratzis and Ashworth ( 2008 ), Ma et al. ( 2019 ) and Lucarelli and Berg ( 2011 ). The analyses performed by Hanna and Rowley ( 2011 ) highlights that literature on place branding addresses a range of topics including the relationship between product branding, corporate branding and place branding, similarities with the umbrella brand, the relationship between branding and positioning, image building and shaping emotional relationships with customers, as well as the identity of the place in the process of branding the territory. According to analyses carried out by Vuignier ( 2016 ), in the majority of articles in the area of place branding, qualitative methods were used. Additionally, among qualitative methods, researchers most often used the case study (single or multiple).
Case study is defined as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” (Yin 2009 , p. 18). Case study is an adequate research method in the area of place marketing because of its research subject which is place. The classic definition of place proposed by Cresswel ( 2004 , p. 7) as a “meaningful location” is complemented by additional features. Place is perceived as a multidimensional phenomenon with a higher complexity level than products or services described in business marketing theories (Warnaby and Medway 2013 , p. 348). It is because of the inclusion of such elements as “location” understood as geographical area covering conditions of social interactions, “locale” referring to framework for formal and informal social relations, and a “sense of place” meaning an internal socio-spatial definition of place (Warnaby and Medway 2013 , pp. 348–349).
The evolution of place meaning in science (cf. Cresswell 2009 ) requires a proper understanding of place to analyse it in a real context, which is characteristic of a case study. The social context of place also corresponds to understanding the case study as a narrative structure, which is subject to interpretation changes (Dumez 2015 , p. 46).
From the point of view of the purpose of the article, it was cognitively interesting for us to examine how the methodology of the research in the area of territorial marketing and place branding are presented and described. This prompted the focus on the methodological rigour of the multiple case study method.
Multiple case study research design
The main trait of MCS is researching, as the name indicates, more than one case. Therefore, it is also called a collective case study (Eriksson and Kovalainen 2008 , p. 118). As we mentioned in the introduction, MCS is recommended as more reliable compared with study single case studies due to the possibility of more accurate generalization by delivering more evidence from different sources (Saunders et al. 2007 , p. 140).
MCS is also perceived as “extensions of the case study design”, but because of comparing cases it is also classified as comparative research (Bryman and Bell 2007 , p. 64). According to another definition, “A multiple case study design-shorthand for a multiple site, structured case study design-is a research strategy for generalizing to a target population of cases from the results of a purposefully selected sample of cases” (Greene and David 1984 , p. 75). It means that MCS can be referred to study population, although a purposeful selection of cases is based on the representation of volatility of principal factors explained in the probe comparing to population. Due to its nature, the research strategy belongs to comparative research methods, because it assumes comparison between cases (Bryman and Bell 2007 , p. 64). Generally, comparison studies involve analysis of similarities, differences, and relations between studied units (Mills 2008 , p. 100).
Another label for MCS is a serial study proposed by Dul and Hak ( 2007 ). They defined it as study replication for next cases preceded by result analysis from a previous case (Dul and Hak 2007 , p. 44). Instead of MCS, the authors also use phrases such as a comparative case study, parallel single case study, and serial single case study, depending on replication strategy used.
According to literature, the main features of MCS are a conceptual framework, a sampling plan, procedures for the conduct of individual case studies, and a cross-site analysis strategy (Greene and David 1984 , p. 75). Therefore, we can assume that these elements should be directly or indirectly provided for the proper description of research employing MCS for generalization purpose (i.e. theory creation). This issue will be the subject of our analysis.
Nevertheless, a study of more than one case can be cross-sectional. This approach does not emphasize the uniqueness of cases or juxtapose them, concentration of single cases with a reference to a general synthesis. Therefore, some authors distinguish between multiple (comparative) case studies and cross-sectional fields studies (e.g. Lillis and Mundy 2005 ), while others treat the recent as one of the ways of analysis in MCS (e.g. Yin 2009 ).
The main benefit of MCS results from the replication of the research procedure and the possibility of juxtaposition of results from different cases (Yin 2009 , p. 61). Therefore, it is a reason to compare MCS to multiple experiments (Baxter and Jack 2008 , s. 550). It allows for deeper understanding of the studied phenomenon in studied cases, theory testing, and better reflecting of locally grounded causality (Miles and Huberman 1994 , p. 26).
MCS and research types
MCS can be adapted, as any other research strategy, to explorative and descriptive studies as well as explanative ones in relation to explaining contemporary phenomena. In a minimalist variant, it can be treated only as situation description, but it is too little for developing our knowledge, unless we deal with pioneering research on a new phenomenon. However, it is difficult to find a topic not covered in current literature. It makes explorative research, without referring to state-of-the-art, not likely to be a subject of a scientific paper although questions ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ are specific for case study method as adequate for explorative research. We will omit here a dilemma when literature review should be performed, i.e. before or after research in order to keep a neutral mind (Charmazs 2006 , pp. 165–167). Nevertheless, we will refer to using theory in MCS.
As Tharenou et al. ( 2007 , p. 77) state, “the description of the case is used only to substantiate the explanation provided”. It suggests lower usefulness of descriptive research comparing to the explorative one and explanation from the point of view of knowledge development. We can explain these variants as follows. In the first instance, we use theory as review, defining background not fully described, where some gaps are perceived. Their fulfilment succeeds after case analysis, leading to a new theory (Fig. 1 ).
Theory building from case study research. Source own elaboration
In the second instance, the theory is well described and possesses a strong explanative apparatus. Then case study analysis can lead to question the accepted theoretical framework and next to deliver a new or modified theory or to support it (Fig. 2 ).
Theory testing case study. Source own elaboration
MCS can be also referred to other research types such as extensive and case study research. Extensive case study relies on a comparison of several cases aiming at elaboration, testing, or generation of generalizations (Eriksson and Kovalainen 2008 , p. 118). In this approach, attention is focused on theoretical construct, not on case. It is justified by a less detailed case description in comparison to a single case study (ibidem). Extensive research design is also described as quantitative research on large data sample (Stoecker 1991 , p. 95). However, shortcuts appearing in this approach are criticized (Dyer and Wilkins 1991 ).
Selecting cases is one of the most critical elements of comparative research (Mills 2008 , p. 101). Here, we can refer to small- N analysis, i.e. a study of a small population like a comparative study among of countries. P. Eriksson and A. Kovalainen acknowledge the use of research replication logic in MCS at the same time without emphasizing a clear number of cases legitimizing the research objective (Eriksson and Kovalainen 2008 , p. 124).
The inclusion of a bigger number of cases yields a problem of description’s depth which refers to previous explanation about intensive and extensive research. This relation can be graphically shown in Fig. 3 . We should add that descriptive depth is subordinated to a number of variables included in research.
Relation between descriptive depth and number of cases. Source own elaboration
Construct equivalence is also important in comparative analysis, especially when studied cases come from different cultural contexts, e.g. national settings.
In the situation described above, selecting cases follows the possibility of confirmation of observed phenomenon in similar or different cases. Therefore, it is more often used for theory testing and theory development. In the event of theory creation, using MCS refers to grounded theory methodology. According to it, the cases are selected according to formulated propositions. However, in comparative research, the main intention is to correlate contrasting cases, not similar ones (Bryman and Bell 2007 , p. 66).
MCS aims to formulate theoretical generalization described as “declaring the results of case research valid for a larger population on the basis of both structural similarity and logical argumentation” (Hillebrand et al. 2001 , p. 653). Yin ( 2009 , p. 38) calls it analytic generalization, and both expressions contrast with statistical generalization. Here, Yin compares MCS to multiple experiments where research subject is picked because of its relations to study topic, not because of its characteristics. Then, the results from MCS are confronted with the accepted theory. If the findings support the theory, then we can call the study a replication. But if the cases do not support the theory, they contribute to the creation of a rival theory. Therefore, theory testing can lead to the creation of a new explanation.
Differences between cases are also raised by R. Stake, but he does it for another reason. He evaluates chances of collecting data about complexity and context of the studied topic (Stake 2006 , p. 23).
Here, the possibility of changing the research type appears although different research design elements should be included. In case of research aimed at theory creation, the following issues should be shown: hypotheses must be developed by a theory, the research design must be logical and systematic, and findings must be independently evaluated (Johnston et al. 1999 ).
Methodological rigour of case study
“Rigorous (“trustworthy”) research is research that applies the appropriate research tools to meet the stated objectives of the investigation” (Atlas.ti 2018 ). After literature review, we can conclude that there are attempts to transform evaluation criteria elaborated within a positivistic paradigm to qualitative research (Table 1 ).
In an encyclopaedia entry about qualitative research, the following criteria of methodological rigour are provided:
Transparency guarantees detailed description of undertaking steps and means used in research, which should enable other researchers to repeat the research and readers to assess the choice correctness of research approach.
Credibility ( authenticity ) results by presenting not only data supporting propositions but also opposite to them, and also receiving result confirmation from persons from whom data were collected (an emic perspective).
Reliable , dependable due to using different sources and researchers when such differentiation positively influences the generalization coherence.
C omparability expressing the possibility to compare cases with other cases within the same or another research design as well as obtained results also including results integrity.
Reflexivity evinces in communicating about reduced influence of researcher, tools used, etc. (Given and Saumure 2008 , pp. 795–796; Whittemore et al. 2001 , p. 534).
Similar rigour evaluation criteria apply to a case study. They derive from four main criteria recognized in evaluating research quality in social sciences (Yin 2009 , p. 40). Because these criteria are extensively discussed in literature (e.g. Gibbert et al. 2008 ), we have limited our considerations to provide aggregated explanations. These criteria are as follows:
Construct validity refers to correctness of operationalization of measures, models, constructs, etc. It is mainly associated with research design and collecting data.
Internal validity refers to the evaluation of results’ coherence with formulated conclusions and, as Yin ( 2009 , p. 42) states, it is mainly included in data analysis.
External validity refers to correctness of generalizations from the study. It reflects a properly designed research plan.
Reliability refers to possibility to replicate research. It is associated mainly with data collection.
Methodological rigour is generally assessed on the basis of reliability criterion. It is understood as achieving similar results due to realizing research with the same research procedure. But stating if it is possible relies on how detailed explained research parts are. Therefore, we treat the description of methodological research as the proper one for checking methodological rigour. Internal validity can be associated with the analysis of coherence of the whole paper, which is mainly evaluated in reviews.
We would like to explain that some authors adapt other sets of research design elements for cases. For example, it can include (a) propositions (possibly), (b) application of a conceptual framework, (c) development of the research questions, (d) the logic linking data to propositions, and (e) criteria for interpreting findings (Baxter and Jack 2008 , pp. 550–551).
Material and research method
We analyse articles chosen from the database prepared by Vuignier ( 2016 , 2017 ). This database contains 1172 articles published 1976–2016 in 98 English language journals in the field of place branding and place marketing. Footnote 1 The years indicated above are the result of a search for papers about place marketing and place branding. A corpus of papers was obtained by following the process described below. First, a systematic literature search identified articles published in English on topics of interest. This list was expanded by adding the top-ranked journals of any disciplines associated with place marketing. For this purpose, the rank indicator was used (the SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) developed by Elsevier using the Scopus database). This resulted in a list of 30 journals. Then, the database of articles associated with place marketing was added. Here, papers referenced in search engines including Google Scholar that were not identified during the systematic phase were included. In addition to articles, other works, such as books, were included (Vuignier 2016 , 2017 ). Next, we selected from the group of 428 articles identified by the Swiss author as qualitative research the ones classified as a “multiple case study”. It returned 86 articles. Next, we verified the articles reviewing their content. As a result, we selected for our analysis 53 articles from 19 different journals. We excluded 33 texts as non-applicable descriptions of the use of the MCS study. The main reasons for the rejection were the language of the text other than English and no references to the applied research method. Table 2 illustrates the particular systematic literature review stages and their outcome.
Table 3 contains the list of journals where the analysed test were published. The largest number of articles comes from three journals: “Place Branding and Public Diplomacy”, “European Planning Studies”, and “Urban Studies”. Their share is 50%.
In total, 92 researchers authored or co-authored the analysed articles. The texts were mostly prepared by one author (23 articles, 43.4%) or co-authored by two researchers (20 cases, 37.7%). We can deduce from these numbers that the benefit of researchers’ triangulations was not fully explored.
Research carried out using the MCS is implemented within the framework of classic marketing, public management, political science, geography, and others.
In spite of covering the period 1976–2016, papers with a MCS methodology first appear in 1994. We observe an increase of interest in the issues of territorial marketing in articles in which research was carried out using a MCS from 2006 (77.4% of the analysed articles were published after this year) (Fig. 4 ). However, there is no clear trend of the growing popularity of researching the described subject by the MCS method. At the same time, we are aware that due to the digitalization of scholarly publishing (e.g. issuing of new journals and archiving), articles are increasingly released and available in databases.
Number of analysed articles in 1994–2016. Source own elaboration
The main purpose of this article is to discuss the character of MCS based on descriptions of research results of articles published in the English language in the field of place branding and place marketing. These include the characteristics of MCS as a method not only in terms of the nature of research (exploratory, explanatory, or descriptive), but also types of study (theory building, theory testing, and practical). We also took into account the elements of methodology characteristic for research aimed at developing a new theory and theory testing. For the first purpose, we can list the following: a conceptual framework, a sampling plan, procedures for the conduct of individual case studies, and a cross-case analysis strategy. For the second purpose, we recognize the following: hypotheses developed by theory, the logical and systematic research design, and independently evaluated findings.
In the presentation of results of MCS applications, we focus on discussing issues related to the methodological rigour. We classified 53 articles in accordance with the adopted 18 criteria characteristics for the description of the research procedure in terms of methodological rigour. We used these criteria as a framework for presenting the study results. We explained them in more detail in the next section of the paper. The criteria can be divided as follows:
General, characteristic for each research (e.g. indicated type of study: theory building, theory testing, practical, and the nature of the research: exploratory, explanatory, descriptive),
Directly stated by the author (s) of articles or indirectly existing,
Referring to the main stages of the research procedure: research planning, data collection, data analysis, presenting the results of the study,
Four main categories of the methodological evaluation.
The division of partial criteria according to the stage of the research procedure and the category of methodological evaluation are presented in Table 4 .
We also used additional classification criteria, which, due to the lack of indications, were omitted in the description of the test results and detailed analysis. This concerned providing a case study definition, the source used for the definition, and an indication that we are dealing with MCS.
In addition, we formulated the following specific questions:
What elements appear in the description of research using the MCS method?
What elements of methodological rigour are most often presented in articles and what elements are usually missing?
Which elements are described directly by the authors and which are indirectly signalled?
We have analysed the data set by quantitative analysis, first encoding the collected material according to the criteria presented above (see Table 4 ).
In the next section, we present the results of the analyses, focusing on the frequency of occurrence of individual elements highlighted earlier, with the help of which the quality of the research methodology descriptions can be assessed.
Presentation and analysis of results
Description of mcs research.
One of the important issues in research is to identify the type of research objective. It can be associated with the creation or complementation of existing theories (theory-creating objective), an attempt to falsify theory (theory-testing objective) or solving problem (descriptive, practical objective). The research objective was clearly determined in 23 of the analysed papers (43.4%). The most frequent was theory creation (18 from 53 articles, i.e. 33.9%) and practical (17 from 53 articles, i.e. 32%). We classified 7 cases (13.2%) as joint practical and theory creating. The authors the least undertook an attempt to falsify theory (5 from 53 articles, i.e. 9.4%). The research aim was associated both with theory testing and problem solving in 6 (11.3%) papers.
The second issue in describing research is the awareness of its type: exploratory, explanatory, and descriptive. The research type was clearly defined in 25 articles (47.2%). The authors mainly realized exploratory research (19 from 53, i.e. 35.8%). We classified as possessing both descriptive and explorative character 7 papers (from 53, i.e. 13.2%) and 1 as “exploratory and explanatory”. 22 (22.6%) papers presented research explanatory results. 6 (11.3%) articles were only descriptive, while 8 (15%) were mixed explanative-descriptive.
Methodological rigour in MCS descriptions in place marketing research
The findings are discussed according to four main research stages: research design, data collection, data analysis, and reporting results (dissemination).
Table 5 presents evaluation results for MCS research design. It shows numbers and the share of each of the distinguished criteria for the first stage of research.
Our first criterion refers to justification of using MCS as a research strategy. This choice should result from research question types described in the previous section. We have found explanation why MCS was employed only in 4 articles (7.5%). Indirectly, we found such a clarification in 5 papers (9.4%). The authors of the examined papers did not refer to any of CS definitions.
The authors could employ a theoretical model as a result of literature review as a basis for research hypotheses, etc. We found such a model to be directly described in 23 articles (43.4%), and in 21 articles (39.6%) we could only assume what the theoretical background for research was. In 9 cases (17%), we did not find any premises for a theoretical model.
The next criterion is defining research questions. The questions were directly formulated in 23 articles (43.4%), while indirectly in 15 articles (28.3%). In the remaining 15 articles (28.3%), we did not find any signs of their existences.
Referring to research propositions/hypotheses, we found them in 3 articles directly and in 3 papers indirectly. It means that in majority of investigated papers (47 articles, i.e. 88.7%), there was neither direct nor indirect mention about propositions/hypotheses.
The last criterion for the first stage is providing explanation for the selection of cases. In 36 articles (67.9%), this justification was provided, while in 14 papers, the motivation of choosing particular cases was very curt. There was mention about it in 3 articles.
In addition to the above, we have checked how many cases were most frequently analysed in one research. Two cases in MCS research design appeared to be most often used (23 articles, i.e. 43.4%).
Table 6 presents evaluation results for MCS data collection. It shows numbers and the share for each of the distinguished criteria for the second stage of research.
In 46 articles (86.8%), the authors directly pointed out the data sources used for analyses. In 2 cases, they were not explicitly stated, but it was possible to identify them on the basis of statements contained in the descriptions. Nevertheless, in 5 articles (9.4%), it was not possible to identify the data sources used in the analysis. Analyses were usually based on more than one source of data: this was the case in 20 articles (37.7%). If one source was used, it was mostly individual interviews (in 8 descriptions) or external data (8 cases). Figure 5 presents the percentage of articles in which individual sources were used for analysis.
Data sources in MCS research descriptions. Source own elaboration
The data collection method was presented in detail in 18 articles (34%). Indirectly, it was possible to deduce it from laconic descriptions in 25 texts (47.2%).
The unit of analysis was directly determined in three methodological descriptions (5.7%). Nevertheless, based on the descriptions provided, we have identified the unit of analysis in the selected articles. Due to the studied subject, this was most often a location (49 articles, i.e. 92.4%). In 4 cases, we classified the unit of analysis as “another”: these were websites. Lack of unambiguous determination of the unit of analysis unables judgment whether the researchers in their conclusions did not commit one of the cognitive errors occurring in the research: ecological fallacy or reductionism.
The data analysis stage, apart from the reporting stage, appeared to be the least documented part of methodology descriptions. Table 7 presents evaluation results for MCS data analysis.
The analysis process was presented in only 10 texts (18.9%), while in an indirect way the logic of the analysis could be found in 16 texts (30.2%). It means that the analysis process has not been described in most articles. This situation took place in 27 studies, which is 50.9%.
In addition, the authors did not indicate explicitly whether any kind of triangulation was used in the study. In a direct way, such a formulation was described in 9 methodological descriptions (17%). Nevertheless, based on the descriptions provided, we could identify indirectly triangulation used in 39 studies (73.6%). The vast majority was data triangulation (35 articles, i.e. 89.7%); in two cases, triangulation of researchers; in one case, theory; and in one, method.
An important element of any study’s description is the indication of its limitations. Their presentation may be a contribution to in-depth research in a specific area, which may be perceived as research maturity. The limitations of the research were described only in 6 articles (11.3%), while in the next 9 (17%) the authors indicated it laconically. This means that in most cases (71.7%) there was no comment in this area.
Detailed results for evaluation results of results reporting are presented in Table 8 .
The vast majority of the authors described the context of the conducted research (in a direct manner in 49 articles, i.e. 92.5%). Often, such a description concerned the justification of the aim of the study, the conditions of a given problem or the broader context of the presentation of the result analysis.
In none of the articles, we found information about the report’s review by respondents. Also, in none of the analysed texts, information about the access to the database or test protocol was provided. Only one article included an interview scenario in the annex.
The authors often made comparisons between the cases included in the study (directly in 38 cases, i.e. 71.7%, indirectly in 1 case, i.e. 1.8%). It seems that the essence of MCS is the comparison of results obtained for individual cases. Still in 14 articles, we did not find a statement that would indicate such an analysis.
A case study is a flexible research procedure, but it is important to follow the methodological rules for the proper implementation of the MCS. Without a clear portrayal of the research procedure, it is not possible to assess the reliability and validity of research or obtained results. This issue is of particular importance in the context of ongoing discussions related to the role of qualitative research.
Based on the conducted analysis, it can be stated that in the articles on marketing of places where the research was carried out using the MCS as a research method, the methodological descriptions most often justify the selection of cases (94.3%) and the context of the study (98.1%). The reasons for applying case study as a research method (19.9%) and the limitations of the analysis (28.3%) are least justified. The authors do not publish protocols or databases from research; they also rarely mention the use of computer programs. As a consequence, we can conclude that the presentation of the description of the conducted research in the analysed articles does not give grounds for stating the documented observance of the methodological rigour.
There are studies/articles in which we can find guidelines and checklists for authors (also for reviewers) of texts in which the research was conducted using the case study method (cf. Höst and Runeson 2007 , p. 481). The guidelines described in the literature as well as the conclusions from the conducted analysis allow us to formulate a checklist for the authors describing MCS method (Table 9 ).
We would like to point out the following issues as limitations of our study. The presented analysis was based on English language articles published in place marketing and place branding journals. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the analysis of articles published in languages other than English or articles using a multiple case study for other research problems would give different results. Based on the results of our analyses, it is not possible to indicate any clear trends in the methodological descriptions (for example, whether the descriptions of the methodology are more or less detailed, or if there are elements that are given more attention over time). It is not possible to indicate whether the lack of description of individual elements related to the methodological rigour is the result of research immaturity or adaptation to editorial requirements (related, among others, to the maximum length of articles). To be able to say this, qualitative research (i.e. IDI or FGI) should be carried out with authors using MCS method. It should be also emphasized that the analysis was narrowed down to 39 years (the articles were from the period of 1976–2015—and was based on articles chosen from the database prepared by R. Vuignier). Therefore, the latest works from the period of 2016–2018 are not included in it. It would be interesting to discover it both cognitively and methodologically which of the elements of methodological rigour in the latest articles are present. In addition, the subject of our analysis were only descriptions of the methodology of research carried out using the multiple case study method. It would be worthwhile to compare them with descriptions of the methodology in which the research was carried out using the single case study method.
One of the research objectives according to case study methodology is understanding phenomenon dynamics in specific settings (Eisenhardt 1989 ). It is impossible without discussing the research procedure, its assumption and context established for a specific case. Therefore, the authors publishing research results achieved by using MCS should respect guidelines formulated in methodological literature. Otherwise, a discrepancy appears between suggested principles of conducting good quality research and research practice.
Due to the multidisciplinary approach towards place branding and the multilevel analysis (from city to national), in a multiple case study, researchers have the opportunity to focus on a few cases. Nevertheless, a detailed justification of purposeful selection is required. The identified dominance of two case studies suggests better methodological guidelines for pair comparison and the advancement of a dual case study design in the field of marketing and branding. References to place branding characterizes pluralism in studies of the mind of consumer (Anholt 2010 ). In terms of MCS, it suggests to continue research in form of data triangulation, derived from qualitative as well as quantitative analysis. However, research strategy based on mix methods in the discussed field is in a nascent phase. It demonstrates a 3% share of papers adopted mix-methods design in the database (Vuignier 2017 ). For this reason, the research direction in brand marketing inevitably relates to methodological rigour but not strictly understood in positivist approach but more to trustworthiness criteria (Nowell et al. 2017 ). A reflection on a place as a research subject should accompany research design, due to difficulty in clear definition of its boundaries and empirical categorization.
The conclusions from the presented results expressly indicate the need for greater compliance in describing research methods. It would be interesting to conduct an analysis of the reasons for existing patterns not only in reference to publications about place marketing, but also in other scientific disciplines and areas where MCS is used. Further, conducting content analysis of place branding articles would allow tracking of the evolution of research trends and emerging topics. Additionally, it would be methodically interesting to use a mixed methodology to study complex phenomena in the field of place branding/marketing.
The purpose of our article was methodological in nature. Based on the criteria of methodological rigour, we have systematically assessed the research design section of articles in the place marketing field. Hence, our scope extended beyond specific conceptual problems (regarding place branding), to include dilemmas related to research design and its presentation. We hope that our work will trigger discussion about methodological rigour. Also, we expect that the formulated recommendations will be convenient for authors using MCS in their research. Despite the formulated guidelines, it is necessary to remember that the case study design is strongly connected with the specific phenomenon embedded in a particular case or cases.
Details of this study can be found in Vuignier’s studies ( 2016 , 2017 ).
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We would like to thank dr Renaud Vuignier for sharing his journal database and the reviewers of this journal for their insightful and constructive comments towards improving our manuscript.
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Ćwiklicki, M., Pilch, K. Multiple case study design: the example of place marketing research. Place Brand Public Dipl 17 , 50–62 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-020-00159-2
Revised : 07 September 2019
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Recognized as one of the most cited methodology books in the social sciences, the Sixth Edition of Robert K. Yin′s bestselling text provides a complete portal to the world of case study research. With the integration of 11 applications in this edition, the book gives readers access to exemplary case studies drawn from a wide variety of academic and applied fields. Ultimately, Case Study Research and Applications will guide students in the successful design and use of the case study research method.
New to this Edition
- Includes 11 in depth applications that show how researchers have implemented case study methods successfully.
- Increases reference to relativist and constructivist approaches to case study research, as well as how case studies can be part of mixed methods projects.
- Places greater emphasis on using plausible rival explanations to bolster case study quality.
- Discusses synthesizing findings across case studies in a multiple case study in more detail
- Adds an expanded list of 15 fields that have text or texts devoted to case study research.
- Sharpens discussion of distinguishing research from non research case studies.
- The author brings to light at least three remaining gaps to be filled in the future:
- how rival explanations can become more routinely integrated into all case study research;
- the difference between case based and variable based approaches to designing and analyzing case studies; and
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- ISBN-10 1506336167
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"The book is filled with tips to the researcher on how to master the craft of doing research overall and specifically how to account for multi-layered cases."
"Yin covers all of the basic and advanced knowledge for conducting case study and why they are useful for specific research studies without getting lost in the weeds."
"The applications enhance the original material because it gives the reader concrete examples."
"Yin is much more in-depth on case study methods both within a general qualitative text and any other case study text I have seen."
About the Author
Robert K. Yin is President of COSMOS Corporation, an applied research and social science firm. Over the years, COSMOS has successfully completed hundreds of projects for federal agencies, state and local agencies, and private foundations.
Outside of COSMOS, Dr. Yin has assisted numerous other research groups, helping to train their field teams or to design research studies. The most recent such engagements have been with The World Bank, the Division of Special Education and disAbility Research at George Mason University, the Department of Nursing Research and Quality Outcomes at the Children’s National Health System (Washington, DC), and the School of Education, Southern New Hampshire University.
Dr. Yin has authored over 100 publications, including authoring or editing 11 books (not counting the multiple editions of any given book). Earlier editions of the present book have been translated into eight languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Romanian, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese), and a second book on Qualitative Research from Start to Finish (2016) is in its 2nd edition and has been translated into four languages (Chinese, Korean, Swedish, and Portuguese). Dr. Yin received his B.A. in history from Harvard College (magna cum laude) and his Ph.D. in brain and cognitive sciences from MIT.
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Robert k. yin.
Robert K. Yin, Ph.D., serves as Chairman of the Board and CEO of COSMOS Corporation, an applied research and social science firm that has been in operation since 1980. Over the years, COSMOS has successfully completed hundreds of projects for government agencies, private foundations, and other entrepreneurial and non-profit organizations. At COSMOS, Dr. Yin actively leads various research projects, including those in which the case study method is used. He has authored numerous books and peer-reviewed articles, including Case Study Research and Applications of Case Study Research. In 1998 he founded the “Robert K. Yin Fund” at M.I.T., which supports seminars on brain sciences, as well as other activities related to the advancement of pre-doctoral students in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
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Mar 2, 2012
[yin] single case or multiple case study -- rethinking my research design.
"The matrix first shows that every type of design will include the desire to analyze contextual conditions in relation to the 'case,' with the dotted lines between the two signaling that the boundaries between the case and the context are not likely to be sharp. The matrix then shows that single- and multiple-case studies reflect different design situations and that, within these two variant, there also can be unitary or multiple units of analysis. The resulting four types of designs for case studies are (Type 1) single-case (holistic) designs, (Type 2) single-case (embedded) designs, (Type 3) multiple-case (holistic) designs, and (Type 4) multiple-case (embedded) designs" (p.46).
Thank you thiswas very useful for me surfing on your page by chance while studying for my exams in quality research methology here in Norway :) Yon is btw routinely subject to exam questions here. - Silje
You are very welcome, Silje. I'm surprised that this blog is read by people other than myself. I'm preparing prelim exam, too. Good luck to yours!
Hello Jing-huey, thanks for sharing this troublesome issue. I have just started my MA thesis on teacher research at a university. I want to explore how TR affects teachers professional, pedagogic practice and knowledge. I have chosen (purposeful sampling) 3 teachers. I thought of each teachers as being a different case (multiple case study) but they all work at the same institution (context) so would you say that this is this a single case with embedded units or multiple?
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