The purpose of this paper is to develop the paradigmatic justification for the use of case studies in logistics research. The argument is based on a critical realist (CR) ontology and epistemology. The current logistics paradigm's flat ontology – based on regularity – is replaced by an ontology emphasising structures and mechanisms underlying actual events in the form of logistics practice and performance.
The approach takes the form of desk research, conceptual work and theorizing.
Based on this CR view of the logistics domain it is argued that the justifications for conducting case studies lie in their ability: to reach the causal depth required for revealing the real domain of logistics activities and performance: to reveal the working of mechanisms in loosely coupled structures showing open systems characteristics through a constant alternation between abstract and concrete reasoning and; to include the causal powers and effects of agents' ascribed meanings. Also, it is argued, in contrast with Yin's work which refers to the possibility of generalising case studies, that the justification of case studies not only must refer to their complementary role in research but also must build on groundings that allow this form of research to take a primary role in knowledge creation.
The arguments have direct implications primarily for the scientific justification for case studies in logistics. CR thinking in this respect offers a view in which case studies should be seen as a more legitimate method in logistics inquiries. Second, the paper has implications for further work on the methods of using case studies in logistics: between what types of case studies can one distinguish, and which practical guidelines regarding design and reasoning can be developed based on the CR view?
The paper problematizes current research methodology in logistics. Based on critical realism, it presents a thorough and systematic justification for using case studies as a research approach.
Aastrup, J. and Halldórsson, Á. (2008), "Epistemological role of case studies in logistics: A critical realist perspective", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 38 No. 10, pp. 746-763. https://doi.org/10.1108/09600030810926475Download as .RIS
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