ERIC Number: ED188657
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Apr-7
Using the Retrospective Case History in Exploratory Organizational Research: Research and Planning Unit Development in a California Community College District.
Knapp, Michael S.
The retrospective case history is a little-used, but very valuable tool in organizational theory research. It is particularly useful in illuminating variables in an organization's development which, in controlled experimentation, would require prohibitively long periods of time to materialize. Additionally, the technique is useful for generating a longitudinal understanding of the interaction of many factors within an organizational system over time. The case study approach also has three key methodological weaknesses: the blurring of memories and the incompleteness of records; the need to identify patterns among variables that are independent of unique historical circumstances; and the danger of coming to hasty ex post facto interpretations. However, compensatory tactics can be employed to minimize these weaknesses because the technique offers numerous ways to cross-check any emerging hypothesis and to pursue the further implications of any theoretical assertion. The case history approach was employed in a research project at a Southern California community college to study the development of formalized staff positions responsible for institutional research during the college's 25-year history. Personal interviews and an examination of college records revealed numerous administrative, political, and budgetary factors associated with the creation, maintenance, and alteration of these positions. (Author/JP)
Descriptors: Administrative Problems, Case Studies, Community Colleges, Educational History, Institutional Research, Interviews, Job Development, Longitudinal Studies, Oral History, Organizational Theories, Research Directors, Research Methodology, Research Problems, Staff Utilization, Two Year Colleges
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Boston, MA, April 7-11, 1980)