Designing for impact: the effect of rigor and case study design on citations of qualitative case studies in management

  • Bareerah Hafeez HooraniEmail author
  • Lakshmi Balachandran Nair
  • Michael Gibbert


One of the most highly cited papers in management is Eisenhardt’s (Acad Manag Rev 14(4):532–550, 1989) piece on the importance of case study research, in particular multiple cases (versus single cases), for theory building. We focus on this distinction between multiple versus single cases in the context of rigor and impact of management case studies (N = 173) published during the period 1996–2006 in Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. We find that this distinction of multiple versus single only crudely captures the reality of case study designs in published article. For this we propose an alternative empirical classification of case study design that is replication and non-replication, in which case studies using a replication logic either in single cases (e.g. comparing teams within an organization, where the case is the organization) or, indeed, multiple cases (e.g. comparing teams across multiple organizations) are more rigorous and also more impactful than cases who do not use replication logic. However, unlike in quantitative research, rigor is not a driver of article citations in qualitative studies. In this regard, our finding makes important contributions to scientrometric research by discussing criteria under which different case study designs can be rigorous and impactful.


Case study Rigor Replication logic Qualitative research Citations 



We would like to thank the two anynomous reviewers and the Editor in Chief Wolfgang Glänzel for their time and effort in providing us with constructive comments on our manuscript. We also would like to thank participants of the British Academy of Management (BAM) 2018 conference for providing suggestions on an earlier draft of this manuscript, which also won the Best paper award in the Research Methodology Division. The funding for this project was provided by the Swiss National Foundation (Grant No. 165634).


  1. Aguinis, H., Shapiro, D. L., Antonacopoulou, E. P., & Cummings, T. G. (2014). Scholarly impact: A pluralist conceptualization. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 13(4), 623–639.Google Scholar
  2. Aguinis, H., & Solarino, A. M. (2019). Transparency and replicability in qualitative research: The case of interviews with elite informants. Strategic Management Journal. Scholar
  3. Bansal, P., & Roth, K. (2000). Why companies go green: A model of ecological responsiveness. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 717–736.Google Scholar
  4. Bartunek, J. M., Rynes, S. L., & Ireland, R. D. (2006). What makes management research interesting, and why does it matter? Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 9–15.Google Scholar
  5. Bergh, D., Perry, J., & Hanke, R. (2006). Some predictors of SMJ article impact. Strategic Management Journal, 27(1), 81–100.Google Scholar
  6. Bettis, R. A., Gambardella, A., Helfat, C., & Mitchell, W. (2014). Qualitative empirical research in strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 36(5), 637–639.Google Scholar
  7. Blatter, J., & Haverland, M. (2012). Designing case studies: Explanatory approaches in small-N research. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, S. L., & Eisenhardt, K. M. (1997). The art of continuous change: Linking complexity theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(1), 1–34.Google Scholar
  9. Brusoni, S., & Prencipe, A. (2006). Making design rules: A multidomain perspective. Organization Science, 17(2), 179–189.Google Scholar
  10. Buchanan, D. A., & Bryman, A. (2007). Contextualizing methods choice in organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 10(3), 483–501.Google Scholar
  11. Burgelman, R. A. (1983). A model of the interaction of strategic behavior, corporate context, and the concept of strategy. Academy of Management Review, 8(1), 61–70.Google Scholar
  12. Burgelman, R. A. (2002). Strategy as vector and the inertia of coevolutionary lock-in. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(2), 325–357.Google Scholar
  13. Cameron, A. C., & Trivedi, P. K. (2005). Microeconometrics: Methods and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  14. Chandler, A. D. (1990). Strategy and structure: Chapters in the history of the industrial enterprise. Boston, MA: MIT press.Google Scholar
  15. Christensen, C. M., & Bower, J. L. (1996). Customer power, strategic investment, and the failure of leading firms. Strategic Management Journal, 17(3), 197–218.Google Scholar
  16. Cole, J. R., & Cole, S. (1972). The Ortega hypothesis: Citation analysis suggests that only a few scientists contribute to scientific progress. Science, 178(4059), 368–375.Google Scholar
  17. Conlon, D., Morgeson, F. P., McNamara, G., Wiseman, R. M., & Skilton, P. F. (2006). From the editors: Examining the impact and role of special issue and regular journal articles in the field of management. Academy of Management Journal, 49(5), 857–872.Google Scholar
  18. Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation: Design and analysis for field settings. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  19. Coyne, I. T. (1997). Sampling in qualitative research. Purposeful and theoretical sampling; merging or clear boundaries? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 26(3), 623–630.Google Scholar
  20. Cuervo-Cazurra, A., Andersson, U., Brannen, M. Y., Nielsen, B. B., & Reuber, A. R. (2016). From the editors: Can I trust your findings? Ruling out alternative explanations in international business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(8), 881–897.Google Scholar
  21. Denzin, N. K. (2017). The research act: A theoretical introduction to sociological methods. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Dezsö, C., & Ross, D. (2012). Does female representation in top management improve firm performance? A panel data investigation. Strategic Management Journal, 33(9), 1072–1089.Google Scholar
  23. Doz, Y. L. (1996). The evolution of cooperation in strategic alliances: Initial conditions or learning processes? Strategic Management Journal, 17(S1), 55–83.Google Scholar
  24. Dyer, W. G., Jr., & Wilkins, A. L. (1991). Better stories, not better constructs, to generate better theory: A rejoinder to Eisenhardt. Academy of Management Review, 16(3), 613–619.Google Scholar
  25. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550.Google Scholar
  26. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1991). Better stories and better constructs: The case for rigor and comparative logic. Academy of Management Review, 16(3), 620–627.Google Scholar
  27. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 25–32.Google Scholar
  28. Eisenhardt, K. M., Graebner, M. E., & Sonenshein, S. (2016). Grand challenges and inductive methods: Rigor without rigor mortis. Academy of Management Journal, 59(4), 1113–1123.Google Scholar
  29. Ferlie, E., Fitzgerald, L., Wood, M., & Hawkins, C. (2005). The nonspread of innovations: The mediating role of professionals. Academy of Management Journal, 48(1), 117–134.Google Scholar
  30. Fletcher, M., & Plakoyiannaki, E. (2011). Case selection in international business: Key issues and common misconceptions. In R. Piekkari & C. Welch (Eds.), Rethinking the case study in international business and management research (pp. 171–191). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Folger, R., & Turillo, C. J. (1999). Theorizing as the thickness of thin abstraction. Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 742–758.Google Scholar
  32. Gehman, J., Glaser, V. L., Eisenhardt, K. M., Gioia, D., Langley, A., & Corley, K. G. (2017). Finding theory–method fit: A comparison of three qualitative approaches to theory building. Journal of Management Inquiry, 27(3), 284–300.Google Scholar
  33. George, A. L., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Boston, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  34. Gerring, J. (2007). Case study research: Principles and practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Gibbert, M., & Ruigrok, W. (2010). The ‘‘what’’and ‘‘how’’of case study rigor: Three strategies based on published work. Organizational Research Methods, 13(4), 710–737.Google Scholar
  36. Gibbert, M., Ruigrok, W., & Wicki, B. (2008). What passes as a rigorous case study? Strategic Management Journal, 29(13), 1465–1474.Google Scholar
  37. Gomez-Mejia, L. R., & Balkin, D. B. (1992). Determinants of faculty pay: An agency theory perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 35(5), 921–955.Google Scholar
  38. Grant, R. M. (2003). Strategic planning in a turbulent environment: Evidence from the oil majors. Strategic Management Journal, 24(6), 491–517.Google Scholar
  39. Hamermesh, D. S. (2018). Citations in economics: Measurement, uses, and impacts. Journal of Economic Literature, 56(1), 115–156.Google Scholar
  40. Haslam, N., Ban, L., Kaufmann, L., Loughnan, S., Peters, K., Whelan, J., et al. (2008). What makes an article influential? Predicting impact in social and personality psychology. Scientometrics, 76(1), 169–185.Google Scholar
  41. Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288.Google Scholar
  42. Judge, T. A., Cable, D. M., Colbert, A. E., & Rynes, S. L. (2007). What causes a management article to be cited—article, author, or journal? Academy of Management Journal, 50(3), 491–506.Google Scholar
  43. Larsson, R. (1993). Case survey methodology: Quantitative analysis of patterns across case studies. Academy of Management Journal, 36(6), 1515–1546.Google Scholar
  44. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  45. Manning, W., & Mullahy, J. (2001). Estimating log models: To transform or not to transform? Journal of Health Economics, 20(4), 461–494.Google Scholar
  46. Merton, R. (1968). The Matthew effect in science: The reward and communication systems of science are considered. Science, 159(3810), 56–63.Google Scholar
  47. Meyer, M., Waldkirch, R. W., Duscher, I., & Just, A. (2018). Drivers of citations: An analysis of publications in “top” accounting journals. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 51, 24–46.Google Scholar
  48. Michailova, S. (2011). Contextualizing in international business research: Why do we need more of it and how can we be better at it? Scandinavian Journal of Management, 27(1), 129–139.Google Scholar
  49. Mill, J. S. (1875). A system of logic, ratiocinative and inductive: Being a connected view of the principles of evidence and the methods of scientific investigation. London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer.Google Scholar
  50. Mingers, J., & Xu, F. (2010). The drivers of citations in management science journals. European Journal of Operational Research, 205(2), 422–430.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  51. Morse, J. M., Barrett, M., Mayan, M., Olson, K., & Spiers, J. (2002). Verification strategies for establishing reliability and validity in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(2), 13–22.Google Scholar
  52. Nair, L. B. (2018). Appraising scholarly impact using Directed Qualitative Content Analysis: A study of article title attributes in management research. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Online ISBN: 9781526444141.
  53. Nair, L. B., & Gibbert, M. (2016). What makes a ‘good’ title and (how) does it matter for citations? A review and general model of article title attributes in management science. Scientometrics, 107(3), 1331–1359.Google Scholar
  54. Palinkas, L. A., Horwitz, S. M., Green, C. A., Wisdom, J. P., Duan, N., & Hoagwood, K. (2015). Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 42(5), 533–544.Google Scholar
  55. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  56. Penrose, E. T. (1960). The growth of the firm—a case study: the Hercules Powder Company. Business History Review, 34(1), 1–23.Google Scholar
  57. Perlow, L. A., Okhuysen, G. A., & Repenning, N. P. (2002). The speed trap: Exploring the relationship between decision making and temporal context. Academy of Management Journal, 45(5), 931–955.Google Scholar
  58. Pettigrew, A. M. (2014). The politics of organizational decision-making. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  59. Piekkari, R., Welch, C., & Paavilainen, E. (2009). The case study as disciplinary convention: Evidence from international business journals. Organizational Research Methods, 12(3), 567–589.Google Scholar
  60. Podsakoff, P. M., Mackenzie, S. B., Bachrach, D. G., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2005). The influence of management journals in the 1980s and 1990s. Strategic Management Journal, 26(5), 473–488.Google Scholar
  61. Pratt, M. G. (2008). Fitting oval pegs into round holes: Tensions in evaluating and publishing qualitative research in top-tier North American journals. Organizational Research Methods, 11(3), 481–509.Google Scholar
  62. Ragin, C. C., & Schneider, G. A. (2011). Case-oriented theory building and theory testing. In M. Williams & W. Paul Vogt (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of innovation in social research methods (pp. 150–166). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  63. Ronda-Pupo, G. A. (2017). The effect of document types and sizes on the scaling relationship between citations and co-authorship patterns in management journals. Scientometrics, 110(3), 1191–1207.Google Scholar
  64. Scandura, T. A., & Williams, E. A. (2000). Research methodology in management: Current practices, trends, and implications for future research. Academy of Management Journal, 43(6), 1248–1264.Google Scholar
  65. Schweizer, L. (2005). Organizational integration of acquired biotechnology companies into pharmaceutical companies: The need for a hybrid approach. Academy of Management Journal, 48(6), 1051–1074.Google Scholar
  66. Siggelkow, N. (2007). Persuasion with case studies. Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 20–24.Google Scholar
  67. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. M. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  68. Stremersch, S., Verniers, I., & Verhoef, P. (2007). The quest for citations: Drivers of article impact. Journal of Marketing, 71(3), 171–193.Google Scholar
  69. Suri, H. (2011). Purposeful sampling in qualitative research synthesis. Qualitative Research Journal, 11(2), 63–75.Google Scholar
  70. Szulanski, G., & Jensen, R. J. (2011). Sumantra’s challenge: Publish a theory- testing case study in a top journal. In C. Welch & R. Piekkari (Eds.), Rethinking the case study in international business and management research (pp. 107–123). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  71. Tahai, A., & Meyer, M. J. (1999). A revealed preference study of management journals’ direct influences. Strategic Management Journal, 20(3), 279–296.Google Scholar
  72. Tripsas, M., & Gavetti, G. (2000). Capabilities, cognition, and inertia: Evidence from digital imaging. Strategic Management Journal, 21(10–11), 1147–1161.Google Scholar
  73. Tsang, E. W. (2014). Generalizing from research findings: The merits of case studies. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(4), 369–383.Google Scholar
  74. Voss, C., Tsikriktsis, N., & Frohlich, M. (2002). Case research in operations management. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 22(2), 195–219.Google Scholar
  75. Walters, G. D. (2011). The citation life cycle of articles published in 13 American psychological association journals: A 25-year longitudinal analysis. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(8), 1629–1636.Google Scholar
  76. Welch, C., & Piekkari, R. (2017). How should we (not) judge the ‘quality’ of qualitative research? A re-assessment of current evaluative criteria in International Business. Journal of World Business, 52(5), 714–725.Google Scholar
  77. Welch, C., Piekkari, R., Plakoyiannaki, E., & Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, E. (2011). Theorising from case studies: Towards a pluralist future for international business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(5), 740–762.Google Scholar
  78. Welch, C., Plakoyiannaki, E., Piekkari, R., & Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, E. (2013). Legitimizing diverse uses for qualitative research: A rhetorical analysis of two management journals. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(2), 245–264.Google Scholar
  79. Yin, R. (1984). Case study research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  80. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research, design & methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bareerah Hafeez Hoorani
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lakshmi Balachandran Nair
    • 2
  • Michael Gibbert
    • 1
  1. 1.Università Della Svizzera ItalianaLuganoSwitzerland
  2. 2.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations