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Case-Study Approaches to Theory Building - 5 ECTS

Date and time

Monday 19 June 2023 at 09:30 to Friday 23 June 2023 at 16:00

Registration Deadline

Friday 5 May 2023 at 00:00


Dalgas Have - room DHV 2.69, 2.70 & 2.71 (second floor), Dalgas Have 15, 2000 Frederiksberg Dalgas Have - room DHV 2.69, 2.70 & 2.71 (second floor)
Dalgas Have 15
2000 Frederiksberg

Case-Study Approaches to Theory Building - 5 ECTS

Course coordinators: Jasper Hotho & Verena Girschik, Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)


Associate Professor Jasper Hotho
Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS

Associate Professor Verena Girschik
Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS.


  • This course is designed to offer the best possible learning experience and outcomes for PhD researchers who use a case study approach or other qualitative approaches in their PhD project.

  • While the course builds heavily on best practices in the field of Organization and Management, we welcome PhDs from other fields within the social sciences.

  • When applying for this course, please submit a short motivation for your application indicating (1) the focus of your PhD project (either the overall focus or the focus of a specific paper/chapter that you want to work with during the course) and (2) the research approach and methods (to be) applied. Please keep it short (max. 300 words / 0.5 page).


In this course, we aim to equip you with the ability to read, write and evaluate papers applying qualitative methodologies, and to understand how qualitative research — and case-study research in particular — can contribute to theory building. During the course, we will pay particular attention to the logic and internal consistency of the case study research process. That is, the importance of coherence and alignment between the research question, qualitative approach, research design, and opportunities for theory development.

In our experience as authors, reviewers, and editors, this is a crucial issue when seeking to publish qualitative research — and a point where many authors struggle. The course does not aim to provide an exhaustive overview of qualitative methods, nor will it cover more specific approaches to data collection and analysis. As a result, this course complements courses that dive into specific methods.

Course content

For details, see below under ‘Lecture plan’.

Teaching style

The course is organized as a five-day intensive workshop, consisting of eight sessions. Each session combines an introductory talk with in-class assignments and discussion. We hope and expect that you will prepare for each session by reading the assigned literature. Also, please make sure to look into the exercise material, which will serve as the starting point for many of our in-class discussions. For those of you who are actively doing or planning to do case-study research, the course also offers opportunities for you to discuss your own project. The course closes with a review assignment in which you are challenged to evaluate a paper and to offer constructive suggestions for its improvement. The review should be around 2-3 pages (max. 1500 words). 

Discussions of PhD projects
The course includes two exercises where we split the class into two groups and apply insights from the course to your projects. As we move closer to the course start and in preparation for these sessions, we will offer you the opportunity to send us a 3-pager with:
  • a description of your research question(s);
  • your theoretical perspective;
  • the empirical case(s);
  • data (to be) collected;
  • (preliminary) findings, if any;
  • and your current stage in the Ph.D. process.
Sending in a project description is voluntary; it is not a course assignment. The project descriptions will serve as discussion material during two of the sessions (Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon).

If you are considering sending in a description of your project, please feel free to re-use descriptions or material you already have. Just make sure the description of your project is sufficiently up-to-date.

Lecture plan (Preliminary) 

DAY 1: Qualitative research: Alternative approaches

Session 1: Introduction

Monday morning, 9:30-12:00

Facilitators: Verena Girschik & Jasper Hotho

Session 1 provides an introduction to the content, and structure of the course, the value of qualitative research to theory development, and the challenges of theorizing from qualitative data. Students will also have the opportunity to briefly introduce and discuss their projects. The session ends with a discussion of the role of the research question in the qualitative research process.

Topics include:

  • An introduction to the course
  • Introduction of student projects
  • Exercise: Evaluating research questions


  • Van Maanen, J., Sørensen, J. B., & Mitchell, T. R. (2007). The interplay between theory and method. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1145-1154.
  • Gephart R.P. (2004), Qualitative research and the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Journal, 47(4), 454-462.

Session 2: Alternative approaches to qualitative research

Monday afternoon, 13:00-16:00

Facilitator: Jasper Hotho

Session 2 introduces different approaches to doing qualitative research. We will practice how to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and appropriateness of these approaches, and to recognize these approaches in action.

Topics include:

  • Alternative approaches to qualitative research in management research: Eisenhardt, Gioia, and beyond
  • Theory-method fit in qualitative research
  • Exercise: Recognizing and evaluating alternative approaches in practice.


  • Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. AMR14(4), 532-550.
  • Langley, A., Smallman, C., Tsoukas, H., & Van de Ven, A. H. (2013). Process studies of change in organization and management: Unveiling temporality, activity, and flow. AMJ56(1), 1-13.
  • Langley, A., & Abdallah, C. (2011). Templates and turns in qualitative studies of strategy and management. Research Methodology in Strategy and Management6, 201-235.
  • Gehman, J., Glaser, V. L., Eisenhardt, K. M., Gioia, D., Langley, A., & Corley, K. G. (2018). Finding theory–method fit: A comparison of three qualitative approaches to theory building. Journal of Management Inquiry, 27(3), 284-300.

DAY 2: Designing qualitative research

Session 3: Designing qualitative research

Tuesday morning, 9:30-12:00

Facilitator: Jasper Hotho

Session 3 introduces students to central elements of case-study research designs, including case selection and the selective introduction of variance. The session also highlights the importance of congruence between research question and research design.

Topics include:

  • Qualitative research designs: Single, comparative, and multiple case studies
  • Case selection strategies
  • Ensuring congruence between research question and research design
  • Exercise: Evaluating a qualitative research proposal


  • Patton, M.Q. (2002). Purposeful sampling. In: M.Q. Patton. Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage. 230-246.
  • Siggelkow, N. (2007). Persuasion with case studies. Academy of Management Journal50(1), 20-24.
  • Ragin, C. (1987). The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley: University of California Press (pp. 34-52; Case-oriented comparative methods).

Discussion of students’ projects  (Part I)

Tuesday afternoon, 13:00-16:00

Facilitators: Jasper Hotho & Verena Girschik

DAY 3: Evaluating qualitative research
 / Moving from findings to theory

Session 4: Evaluating qualitative research

Wednesday morning, 9:30-12:00

Facilitator: Verena Girschik

Session 4 focuses on the evaluation of qualitative research designs. Students are introduced to the meaning of rigor in qualitative research designs, and some of the ways in which rigor can be evaluated.

Topics include:

  • Rigor in qualitative research
  • Exercise: Evaluating the alignment between research question, approach and design


  • Tracy, S. J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative inquiry16(10), 837-851.
  • Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. G., & Hamilton, A. L. (2013). Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research: Notes on the Gioia methodology. Organizational Research Methods16(1), 15-31.
  • 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.

Session 5: Theorizing from qualitative findings

Wednesday afternoon, 13:00-16:00

Facilitator: Jasper Hotho

Session 5 introduces students to different types of theory and theorizing. We also discuss different forms of theory development and how these are enabled by different qualitative approaches.

 Topics include:

  • What is theory?
  • Forms of theorizing
  • The opportunities for theorizing enabled by alternative qualitative approaches
  • Exercise: Theoretical models


  • Davis, M. S. (1971). That's interesting! Towards a phenomenology of sociology and a sociology of phenomenology. Philosophy of the social sciences1(2), 309-344.
  • Sutton, R. I., & Staw, B. M. (1995). What theory is not. Administrative Science Quarterly, 371-384.
  • Weick, K. E. (1995). What theory is not, theorizing is. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(3), 385-390.
  • DiMaggio, P. J. (1995). Comments on" What theory is not". Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(3), 391-397.
  • Cornelissen, J. (2017a). Editor’s comments: Developing propositions, a process model, or a typology? Addressing the challenges of writing theory without a boilerplate. Acad. of Man. Review, 42(1), 1-9.

DAY 4: Qualitative research: Contributing to theory

Session 6: Constructing a theoretical contribution

Thursday morning, 9:30-12:00

Facilitator: Verena Girschik

In session 6, we will look at alternative ways in which a theoretical contribution may be constructed. We will focus on the iterative process of going back and forth between data and theory and discuss alternative ways in which contributions may be constructed.

Topics include:

  • Moving from findings to theory—and back
  • Alternative ways of constructing theoretical contributions
  • Exercise: Identifying, comparing and evaluating alternative ways of constructing a contribution


  • Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal50(1), 25-32.
  • Langley, A. (1999). Strategies for theorizing from process data. Academy of Management Review24(4), 691-710.
  • Klag, M., & Langley, A. (2013). Approaching the conceptual leap in qualitative research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(2), 149-166.
  • Locke, K., & Golden-Biddle, K. (1997). Constructing opportunities for contribution: Structuring intertextual coherence and “problematizing” in organizational studies. Academy of Management Journal40(5), 1023-1062.

Discussion of students’ projects   (Part II)

Thursday afternoon, 13:00-16:00

Facilitators: Jasper Hotho & Verena Girschik

DAY 5: Writing and publishing qualitative research

Session 7: Writing up qualitative case-study research

Friday morning, 9:30-12:00

Facilitator: Verena Girschik

Session 7 focuses on the challenges of condensing rich qualitative findings into a concise and convincing manuscript, and the importance of writing to convince reviewers of the credibility of qualitative research findings in the absence of significance levels, effect sizes, and measures of explained variance.

Topics include:

  • The challenges of writing up qualitative research
  • Establishing credibility through writing
  • Exercise: Writing qualitative research


  • Ashcraft, K.L., & Ashcraft, C.S. (2014). Motifs in the methods section: Representing the qualitative research process. In E. Jeanes & T. Huzzard (eds.). (2014). Critical Management Research: Reflections from the Field (pp 155-172). London: Sage.
  • Golden-Biddle, K., & Locke, K. (1993). Appealing work: An investigation of how ethnographic texts convince. Organization Science4(4), 595-616.
  • Pratt, M.G. (2009) For the Lack of a Boilerplate: Tips on Writing Up (and Rewriting) Qualitative Research, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 52, No. 5, 856–862.

Session 8: Editor and author perspectives on publishing qualitative research

Friday afternoon, 13:00-16:00

Facilitators: Jasper Hotho & Verena Girschik

The course ends with a discussion between the instructors and participants of the course on the challenges of getting qualitative research published in leading academic journals in the fields of organization and management. The instructors will draw on their experience as authors, reviewers, and editors of qualitative research papers.

Topics include:

  • Reviewing qualitative research manuscripts
  • Expectations of reviewers, authors and journals
  • Handling reviewer comments


  • Cornelissen, J. P. (2017b). Preserving theoretical divergence in management research: Why the explanatory potential of qualitative research should be harnessed rather than suppressed. Journal of Management Studies, 54(3), 368-383.
  • Patriotta, G. (2017). Crafting papers for publication: Novelty and convention in academic writing. Journal of Management Studies54(5), 747-759.





Course Literature

See lecture plan above.


Note: In case we receive more registrations for the course than we have seats, CBS PhD students will have first priority. Remaining seats will be filled based on the motivation uploaded upon registration.


Select payment methods:
CBS students: Choose CBS PhD students and the course fee will be deducted from your PhD budget.
Students from other Danish universities: Choose Danish Electronic Invoice (EAN). Fill in your EAN number, attention and possible purchase (project) order number. Do you not pay by EAN number please choose Invoice to pay via electronic bank payment (+71). 
Students from foreign universities: Choose Payment Card. Are you not able to pay by credit card please choose Invoice International to pay via bank transfer. 
Please note that your registration is binding after the registration deadline.

Event Location

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Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475

Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475