The research methods are divided into three broad categories; quantitative,
qualitative and participatory research method. These research methods have different
approach, techniques and tools to conduct a research (Collis et al, 2009). Quantitative
methods are the main focus in the development research while qualitative and
participatory research methods based on desirable outcomes. These traditional methods
are now considered as outdated ones. New tools and solutions are continuously
developed and integrated to mix these research methods (Creswell, 2003).
Mayoux (2005) suggested that quantitative methods are derived from
experimental and statistical methods of research. They measure the objectivity of the data
to find out the truth or falsehood of a developed hypothesis. This method is based on the
measurement of what is happening to how many people. The tools used in these methods
are large scale surveys and analysis of the same with statistical techniques. The
hypothesis is formed before conducting the surveys and the questionnaires are developed
in the basis of those questionnaires.
The qualitative research methods originated from sociology, anthropology,
history, and geography. These methods widely differ from the quantitative research
methods. The qualitative research techniques focuses on developing understandings about
the real time environment and processes involved. The questions and hypothesis is
developed on the basis of these understandings. The qualitative research methodologies
focus on the selection of small scale cases that are investigated by using a combination of
formal and informal methods like interviews, observations, and the newly introduced
tools like photography and video footages (Grunow, 1995). The questions developed in
this research are open ended in nature and are subject to change over time to fill the needs
of research due to the variability of reality. Different sampling methods like purposive
sampling techniques are used in this type of research. This research needs long term
involvement of the researcher based on his skill to collect data and analyze it (Porter &
Johnson and Mayoux (1998) indicated that the participatory methods originated
from the development activism like NGO’s and social movements in the various fields of
life. This research is conducted not to find out the knowledge base about the particular
subject but to investigate social change and empowerment in the society and culture. The
participatory research methods emphasizes on the investigation of a subject and voicing
over the issues of the social groups who lacks the abilities and opportunities to speak up
in the development and implementation of decisions. They further identified that this type
of research involves small focus groups, participatory workshops and individual diaries
that are used in their discussions.
The larger groups are further divided into small homogeneous groups. This type
of research uses the diagram tools from farmer-led research, system analysis as well as
oral and visual tools. These tools help in the efficient discussion among the ill-literate
group participants and cross language groups. Sharing allows the participants to discuss
their issues more efficiently in this research method. The understanding is developed
from their discussion and the decisions are then formulated and implemented (Johnson &
Various organizations use research especially market research to stay fine tuned
in the markets. The market research helps the organizations to identify the potential
markets to penetrate, the needs and wants of the customers and the methods of how to
meet those needs and want more efficiently and effectively. The market research also
allows the organizations to find out new ideas of marketing their products and services to
make them more accessible to the customers. Another most important advantage or focus
of market research is to find out who your competitors are and how to position yourself in
order to remain competitive in the markets. The market research can be conducted by the
organizations without having advanced skills.
The organizations employ questionnaires, survey and checklist methods in their
market research when they need to quickly find out lots of related information from the
people and interpreting that information in the best interest of the company. These
methods are usually inexpensive to administer, easy to analyze and interpret, the
organization can reach large number of people in a small time frame and there are
number of tools available in the market which are ready to use by these organizations.
But these tools have drawbacks as well. Among them are the lack of interest by the
participants, biased answers of the participants and these research tools might not convey
the full story to the researcher (McNamara, 2011).
The companies also use interviews for direct interactions with the participants.
This research tool is used when the organization wants to develop full understanding
about the perceptions, experiences and impressions of someone about a particular subject
or to learn about their experiences and answers to questionnaires. Interviews are
beneficial when the researching organization or a researcher wants to obtain full range
and in depth information on the subject of interest. Interviews allow the researchers to
develop a relationship with the participants to soothe their expressions to give moral
support to them. Interviews are no doubt very effective way of collecting information but
it can take too much time to get the data and then interpret it. The answers are sometime
hard to interpret and costly. Moreover the interviewer can add the personal biasness to
the responses received from the clients (Bryman, 2004).
Another method adopted by the organizations is the review of documentation. The
documentation reviews are used when the organization wants to figure out the impact of
program operating in the organization without interrupting the program and its functions.
This involves the review of applications, finances, memos etc. this method is used when
one wants to develop understanding about the history of a particular subject or things.
This method is highly feasible when the organization don’t want to engage into the
client’s daily routine matters. In this type of research, the researcher don’t have to collect
the data, the data already exists in the databases with fewer biases of the people. But it
too have some limitations, among them is the irrelevancy of data or incomplete
information present to the researcher (Duane, 1996).
Focus groups are useful when the researcher wants to explore the topic of concern
via group discussions. This method allows the researcher to explore the topic in depth
and find reactions, experiences, suggestions, understanding and complaints of people
about the particular topic. This method is highly useful in the evaluation of a problem and
marketing of a particular subject. This method is highly reliable and quick in nature
which provides the large amount of information in a short period of time. The responses
may be hard to interpret sometimes (Abrams, 2001).
The historical research method aims to provide the useful insights about the
background and growth of the chosen field of study. These insights may include the
organizational structure, culture, current trends and the future implications of the subject
or process. This method is applicable to all the fields of study as it contains the origin,
theories, growth, maturity, development of theories, personalities etc. For the collection
of data for this type of research can be done either through qualitative research methods
or by quantitative research methods. Busha and Harter explain that once the researcher
decides to conduct historical research then he or she will follow a pattern of steps to
conduct the research efficiently and effectively. These steps may include the following:
Problem identification which requires the use of historical knowledge
Collection of relevant information about the problem or topic.
Formation of hypothesis to discuss the relationship between the historical factors.
The collection of evidence, its verification, authenticity of resources from the
The arrangement of the collected evidence and the analysis of information.
The historical information about the subject or the organization can be collected
through primary and secondary data sources. The primary sources are said to be the first
hand collection of data. It involves detecting the historical data by the researcher himself.
It includes perception, logic, intuition, persistence (Tuchman, 1998). The primary sources
may include personal memos, eye witnesses, databases of events and oral histories. The
secondary sources of information is said to be the information that is not primary; the
information is collected, analyzed and interpreted by someone else who observed the
events or occasions and their occurrence. These resources are very useful for the
researcher to grasp the in depth information about the subject and are not very costly as
compared to the primary sources of information (Tuchman, 1998).
A very important methodology used in the organizations these days is the use of
Appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry provides useful leads to the organizational
development, training and the development of employees and processes within the
organization to solve the problem at hand. Appreciative inquiry asserts that the problems
are the products of our own perceptions and perspectives about something. It consists of
variety of models, tools and techniques that are derived from philosophy. For instance, if
Appreciative Inquiry is used in the strategic planning, it will include the identification of
the successful decisions took in the past and their outcomes. It will also include the vision
of the company; where it wants to head and implementing from what has been considered
to be the best solution in a particular situation. This approach has a significant impact on
the organizational planning and development in the organizations (McNamara, 2011).
The research technique which is used for the objective, systematic and quantitative
description of manifest content of communications is called Content Analysis (Berelson,
1952). It is a type of research tool that focuses on the actual content and internal features
of the problem or situation. It determines the presences of concepts, themes, phrases,
texts etc. to quantify their presence in the objective manner. The sources may involve
books, essays, interviews, discussions, articles, historical documents, formal and informal
The content analysis involves coding or breaking down the required information into
small manageable categories on the basis of their occurrence and importance. The results
obtain from these categories are used to make inferences about the messages within the
texts, writers, the culture, time etc. content analysis is the product of computer age. It
dates back to 1940 when it became very credible and frequent research method. The
researchers started to focus the concepts rather than the words or the relationships
between them. (de Sola Pool, 1959). Since this research method can be applied on
various recorded communications in writing, content analysis can be used in the large
number of fields that ranges from marketing, media, literature, cultural studies, gender
and age issues, social environment, political sciences, psychology, cognitive science, and
many other fields. The following list (adapted from Berelson, 1952) offers more
possibilities for the uses of content analysis:
Reveal international differences in communication content
Detect the existence of propaganda
Identify the intentions, focus or communication trends of an individual, group or
Describe attitudinal and behavioral responses to communications
Determine psychological or emotional state of persons or groups
The content analysis is further categorized into two broad categories; conceptual
analysis and relational analysis. The conceptual analysis is used to establish the existence
and the frequency of concepts in a written text where as relational analysis examines the
relationships between the concepts in the text.
In conceptual analysis, one concept is chosen for the examination and the frequency
of occurrences in the writings. Like other research methods, it starts with identifying the
questions related to research and choosing the samples. Then the text is coded into small
bits and pieces to reduce the data amount. The certain characteristics of message is then
analyzed and interpreted. The relational analysis involves investigating the relationship
between the characteristics and concepts in the written communications. Relational
analysis starts with identifying the required concept and comparing its occurrences with
respect to the others (Berelson, 1952).
The way to which problem is approached or understood is characterized as critical
Analysis or Discourse analysis. It is difficult to give the hard and fast definition to this
research method. It is neither qualitative nor quantitative research method. It uses such a
manner of questioning whose basic assumptions are the mixture of qualitative and
quantitative research methods. It do not provide an absolute answer to the problems on
the basis of scientific research but it tends to provide access to the ontological and
epistemological assumptions for the project, the problem statement, and method of
research. It unveils the hidden motives behind the particular problem or the method of
research to interpret the topic. This research method is merely a deconstructive reading
and interpretation of the problem (Bernd, 1992).
Discourse Analysis enables the researcher to identify the problem and the causes
of problem. The researcher makes several assumptions about the problem that then serve
as a guideline for the resolution of the problem. Discourse Analysis is the like the old
wine in a new bottle that employs the critical thinking which is an ancient philosophy and
involves no theory or methods. This analysis does not provide the particular views about
the problem or situation (Bernd, 1992).
The research methods such as content analysis and discourse analysis employ the
use of texts or written communications for the identification of the problem and their
analysis to reach the conclusions. There are other methods available to the researchers
where the problem is reconstructed to find out its functionality to analyze it and reach the
The Structural Analysis due to the limited literature on this method, according to
the dictionary of concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory, is provides definition about
the structural analysis to develop understanding of what Structural Analysyis is about.
Barthes (1963) defines structural analysis as:
"The goal of all structuralist activity, whether reflexive or poetic, is to reconstruct
an 'object,' in such a way as to manifest thereby the rules of functioning (the
'functions') of this object. The structure is therefore actually a simulacrum of the
object, but it is a directed, interested simulacrum, since the imitated object makes
something appear which remained invisible or, if one prefers, unintelligible in the
For Jean-Marie Benoist (1978);
"An analysis is structural if, and only if, it displays the content as a model, i.e., if
it can isolate a formal set of elements and relations in terms of which it is possible
to argue without entering upon the significance of the given content"
The structural analysis is not related to the text or content of anything or system.
It explores and analyzes the structures of a problem to make the inferences after analysis.
It enables the researcher to analyze the structure of a text or system to determine the
nature of the message they carry and information is retrieved from them. It analyzes how
the communication took place and how it was transferred to the others. Structural
Analysis can be used to study any kind of system, text, or material. It applies equally to
the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as to the "hard" Sciences, though with
different connotations. The methods of Structural Analysis might be different in each
The use of Interviews is of great importance to get the in depth knowledge about
the situation and experiences of the participants regarding a problem or situation. The
interviews are useful further investigate the responses of participant via other techniques
like questionnaires. Interviews contain open ended questions to let the participants speak
their views, stories and experiences to the interviewer. Before designing the interview
questions and the entire interview process, it is necessary to understand the what the
problem is and the extent to which it is necessary to address the problem by using the
information gathered through interviews. (Joseph et al, 2006).
The interviewer prior to the interview must prepare for the interview session
which involves certain steps that must be followed. These steps starts at identifying the
objectives of the meeting, developing the relative questions, planning how to conduct the
interview and sending follow up invitations to the members. The most important step in
the interviewing method is to remind the members of the upcoming interview (Joseph et
al, 2006). Once the preparation for interview is done the researcher develops the relative
questions that are to be asked during the interview to the members. ( Cavana, Delahaye,
Sekaran, 2001). The interviews are further planned as with the reference to their
scheduling, settings and rules are developed.
Abrams (2001) explained the use of case studies her book. According to her, in
the small and medium businesses or SME’s case studies methodology is applied to
develop full understanding or to depict the experiences of the client in a program and
examine the processes and procedures through cross comparison of various other cases.
This method is widely used in the organizations now a days due to its ability to fully
depict the organization’s internal processes, functions, employee engagements,
Zonabend (1992) explained that the case study requires special attention to the
observations, reconstruction of situation and the analysis of cases under the present study.
The case study uses the views of people in the study.
The case study research is associated to the field of sociology and it took rise in
the period of 1935. Many researchers give rise to criticisms against this method of
research. They argued to provide quantitative measurement to the research design and
analysis. This resulted in the dis-engaging of this research as methodology. In 1935 a
dispute comes between the opponents and the proponents of the study. The outcome was
in the favor of opponents which resulted in the decline in the use of case study.
Hamel et al. (1993) rejected the criticism against the case study methodology as it
the criticism was poorly backed by the opponents. He asserted that instead of explaining
the drawbacks of the case study techniques, the opponents were trying to veil the limited
and immature concepts of sociology. In 1960, there was a renewed interest in this
methodology. The concept of grounded theory (Strauss & Glaser, 1967) along with other
studies gave rise to the renewed use of this methodology.
Much has been written in the literature which gives examples of the case study
applications. Those examples started from the fields of law and medicine where cases
were presented to give proper understanding of a problem and draw inferences according
to them. Another application of case study methodology is in the government to find out
about the effectiveness and efficiency of a particular project or program and in the
situations where evaluation of a problem or subject is required; it was usually carried out
to find out the educational evaluation of the students.
Yin (1994) explained that the case study research tends to be limited and
primitive in nature. The case studies may be of single or multiple designs. He further
explained that the analysis of those single or multiple design case studies is made through
theory not from the populations. The literature lists down various examples about the use
of case studies. Yin (1993) gave several working examples along with the research design
in each case. He suggested about the general case design and the use of exploratory,
explanatory and descriptive case studies. These approaches can follow both single and
multiple case study designs.
In exploratory case studies, the important data is collected prior to the formulation
of research questions and hypothesis. The exploratory cases are used in case when the
researcher wants to conduct research on social issues or perspectives. The pilot study is
conducted to determine the final protocols. The questions are formulated on the basis of
the results achieved from the pilot study. The selection of cases is a bit difficult process
(Yin, 1989) but the selection gives opportunities to maximum learning and knowledge in
a limited period of time (Stake, 1995).
When the researcher aims to conduct causal studies then explanatory cases come
handy. Explanatory cases help to develop a pattern of matching techniques in the
complex cases. The descriptive cases investigate the descriptive theory or draw
probability to face the problems. Pyecha (1988) used this type of study to conduct special
education research using pattern matching procedure. Several objects were studied and
their results were compared to the other objects this helped to reach the final inferences
by the formation of hypothesis of cause and effect relationships. Case studies help to
develop critical thinking (Alvarez et al, 1990)
Case study is one of the valuable methods available to the researcher which offers
distinctive characteristics to the researcher to investigate an issue or problem. It uses the
combination of various methods to draw inferences. Its use and reliability should make it
a more widely used methodology, once its features are better understood by potential
researchers. Another method that can help the researchers is the survey method which
involves surveying the people to find out the answers to the questions of research.
Duane (1996) suggested that the most common method employed by the
organizations and researchers for the collection of data is the observations method. This
method is used when the organization or a researcher seeks to obtain the accurate
information about something, program and the process. This method calculates how the
program, process or subject actually operates. This method is beneficial for varying
reasons. The prime one is that this method allows the researcher to investigate the
operations as they are occurring. The interpretations of this method can be difficult as the
behavior of particular operations vary to the people and situations. This method is
desirable when the factual information is required.
There are many types of studies that employ the observational research methods
for the analysis and interpretation of the problem. The studies that employ observational
research methods may include case studies, ethnographic studies, etc. The main focus of
this research methodology is to observe the situation or a problem and record the
inferences with reference to the behaviors of the participants. Often these studies are of
qualitative nature. For instance, a case study of the psychological behavior of people
requires the observations of the participants and recording the results in order to draw
conclusions. Another example of ethological study is given where the behavior of wild
animals is observed with respect to the time and occurrence. The surveys are often
categorized in the observational research methods (Webster, 2011).
Surveys are the non experimental and descriptive research methods employed by
the researchers when they want to collect the data on something that cannot be directly
observed. This method of data collection is used extensively to assess the attitudes and
characteristics of wide range of subjects. When conducting the surveys, researchers
sample a population. According to Basha and Harter (1980) population is a group of
people or objects that form, possess or have a common characteristic. Since the size of
population is usually quite large therefore the researchers collect sample from the
population to question them directly. Sample is a small representative part of the
The data collected in the surveys is done by the questionnaires method. The
surveys can employ qualitative measures such as asking open ended questions or it can
use quantitative measures like using forced choice questions in the questionnaires. The
surveys are divided into two main categories; cross sectional surveys and longitudinal
surveys. (Babbie,1973). The cross sectional surveys include collection of data from the
population at a single point in time. These surveys usually employed when the researcher
wants to explain the relationship between two factors while the longitudinal surveys are
used to gather data over a period of time. These surveys provide the researcher with the
useful information about the changes occurred in the population and attempts to explain
the reasons of changes. These surveys are further categorized into trend studies, cohort
studies and panel studies respectively.
The focus of trend studies lies on a particular population which is sampled and
changed repeatedly. These studies can be conducted over a long period of time. The
researcher can use the combination of various studies conducted on the same population
in order to show the trend. The Cohort studies also focus on the particular population but
with the different perspective. The sample selected will be used repeatedly by the
researcher. This study uses same sample over the time to conduct the analysis. The Panel
studies too use the same sample of people every time. This study helps the researcher to
find out why the changes occur in the population. The sample selected is called panel.
The panel studies can be difficult to conduct because they are usually expensive to
conduct and needs lot of time (Babbie, 1973).
The observational research is divided into three main categories; participatory and
non participatory research. In participatory research, the researcher take part in the given
process or situation to observe the situation or problem and the reason of its occurrence.
The non participatory research is the opposite of participatory research. The researcher
does not take part in the observation actively. The researcher may stay out of the process
or situation to observe the occurrence of situation. The researcher can also hire some
external observer to observe the given situation (Gay, 2005).
The participatory research is further divided into two main techniques; formal and
informal observations. The formal observational techniques involve the usual techniques
employed by the researcher which might include checklists, evaluations, etc. on the basis
of which the researcher draws his or her observations about the given situation or
problem and draws inferences while the informal observational techniques involve
methods like hidden observations, video recording, picturing, cameras etc. (Best, 2002)
In the non participatory research, the observer does not take part in the active
observations. He or she remains outside the observational situation and does not
intentionally interfere or take part in the situation, scenario or object. The non
participatory research is further classified into naturalistic and simulation observations.
Agnew and Pyke (1990) reported that the certain types of behaviors can only be
best observed if they occur naturally. In the situations where the natural behaviors are
prime focus to the observer then the observer do not forcefully try to manipulate the
behaviors of the people and let them behave in a way they feel natural. The naturalistic
observations aim to record and study the behavior as it normally occurs. The insights
obtained from these observations helps to formulate the more control over the research
In the simulations observations method, the researcher creates a situation that is to
be observed and tells the objects to perform their roles by participating in the situation.
This method allows the researcher to develop understanding about the behavior of people
that are not naturally occurred in the situation. This type of observation is further divided
into individual role playing and team role playing. In individual role playing, single unit
performs the activities in the situations while in team role playing; a group of actors
performs different activities in the situation created by the researcher.
The steps involved in conducting observational research are no different than any
other research. It starts with the selection and definition of the problem, then defining the
research variables and then recording of the observations. The reliability of observatory is
then assessed, training is given to the researcher, and after the training is given the
observatory is then monitored to remove any observations related biases involved (Gay,
The researcher must clearly define the variables to be observed. These variables
derive the behaviors of the participants. If these variables are clearly defined then the
observation process would easy to conduct. The time limitation is defined. The number of
times when the observation is to be conducted is then defined in order to find out the
actual behavior of the people. The observations process requires high level of expertise in
order to effectively and efficiently conducts the observations.
Once the variables are defined and time duration is set, the researcher will then
record the observations based on the behaviors of the participants. The again and again
observations will help the observer to identify and differentiate between the actual and
record behaviors. Single behavior can be recorded at one time. Once the behavior is
observed, the observer must change the pattern of observing the behavior of participants
to develop the clear understanding.
The use of checklist is common for recording the observations of the participants.
The literature has indicated that the use of rating scale is also common for recording the
observations. The check lists help the observer to check the particular behavior on set
norms and variables.
The reliability of observation is of great importance in the observational research.
The observations will only be reliable if the observer has undergone the observations
various times to develop the understanding about the behaviors of the participants. The
reliability is used to check the biasness of the observers and the observations in a
particular situation. Another way to access the reliability of observation is to cut down
the time period to observe the behaviors in shorter time period and to calculate the
reliability of the observations on the basis of agreements and disagreements on
occurrence and non occurrence of behavior.
The training of observers is very important in order to have assurance that all the
observers are observing and recording the behaviors at the same time. They must be
instructed as to what behaviors are required to be observed. The training of observers
may be finished on the successful achievement of reliability. To ensure the continuous
level of reliability it is desirable to monitor the observers and their recording activities.
More the monitoring of the activities is done the better will be the performance of
observers (Best, 2002). The biases in the observations occur when the observers made
invalid observations that are product of the observer’s perceptions. Its best to make
observer aware of the problems that are to be observed in the most neutral method.
The main advantage of observational research is the provision of exact facts and
figures. Since this research involves the observations of the researcher, which are mostly
non participatory in nature, the researcher will have little or no impact or involvement in
the behavior of the participants. The participants will tend to show their natural behavior
to the particular situation or objects. The observational research is often treated as the
most reliable research technique but this research has to face criticism of various people.
According to the opponents of this research type, observational research is based on the
observations of the researcher and these observations may get biased in order to get the
desired recordings of the participant’s behavior (Gay, 2005).
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