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What Is a Case?

What Is a Case?
Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry

$44.99 (C)

Charles C. Ragin, Douglas Harper, Andrew Abbott, Stanley Lieberson, Diane Vaughan, Michel Wieviorka, John Walton, Jennifer Platt, Howard C. White
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  • Date Published: July 1992
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521421881

$ 44.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The concept of the case is a basic feature of social science research and yet many questions about how a case should be defined, how cases should be selected and what the criteria are for a good case or set of cases are far from settled. Are cases pre-existing phenomena that need only be identified by the researcher before analysis can begin? Or are cases constructed during the course of research, only after analysis has revealed which features should be considered defining characteristics? Will cases be selected randomly from the total pool of available cases? Or will cases be chosen because of their unique qualities? These questions and many others are addressed by the contributors to this volume as they probe the nature of the case and the ways in which different understandings of what a case is affect the conduct and the results of research. The contributors find a good deal of common ground, and yet they also express strikingly different views on many key points. As Ragin argues and the contributions demonstrate, the work of any given researcher is often characterized by some hybrid of these basic approaches, and it is important to understand that most research involves multiple definitions and uses of cases, as both specific empirical phenomena and as general theoretical categories.

    Reviews & endorsements

    "There is sociology of sociology here, many recountings of field adventures, tips on data collection and analysis, and discussions of substantive topics as diverse as crime, religion, gender, family, cities, social problems, and social movements...a good read." Contemporary Sociology

    "This is not a book to be missed. The issues raised and discussed insure it a wide readership for, I predict, many years. They pertain to the nature and use of cases by us all, whether we are researchers, theorists, or both." Anselm Strauss, University of California, San Francisco

    "...enormously stimulating and enlightening. The book will not only be a pure delight for comparative methodologists in the social sciences but also, more importantly, a rich source of useful insights and fresh perspectives for the much larger number of empirical comparative researchers." Arend Lijphart, University of California, San Diego

    "A must for anyone concerned with methods of inquiry in the social raises a host of basic issues about empirical social science. The authors deal with these issues in a uniformly penetrating manner." Harry Eckstein, University of California, Irvine

    "[T]here is something of value in the book for almost anyone....What Is a Case? is a useful book, reflecting a new level of methodological/theoretical self-awareness and subtlety of the kind that will benefit the discipline." Alan Sica, American Journal of Sociology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 1992
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521421881
    • length: 254 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 154 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • contains: 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Cases of 'what is a case?' Charles C. Ragin
    Part I. Cases Are Found:
    2. Small Ns and community case studies Douglas Harper
    3. What do cases do? Some notes on activity in sociological analysis Andrew Abbott
    Part II. Cases Are Objects:
    4. Small Ns and big conclusions: an examination of the reasoning in comparative studies based on a small number of cases Stanley Lieberson
    5. Theory elaboration: the heuristics of case analysis Diane Vaughan
    Part III. Cases Are Made:
    6. Case studies: history or sociology? Michel Wieviorka
    7. Making theoretical cases John Walton
    Part IV. Cases Are Conventions:
    8. Cases on cases … of cases Jennifer Platt
    9. Cases are for identity, for explanation, or for control
    10. Cases, causes, conjunctures, stories and imagery Howard C. White.

  • Editors

    Charles C. Ragin, Northwestern University, Illinois

    Howard Saul Becker, University of Washington


    Charles C. Ragin, Douglas Harper, Andrew Abbott, Stanley Lieberson, Diane Vaughan, Michel Wieviorka, John Walton, Jennifer Platt, Howard C. White

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