Positioning case studies
The importance of theoretical contribution and joining existing debates is essential for publishing scientific studies. Therefore, a paper has to be framed and positioned well within previous research and emergent research streams. Within phenomenon-centered case study research, such positioning may often be rather challenging. Ridder et al. (2014) illustrate three ways of positioning for demonstrating the theoretical contribution. Moreover, they specify how case study researchers can elaborate on their theoretical claims, a guidance which is highly sought after.
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Demonstrating a theoretical contribution is seen as a central challenge in case study research; however, the literature provides little guidance on the crucial step of positioning the study’s theoretical claims in relationship to prior theory. This paper addresses the question of how to enter into a dialogue with extant theory in theory building case study research in the field of management. We present three ways of positioning to demonstrate a theoretical contribution, illustrating each with examples from recent case studies drawing on the dynamic capabilities approach. By distinguishing between seeking complementarities and dissimilarities in theory building, we add to this discussion and shed light on the benefits of entering a synergistic, antagonistic and pluralistic dialogue for making a significant theoretical contribution. Methodologically, we more fully specify how case study researchers can elaborate upon their theoretical claims in relation to prior theory.