Five Misunderstandings about Case-Study Research

Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 219-245

27 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2013 Last revised: 9 Oct 2013

See all articles by Bent Flyvbjerg

Bent Flyvbjerg

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Date Written: April 1, 2006


This article examines five common misunderstandings about case-study research: (a) theoretical knowledge is more valuable than practical knowledge; (b) one cannot generalize from a single case, therefore, the single-case study cannot contribute to scientific development; (c) the case study is most useful for generating hypotheses, whereas other methods are more suitable for hypotheses testing and theory building; (d) the case study contains a bias toward verification; and (e) it is often difficult to summarize specific case studies. This article explains and corrects these misunderstandings one by one and concludes with the Kuhnian insight that a scientific discipline without a large number of thoroughly executed case studies is a discipline without systematic production of exemplars, and a discipline without exemplars is an ineffective one. Social science may be strengthened by the execution of a greater number of good case studies.

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Keywords: case study, case selection, critical cases, validity in case studies

Suggested Citation

Flyvbjerg, Bent, Five Misunderstandings about Case-Study Research (April 1, 2006). Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 219-245, Available at SSRN:

Bent Flyvbjerg (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

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