Five misunderstandings about case-study research

This article, written by Bent Flyvbjerg (Aalborg University, Denmark) examines five common misunderstandings about case-study research.

The misunderstandings are (a) theoretical knowledge is more valuable than practical knowledge; (b) one cannot generalize from a single case, therefore, the single-case study cannot contribute to scientific development; (c) the case study is most useful for generating hypotheses, whereas other methods are more suitable for hypotheses testing and theory building; (d) the case study contains a bias towards verification; and (e) it is often difficult to summarize specific case studies.

The article explains and corrects these misunderstandings one by one and concludes with the Kuhnian insight that a scientific discipline without a large number of thoroughly executed case studies is a discipline without systematic production of exemplars, and a discipline without exemplars is an ineffective one. Social science may be strengthened by the execution of a greater number of good case studies.


  • The conventional wisdom about case-study research
  • The role of cases in human learning
  • Cases as "Black Swans"
  • Strategies for case selection
  • Do case studies contain a subjective bias?
  • The irreducible quality of good case narratives


Flyvbjerg, B. (2006) Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research. Sage Publications. Retrieved from