Ausgabe 2/2021, 27. Jahrgang S. 181–196
Horizontal, vertical and transversal comparison – Making a case for case studies
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Case study research has a long tradition and has been used in different areas of the social sciences to approach research questions that command context sensitiveness and attention to complexity while tapping on multiple sources. More recently, comparative researchers have suggested some critical rethinking of case study research to account more effectively for recent conceptual shifts in the social sciences related to culture, context, space and comparison. Comparative case studies (CCS) have been suggested as providing effective tools to understanding policy and practice along three different axes of social scientific research, namely horizontal (spaces), vertical (scales), and transversal (time). The article aims, first, at discussing this paradoxical situation, namely that case study research methodology is a widespread and well-liked approach to research and at the same time a methodology that is very often low regarded and criticized. Second, it sketches the methodological basis of arguing for case-based research in comparative research with the aim to provide a point of departure to make a case for comparative case study methodology as a way to address the needs of culture and context sensitiveness in comparative and international education (CIE) research. In a third step, the article focuses on presenting and discussing more recent developments in CIE scholarship to provide insights on how comparative researchers, especially those investigating educational policy and practice in the context of globalization and internationalization have suggested some critical rethinking of case study research to account more effectively for recent conceptual shifts in the social sciences related to culture, context, space and comparison. In a fourth section, it briefly illustrates such an approach to comparative case studies by drawing from a recently completed European research project, the YOUNG_ADULLLT project that has set out to research lifelong learning policies in their embeddedness in regional economies, labor markets and individual life projects of young adults.