Qualitative Research in Information Systems: References on Case Study Research
Section Editor: Michael D. Myers
This is a list of references on case study research. After a brief introduction which suggests those works which are essential reading for newcomers to the field, the list is organized into two parts: the first part lists citations related to the approach in Information Systems, the second lists citations related to the approach in other disciplines. Please note that this list contains a few suggestions only and is not intended to be comprehensive. I encourage you to search Google Scholar, the AIS e-library and/or some other bibliographic database for a more complete and up-to-date list.
A standard text for anyone wanting to do case study research is the book by Yin (2002). Three important methodological articles on the case study method in the IS field are those by Benbasat et al. (1987), Dubé and Paré (2003) and Lee (1989). One of the most cited empirical examples of case study research in Information Systems is the article by Markus (1983). For interpretive case studies, Walsham’s (1993) book is excellent. Two empirical examples of the interpretive case study method in IS are the articles by Myers (1994) and Walsham and Waema (1994).
Citations in Information Systems
Baskerville, R., Pentland, B.T. and Walsham, G. “A Workshop on Two Techniques for Qualitative Analysis: Interviewing and Evaluation,” Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Conference on Information Systems, 1994, p. 503-4.
Beynon-Davies, P. “Information Management in the British National Health Service: The Pragmatics of Strategic Data Planning,” International Journal of Information Management, 14 , 1994, pp. 84-94.
Abstract: The UK National Health Service (NHS) has been conducting an open exercise in global data modelling for the past 12 years and therefore constitutes a unique resource for the student of information management. This article aims to document some of the history of this exercise as well as placing this corporate data modelling within the social, political and economic context of the NHS, thereby explaining some of its current shape. Finally, using the case of the NHS we make some comments about the success, or otherwise, of conducting data modelling on the corporate scale.
Comment: This paper illustrates how data can be collected from a variety of sources in order to understand the history and context of the unit of analysis in the case study. It leads to a number of important lessons for both researchers and practitioners (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Boland, R. “The process and product of system design,” Management Science (28:9), 1978, pp. 887-898.
Boland, R. “Control, causality and information system requirements,” Accounting, Organizations and Society (4:4), 1979, pp. 259272.
Broadbent, M. and Weill, P. “Improving business and information strategy alignment: Learning from the banking industry,” IBM Systems Journal, (32:1), 1993, pp. 162-179.
Abstract: Four large Australian banks provided the setting for an empirical study exploring business and information strategy alignment in an information-intense and competitive environment. The aim of the study which firms had information and IT-based advantages and to identify organizational practices that contributed to and enhanced alignment. Using a multiple case approach, multiple sources of evidence were collected from each firm, including written and interview-based information from executive business and IT managers and strategic planning and other internal documentation. The firm-wide strategy formation processes of the banks, rather than their IS methodology was central to the nature and level of alignment. The interdependence of firm-wide processes and IS factors are emphasized in a strategic alignment model that summarizes the findings of the study. The papaer concludes with a discussion of the management implications and requirements for action in both firm-wide strategy and IS areas.
Comment: This is an example of an early empirical study of the nature of business and IS alignment. It draws heavily on senior business and IT managers as “key informants” and the use of confidential firm documentation. This paper illustrates how a case paper can be written and results communicated while maintaining the confidentiality of participant firms and managers (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Burgess, G., Clark, T.D., Hauser Jr., R.D. and Zmud, R.W., The Application of Causal Maps to Develop a Collective Understanding of Complex Organisational Contexts in Requirements Analysis, Accounting, Management and Information Technology, (2:3), 1992, pp. 143-164.
Abstract: This article examines causal mapping as a tool to facilitate the requirements analysis process. Although a number of methodologies are available to facilitate the causal mapping process, a major difficulty is that little is empirically known about the appropriate behaviours to be followed when applying causal mapping techniques. The benefits of applying causal mapping to overcome certain human information processing limitations that impede the requirements analysis process are discussed. The effective application of causal mapping as a RA tool is presented and a case study is described in which the causal mapping technique was applied to develop a rich understanding of an ill-structured organisational phenomenon. Finally, insights gained from the case study are used to assess the validity of several propositions intended to guide the process.
Comment: This paper is particularly rigorous in its design and presentation of evidence leading to the discussion and implications. The results of the case study method are clearly related to outcomes of the literature review (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Bussen, Wendy, and Michael D. Myers. 1997. “Executive Information Systems Failure: A New Zealand Case Study.” Journal of Information Technology Vol. 12, No.2, June 1997, pp. 145-153.
Cavaye, A.L.M. “Case study research: a multi-faceted research approach for IS,” Information Systems Journal (6:3) 1996, pp. 227-242.
Cavaye, A.L.M. & Cragg, P.B. “Factors contributing to the success of customer oriented interorganizational systems”, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, (4:1), 1995, pp. 13-30.
Abstract: Interorganizational systems (IOS) can help firms to become more efficient and more competitive by streamlining operations between companies. To build successful IOS, the development process needs to be well understood. This paper uses a four-stage model of the IOS development process to examine the experiences of nine systems that link firms with customers. the data provides considerable support for the model and its numerous factors. Technological awareness by customers was found to have a strong influence on the rate of adoption. Extent of adoption is themajor determinant of ultimate success of the IOS.
Comment: Carefully completed case research on an emerging area of IS practice. Good use of tables for cross-case comparison (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Curtis, B., Krasner, H. and Iscoe, N. “A Field Study of the Software Design Process for Large Systems,” Communications of the ACM, (31:11), 1988, pp. 1268-1287.
Abstract: The problems of describing large software systems were studied through interviewing personnel from 17 large projects. A layered behavioural model is used to analyse how three of these problems – the thin spread of application knowledge, fluctuating and conflicting requirements, and communication bottlenecks and breakdowns – affected software productivity and quality through their impact on cognitive, social, and organisational processes.
Comment: This paper presents a rigorous study of the design of large software systems. The research design and data collection are comprehensively described, and the discussion includes comments from case study participants as evidence. The topic of study is important and outcomes from the study are relevant to both the research community and practitioners (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Darke, P. and Shanks, G. “User Viewpoint Modelling: Understanding and Representing User Viewpoints During Requirements Definition,” Information Systems Journal, (7:3), 1997, (forthcoming)
Abstract: There has been increasing awareness of the impact of the early stages of systems development on the quality of information systems. A critical early activity is requirements definition, when the requirements for an information system are determined. Traditional requirements capture techniques do not support the collaborative nature of requirements definition or the emergent nature of requirements themselves. This paper focuses on viewpoint development as a means of resolving some of the difficulties of requirements definition. It proposes a user viewpoint model for capturing and representing the viewpoints of users during requirements acquisition. The model can facilitate communication and interaction between analysts and users and help build a shared understanding of requirements. It can be used to structure the requirements acquisition process. The model provides for evaluation of requirements acquisition techniques to guide the selection of appropriate techniques for developing user viewpoint models. The paper reports a multiple case study of requirements definition efforts which examined user viewpoint development in practice and used the cases to empirically validate the concepts of the user viewpoint model. The implications of the case study findings for requirements definition practice are discussed, and some areas for future research are identified.
Comment: This paper shows how case study research can be used in theory testing. A model of user viewpoint development is proposed and then concepts in the model are validated using three case studies of requirements definition (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Darke, P., Shanks, G. and Broadbent, M. “Successfully completing case study research: combining rigour, relevance and pragmatism,” Information Systems Journal (8:4), 1998, pp. 273-289.
Davies, L., Newman, M. and Kaplan, B. “A Workshop on Two Techniques for Qualitative Analysis: Interviewing and Evaluation,” Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on Information Systems, 1993, p. 399.
Earl, M.J. “Experiences in Strategic Information Systems Planning,” MIS Quarterly (17:1), 1993, pp. 1-24.
Abstract: Strategic information systems planning (SISP) remains a top concern among many organisations. Accordingly, researchers have investigated SISP practice and proposed both formal methods and principles of good practice. SISP cannot be understood by considering formal methods alone. The processes of planning and the implementation of plans are equally important. However, there have been very few field investigations of these phenomena. This study examines SISP experiences in 27 companies and, unusually, relies on interviews not only with IS managers but also with general managers and line managers. By adopting this broader perspective, the investigation reveals companies were using five different SISP approaches: Business-Led, Method-Driven, Administrative, Technological, and Organisational. Each approach has different characteristics and, therefore, a different likelihood of success. The results show that the Organisational approach appears to be the most effective. The taxonomy of the five approaches potentially provides a diagnostic tool for analysing and evaluating an organisation’s experience with SISP.
Comment: Earl’s paper provides a good example of how to present the results of case study research. The introduction establishes the importance of the topic and the research method section explains clearly how the case study was undertaken. The implications discussed in the paper are important for both researchers and practitioners (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Gable, G. “Integrating Case Study and Survey Research Methods: An Example in Information Systems,” European Journal of Information Systems, Volume 3, Number 2, 1994, pp. 112-126.
Gerson, E.M. and Star, S.L. “Analyzing Due Process in the Workplace,” ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems (4:3), July 1986, pp. 257-270.
Goodhue, D., Kirsch, L.J., Quillard, J.A. and Wybo, M.D. “Strategic Data Planning: Lessons from the Field,” MIS Quarterly, (16:1) ,1992, pp. 11-34.
Abstract: In spite of strong conceptual arguments for the value of strategic data planning as a means to increase data integration in large organisations, empirical research has found more evidence of problems than of success. In this paper, four detailed case studies of SDP efforts, along with summaries of five previously reported efforts, are analysed. Fifteen specific propositions are offered, with two overall conclusions. The first conclusion is that SDP, though conceived of as a generally appropriate method, may not be the best planning approach in all situations. The second conclusion is that the SDP method of analysing business functions and their data requirements may not be the best way to develop a Òdata architectureÓ, given the required level of commitment of talented individuals, the cost, the potential errors, and the high level of abstraction of the result. These lessons can aid practitioners in deciding when t use SDP and guide them as they begin the process of rethinking and modifying the SDP to be more effective.
Comment: A very well framed paper, which develops a number of propositions as the outcome of the analysis of case study data. The literature review provides the necessary motivation for the case study and the research method is well described. The two main conclusions are highly relevant to both researchers and practitioners (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Hewitt, C. “Offices are Open Systems,” Transactions on Office Information Systems (4:3), 1986, pp. 271-287.
Kaplan, B. and Duchon, D. “Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Information Systems Research: A Case Study,” MIS Quarterly (12:4) 1988, pp. 571-587.
Larsen, M. and Myers, M.D. 1999. “When success turns into failure: a package-driven business process re-engineering project in the financial services industry,” Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Vol. 8, No. 4, December 1999, pp. 395-417.
Lee, A.S. “Case Studies as Natural Experiments,” Human Relations, (42:2), 1989, pp. 117-137.
Lee, A. S. “Integrating Positivist and Interpretive Approaches to Organizational Research,” Organization Science, (2), 1991, pp. 342-365.
Lee, A.S. “Electronic Mail as a Medium for Rich Communication: An Empirical Investigation Using Hermeneutic Interpretation,” MIS Quarterly (18:2), June 1994, pp. 143-157.
Lee, A.S., Baskerville, R.L. and Davies, L. “A Workshop on Two Techniques for Qualitative Data Analysis: Action Research and Ethnography,” Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference on Information Systems, 1992, p. 305-306.
Levine, H.G. and Rossmore, D. “Diagnosing the Human Threats to Information Technology Implementation: A Missing Factor in Systems Analysis Illustrated in a Case Study,” Journal of Management Information Systems, (10:2), Fall 1993, pp. 55-73.
Madsen, K.H. “Breakthrough by Breakdown,” in Information Systems Development for Human Progress in Organizations, H.K. Klein and K. Kumar (eds.), 1989, pp. 41-53.
Manning, P.K. “Information Technology in the Police Context: The “Sailor” Phone,” Information Systems Research (7:1), 1996, pp. 52-62.
Abstract: Theories of resistance to management information systems (MIS) are important because they guide the implementation strategies and tactics chosen by implementors. Three basic theories of the causes of resistance underlie many prescriptions and rules for MIS implementation. Simply stated, people resist MIS because of their own internal factors, because of poor system design, and because the interaction of specific system design features with aspects of the organisational context of system use. These theories differ in their basic assumptions about systems, organisations, and resistance; they also differ in predictions that can be derived from them and in their implications for the implementation process. These differences are described and the task of evaluating the theories on the bases of the differences is begun. Data from a case study are used to illustrate the theories and to demonstrate the superiority, for implementors, of the interaction theory.
Comment: A very well known example of case study research which clearly shows the importance of organisational context for the implementation of information systems (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Note: This classic article was discussed in a panel session chaired by Allen S. Lee at ICIS 2000 (Lee et al. 2000).
Markus, M.L. “Case Selection in a Disconfirmatory Case Study” in The Information Systems Research Challenge, Harvard Business School Research Colloquium, Boston: Harvard Business School, 1989, pp. 20- 26.
Markus, M.L. “Finding a Happy Medium: Explaining the Negative Effects of Electronic Communication on Social Life at Work”, ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 12,2, April 1994, pp. 119-149.
Abstract: The New Zealand Education Department attempted to implement a centralised payroll system in 1989. The difficulties that the department experienced were broadcast on national radio and television and publicised on the front page of The New Zealand Herald. In the end, the centralised payroll system was scrapped by the government. This paper examines this case study using the critical hermeneutics of Gadamer and Ricoeur. Critical hermeneutics, as an integrative theoretical framework, combines both interpretive and critical elements, and addresses those social and organisational issues, which are key to the successful implementation of information systems. This paper suggests critical hermeneutics as a conceptual foundation for information systems implementation research.
Comments: This paper shows how critical hermeneutics can be used in the interpretation of case study data. The case study is presented in a way which clearly explains the changing perspectives of the various stakeholders in the information system implementation (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Myers, M. D. “Quality in Qualitative Research in Information Systems”, Proceedings of the 5th Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 1994, pp. 763-766.
Myers, M.D. “Dialectical hermeneutics: a theoretical framework for the implementation of information systems,” Information Systems Journal (5:1), 1995, pp. 51-70.
Orlikowski, W.J. “Improvising Organizational Transformation Over Time: A Situated Change Perspective,” Information Systems Research (7:1), 1996, pp. 63-92.
Orlikowski, W.J., Markus, M.L. and Lee, A.S. “A Workshop on Two Techniques for Qualitative Data Analysis: Analytic Induction and Hermeneutics,” Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference on Information Systems, 1991, p. 390-1.
Paré, G. “Investigating Information Systems with Positivist Case Study Research,” Communications of the Association for Information Systems (13:1), 2004, pp. 233-264.
Abstract: This paper offers a rigorous step-by-step methodology for developing theories and contains specific and detailed guidelines for IS researchers to follow in carrying out positivist case studies. The methodology is largely inspired by the work of Yin , Eisenhardt , Miles and Huberman  and several others who are strong proponents of and have wide experience in this research approach. It also relies on previous key contributions to the positivist case research method in IS [Benbasat et al., 1987; Lee, 1989; Dubé and Paré, 2003]. We illustrate how this methodology can be applied in our field to help find new perspectives and empirical insights. In addition, the desired qualities associated with several of the proposed concepts and the techniques and tools included in the methodology are presented. We believe that the two detailed case studies presented in this paper represent highly rigorous, yet different applications of the positivist case research method and, hence, we strongly encourage IS researchers to follow their respective approaches.
Pare, G. and Elam, J.J. “Using Case Study Research to Build Theories of IT Implementation,” in Information Systems and Qualitative Research, A.S. Lee, J. Liebenau and J.I. DeGross (eds.), Chapman and Hall, London, 1997, pp. 542-568.
Robey, D. and Sahay, S. “Transforming Work through Information Technology: A Comparative Case Study of Geographic Information Systems in County Government,” Information Systems Research (7:1), 1996, pp. 93-110.
Romm, C.T. and Pliskin, N. “Playing Politics with E-mail: A Longitudinal Conflict-Based Analysis,” in Information Systems and Qualitative Research, A.S. Lee, J. Liebenau and J.I. DeGross (eds.), Chapman and Hall, London, 1997, pp. 362-388.
Sauer, C. Why Information Systems Fail: A Case Study Approach, Alfred Waller Ltd, Henley-on-Thames, 1993.
Shanks, G. “The Challenges of Strategic Data Planning: an Interpretive Case Study,” Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 6, 1997, pp. 69-90.
Abstract: Many organisations have had great difficulty with strategic data planning despite strong arguments about its value. A number of empirical studies of strategic data planning have identified various factors important to its success but few have presented detailed contextual explanations. This paper reports an in-depth, interpretive case study which examines the strategic data planning process in a large Australian bank. The paper explains why strategic data planning is such a difficult undertaking and suggests three important implications for practitioners. First, both business managers and information systems staff find the output data architecture difficult to understand, and improved representations and explanations of the data architecture should be used. Second, strategic data planning is a complex social activity and an understanding of the organisational context within which it takes place is crucial to its success. Third, strategic data planning may not be the best way to build a data architecture, and other approaches which facilitate participation should be considered.
Comments: This paper provides a useful example of how to report a large case study within the limits of a journal length paper. The research approach is described in detail and the case study analysis is clearly linked back to the literature review. The results are expressed in the form of three implications which are relevant to practitioners and also form the basis of future research (Provided by M. Broadbent and G. Shanks).
Sillince, J.A.A. and Mouakket, S. “Varieties of Political Process During Systems Development,” Information Systems Research (8:4), December 1997, pp. 368-397.
Walsham, G. “Interpretive case studies in IS research: nature and method,” European Journal of Information Systems (4), 1995, pp. 74-81.
Young, M.-L., Kuo, F.-y., and Myers, M.D. 2012. “To Share or Not to Share: A Critical Research Perspective on Knowledge Management Systems,” European Journal of Information Systems (21:5), pp. 496-511.
Citations in Other Disciplines
Campbell, D. “‘Degrees of Freedom’ and the Case Study,” Comparative Political Studies, Volume 8, Number 2, 1975, pp. 178-193.
Dukes, W. “N=1,” Psychological Bulletin, Volume 64, 1965, pp. 74-79.
Dyer, W.G. Jr. and Wilkins, A.L. “Better Stories, Not Better Constructs, to Generate Better Theory: A Rejoinder to Eisenhardt,” Academy of Management Review (16:3), 1991, pp. 613-619.
Eisenhardt, K.M. “Building Theories from Case Study Research,” Academy of Management Review (14:4), 1989, pp. 532-550.
Eisenhardt, K.M. “Better Stories and Better Constructs: The Case for Rigor and Comparative Logic,” Academy of Management Review (16:3), 1991, pp. 620-627.
Hamel, J. Case study method, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1993.
Luthans, F. and Davis, T.R.V. “An Idiographic Approach to Organizational Behavior Research: The Use of Single Case Experimental Designs and Direct Measures,” Academy of Management Review (7:3), July 1982, pp. 380-391.
McCutcheon, D. and Meredith, J., “Conducting Case Study Research in Operations Management,” Journal of Operations Management, Volume 11, 1993, pp. 239-256.
Nardulli, P.F. The Courtroom Elite: An Organizational Perspective on Criminal Justice, Ballinger Press, Cambridge, MA, 1978.
Ragin, Charles C. and Becker, Howard S., What Is a Case?: Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992.
Stake, Robert E. The Art of Case Study Research. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1995.
Whyte, W.F. Street Corner Society: The social structure of an Italian slum, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1943.
Yin, R. K. “The Case Study Crisis: Some Answers,” Administrative Science Quarterly (26), 1981, pp. 58-65.
Yin, R. K. “The Case Study as a Serious Research Strategy,” Knowledge (3), 1981, pp. 97-114.
Yin, R. K. “Enhancing the Quality of Case Studies in Health Services Research,” Health Services Research (34:5-part 2), 1999, pp. 1209-1224.
Yin, R. K. and Heald, K. A. “Using The Case Survey Method To Analyse Policy Studies,” Administrative Science Quarterly (20), 1975, pp. 371-381.