The Goal of Case Analysis: From Story to Knowledge

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.8, 2018


The Goal of Case Analysis: From Story to Knowledge



Zhang Jing


The Chinese academic world still lacks systematic standards for what, in the end, should be done with case studies. Debate over the “opposition” between the case study (qualitative) and statistical research (quantitative) is always at the level of method, standpoint and themes; it has yet to receive an analysis that accords with professional standards for research objectives. The goal of case analysis is not to tell stories, but to generate knowledge, so one must follow the general logic and principles commonly observed in cognitive activities. Case analysis can provide more than one type of knowledge: for example, it may include interpretative knowledge (of causes), understanding (of characteristics) or normative knowledge (of principles). The qualitative research of case studies is not in an opposing relationship with quantitative research, but in a complementary one. The uniqueness of the case study has to be associated with general knowledge, so that specific cases can be compared with what is already known. One of the strengths of case studies is that they can systematically exhibit causal mechanisms and processes; in the end, scattered and diverse independent cases can make sense just because the knowledge they produce represents incremental progress in the relevant knowledge system.