Stake Data Gathering in Case Study

Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Chapter 4: Data Gathering

  • "It (data gathering) begins before there is commitment to do the study; back-grounding, acquaintance with other cases, first impressions. A considerable proportion of all data is impressionistic, picked up informally as the researcher first becomes acquainted with the case (p. 49)."
  • "Qualitative study capitalizes on ordinary ways of getting acquainted with things (p. 49)."
  • "All researchers have great privilege and obligation: the privilege to pay attention to what they consider worthy of attention and the obligation to make conclusions drawn from those choices meaningful to colleagues and clients (p. 49)."
  • Organizing the Data Gathering

    • Stake offers on pp. 52 - 53 guidelines for doing a case study using field observation. It seems like a very valuable chart!
    • Huberman & Miles - Great resource for future reading. See resource list below.
  • Access and Permissions

    • Case study researchers must maintain a balance between being intrusive enough to observe but not so intrusive that their presence interferes with the lives of others.
    • "Ordinariness of phenomena is more likely when actors have little interest in learning more about what is being studied (p. 60)."
  • Observation
  • Description of Contexts

    • "There should be some balance between the uniqueness and the ordinariness of the place (p. 63)."
    • When describing the context, it is important to give the reader the sense that s/he is there and present in the situation and location.
    • "The more the case study is an intrinsic case study, the more attention needs to be paid to the contexts. The more the case study is an instrumental case study, certain contexts may be important, but other contexts important to the case are of little interest to the study (p. 64)."
  • Interview

    • "Two principal uses of case study are to obtain the descriptions and interpretations of others (p. 64)."
    • "Qualitative case study seldom proceeds as a survey with the same questions asked of each respondent; rather, each interviewee is expected to have had unique experiences, special stories to tell (p. 65)."
    • A facsimile is a document that includes key ideas and captures episodes. 
    • "A good interviewer can reconstruct the account and submit it to the respondent for accuracy and stylistic improvement (p. 66)."
    • Following each interview, the researcher needs to write a facsimile and an interpretive commentary, which should be member checked with the participant.
  • Document Review

Guidelines from pp. 52 - 53 copied verbatim:

"One Set of Guidelines for Doing a Field-Observation Case Study

Review or discover what is expected at the outset in the way of a case study.
Consider the questions, hypotheses, or issues already raised.
Read some case study literature, both methodological and exemplary.
Look for one or more studies possibly to use as a model.
Identify the 'case.' Was it prescribed, selected to represent, or merely convenient?
Define the boundaries of the case (or cases) as they appear in advance.
Anticipate key problems, events, attributes, spaces, persons, vital signs.
Consider possible audiences for preliminary and final reporting's.
Form initial plan of action, including definition of role of observer on site.



Arrange preliminary access, negotiate plan of action, arrange regular access.
Write a formal agreement indicating obligations for observer and for host.
Refine access rules with people involved, including union, PTA, officials, etc.
Discuss real or potential costs to hosts, including opportunity costs.
Discuss arrangements for maintaining confidentiality of data, sources, reports.
Discuss need for persons to review drafts to validate observations, descriptions.
Discuss publicity to be given during and following the study.
Identify information and services, if any, to be offered hosts.
Revise plan of action, observer's role, case boundaries, issues, as needed.



Make preliminary observations of activities. Use other sites for tryouts?
Allocate resources to alternative spaces, persons, methods, issues, phases, etc.
Identify informants and sources of particular data.
Select or develop instruments or standardized procedures, if any.
Work out record-keeping system, files, tapes; coding system; protected storage.
Rework priorities for attributes, problems, events, audiences, etc.



Reconsider issues or other theoretical structure to guide the data gathering.
Learn what audience members know, what they want to come to understand.
Sketch plans for final report and dissemination of findings.
Identify the possible 'multiple realities,' how people see things differently.
Allocate attention to different viewpoints, conceptualizations.



Make observations, interview, debrief informants, gather logs, use surveys, etc.
Keep records of inquiry arrangements and activities.
Select vignettes, special testimonies, illustrations.
Classify raw data; begin interpretations.
Redefine issues, case boundaries, renegotiate arrangements with hosts, as needed.
Gather additional data, replicating or triangulating, to validate key observations.



Review raw data under various possible interpretations.
Search for patterns of data (whether or not indicated by the issues).
Seek linkages between program arrangements, activities, and outcomes.
Draw tentative conclusions, organize according to issues, organize final report.
Review data, gather new data, deliberately seek disconfirmation of findings.



Describe extensively the setting within which the activity occurred.
Consider the report as a story; look for ways in which the story is incomplete.
Draft reports and reproduce materials for audience use.
Try them out on representative members of audience groups.
Help reader discern typicality and relevance of situation as base for generalization.
Revise and disseminate reports and materials. Talk to people.


  • Huberman, A. M., & Miles, M. B. (1994). Data management and analysis methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 428 - 444). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.