Rigour and validity of qualitative studies: USI professor’s research among the most cited worldwide

Empirical research work in the field of social sciences is traditionally divided in two schools of thoughts: on the one hand, quantitative scholars interested in large numbers and statistics, who prefer a deductive approach: on the other hand, qualitative researchers interested in individual cases rather than the medium, who favour an inductive approach. It is widely believed that the first approach is more reliable since it allows for generalisation of results, steering clear from mistakes. But is it really so?

The prestigious Strategic Management Journal published the scientific article "What passes as a rigorous case study" by USI Prof. Michael Gibbert and two of his colleagues (Prof. Winfried Ruigrok of St. Gallen and Dr. Barbara Wicki). In such article, all case studies - one of the most common qualitative methodologies - that appeared in the past 20 years in most of the main publications in Management were analysed. The authors present an accurate census of all the best (and worst) practices used, especially in the act of considering the results obtained as valid and reliable. The study, which illustrates how it is possible to conduct qualitative case studies as rigorously as with quantitative methodologies has received more than 560 citations in the Thomson Scientific index, falling within 1% of the most cited publications in the field of "Economics & Business", and has received more than 1770 citations so far in Google Scholar system.

On these foundations, Prof. Gibbert and his colleagues Lakshmi B. Nair and Bareerah Hoorani are working on a volume on case study methodology, which will be published in 2020 by Cambridge University Press.