Qualitative case studies in operations management: Trends, research outcomes, and future research implications

Mark Barratt, Thomas Choi, Mei Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

753 Scopus citations


Our study examines the state of qualitative case studies in operations management. Five main operations management journals are included for their impact on the field. They are in alphabetical order: Decision Sciences, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Journal of Operations Management, Management Science, and Production and Operations Management. The qualitative case studies chosen were published between 1992 and 2007. With an increasing trend toward using more qualitative case studies, there have been meaningful and significant contributions to the field of operations management, especially in the area of theory building. However, in many of the qualitative case studies we reviewed, sufficient details in research design, data collection, and data analysis were missing. For instance, there are studies that do not offer sampling logic or a description of the analysis through which research out-comes are drawn. Further, research protocols for doing inductive case studies are much better developed compared to the research protocols for doing deductive case studies. Consequently, there is a lack of consistency in the way the case method has been applied. As qualitative researchers, we offer suggestions on how we can improve on what we have done and elevate the level of rigor and consistency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-342
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Operations Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Case studies
  • Deductive
  • Inductive
  • Qualitative
  • Research methods
  • Testing
  • Theory
  • Theory building

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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