Gauging the Rigor of Qualitative Case Studies in Comparative Lobbying Research. A Framework and Guideline for Research and Analysis

Published date01 November 2018
Date01 November 2018
Gauging the Rigor of Qualitative Case Studies in Comparative
Lobbying Research. A Framework and Guideline for Research
and Analysis
Irina Lock
|Peter Seele
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam School
of Communication Research (ASCoR),
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano,
Irina Lock, University of Amsterdam,
Amsterdam School of Communication
Research (ASCoR), Nieuwe Achtergracht 166,
Amsterdam 1018WV, The Netherlands.
Engaging in comparative lobbying research is a challenging task, because public affairs
is complex and highly contextdependent. Thus, qualitative case studies have been
researchers' primary choice. However, the case method has been subject to much
debate surrounding its rigor, in terms of reliability, internal validity, and generalizabil-
ity, and particularly its potential for theory building. To propose a framework for
researchers conducting lobbying case studies as well as for reviewers receiving such
work, we apply a positivistic approach on case study rigor from management studies
and expand the framework to tackle the specific challenges of comparative qualitative
lobbying research. Thus, we expand the research framework by a set of variables spe-
cific to public affairs: We add enrichment for internal validity, contextuality, and com-
parability for external validity, interdisciplinarity for construct validity, and hypertext
searchable databases for reliability. Thereby, we aim to transfer the lessons learned
from management studies in terms of rigorous qualitative case studies to public affairs
to help build novel and explanatory theory in the field and to provide guidance to
researchers how to design a rigorous case study.
Research in public affairs covers a diversity of issues and contexts, such
as public sector advocacy in Kenya (Irwin & Waweru, 2017), issues man-
agement in the U.S. forest industry (Panwar & Hansen, 2009), political
marketing in the United Kingdom (Ormrod, Henneberg, Forward, Miller,
& Tymms, 2007), or the corporate fight against regulation at the
European Union level (Lock & Seele, 2017a). Thus, knowledge genera-
tion is influenced by various contexts and research disciplines, and the-
ory is often built from single cases. Generating insights on an aggregate
level, say public affairs in companies, in general, thus remains difficult,
because research must account for political systems, current develop-
ments, and contingent contextual factors that influence each case.
Therefore, past public affairs research has very much relied on
case studies that illustrate the broad scope of contemporary public
affairs practice(Moss & Tonge, 2009, p. 166) to understand and
describe the corporate policy cycle (Schuler, 2001). Although such
illustrative cases often provide a convincing narrative for examples
of public affairs (see, e.g., the special issue on case studies in this
journal, 2009, Volume 9, Issue 3 or Moss, 2017) and set the stage
for empirical research in terms of surveys (e.g., Murphy, Hogan, &
Chari, 2011), interviews (e.g., Fairbanks, Plowman, & Rawlins,
2007), content analyses (e.g., Olatunji & Adekunle Akinjogbin,
2011), focus groups (e.g., Heinze, Schneider, & Ferié, 2013), or mixed
approaches (Marland & Giasson, 2013), they are not apt to build the-
ory. Instead, to generate theory, an empirical case study approach is
needed (Yin, 2013) that draws from different empirical data sources
and analyses.
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
© 2018 The Authors. Journal of Public Affairs Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Received: 9 April 2018 Accepted: 28 April 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1832
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1832. 1of5

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