The case study method

The case study method used in the Institute gives a full description of the nature of the problem and helps analysts to suggest pragmatic solutions.

• The case study method is a research strategy focused on understanding the dynamics of a specific environment. It adopts an “emic” posture to understand the way actors perceive their world. It also has an etic posture to analyze the fractures or tensions of the relations between individuals and the system. These two postures result in suggestions for collective action.

• The case study method is a pedagogical strategy that enables learners to discover possible solutions for themselves. These solutions are not necessarily the “right” solution, but they are acceptable in the situation in question. Case studies enable workgroups to discuss ideas freely and result in the emergence of consensual proposals. (Bergadaà, M., 1990, Gestion et pédagogie : une approche nouvelle illustrée par la Méthode des Cas, Paris : McGraw-Hill).

How does the institute create its case studies?


Step 1: Selecting symptomatic cases

The cases submitted are checked to make sure they are relevant to those working in academia. For example, a case might deal with fraud committed by colleagues pointed out on Internet; it might involve the work of students who have been convicted of plagiarism trying to obtain qualifications. But it might also deal with threats to whistle blowers or unsuitable positions taken by institutions.

Step 2: Dealing with cases submitted for analysis

The case is then written down in a form suited for research and organized into t problem areas. The “plot” – often this comes from a stupid decision or a mistaken commitment – is laid out so that researchers professors and students can recognize the situations from their own experience of academia.

Every case in this field of research deals with the tensions due to technical, organizational and human factors. Case studies explore the underlying implicit knowledge that the protagonists seem to have ignored.

Step 3: Gathering complementary information

Once the case has been proposed for analysis to the community, extra information is gathered through the secure electronic mail service. Typical extra material consists of personal impressions, extra information or tentative solutions. Interaction via this secure mail service is simple and allows for each person to react spontaneously. Recipients are free to pursue their own investigations with experts if they so wish.

People trust the Institute and each case reads like a detective story. This provides the Institute with a wealth of data collected from respondents who are both spectators and actors in the case.

Step 4: Publishing cases for teaching purposes

Cases are followed up month by month and some result in cases being published for teaching. These cases are open to suggestions for solutions from subscribers on the site The solutions are published on the site. These cases encourage discussion of academic deontology and are much in demand by doctoral schools.