Case Study Databases vs. Ethics and Participation

August 5, 2009

Robert Yin advocates the creation of a case study database alongside the publication of  case study. In my interpretation of this idea, the case study database includes the raw data collected, such as transcripts, interview recordings, and documents collected from archives.  The creation of an “analysis-free” data repository allows others to reanalyze the data to reach different conclusions or for new purposes. This potential for reanalysis in turn strengthens the case study.

For my study, that would mean publishing my interview recordings, my transcriptions of those recordings, and the statistics about software repositories that I collect.

Greg points out two issues with this that have caused me to reverse my plan.

  1. This open approach is rare enough that it might have trouble getting through the ethics board. The withdrawal protocols become awkward, for instance.
  2. This might discourage participation. People might not want to be interviewed if the interview recording will be made available.

I think I will try with a new policy:

  1. Raw data (interview recordings) will be kept private and secure immediately after recording. They will be destroyed after publication of an analysis.
  2. Objective data such as interview transcripts will be kept private and secure. They will be destroyed after publication of an analysis.
  3. A summary of the interviews and other derivative data will be publicly available. If a subject requests it, this summary will be anonymized and the subject will be asked to approve the anonymized version prior to publication. Subject withdrawal will result in destruction of the summary if it has not yet been published. If it has already been published then withdrawal is not possible.

One Response to “Case Study Databases vs. Ethics and Participation”

  1. Why destroy the data after publication? I would keep the raw data indefinitely (but held privately and securely), so that you can return to the data later to check your analysis if any questions arise in future about your methodology or your interpretation of the data.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: