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Scholz, Ronald W., and Olaf Tietje. Embedded Case Study Methods: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Knowledge.

Scholz, Ronald W., and Olaf Tietje. Embedded Case Study Methods: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Knowledge. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-7619-1946-5 392 pp.

The levels of understanding and knowledge we can extract from a complex case are directly related to the approaches used in its exploration and interrogation. In an embedded case study, the goal is to achieve a holistic understanding of the case within its situational context. However, the different perspectives and units of analysis that accompany an embedded case study requires the use and integration of quantitative and qualitative methods to achieve the goal of complete case understanding. This new book by Scholtz and Tietje provides a comprehensive discussion of the background, theory and application of eleven methods used during the life cycle of an urban development and planning embedded case study the authors conducted in the Zurich Nord quarter in Zurich, Switzerland. The book introduces the rationale for embedded case studies, presents the use of case studies in previous research, outlines a framework for knowledge integration, discusses each of the eleven methods and examines the issue of validating embedded case study methods. The book concludes with a comprehensive list of references.

While most of the individual case study methods presented are not new, this book is among the first to elaborate a comprehensive framework for integrating the methods towards new understanding and knowledge. The paradigm used to organize the methods is explicitly systems thinking, in which a case is broken down into salient components, with each component analysed, and the results integrated to provide new insights. The authors categorize the various stages of an embedded case study as: case representation and modeling; case evaluation; case development and transition; and case study team. But at this point in the argument it is difficult to separate the first three stages of the case study approach from that practiced in traditional decision analysis in management science, integrated assessments in environmental science, and complexity theory in systems science, i.e. problem definition, generation of alternatives, and selection of alternative.

However, the points of divergence for Scholtz and Tietje are the immersion of case agents in the case study for enhanced understanding through personal awareness, and the application of the Brunswikian Lens model for qualitative and quantitative knowledge integration. In the Brunswikian Lens model, input focal or importance variables are identified and analytically concentrated by the embedded case study methods to produce a set of output focal variables. These output variables provide goal achievement, new understanding, and enhanced knowledge about the case study under investigation. Another positive feature of the book is its recognition of the model validation process as an essential component in evaluating the case outcomes. The book discusses a number of validation procedures and uses a triangulation approach or "convergence of methods" for validating the "Zurich North" case study outcomes.

After thoroughly reading this book, I still came away with one burning question. What are the criteria used to select the methods for implementation in a particular stage of the embedded case study analysis? The authors suggest that the nature of the question asked largely determines the method to be used. But with so many methods there is bound to be overlap and doubts. My sense is that experience and intuition plays a decisive role in the choice of method and hence I would have liked to see case agent individuality recognized more explicitly in the arguments.

Overall, the book is clearly written with an easy and informative style that will enhance its value as a teaching and learning resource. End of chapter summaries, text boxes that focus on important issues in more detail, and well-illustrated diagrams are some of the pedagogical features that will make this book useful for upper level university research methodology courses. Professionals in urban planning, geography and environmental science will also find this book appealing as a starting point or a progression towards achieving practical decisions based on a more rounded awareness of the research evidence in embedded case study methods. This book should be required reading for anyone involved with case study analysis.

Shivanand Balram

Department of Geography

McGill University
COPYRIGHT 2003 Institute of Urban Studies
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Author:Balram, Shivanand
Publication:Canadian Journal of Urban Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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