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Case Study Research in Business-to-Business Contexts: Theory and Methods - Abstract


Arch G. Woodside (, Boston College
Roger Baxter (, Auckland University of Technology


This chapter presents elementary and advanced methods relevant for conducting applied case study research within business and other (inter)organizational contexts. The chapter advocates adopting particular perspectives including the necessity of being there—going into real-life contexts where individual thinking, intra-organizational exchanges, and inter-organizational exchanges are occurring. The objectives of applied case study research are to describe and understand what is happening, as well as to build and test predictive models that accurately forecasts decisions and actions relevant to specific contexts. “Applied” in the title is to indicate particularly relevant theory and methods for business and organizational decision-makers—strategists who want research reports to include the gut-level thinking, actions, and outcomes occurring through time among the persons participating in specific processes-contexts. Arms-length surveys using strongly-agree to strongly-disagree 5-to-7 point scales simply will not do; such studies fail to capture the real-life thinking-actions-outcomes in context (TAOC) that strategists seek to learn. Applied case study research provides TAOC reports. The chapter presents theory and use for six applied case-study-research methods relevant for TOAC reporting: (1) multiple-person interviewing relying mostly on face-to-face and telephone meetings (journalism); (2) participant observation that includes the researcher working/living inside the focal organization for one to 14 months or longer; (3) cognitive mapping of implicit and explicit thinking of one or more key informants; (4) ethnographic decision tree modeling (EDTM) of participants’ thinking and deciding process of the focal issue; (5) qualitative comparative modeling (QCA) of complex (conjunctural) antecedent conditions that are sufficient (but not necessary) for the occurrence of focal outcomes; and (6) cause mapping of organizational processes without (5a) and with system dynamic simulations (5b) of TAOC. Even though TOAC reporting builds from the perspective of the information needs of operational strategists, the intended readers of this chapter are researchers considering the use of applied case study methods and not operational strategists. This chapter includes assessments of landmark contributions in the literature relevant to each of the six methods; these assessments include reporting on the literature that builds from these seminal reports. The chapter is distinctly valuable in its coverage of theory and methods in applied case study research, in directing the reader to the best literature for a range of applied case study methods, and in providing rubrics relevant for deciding when and how to use each of the six methods.

    The Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing

    This chapter is part of the ISBM Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing, edited by Professors Gary Lilien and Raj Grewal. The Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing is available from Edward Elgar Publishing and other online book retailers.

    As the authors retain the copyright to their chapters, only they have the right to use or distribute their chapter. If you would like a copy of this chapter, please contact the author or authors directly through their emails included above.

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