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    Case studies as a 
    In moving towards evidence-based decision-making and engagement  in
    resource management,  research is a crucially  important source of
    Case study research is an important source of information  in the field, so
    we need to be sure we understand case study methods and meanings.
    Case studies serve little purpose in isolation and need to be understood in
    context to get the best value out of them.
    The idea of ‘thick description’ and place-based case studies points to the
    need to integrate empirical  (e.g. observational)  information and theoretical
    (conceptual)  tools in research and practice in resource management.
    • Case studies – a method in resource analysis
    • Case studies – just information?
    • Why do case study research?
    • How do case study research?
    • Case studies in ENVG340
    Case studies –  a method in resource
    management studies 
    There are many examples of case studies in resource
    management – the literature is full of them – and you are
    asked to use one to frame your ENVG340 research essay.
    But what sort of case study?   2
    Different sorts of case study for different purposes
    Brief case studies to make a general point (e.g. Rose 1996;
    Howitt 2001)
    More detailed case studies to demonstrate aspects of an
    argument or set of arguments (e.g. Lane et al 2009; Baker
    et al 2001;  Connell & Howitt 1991; Davis 1998;
    Howitt,Connell and Hirsch 1996; Potter et al 2007)
    Single, detailed case study core of a book to:
       -  contextualise a particular case and generalise  from it
    (e.g. Weir 2009) 
       - examine an idea or process from different perspectives
    and at different scales (e.g. Blaut 1993; Ingold 2000;
    Jacobs 1996; Agyeman et al. 2003)
    Case studies - just information?
    • What might we learn from a particular case study?
    • What might we learn from a case study approach in
    resource management?
    • What is a case study after all?
    • Where might this method fit into our concerns about
    seeing and thinking differently and doing resource
    management better?
    … ‘mere description’?
    Just new information, ‘facts’, content ...
    … there is no such thing as totally neutral description
    uninformed by a world view of what is significant and how
    phenomena are linked together (Massey 1993: 147).
    Even the simplest and most descriptive case study has a
    conceptual framework which affects its content, meaning and
    The challenge – to recognise this framework  and be explicit
    about it!
    ‘Thick description’ and place-based case
    • Include critical reflections on context and
    • Question the assumptions being made – recognise
    them and think about them.
    • Learn the language; get to know places and how
    people belong / fit in/ get excluded or involved etc.
    • Think about the ideas as well as the measurable and
    ‘objective’ facts.
    • Think about culture as well as environment and
    economy. 3
    Why do case study research ~ including
    hints for your ENVG340 Major Essays? 
      Looking for solutions, blueprints?
    Using case studies is not about:
    • inappropriate engineering-style blueprints for
    intervention and practice.
    • a source of information about ‘solutions’, specific
    sources of information about practice per se - that
    can be transferred to another time or place.
    Linkages and comparisons
    • Need to think about process and relationships as
    well as ‘outcomes’ and ‘products’.
    • Can find relevant links. Relationships between
    elements of overlapping resource management
    systems which enhance our understanding of the
    processes and relations in our particular focus.
    • Valuable method for identifying and comparing
    issues in resource management.
    For example,  Indigenous experiences of resource management,
    identification of common  issues such as:
    – loss of autonomy through dispossession and marginalisation; 
    – alienation from resources; 
    – severe restrictions on resource use and management practices; 
    – the intertwining of culture, society and identity with resource
    management and 
    – consequent impact of overthrow of these practices (eg. Burger
    1990; Connell and Howitt 1991)
    Could also consider general issues about sustainability, equity,
    justice and diversity in relation to other groups of people.
    Identifying linkages 4
    Comparing cases: the value of comparative case
    • Different perspectives 
    • New and challenging ideas and practices (information,
    options and choices - ‘best practice’) 
    • Learn from the experiences of others (no need to
    reinvent the wheel)
    • Ease fears, give courage, inspire & motivate
    • Reveals parallels
    • Away from the familiar - less blinkered
    • Needs to be contextualised (preferably embodied) or  (in
    our case - critical reading skills)  
    (Jull 1995, 1992)
    Case study of a case study
      The value of comparative research: wildlife management in
    Canada, Southern Africa and Australia
    • colonial histories and role of resource management
    • deep colonising processes (processes)
    • opportunities and constraints (new perspectives)
    • diversity, multiplicity & power (perspectives)
    • forming networks and alliances
    Perspectives, understandings, processes
        Why do case studies? 
    • To provide knowledge as a basis for understanding
    specific circumstances
    • To provide an empirical basis for approaching broader
    questions and issues
    • To identify common ground in reaching policy
    directions across a range of situations
    • To provide a basis for making decisions
    How to do case study research ~ your
    ENVG340 Research Essays
    • Choose a topic that you’re interested in and that
    is relevant to your own learning objectives and
    • Think about ‘thick description’: what is your
    case study a case of??
    Partial processes … more than ‘just’ description 
    • Power of partial objectivity (Haraway)
    • Limits on collection, collation and interpretation of
    information (data) - scope
    • Exercising judgement about relevance, meaning and
    • Comparison with other ‘cases’ – which cases?
    • Decisions about representation and importance
    • Explanations of why and how things are
    • Interpretation of meanings and implications
    • Communication of results
    Case studies can be 'partial' in both senses of the word
    - incomplete and not objective
    Power of partial objectivity
    • Haraway –
      ‘Situated knowledges require that the
      object of knowledge be pictured as an
      actor and agent, not a screen or a
      ground or a resource, never finally as
      slave to the master that closes off the
      dialectic in his unique agency, and
      authorship of “objective” knowledge.?
      (Haraway, 1991: 198)
    Specific case
    Abstraction and case studies: from general to
    specific and back again?
      Thinking, knowing (abstracting):
    Case study research (abstracting):
    Complexity, dynamism, power
    Complexity, dynamism, power
    Broader questions, implications
    Need to ask:
    • What is the purpose of the research?
    • What is (are) the source(s) of our information?
    • How might we make sense of it?
    • How might we recognise and deal with entirely new
    • What is our position (vantage point) within the
    particular resource management system?  
    • What other positions exist within it?
    • Who are the (critical) audience(s) for our efforts to
    make new sense of the world?
    Interesting or significant?
     Related or relevant?
    It is important for case studies to be framed in a way which
    ensures they are relevant rather than just related; and
    significant rather than just interesting. 
    The aim is not just to collect whatever information one can
    which is related to a chosen topic. Rather, the task is to use
    empirical material critically and rigorously to substantiate,
    support and illustrate a significant argument about a
    defined topic.
    Research essays: Not just as much information on a specific
    case as can possibly be gathered (and please,  go beyond
    the web) … linked explicitly to an argument - broader
    questions, implications!
    Critical reading of the materials
    • Do not accept things at face value from the literature -
    question and challenge what is said.
    • Especially if you agree with what is said - do not assume
    their material is accurate or their interpretation is
    • Consider the writer’s vantage point in the system under
    • Consider who the target audience originally was. 
    • Consider the scale of analysis.
    • Consider cross-cultural issues within the research
    • Consider how the situation could have been approached from
    other vantage points, geographical scales, temporal horizons
    or levels of generality, with other systemic goals in mind (eg.
    sustainability vs development agendas) 
    • Consider what information sets have been used in
    constructing the case study (empirical information and
    • Consider alternative sources of information (critically!).
    • Consider what relevant information sets may have been
    excluded or marginalised from the study.
    • Critically consider the study’s merits and demerits.
    • Consider what our particular configurations of ‘relevance’
    excludes, marginalised or renders invisible.
    Critical thinking to critical writing
    ‘The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it
    thinks, but in how it thinks.’ 
    Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian.
    Interpreting according to a
    Relating theory to practice
    Making a claim and supporting it
    Using appropriate evidence
    Making links between ideas
    Asking questions
    Establishing cause and effect
    Comparing and contrasting
    Identifying problems and solutions 7
    But how do we actually 
    think critically?
    Some questions to help you read critically
    • What are the main points of this text?
    • Can you put them in your own words?
    • What sorts of examples are used? Are they useful? Can you think of others?
    • What factors (ideas, people, things) have been included? Can you think of anything
    that has been missed out?
    • Is a particular bias or framework apparent? Can you tell what 'school of thought' the
    author belongs to?
    • Can you work out the steps of the argument being presented? Do all the steps follow
    • Could a different conclusion be drawn from the argument being presented?
    • Are the main ideas in the text supported by reliable evidence (well researched, non-
    emotive, logical)?
    • Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?
    • What connections do you see between this and other texts?
    • Where does it differ from other texts on the same subject?
    • What are the wider implications—for you, for the discipline?
    • Have the claims been verified by another source?
    • How does the claim fit with what we know about how the world works?
    Communicating case studies –writing about
    • Representing complexity esp. ‘multiple voices’ - diversity
    of ‘players’ and ‘positions’
    • Multifaceted and dialectical links between these and across
    time and space
    Crucial element … PLANNING!!!
    (work out what to include, what to leave out etc)
       Sit down and work out what trying to say:
    • Frame the argument not in terms of the case study but in
    terms of the bigger questions the case study is intended to
    • Be clear about what has to be included to support the
    argument (what constitutes evidence and what it allows
    and doesn’t allow to be said!)
    • Read the advice on writing about complexity in the Unit
    Structure, order how things will be written:
    • What sense do you want the audience to make of the
    • Have you explained to the audience how you will be
    presenting your argument – an outline (let them know
    what to expect – use headings as signposts to
    • How will alternative ways of writing change the way your
    writing is understood (what is emphasised etc)?
    • How important is each section or aspect in relation to
    overall purpose, word limit, audience etc?
    • Is there an appropriate balance between description,
    explanation and interpretation?
    • Read what you have written and decide if you have
    actually achieved what you set out to do (let someone
    else read your assignment)!!
    Crucial element … TIME!!!
    from descriptive to critical
    The value in situated engagement through
    case studies…
      ?the only way to find a larger vision is to
      be somewhere in particular? (Haraway,
    Agyeman,  J., Bullard, R. D. and Evans, B. (2003). Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World. Cambridge MA.,
    MIT Press. 
    Blaut, J. M. 1993. The Colonizer's Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric History. New York/London:
    The Guilford Press.
    Burger, J. 1990 The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples: A future for the Indigenous world. Ringwood: Penguin Books.
    Connell, J. and R. Howitt 1991. (eds) Mining and Indigenous Peoples in Australasia, Sydney: Sydney University Press.
    Davis, M. (2000). Ecology of Fear. Los Angeles and the Imagination  of Disaster. Basingstoke, Picador.
    Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again. Cambridge,
    Cambridge University Press.
    Haraway, D.J., (1991). 'Situated knowledges:  the science question  in feminism and the privilege  of partial perspective'.  In her
    Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge, 183-201.
    Howitt, R., J. Connell and P. Hirsch (1996). Resources, Nations and Indigenous Peoples. R. Howitt, Oxford, Oxford
    University Press.
    Howitt, R. (2001). Rethinking Resource Management. London, Routledge.  
    Ingold, T (2000) The perception of the environment: Essays on livelihood,  dwelling and skill. Tourledge, London.
    Instone, L. (2004). "Situating nature: on doing cultural geographies of Australian nature." Australian Geographer 35(2): 131-
    Jacobs, J. M. 1996. Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City. London and New York: Routledge.
    Jull, P. 1995. "Comparative Studies: Their Use for Indigenous Social Justice." Pp. 123-129 in Indigenous Social Justice,
    Volume 3: Resource Materials, edited by M. Dodson. Canberra: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
    Jull, P. 1992. A Guide for Australian Research into Northern Regions and Indigenous Policy in North America and Europe.
    Darwin: North Australia Research Unit, Australian National University.
    Knudtson, P. and D. Suzuki. 1992. Wisdom of the Elders. Sydney: Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd.
    Long, A. F. and M. Godfrey  (2004). "An evaluation  tool  to assess the quality of qualitative  research studies."  International
    Journal of Social Research Methodology 7(2): 181-196.
    Massey, D. (1993. "Questions of Locality." Geography 78:142-149.
    Maybury-Lewis, D. 1992 Millenium:  tribal wisdom and the modern world. Viking, New York.
    Potter,   E., Mackinnon, A., McKenzie, S. & McKay, J. 2007 (eds) Fresh water : new perspectives on water in Australia
    Melbourne University Press, Carleton, Vic.
    Rose, D. B (1999 Indigenous Ecologies and an ethic of connection"  in Global Ethics and Environment, edited by N. Low.
    London: Routledge:175-187.  
    Weir, J 2009 Murray River Country: An ecological dialogue with traditional  owners. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.


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