Case Studies and Popperian Falsification: A Note on Flyvbjerg's "Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research"

Roberto Sarmiento, Garvan Whelan, Jan Sprenger


In this research note we present thoughts on methodological issues relating to the application of findings based on qualitative case studies. We respect the viewpoint that case study research should seek to gain an understanding of the subjective interpretations of phenomena as socially constructed by the various parties. POPPER's approach to science acknowledges that all research findings are fallible and based on theory dependant perspectives, but proposes that there is scope for a critical and objective procedure that facilitates the intersubjective testing (and possible falsification) of these findings.

We develop a specific point made by Bent FLYVBJERG (2006) who correctly suggested that, according to Popperian logic, a proposition may be falsified by the evidence found in a case study. However, it should also be specified that for a scientific proposition to be logically falsifiable by a single observation (such as a case study), it must be in the form of a claim that it will apply in all cases, i.e., a universal-deterministic theory. Our intention is to raise awareness of the important role of qualitative case studies for the advancement of scientific knowledge (in a Popperian sense). In this way, we hope to make a contribution to an inclusive debate on case study research methodology.


case studies; Bent Flyvberg; universal-deterministic propositions; Popperian falsification


Copyright (c) 2018 Roberto Sarmiento, Garvan Whelan, Jan Sprenger

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