This website introduces an approach to social science data analysis for both qualitative and quantitative data, where the focus of the analysis is the 'case' and the key analytical tool is comparison. The case may be a person, an organisation or a community. The site tackles methodological questions and provides a practical introduction to the use of computer software to assist in comparative analysis. We hope that the site will be useful for research students and researchers who are familiar with basic qualitative and quantitative social science methods and are looking for novel ways of exploring data.
The Focusing on the Case project, funded by the ESRC (2004-2005) as part of the Research Methods Programme, was led by David Byrne, Professor of Sociology at the University of Durham and Wendy Olsen, Lecturer in Socio-Economic Research, at the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census & Survey Research, University of Manchester.
The project consisted of a series of workshops of which this website was an integral part. The website has since been updated (October 2009) but the details of the workshops have been retained to allow the user to understand how the contents were developed and used. By following the links on the left for each workshop, you can work through the course materials for each method and, by accessing the data files on the workshop page, you can try out some of the techniques for yourself.
The project had two interlinked aims:
- to develop the expertise of UK based researchers in the integrated employment of a range of case centred methods including:
Numerical Taxonomy Methods - A set of computer techniques, particularly cluster analysis, which use quantitative multi-variate descriptions of cases to sort the cases into categories
Qualitative Comparative Analysis - A set of methods in which detailed qualitative investigation of multiple cases forms the basis of systematic quantitative comparison
Qualitative Statistical Modelling - Using statistics to help us make sense of qualitative data
Traditional Case Study approaches - Qualitative description of one or more cases in which causality is explored through the use of narrative
to engage in a dialogical research exercise with researchers about their needs for and understanding of case based approaches in relation to the actual research problems with which they are engaged
The combined training and research dialogues were run through a series of two-day research workshops held during July, September and December 2004 and January 2005.