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Should clarify epistemological commitments
on 6 July 2011
I have read the other reviews and it's important to say that I would not want to undermine their enthusiasm for the value reviewers have found in this book. Consequently, I'm not going to add to comments about the content.
The problem with this book is that it is written from a particular epistemological viewpoint which, importantly, it does not examine. Consequently, not only are many of the arguments it presents simply not applicable to whole areas of social research, but more importantly, that this might not be evident to the reader.
Take the example of 'rigour'.
On p24 Yin states that "Case study designs need to maximize their quality through four critical conditions related to design quality: (a) construct validity, (b) internal validity, (c) external validity, (d) reliability." Later (p40) he argues that "the four tests are common to all social science methods" (p40). Many other texts and many other researchers would contend that this is an inherently positivist perspective which does not represent the values and criteriology that emerge from other epistemological stances. (To explore alternatives I recommend a paper by Tsoukas and chapter by Byrne - see below).
Positivism is all very well, but I feel even positivist research has a duty to be more critically reflexive, even if only in passing.
Byrne, D. (2009) Case-Based Methods: why we need them; what they are; how to do them. In: D. Byrne & C. C. Ragin eds. The SAGE handbook of case-based methods. London, SAGE.
Tsoukas, H. (1989) The Validity of Idiographic Research Explanations. The Academy of Management Review, 14 (4), pp.551-561.