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The one who sees more is more right: how theory enhances the ‘repertoire to interpret’ in qualitative case study research


  • Thomas Wrona

    () (Hamburg University of Technology)

  • Markus Gunnesch

    () (Hamburg University of Technology)


Abstract With this paper, we contribute to the methodological discussion if and how pre-existing theoretical knowledge should be applied in qualitative case study research without compromising openness of research. Regarding this topic, there are basically two conflicting approaches in previous literature. On the one hand, proponents of an empirical-analytical tradition within qualitative case study research apply previous knowledge to develop theoretical propositions and test them. On the other hand, the supporters of a large part of research based on positivistic and constructivistic paradigms emphasize the diction of ‘uncontaminated’ access to data and insist on the rejection or delay of applying previous knowledge. While most scholars recently share at least the conviction that a naïve empiricism tabula rasa concept is not viable and therefore theory ‘somehow’ plays a role in qualitative research as well, its explication is still underemphasized in methodical literature. In this article, we propose a framework as well as methodological rules about how theory can be used during the entire qualitative research process to enhance what we call the ‘repertoire to interpret’ and concurrently sustain openness of research.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Wrona & Markus Gunnesch, 2016. "The one who sees more is more right: how theory enhances the ‘repertoire to interpret’ in qualitative case study research," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 86(7), pages 723-749, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jbecon:v:86:y:2016:i:7:d:10.1007_s11573-015-0799-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s11573-015-0799-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert A Burgelman, 2011. "Bridging history and reductionism: A key role for longitudinal qualitative research," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 42(5), pages 591-601, June.
    2. Wrona, Thomas & Trąpczyński, Piotr, 2012. "Re-explaining international entry modes – Interaction and moderating effects on entry modes of pharmaceutical companies into transition economies," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 295-315.
    3. Burgelman, Robert A., 2011. "Bridging History and Reductionism: A Key Role for Longitudinal Qualitative Research," Research Papers 2045r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    4. John H Dunning, 1988. "The Eclectic Paradigm of International Production: A Restatement and Some Possible Extensions," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 19(1), pages 1-31, March.
    5. Caterina Moschieri, 2011. "The implementation and structuring of divestitures: the unit's perspective," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(4), pages 368-401, April.
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    More about this item


    Qualitative research; Case study research; Openness; Theory; Theoretical assumptions; Theory-ladenness; Minimal design of scientific research;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology


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