Test 4 Theory

In Your Theory Test Exam You Will Be Asked 5 Case Studies Question, Practice Online Case Study Questions and Answers For Free. Let’s start case study a questions.

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Case Study A

You plan to visit a friend who lives in a town a full day’s drive away.

Two weeks before your journey, you realise that your vehicle excise license (road tax) will expire while you’re away.

At the beginning of the journey, you reach a roundabout. Another car cuts in front of you, causing you to do an emergency stop.

Later, you join the motorway, where a red X is flashing above the outside lane.

While travelling along the motorway, you start to feel tired and stop at a service station.

It’s just after 11 pm when you park outside your friend’s house.  

What must you do on the motorway?

Why must you avoid using your horn when parked outside your friend's house, what should you do at the roundabout, what should you do at the service station, what should you do two weeks before you leave.

theory test case study questions 2020

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theory test case study questions 2020

Theory test: cars

Theory test revision and practice.

You can use books and software to revise for the theory test and take practice tests.

Multiple-choice questions

The multiple-choice questions in the theory test are based on 3 books:

  • The Highway Code
  • Know your traffic signs
  • Driving - the essential skills

Study these to learn the rules and skills you’ll be tested on.

You can buy them from most high street and online book shops.

You can also study using:

  • the Official DVSA Theory Test kit online for your PC or Mac (this also includes help for the hazard perception part of the test)
  • the Official DVSA Theory Test kit app for Apple phones and tablets
  • the Official DVSA Theory Test kit app for Android phones and tablets
  • the Official DVSA Theory Test for Car drivers book
  • traffic sign flashcards (128 flash cards to help you learn traffic signs)

Take a free practice test

Take a practice theory test to check how much you’ve learnt.

The questions are not used in the real test, but they are based on the same topics as the test.

Hazard perception test

To prepare for this test you can use the official guide to hazard perception.

You can buy:

  • the Official DVSA Theory Test kit online for your PC or Mac (this also includes help for the multiple-choice questions part of the test)
  • the Official DVSA Hazard Perception app for Apple phones and tablets
  • the Official DVSA Hazard Perception app for Android phones and tablets

Translations into foreign languages

Some official books and software are translated into other languages by approved organisations .

However, you can only take the test in English, Welsh or British Sign Language.

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You must pass your theory test before you can book your driving test.

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How Many Questions Are on the Theory Test?

How Many Questions are on the 2020 Theory Test?

There are a total of 50 questions that you’ll be asked on the 2020 theory test. Each question is multiple choice where you’ll use a mouse to click in a box to select your answer. Some questions will require more than one answer. A message will display if you don’t select enough answers.

Previously what was included in the 50 questions were ‘case studies’. Case studies are essentially stories that are shown to you and when the case study has finished, you’ll be required to answer 5 questions about it. 

These case study questions have now been replaced by a video clip, where you’ll be required to answer 3 multiple choice questions about it. There will still be a total of 50 multiple choice questions to answer.

Theory Test Flag Button

During the theory test, if you’re unsure about one of the questions, some people prefer to come back to it later to spend more time thinking about it. You can do this by clicking the ‘Flag’ button.

To ensure you know what to do in the test, you’ll be given a 15 minute practice session before the multiple choice section of the theory test begins.

When you have finished the 50 questions in the multiple choice part of the test, you can either take a three minute break, or go straight into the hazard perception part of the theory test.

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Theory Test Advice

  • How Many Questions on the 2020 Theory Test?
  • How Long it Takes to Complete the Theory Test
  • What Happens on the Day of the Theory Test Explained
  • New Theory Test Changes
  • Can I Learn to Drive Before I Pass My Theory Test?

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theory test case study questions 2020

Driving Theory Practice Test

This free driving theory practice test consists of 50 questions. You need 43 out of 50 (86%) to pass. You have a time limit of 57 minutes . Read more about the theory test and how it works.

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How to Study for Your Driving Theory Test

Find out how it works, read the highway code, read our revision notes, take our mock theory tests, review theory test question lists, hazard perception practice, prepare for your 2024 driving theory test with our mock exams.

theory test case study questions 2020

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Driving theory test revision question lists.

  • 1 Driving Theory Practice Test
  • 2.1 Find out how it works
  • 2.2 Read the Highway Code
  • 2.3 Read our Revision Notes
  • 2.4 Take our Mock Theory Tests
  • 2.5 Review Theory Test Question Lists
  • 2.6 Hazard Perception Practice
  • 3.1 Ready to enrol?
  • 4 Driving Theory Test Revision Question Lists
  • 5 About the Driving Theory Test
  • 6.1 Multiple Choice Questions
  • 6.2 Case Studies
  • 6.3 Test Features
  • 6.4 Hazard Perception Test
  • 6.5 The Result
  • 7.1 Booking Your Theory Test
  • 7.2 Cancelling The Test
  • 7.3 Languages Other Than English
  • 7.4 Special Needs Arrangements
  • 7.5 Taking the Theory Test

About the Driving Theory Test

YouTube video

In the UK, new drivers are obliged by law to take and pass the driving theory test before being allowed to sit the practical driving test. You can take driving lessons before passing your theory test, although you won’t be able book your practical test until you have a valid theory test certificate in your possession.

It is a good idea to prepare for your driving theory test as you gain experience behind the wheel. This will enable you to develop skills for your practical test whilst building on your theoretical knowledge. If you wish to pass both tests at the first time of asking, a sound understanding of driving is required.

The driving theory test is made up of two different sections, both of which have to be completed on the same day. The first part consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and the second is a video-based hazard perception test . You must pass both parts in order to pass the theory test. If you are unsuccessful, you will have to resit the test on another occasion.

Both tests are computer-based and must be carried out at a theory test centre. More information on both of these tests is outlined below.

The Examination Process

Multiple choice questions.

The first part of the driving theory test consists of 50 multiple choice questions, five of which are based on case studies. Each question has four options to choose from, with only one of those being correct. You must select your answer by using the mouse to click your chosen option.

Before starting the driving theory test, you are given the opportunity to take a practice session lasting for approximately 15 minutes. This will help you get used to the navigation system and the format of the questions. Staff at the theory test centre will be on hand to offer assistance and advice if you have any problems.

The multiple-choice section is a timed test, with a limit of 57 minutes to answer all the questions. Each question appears on the screen one at a time, and you are allowed to return to any of the questions to check or change your answers. You need to score 43 out of 50 to pass the test .

The questions are knowledge-based and are randomly chosen from a bank of approximately 900 questions spanning 14 categories, covering all aspects of driving. These categories are:

  • Hazard Awareness
  • Incidents, Accidents and Emergencies
  • Motorway Rules
  • Other Types of Vehicle
  • Road and Traffic Signs
  • Rules of the Road
  • Safety and Your Vehicle
  • Safety Margins
  • Vehicle Handling
  • Vehicle Loading
  • Vulnerable Road Users

See below for a basic screenshot of the layout that you will be presented with during the test:

theory test case study questions 2020

In this particular example of a visual question, you need to click the image that you think is correct. Written questions will have four options, and you need to click the box next to the answer you think is right. If you change your mind, click the image or box again and choose another response.

Although you have a time limit for the multiple-choice test, you should read the questions carefully before selecting your answer. You should be aware that some questions may take longer to answer than others, but rest assured there are no ‘trick’ questions. If you try to navigate to the next question without having selected an answer, you will be notified before you can proceed.

The time remaining will be displayed on the screen, and you will be alerted when you have five minutes left until the end of the test. If you have special needs, extra time may be allowed, but you must notify the DVSA in advance.

Some questions may include a diagram or photograph; ensure you study the related question carefully if this is the case. Before looking at the available options, it may be a good idea to think of possible answers and, of course, if any of the available options match your original thought, you can select the answer with confidence.

Case Studies

Five of the 50 multiple-choice questions will be based on a case study. These questions will appear at the very end of the multiple-choice section of the driving theory test.

The case study is designed to test your ability to apply your theoretical knowledge and understanding of driving to a real-life situation.

This is done by creating a set of circumstances or a scenario that you may encounter while driving, followed by some questions relating to the incident, which assesses how you would react in each situation.

The sample case study below demonstrates how the case study questions may appear in your live test, so you’ll know what to expect.

Slide 1

As you can see, the case study question is displayed on the left-hand side of the screen and the multiple-choice question is displayed on the right-hand side.

Test Features

A useful feature of the driving theory test is the option to flag any question that you are unsure of. This allows you to return to the question at a later stage, time permitting, and change your answer if necessary.

If you get to the end of the test before the time is up, you can use the Review option to check your answers. The illustration below shows what information will be displayed on the review screen, including how many questions you have answered and if you have flagged any questions for further consideration. If you are confident of your answers, you can finish the session before the time is up by pressing the End button.

theory test case study questions 2020

Hazard Perception Test

After you have finished the multiple choice questions, there’s an optional break of up to three minutes before you begin the hazard perception section of the theory test, during which you can’t leave your seat. This part of the test involves watching a series of computer-generated image (CGI) video clips, during which you will be expected to identify a developing hazard. You can read more about the Hazard Perception Test here .

Upon completion of the driving theory test, you will be directed to leave the room where you can expect to receive your result within 10 minutes. You will be given a score for each section of the test (the multiple choice part and the hazard perception part) and a list of the categories where you may have answered a question incorrectly. Unfortunately, you won’t be informed of which questions you answered incorrectly, only the category that they relate to. If you fail either of the sections, you will have to retake the test on another occasion. Please note that the questions will be different next time you take your test.

Once you have passed your theory test, you will be given a certificate that you will need to present when taking your practical test, so keep this safe. The document is only valid for two years from the date of your driving theory test, so you must take your practical test within this timeframe. If you do not, you will have to take and pass both sections of the theory test again before being allowed to book your practical.

Further Information

Booking your theory test.

You can book your theory test online or by telephone.

Online – To book online, go to www.gov.uk/book-theory-test and register your details. You will need:

  • your DVLA or DVA driving licence number
  • a credit or debit card to pay the fee
  • an e-mail address to receive your booking confirmation

If you are in Northern Ireland, click here to book the test.

Once you have booked your test, you will receive an appointment e-mail on the same day confirming the date of your test and a booking reference number.

Telephone – To book by phone, you need to call 0300 200 1122 (0845 600 6700 for Northern Ireland), or if you’re a Welsh speaker, call 0300 200 1133. Phone lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.

If you have speech or hearing difficulties and use a minicom machine, call 0300 200 1166.

If you book over the telephone and do not have an email address, you will receive an appointment letter within ten days.

Cancelling The Test

If you need to cancel or postpone your driving theory test, you can do this online by visiting www.gov.uk/cancel-theory-test , or by contacting the DVSA by phone on 0300 200 1122 . This must be carried out at least three working days before the date of your test or you risk losing your fee. Sundays and public holidays aren’t regarded as working days.

Short-notice cancellation is only permitted in the following circumstances:

  • If you are ill or injured and have a medical certificate to support this
  • If you have been affected by a bereavement
  • If you are sitting school examinations.

Under these circumstances, you can rebook your test at no extra cost; refunds are not allowed.

Languages Other Than English

All UK driving theory test candidates must take their test in English or Welsh; voiceovers are not permitted in any other language. You’re not allowed to bring a translator with you under any circumstance.

In Wales and at theory test centres located on the Welsh borders, you can take your theory test with Welsh text on-screen. A voiceover can also be provided in Welsh on request.

Special Needs Arrangements

When you book your test, you must notify the DVSA if you have reading difficulties, a health condition or a disability. Every effort will be made to accommodate all candidates.

Reading difficulties: If you have reading difficulties or dyslexia, there is an English-language voiceover available on a headset to help you. If necessary, you can ask for up to twice the standard time limit to complete the multiple-choice questions section of the test.

You will be asked to confirm your difficulties by providing a letter from a suitable independent person who knows about your reading ability. This could be a teacher or employer. Advice can be obtained from the DVSA theory test enquiry line on 0300 200 1122.

Hearing difficulties: If you are deaf or have other hearing difficulties, the multiple-choice questions can be delivered in British Sign Language (BSL). An on-screen signer can also provide the introduction to the hazard perception test.

If requested at the time of booking, a BSL interpreter, lip speaker or signer can be provided. If you have any other difficulties or requirements, please call the theory test enquiry line for further guidance.

Physical disabilities: If you have a physical disability that would make it difficult for you to use a touch-screen system or a mouse button during the driving theory test, you need to advise the DVSA at the time of booking, as they may be able to make special arrangements for you to use a different method for completing your test.

Click here for more information about taking the driving theory test with a disability or health condition.

Taking the Theory Test

You will need to bring your photocard driving license with you to the theory test.

If your license is from Northern Ireland, you will have to bring your paper counterpart in addition to your photocard driving license. If you have an old-style paper driving licence, you must also bring a valid passport.

If you have lost your license, you must apply for a replacement , which could take up to 15 days to arrive. You may need to change the date of your theory test appointment if it doesn’t arrive in time.

Ensure you arrive at the test centre with time to spare as you may not be permitted to take your driving theory test if you arrive after the session has started.

Once you’re at the centre, the staff will check and your license and make sure you are taking the correct category of theory test.

Please note that you cannot take any personal items into the test room and will be expected to store mobile phones, watches, headphones and bags in a locker. There have been many instances of cheating at theory test centres in the past, so you may be asked by a member of staff if you’re carrying anything you shouldn’t be.

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Theory Test Changes 2020

From 14 April 2020, the driving theory test will be changing. Changes are being made to the case study which is part of the multiple-choice section of the theory test. Currently, a case study involves the test candidate reading a short story or scenario. Five questions will then be asked about the case study and the test candidate is required to answer one of the multiple choice answers available.

Changes on 14 April 2020 will see the case study changing from a written format to video. Instead of reading a case study, the test candidate will watch a video clip and at the end, answer 3 questions about it.

What is a Theory Test Case Study?

Original theory test case study compared to the new 2020 video case study

The theory test case study is part of the 50 multiple choice questions that make up the first section of the driving theory test. Case studies focus on specific events or scenarios that may potentially happen to you as a driver. After the new 2020 case study video has played through, you’ll be asked three multiple-choice questions to test your knowledge.

There will be no audio to the video and you can replay the video as many times as you wish. So for example, you can watch the video, then answer a question, then watch the video again before answering the next question. On the case study video screen you’ll have the option to:

  • play the video.
  • pause the video.
  • move to a specific part of the video on a progress bar.
  • watch the video using the full screen.

Why is the Theory Test Changing?

The video case study helps to represent a more realistic version of events and the changes will make the theory test more accessible, especially to people with a:

  • reading difficulty (such as dyslexia).
  • learning disability.
  • developmental condition (such as autism).

Is the Rest of the Theory Test the Same?

Yes, the remaining parts of the theory test are staying the same. You’ll still be required to:

  • answer 50 multiple-choice questions within 57 minutes.
  • answer 43 out of the 50 questions correctly to pass the multiple-choice part of the test.
  • After the multiple-choice part, watch 14 video clips for the hazard perception section, where you can score up to 5 points for each developing hazard.

Theory Test Support

Theory test support and adjustments can be made for individuals that have:

  • reading difficulty.
  • disability.
  • health condition.

Support and adjustments to the theory test include:

  • additional time to take the test.
  • someone to read what’s on the screen and record your answers.
  • someone to reword the questions for you.

2 thoughts on “Theory Test Changes 2020”

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Hello,im Gita and i would like information on how to order a theory test and how much it costs ,thank you.

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Hi Gita, You’re best off booking your theory test via the official government website. That way, you’ll not be charged any unnecessary fees. See: Book Theory Test . The current cost for a car theory test is £23.

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The theory contribution of case study research designs

  • Original Research
  • Open access
  • Published: 16 February 2017
  • Volume 10 , pages 281–305, ( 2017 )

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theory test case study questions 2020

  • Hans-Gerd Ridder 1  

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300 Citations

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The objective of this paper is to highlight similarities and differences across various case study designs and to analyze their respective contributions to theory. Although different designs reveal some common underlying characteristics, a comparison of such case study research designs demonstrates that case study research incorporates different scientific goals and collection and analysis of data. This paper relates this comparison to a more general debate of how different research designs contribute to a theory continuum. The fine-grained analysis demonstrates that case study designs fit differently to the pathway of the theory continuum. The resulting contribution is a portfolio of case study research designs. This portfolio demonstrates the heterogeneous contributions of case study designs. Based on this portfolio, theoretical contributions of case study designs can be better evaluated in terms of understanding, theory-building, theory development, and theory testing.

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theory test case study questions 2020

Case Study Research

theory test case study questions 2020

Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.

1 Introduction

Case study research scientifically investigates into a real-life phenomenon in-depth and within its environmental context. Such a case can be an individual, a group, an organization, an event, a problem, or an anomaly (Burawoy 2009 ; Stake 2005 ; Yin 2014 ). Unlike in experiments, the contextual conditions are not delineated and/or controlled, but part of the investigation. Typical for case study research is non-random sampling; there is no sample that represents a larger population. Contrary to quantitative logic, the case is chosen, because the case is of interest (Stake 2005 ), or it is chosen for theoretical reasons (Eisenhardt and Graebner 2007 ). For within-case and across-case analyses, the emphasis in data collection is on interviews, archives, and (participant) observation (Flick 2009 : 257; Mason 2002 : 84). Case study researchers usually triangulate data as part of their data collection strategy, resulting in a detailed case description (Burns 2000 ; Dooley 2002 ; Eisenhardt 1989 ; Ridder 2016 ; Stake 2005 : 454). Potential advantages of a single case study are seen in the detailed description and analysis to gain a better understanding of “how” and “why” things happen. In single case study research, the opportunity to open a black box arises by looking at deeper causes of the phenomenon (Fiss 2009 ). The case data can lead to the identification of patterns and relationships, creating, extending, or testing a theory (Gomm et al. 2000 ). Potential advantages of multiple case study research are seen in cross-case analysis. A systematic comparison in cross-case analysis reveals similarities and differences and how they affect findings. Each case is analyzed as a single case on its own to compare the mechanisms identified, leading to theoretical conclusions (Vaughan 1992 : 178). As a result, case study research has different objectives in terms of contributing to theory. On the one hand, case study research has its strength in creating theory by expanding constructs and relationships within distinct settings (e.g., in single case studies). On the other hand, case study research is a means of advancing theories by comparing similarities and differences among cases (e.g., in multiple case studies).

Unfortunately, such diverging objectives are often neglected in case study research. Burns ( 2000 : 459) emphasizes: “The case study has unfortunately been used as a ‘catch –all’ category for anything that does not fit into experimental, survey, or historical methods.”

Therefore, this paper compares case study research designs. Such comparisons have been conducted previously regarding their philosophical assumptions and orientations, key elements of case study research, their range of application, and the lacks of methodological procedures in publications. (Baxter and Jack 2008 ; Dooley 2002 ; Dyer and Wilkins 1991 ; Piekkari et al. 2009 ; Welch et al. 2011 ). This paper aims to compare case study research designs regarding their contributions to theory.

Case study research designs will be analyzed regarding their various strengths on a theory continuum. Edmondson and McManus ( 2007 ) initiated a debate on whether the stage of theory fits to research questions, style of data collection, and analyses. Similarly, Colquitt and Zapata-Phelan ( 2007 ) created a taxonomy capturing facets of empirical article’s theoretical contributions by distinguishing between theory-building and theory testing. Corley and Gioia ( 2011 ) extended this debate by focusing on the practicality of theory and the importance of prescience. While these papers consider the whole range of methodological approaches on a higher level, they treat case studies as relatively homogeneous. This paper aims to delve into a deeper level of analysis by solely focusing on case study research designs and their respective fit on this theory continuum. This approach offers a more fine-grained understanding that sheds light on the diversity of case study research designs in terms of their differential theory contributions. Such a deep level of analysis on case study research designs enables more rigor in theory contribution. To analyze alternative case study research designs regarding their contributions to theory, I engage into the following steps:

First, differences between case study research designs are depicted. I outline and compare the case study research designs with regard to the key elements, esp. differences in research questions, frameworks, sampling, data collection, and data analysis. These differences result in a portfolio of various case study research designs.

Second, I outline and substantiate a theory continuum that varies between theory-building, theory development, and testing theory. Based on this continuum, I analyze and discuss each of the case study research designs with regard to their location on the theory continuum. This analysis is based on a detailed differentiation of the phenomenon (inside or outside the theory), the status of the theory, research strategy, and methods.

As a result, the contribution to the literature is a portfolio of case study research designs explicating their unique contributions to theory. The contribution of this paper lies in a fine-grained analysis of the interplay of methods and theory (van Maanen et al. 2007 ) and the methodological fit (Edmondson and McManus 2007 ) of case study designs and the continuum of theory. It demonstrates that different designs have various strengths and that there is a fit between case study designs and different points on a theory continuum. If there is no clarity as to whether a case study design aims at creating, elaborating, extending, or testing theory, the contribution to theory is difficult to identify for authors, reviewers, and readers. Consequently, this paper aims to clarify at which point of the continuum of theory case study research designs can provide distinct contributions that can be identified beyond their traditionally claimed exploratory character.

2 Differences across case study design: a portfolio approach

Only few papers have compared case study research designs so far. In all of these comparisons, the number of designs differs as well as the issues under consideration. In an early debate between Dyer and Wilkins ( 1991 ) and Eisenhardt ( 1991 ), Dyer and Wilkins compared the case study research design by Eisenhardt ( 1989 ) with “classical” case studies. The core of the debate concerns a difference between in-depth single case studies (classical case study) to a focus on the comparison of multiple cases. Dyer and Wilkins ( 1991 : 614) claim that the essence of a case study lies in the careful study of a single case to identify new relationships and, as a result, question the Eisenhardt approach which puts a lot of emphasis on comparison of multiple cases. Eisenhardt, on the contrary, claims that multiple cases allow replication between cases and is, therefore, seen as a means of corroboration of propositions (Eisenhardt 1991 ). Classical case studies prefer deep descriptions of a single case, considering the context to reveal insights into the single case and by that elaborate new theories. The comparison of multiple cases, therefore, tends—in the opinion of Dyer and Wilkens—to surface descriptions. This weakens the possibility of context-related, rich descriptions. While, in classic case study, good stories are the aim, the development of good constructs and their relationships is aimed in Eisenhardt’s approach. Eisenhardt ( 1991 : 627) makes a strong plea on more methodological rigor in case study research, while Dyer and Wilkins ( 1991 : 613) criticize that the new approach “… includes many of the attributes of hypothesis-testing research (e.g., sampling and controls).”

Dooley ( 2002 : 346) briefly takes the case study research designs by Yin (1994) and Eisenhardt ( 1989 ) as exemplars of how the processes of case study research can be applied. The approach by Eisenhardt is seen as an exemplar that advances conceptualization and operationalization in the phases of theory-building, while the approach by Yin is seen as exemplar that advances minimally conceptualized and operationalized existing theory.

Baxter and Jack ( 2008 ) describe the designs by Yin (2003) and Stake ( 1995 ) to demonstrate key elements of qualitative case study. The authors outline and carefully compare the approaches by Yin and Stake in conducting the research process, neglecting philosophical differences and theoretical goals.

Piekkari et al. ( 2009 ) outline the methodological richness of case study research using the approaches of Yin et al. (1998), and Stake. They specifically exhibit the role of philosophical assumptions, establishing differences in conventionally accepted practices of case study research in published papers. The authors analyze 135 published case studies in four international business journals. The analysis reveals that, in contrast to the richness of case study approaches, the majority of published case studies draw on positivistic foundations and are narrowly declared as explorative with a lack of clarity of the theoretical purpose of the case study. Case studies are often designed as multiple case studies with cross-sectional designs based on interviews. In addition to the narrow use of case study research, the authors find out that “… most commonly cited methodological literature is not consistently followed” (Piekkari et al. 2009 : 567).

Welch et al. ( 2011 ) develop a typology of theorizing modes in case study methods. Based on the two dimensions “contextualization” and “causal explanation”, they differentiate in their typology between inductive theory-building (Eisenhardt), interpretive sensemaking (Stake), natural experiment (Yin), and contextualised explanation (Ragin/Bhaskar). The typology is used to analyze 199 case studies from three highly ranked journals over a 10-year period for whether the theorizing modes are exercised in the practice of publishing case studies. As a result, the authors identify a strong emphasis on the exploratory function of case studies, neglecting the richness of case study methods to challenge, refine, verify, and test theories (Welch et al. 2011 : 755). In addition, case study methods are not consistently related to theory contribution: “By scrutinising the linguistic elements of texts, we found that case researchers were not always clear and consistent in the way that they wrote up their theorising purpose and process” (Welch et al. 2011 : 756).

As a result, the comparisons reveal a range of case study designs which are rarely discussed. In contrast, published case studies are mainly introduced as exploratory design. Explanatory, interpretivist, and critical/reflexive designs are widely neglected, narrowing the possible applications of case study research. In addition, comparisons containing an analysis of published case studies reveal a low degree in accuracy when applying case study methods.

What is missing is a comparison of case study research designs with regard to differences in the contribution to theory. Case study designs have different purposes in theory contribution. Confusing these potential contributions by inconsistently utilizing the appropriate methods weakens the contribution of case studies to scientific progress and, by that, damages the reputation of case studies.

To conduct such a comparison, I consider the four case study research approaches of Yin, Eisenhardt, Burawoy, and Stake for the following reasons.

These approaches are the main representatives of case study research design outlined in the comparisons elaborated above (Baxter and Jack 2008 ; Dooley 2002 ; Dyer and Wilkins 1991 ; Piekkari et al. 2009 ; Welch et al. 2011 ). I follow especially the argument by Piekkari et al. ( 2009 ) that these approaches contain a broad spectrum of methodological foundations of exploratory, explanatory, interpretivist, and critical/reflexive designs. The chosen approaches have an explicit and detailed methodology which can be reconstructed and compared with regard to their theory contribution. Although there are variations in the application of the designs, to the best of my knowledge, the designs represent the spectrum of case study methodologies. A comparison of these methodologies revealed main distinguishable differences. To highlight these main differences, I summarized these differences into labels of “no theory first”; “gaps and holes”; “social construction of reality”; and “anomalies”.

I did not consider descriptions of case study research in text books which focus more or less on general descriptions of the common characteristics of case studies, but do not emphasize differences in methodologies and theory contribution. In addition, I did not consider so-called “home grown” designs (Eisenhardt 1989 : 534) which lack a systematic and explicit demonstration of the methodology and where “… the hermeneutic process of inference—how all these interviews, archival records, and notes were assembled into a coherent whole, what was counted and what was discounted—remains usually hidden from the reader” (Fiss 2009 : 425).

Finally, although often cited in the methodological section of case studies, books are not considered which concentrate on data analysis in qualitative research per se (Miles et al. 2014 ; Corbin and Strauss 2015 ). Therefore, to analyze the contribution of case study research to the scientific development, it needs to compare explicit methodology. This comparison will be outlined in the following sections with regard to main methodological steps: the role of the case, the collection of data, and the analysis of data.

2.1 Case study research design 1: no theory first

A popular template for building theory from case studies is a paper by Eisenhardt ( 1989 ). It follows a dramaturgy with a precise order of single steps for constructing a case study and is one of the most cited papers in methods sections (Ravenswood 2011 ). This is impressive for two reasons. On the one hand, Eisenhardt herself has provided a broader spectrum of case study research designs in her own empirical papers, for example, by combining theory-building and theory elaboration (Bingham and Eisenhardt 2011 ). On the other hand, she “updated” her design in a paper with Graebner (Eisenhardt and Graebner 2007 ), particularly by extending the range of inductive theory-building. These developments do not seem to be seriously considered by most authors, as differences and elaborations of this spectrum are rarely found in publications. Therefore, in the following, I focus on the standards provided by Eisenhardt ( 1989 ) and Eisenhardt and Graebner ( 2007 ) as exemplary guidelines.

Eisenhardt follows the ideal of ‘no theory first’ to capture the richness of observations without being limited by a theory. The research question may stem from a research gap meaning that the research question is of relevance. Tentative a priori constructs or variables guide the investigation, but no relationships between such constructs or variables are assumed so far: “Thus, investigators should formulate a research problem and possibly specify some potentially important variables, with some reference to extant literature. However, they should avoid thinking about specific relationships between variables and theories as much as possible, especially at the outset of the process” (Eisenhardt 1989 : 536).

Cases are chosen for theoretical reasons: for the likelihood that the cases offer insights into the phenomenon of interest. Theoretical sampling is deemed appropriate for illuminating and extending constructs and identifying relationships for the phenomenon under investigation (Eisenhardt and Graebner 2007 ). Cases are sampled if they provide an unusual phenomenon, replicate findings from other cases, use contrary replication, and eliminate alternative explanations.

With respect to data collection, qualitative data are the primary choice. Data collection is based on triangulation, where interviews, documents, and observations are often combined. A combination of qualitative data and quantitative data is possible as well (Eisenhardt 1989 : 538). Data analysis is conducted via the search for within-case patterns and cross-case patterns. Systematic procedures are conducted to compare the emerging constructs and relationships with the data, eventually leading to new theory.

A good exemplar for this design is the investigation of technology collaborations (Davis and Eisenhardt 2011 ). The purpose of this paper is to understand processes by which technology collaborations support innovations. Eight technology collaborations among ten firms were sampled for theoretical reasons. Qualitative and quantitative data were used from semi-structured interviews, public and private data, materials provided by informants, corporate intranets, and business publications. The data was measured, coded, and triangulated. Writing case histories was a basis for within-case and cross-case analysis. Iteration between cases and emerging theory and considering the relevant literature provided the basis for the development of a theoretical framework.

Another example is the investigation of what is learned in organizational processes (Bingham and Eisenhardt 2011 ). This paper demonstrates that the case study design is not only used for theory-building, but can also be combined with theory elaboration. Based on the lenses of the organizational knowledge literature, organizational routines literature, and heuristics literature, six technology-based ventures were chosen for theoretical reasons. Several data sources were used, especially quantitative and qualitative data from semi-structured interviews, archival data, observations, e-mails, phone calls, and follow-up interviews. Within-case analysis revealed what each firm has learned from process experience. Cross-case analysis revealed emerging patterns from which tentative constructs and propositions were formed. In replication logic constructs and propositions were refined across the cases. When mirroring the findings with the literature, both the emergences of the constructs were compared and unexpected types were considered. The iteration of theory and data as well as the consideration of related research sharpened the theoretical arguments, eventually leading to a theoretical framework. “Thus, we combined theory elaboration (Lee 1999 ) and theory generation (Eisenhardt 1989 )” (Bingham and Eisenhardt 2011 : 1448).

2.2 Case study research design 2: gaps and holes

Contrary to “No Theory First”, case study research design can also aim at specifying gaps or holes in existing theory with the ultimate goal of advancing theoretical explanations (Ridder 2016 ). A well-known template for this case study research design is the book by Yin ( 2014 ). It is a method-orientated handbook of how to design single and multiple case studies with regard to this purpose. Such a case study research design includes: “A ‘how’ and ‘why’ question” (Yin 2014 : 14). Research questions can be identified and shaped using literature to narrow the interest in a specific topic, looking for key studies and identifying questions in these studies. According to Yin’s design, existing theory is the starting point of case study research. In addition, propositions or frameworks provide direction, reflect the theoretical perspective, and guide the search for relevant evidence.

There are different rationales for choosing a single case design (Yin 2014 : 51). Purposeful sampling is conducted if an extreme case or an unusual case is chosen and if rarely observable phenomena can be investigated with regard to unknown matters and their relationships. Common cases allow conclusions for a broader class of cases. Revelatory cases provide the opportunity to investigate into a previously inaccessible inquiry, and the longitudinal study enables one to investigate a single case at several points in time. A rationale for multiple case designs has its strength in replication logic (Yin 2014 : 56). In the case of literal replication, cases are selected to predict similar results. In the case of theoretical replication, cases are selected to predict contrasting results but for theoretical reasons. Yin provides several tactics to increase the reliability (protocol; data base) of the study.

Yin ( 2014 : 103) emphasizes that interviews are one of the most important sources of data collection but considers other sources of qualitative data as well. Data triangulation is designed to narrow problems of construct validity, as multiple sources of data provide multiple measures of the same phenomenon. Yin ( 2014 : 133) offers a number of data analysis strategies (e.g., case description; examining rival explanations) and analytic techniques which are apt to compare the proposed relationships with empirical patterns. Pattern-matching logic compares empirically based patterns with predicted patterns, enabling further data analysis techniques (explanation building, time series analysis, logic models, and cross-case synthesis). In analytical generalization, the theory is compared with the empirical results, leading to the modification or extension of the theory.

An appropriate model for this case study design can be identified in a paper by Ellonen et al. ( 2009 ). The paper is based on the emerging dynamic capability theory. The four cases were chosen for theoretical reasons to deliver an empirical contribution to the dynamic capability theory by investigating the relationship of dynamic capabilities and innovation outcomes. The authors followed a literal replication strategy and identified patterns between dynamic capabilities of the firms and their innovation outcomes.

Shane ( 2000 ) is an author who developed specific propositions from a framework and examined the propositions in eight entrepreneurial cases. Using several sources of interviews and archival data, the author compared the data with the propositions using the pattern-matching logic, which concluded in developing entrepreneurship theory.

2.3 Case study research design 3: social construction of reality

So far, the outlined case study research designs are based on positivist roots, but there is richness and variety in case study research stemming from different philosophical realms. The case study research design by Stake ( 1995 , 2000 , 2005 ), for example, is based on constructivist assumptions and aims to investigate the social construction of reality and meaning (Schwandt 1994 : 125).

According to this philosophical assumption, there is no unique “real world” that preexists independently of human mental activity and symbolic language. The world is a product of socially and historically related interchanges amongst people (social construction). The access to reality is given through social constructions, such as language and shared meanings: “The meaning-making activities themselves are of central interest to social constructionists/constructivists, simply because it is the meaning-making/sense making attributional activities that shape action or (inaction)” (Guba and Lincoln 2005 : 197). Therefore, the researcher is not looking for objective “facts”, nor does he aim at identifying and measuring patterns which can be generalized. Contrarily, the constructivist is researching into specific actions, in specific places, at specific times. The scientist tries to understand the construction and the sharing of meaning (Schwandt 1994 ).

According to Stake ( 2005 ), the direction of the case study is shaped by the interest in the case. In an intrinsic case study, the case itself is of interest. The purpose is not theory-building but curiosity in the case itself. In an instrumental case study, the case itself is of secondary interest. It plays a supportive role, as it facilitates the understanding of a research issue. The case can be typical of other cases. Multiple or collective case study research designs extend the instrumental case study. It is assumed that a number of cases will increase the understanding and support theorizing by comparison of the cases.

The differentiation by Stake ( 1995 , 2005 ) into intrinsic and instrumental cases guides the purposive sampling strategy. In intrinsic case studies, the case is, by definition, already selected. The researcher looks for specific characteristics, aiming for thick descriptions with the opportunity to learn. Representativeness or generalization is not considered. In instrumental case study design, purposive sampling leads to the phenomenon under investigation. In multiple case study designs, the ability to compare cases enhances the opportunity to theorize.

A case study requires an integrated, holistic comprehension of the case complexity. According to Stake ( 2005 ), the case study is constructed by qualitative data, such as observations, interviews, and documents. Triangulation first serves as clarification of meaning. Second, the researcher is interested in the diversity of perceptions.

Two methods of data analysis are considered in such qualitative case study design: direct interpretation and categorical aggregation (Stake 1995 : 74). The primary task of an intrinsic case study is to understand the case. This interpretation is offered to the reader, but the researcher has to provide the material in a sufficient way (thick descriptions), so that the reader can learn from the case as well as draw his or her own conclusions. Readers can thus make some generalizations based on personal and vicarious experiences (“naturalistic generalization”). In instrumental case studies, the understanding of phenomena and relationships leads to categorical aggregation, and the focus is on how the phenomenon exists across several cases.

Greenwood and Suddaby ( 2006 ), for example, used the instrumental case study design by Stake, combining network location theory and dialectical theory. They identified new dynamics creating a process model of elite institutional entrepreneurship.

Ituma et al. ( 2011 ) highlighted the social construction of reality in their study of career success. The majority of career studies have been conducted in Western countries and findings have been acknowledged as universally applicable. The authors demonstrated that realities of managers in other areas are constructed differently. As a result of their study, they provided a contextually sensitive frame for the analysis of career outcomes.

2.4 Case study research design 4: anomalies

Identifying anomalies as a basis for further research is common in management and organization research (Gilbert and Christensen 2005 ). In case study research, the extended case study method is used for this case study research design (Ridder 2016 ). Following Burawoy ( 1991 , 1998 , 2009 ), the research question derives from curiosity. Researchers normally look at what is “interesting” and what is “surprising” in a social situation that existing theory cannot explain. Initially, it is not important whether the expectations develop from some popular belief, stereotype, or from an academic theory. The extended case study research design is guided by anomalies that the previous theory was not able to explain through internal contradictions of theory, theoretical gaps, or silences. An anomaly does not reject theory, but rather demonstrates that the theory is incomplete. Theory is aimed to be improved by “… turning anomalies into exemplars” (Burawoy 1991 : 10).

The theoretical sampling strategy in this case study research design stems from the theoretical failure in confrontation with the site. According to the reflexive design, such cases do not favour individuals or isolated phenomena, but social situations in which a comparative strategy allows the tracing of differences across the cases to external forces.

In the extended case study, the researcher deals with qualitative data, but also considers the broader complex social situation. The researcher engages into a dialogue with the respondents (Burawoy ( 1991 , 1998 , 2009 ). An interview is an intervention into the life of a respondent. By means of mutual interaction it is possible to discover the social order under investigation. The observer has to unpack those situational experiences by means of participant observation and mutual interpretation. This situational comprehension aims at understanding divergent “voices”, reflecting the variety of respondents’ understandings of the social situation.

As in other sciences, these voices have to be aggregated. This aggregation of multiple readings of a single case is conducted by turning the aggregation into social processes: “The move from situation to process is accomplished differently in different reflexive methods, but it is always reliant on existing theory” (Burawoy 2009 : 41). Social processes are now traced to the external field as the conditions of the social processes. Consequently, this leads to the question concerning “… how those micro situations are shaped by wider structures” (Burawoy 1991 : 282). “Reflexive science insists, therefore, on studying the everyday world from the standpoint of its structuration, that is, by regarding it as simultaneously shaped by and shaping an external field of forces” (Burawoy 2009 : 42). Such social fields cannot be held constant, which undermines the idea of replication. The external field is in continuous flux. Accordingly, social forces that influence the social processes are identified, shaping the phenomenon under investigation. Extension of theory does not target representativeness as a relationship of sample and population. Generality in reflexive science is to reconstruct an existing theory: “We begin with our favorite theory but seek not confirmations but refutations that inspire us to deepen that theory. Instead of discovering grounded theory, we elaborate existing theory. We do not worry about the uniqueness of our case, since we are not as interested in its representativeness as its contribution to reconstructing theory. Our theoretical point of departure can range from the folk theory of participants to any abstract law. We consider only that the scientist consider it worth developing” (Burawoy 2009 : 43). Such elaboration stems from the identification of anomalies and offers new predictions with regard to the theory.

It is somewhat surprising that the extended case study design has been neglected in the management literature so far, and it appears that critical reflexive principles have to be resurrected as they have been in other disciplines (see the overview at Wadham and Warren 2014 ). Examples in the management and organization literature are rare. Danneels ( 2011 ) used the extended case study design to extend the dynamic capabilities theory. In his famous Smith Corona case, Danneels shows how a company tried to change its resource base. Based on detailed data, the Smith Corona case provides insights into the resource alteration processes and how dynamic capabilities operate. As a result, the paper fills a process gap in dynamic capability theory. Iterating between data collection and analysis, Danneels revealed resource cognition as an element not considered so far in dynamic capability theory. The use of the extended case study method is limited to the iteration of data and theory. First, there is “running exchange” (Burawoy 1991 : 10) between field notes and analysis. Second, there is iteration between analysis and existing theory. Unlike Burawoy, who aims to reconstruct existing theory on the basis of “emergent anomalies” (Burawoy 1991 : 11) considering social processes and external forces, Danneels confronts the dynamic capabilities literature with the Smith Corona case to extend the theory of dynamic capabilities.

2.5 A comparison of case study research processes

Commonalities and differences emerged from the comparison of the designs. Table  1 provides a brief summary of these main differences and the resulting portfolio of case study research designs which will be discussed in more detail.

There is an extensive range between the different designs regarding the research processes. In “no theory first”, there is a broad and tentative research question with some preliminary variables at the outset. The research question may be modified during the study as well as the variables. This design avoids any propositions regarding relationships.

On the contrary, the research question in “gaps and holes” is strongly related to existing theory, focusing on “how and why” questions. The existing theory contains research gaps which, once identified within the existing theory, lead accordingly to assumed relationships which are the basis for framework and propositions to be matched by empirical data. This broad difference is even more elaborated by a design that aims the “social construction of reality”. There is no research question at the outset, but a curiosity in the case or the case is a facilitator to understand a research issue. This is far away from curiosity in the “anomaly approach”. Here, the research question is inspired by questioning why an anomaly cannot be explained by the existing theory. What kind of gaps, silences, or internal contradictions demonstrates the insufficiency of the existing theory?

Various sampling strategies are used across these case study research designs, including theoretical sampling and purposeful sampling, which serve different objectives. Theoretical sampling in “no theory first” aims at selecting a case or cases that are appropriate to highlight new or extend preliminary constructs and reveal new relationships. There is a distinct difference from theoretical sampling in the “anomalies” approach. Such a sampling strategy aims to choose a case that is a demonstration of the failure of the theory. In “gaps and holes” sampling is highly focused on the purpose of the case study. Extreme and unusual cases have other purposes compared to common cases or revelatory cases. A single case may be chosen to investigate deeply into new phenomena. A multiple case study may serve a replication logic by which the findings have relevance beyond the cases under investigation. In “social construction of reality”, the sampling is purposeful as well, but for different reasons. Either the case is of interest per se or the case represents a good opportunity to understand a theoretical issue.

Although qualitative data are preferred in all of the designs, quantitative data are seen as a possible opportunity to strengthen cases by such data. Nevertheless, in “social construction of reality”, there is a strong emphasis on thick descriptions and a holistic understanding of the case. This is in contrast to a more construct- and variable- oriented collection of data in “no theory first” and “gaps and holes”. In addition, in contrast to that, the “anomaly” approach is the only design that receives data from dialogue between observer and participants and participant observation.

Finally, data analysis lies within a wide range. In “no theory first”, the research process is finalized by inspecting the emerging constructs within the case or across cases. Based on a priory constructs, systematic comparisons reveal patterns and relationships resulting in a tentative theory. On the contrary, in “gaps and holes”, a tentative theory exists. The final analysis concentrates on the matching of the framework or propositions with patterns from the data. While both of these approaches condense data, the approach of “social construction of reality” ends the research process with thick descriptions of the case to learn from the case or with categorical comparisons. In the “anomaly” approach, the data analysis is aggregation of data, but these aggregated data are related to its external field and their pressures and influences by structuration to reconstruct the theory.

As a result, it is unlikely that the specified case study designs contribute to theory in a homogeneous manner. This result will be discussed in light of the question regarding how these case study designs can inform theory at several points of a continuum of theory. This analysis will be outlined in the following sections. In a first step, I review the main elements of a theory continuum. In a second step, I discuss the respective contribution of the previously identified case study research designs to the theory continuum.

3 Elements of a theory continuum

What a theory is and what a theory is not is a classic debate (Sutton and Staw 1995 ; Weick 1995 ). Often, theories are described in terms of understanding relationships between phenomena which have not been or were not well understood before (Chiles 2003 ; Edmondson and McManus 2007 ; Shah and Corley 2006 ), but there is no overall acceptance as to what constitutes a theory. Theory can be seen as a final product or as a continuum, and there is an ongoing effort to define different stages of this continuum (Andersen and Kragh 2010 ; Colquitt and Zapata-Phelan 2007 ; Edmondson and McManus 2007 ; Snow 2004 ; Swedberg 2012 ). In the following section, basic elements of the theory and the construction of the theory continuum are outlined.

3.1 Basic elements of a theory

Most of the debate concerning what a theory is comprises three basic elements (Alvesson and Kärreman 2007 ; Bacharach 1989 ; Dubin 1978 ; Kaplan 1998 ; Suddaby 2010 ; Weick 1989 , 1995 ; Whetten 1989 ). A theory comprises components (concepts and constructs), used to identify the necessary elements of the phenomenon under investigation. The second is relationships between components (concepts and constructs), explaining the how and whys underlying the relationship. Third, temporal and contextual boundaries limit the generalizability of the theory. As a result, definitions of theory emphasize these components, relationships, and boundaries:

“It is a collection of assertions, both verbal and symbolic, that identifies what variables are important for what reasons, specifies how they are interrelated and why, and identifies the conditions under which they should be related or not related” (Campbell 1990 : 65).
“… a system of constructs and variables in which the constructs are related to each other by propositions and the variables are related to each other by hypotheses” (Bacharach 1989 : 498).
“Theory is about the connections among phenomena, a story about why acts, events, structure, and thoughts occur. Theory emphasizes the nature of causal relationships, identifying what comes first as well as the timing of such events” (Sutton and Staw 1995 : 378).
“… theory is a statement of concepts and their interrelationships that shows how and/or why a phenomenon occurs” (Corley and Gioia 2011 : 12).

The terms “constructs” and “concepts” are either used interchangeably or with different meanings. Positivists use “constructs” as a lens for the observation of a phenomenon (Suddaby 2010 ). Such constructs have to be operationalized and measured. Non-positivists often use the term “concept” as a more value neutral term in place of the term construct (Gioia et al. 2013 ; Suddaby 2010 : 354). Non-positivists aim at developing concepts on the basis of data that contain richness and complexity of the observed phenomenon instead of narrow definitions and operationalizations of constructs. Gioia et al. ( 2013 : 16) clarify the demarcation line between constructs and concepts as follows: “By ‘concept,’ we mean a more general, less well-specified notion capturing qualities that describe or explain a phenomenon of theoretical interest. Put simply, in our way of thinking, concepts are precursors to constructs in making sense of organizational worlds—whether as practitioners living in those worlds, researchers trying to investigate them, or theorists working to model them”.

In sum, theories are a systematic combination of components and their relationships within boundaries. The use of the terms constructs and concepts is related to different philosophical assumptions reflected in different types of case study designs.

3.2 Theory continuum

Weick ( 1995 ) makes an important point that theory is more a continuum than a product. In his view, theorizing is a process containing assumptions, accepted principles, and rules of procedures to explain or predict the behavior of a specified set of phenomena. In similar vein, Gilbert and Christensen ( 2005 ) demonstrate the process character of theory. In their view, a first step of theory building is a careful description of the phenomena. Having already observed and described the phenomena, researchers then classify the phenomena into similar categories. In this phase a framework defines categories and relationships amongst phenomena. In the third phase, researchers build theories to understand (causal) relationships, and in this phase, a model or theory asserts what factors drive the phenomena and under what circumstances. The categorization scheme enables the researchers to predict what they will observe. The “test” offers a confirmation under which circumstances the theory is useful. The early drafts of a theory may be vague in terms of the number and adequateness of factors and their relationships. At the end of the continuum, there may be more precise variables and predicted relationships. These theories have to be extended by boundaries considering time and space.

Across that continuum, different research strategies have various strengths. Several classifications in the literature intend to match research strategies to the different phases of a theory continuum (Andersen and Kragh 2010 ; Colquitt and Zapata-Phelan 2007 ; Edmondson and McManus 2007 ; Snow 2004 ; Swedberg 2012 ). These classifications, although there are differences in terms, comprise three phases with distinguishable characteristics.

3.2.1 Building theory

Here, the careful description of the phenomena is the starting point of theorizing. For example, Snow ( 2004 ) puts this phase as theory discovery, where analytic understandings are generated by means of detailed examination of data. Edmondson and McManus ( 2007 ) state the starting phase of a theory as nascent theory providing answers to new questions revealing new connections among phenomena. Therefore, research questions are open and researchers avoid hypotheses predicting relationships between variables. Swedberg ( 2012 ) highlights the necessity of observation and extensive involvement with the phenomenon at the early stage of theory-building. It is an attempt to understand something of interest by observing and interpreting social facts. Creativity and inspiration are necessary conditions to put observations into concepts and outline a tentative theory.

3.2.2 Developing theory

This tentative theory exists in the second phase of the continuum and has to be developed. Several possibilities exist. In theory extension, the preexisting constructs are extended to other groups or other contexts. In theoretical refinement, a modification of existing theoretical perspectives is conducted (Edmondson and McManus ( 2007 ). New antecedents, moderators, mediators, and outcomes are investigated, enhancing the explanation power of the tentative theory.

3.2.3 Test of theories

Constructs and relationships are well developed to a mature state; measures are precise and operationalized. Such theories are empirically tested with elaborate methods, and research questions are more precise. In the quantitative realm, testing of hypotheses is conducted and statistical analysis is the usual methodological foundation. Recently, researchers criticize that testing theories has become the major focus of scientists today (Delbridge and Fiss 2013 ); testing theories does not only happen to mature theory but to intermediate theory as well. The boundary between theory development and theory testing is not always so clear. While theory development is adding new components to a theory and elaborating the measures, testing a theory implies precise measures, variables, and predicted relationships considering time and space (Gilbert and Christensen ( 2005 ). It will be of interest whether case studies are eligible to test theories as well.

To summarize: there is a conversation as to where on a continuum of theory development, various methods are required to target different contributions to theory (methodological fit). In this discussion, case study research designs have been discussed as a homogeneous set that mostly contributes to theory-building in an exploratory manner. Hence, what is missing is a more differentiated analysis of how case study methodology fits into this conversation, particularly how case study research methodologically fits theory development and theory testing beyond its widely assumed explorative role. In the following section, the above types of case study research designs will be discussed with regard to their positions across the theory continuum.

This distinction adds to existing literature by demonstrating that case study research does not only contribute to theory-building, but also to the development of tentative theories and to the testing of theories. This distinction leads to the next question: is there any interplay between case study research designs and their contributions to the theory continuum? This paper aims at reconciling this interplay with regard to case study design by mirroring phases of a theory continuum with specific types of case study research designs as outlined above. The importance of the interplay between theory and method lies in the capacity to generate and shape theory, while theory can generate and shape method. “In this long march, theory and method surely matter, for they are the tools with which we build both our representations and understandings of organizational life and our reputations” (van Maanen et al. 2007 : 1145). Theory is not the same as methods, but a relationship of this interplay can broaden or restrict both parts of the equation (Swedberg 2012 : 7).

In the following, I discuss how the above-delineated case study research designs unfold their capacities and contribute differently to the theory continuum to build, develop, and test theory.

4 Discussion of the contribution of case study research to a theory continuum

Case study research is diverse with distinct contributions to the continuum of theory. The following table provides the main differences in terms of contributions to theory and specifically locates the case study research designs on the theory continuum (Table  2 ).

In the following, I outline how these specific contributions of case study designs provide better opportunities to enhance the rigor of building theory, developing theory, testing, and reconstructing theory.

4.1 Building theory

In building theory, the phenomenon is new or not understood so far. There is no theory which explains the phenomenon. At the very beginning of the theory continuum, there is curiosity in the phenomenon itself. I focus on the intrinsic case study design which is located in the social construction of reality approach on the very early phase of the theory continuum, as intrinsic case study research design is not theory-building per se but curiosity in the case itself. It is not the purpose of the intrinsic case study to identify abstract concepts and relationships; the specific research strategy lies in the observation and description of a case and the primary method is observation, enabling understanding from personal and vicarious experience. This meets long lasting complaints concerning the lack of (new) theory in management and organization research and signals that the gap between research and management practice is growing. It is argued that the complexity of the reality is not adequately captured (Suddaby et al. 2011 ). It is claimed that management and organization research systematically neglect the dialogue with practice and, as a result, miss new trends or recognize important trends with delay (Corley and Gioia 2011 ).

The specific case study research design’s contribution to theory is in building concrete, context-dependent knowledge with regard to the identification of new phenomena and trends. Openness with regard to the new phenomena, avoiding theoretical preconceptions but building insights out of data, enables the elaboration of meanings and the construction of realities in intrinsic case studies. Intrinsic case studies will enhance the understanding by researcher and reader concerning new phenomena.

The “No Theory First” case study research design is a classic and often cited candidate for building theory. As the phenomenon is new and in the absence of a theory, qualitative data are inspected for aggregation and interpretation. In instrumental case study design, a number of cases will increase the understanding and support building theories by description, aggregation, and interpretation (Stake 2000 ). New themes and concepts are revealed by case descriptions, interviews, documents, and observations, and the analysis of the data enables the specific contribution of the case study design through a constructivist perspective in theory-building.

Although the design by Eisenhardt ( 1989 ) stems from other philosophical assumptions and there are variations and developments in this design, there is still an overwhelming tendency to quote and to stick to her research strategy which aims developing new constructs and new relationships out of real-life cases. Data are collected mainly by interviews, documents, and observations. From within-site analysis and cross-case analysis, themes, concepts, and relationships emerge. Shaping hypotheses comprises: “… refining the definition of the construct and (…) building evidence which measures the construct in each case” (Eisenhardt 1989 : 541). Having identified the emerged constructs, the emergent relationships between constructs are verified in each case. The underlying logic is validation by replication. Cases are treated as experiments in which the hypotheses are replicated case by case. In replication logic cases that confirm the emergent relationships enhance confidence in the validity of the relationships. Disconfirmation of the relationships leads to refinement of the theory. This is similar to Yin’s replication logic, but targets the precision and measurement of constructs and the emerging relationships with regard to the emerging theory. The building of a theory concludes in an understanding of the dynamics underlying the relationship; the primary theoretical reasons for why the relationships exist (Huy 2012 ). Finally, a visual theory with “boxes and arrows” (Eisenhardt and Graebner 2007 ) may visually demonstrate the emerged theory. The theory-building process is finalized by iterating case data, emerging theory, and extant literature.

The “No Theory First” and “Social Construction of Reality” case study research designs, although they represent different philosophical assumptions, adequately fit the theory-building phase concerning new phenomena. The main contribution of case study designs in this phase of the theory continuum lies in the generation of tentative theories.

Case studies at this point of the theory continuum, therefore, have to demonstrate: why the phenomenon is new or of interest; that no previous theory that explains the phenomenon exists; how and why detailed descriptions enhance the understanding of the phenomenon; and how and why new concepts (constructs) and new relationships will enhance our understanding of the phenomenon.

As a result, it has to be demonstrated that the research strategy is in sync with an investigation of a new phenomenon, building a tentative theory.

4.2 Developing theory

In the “Gaps and Holes” case study research design, the phenomenon is partially understood. There is a tentative theory and the research strategy is theory driven. Compared to the theory-building phase, the existence and not the development of propositions differentiate this design along the continuum. The prediction comes first, out of an existing theory. The research strategy and the data have to be confronted by pattern-matching. Pattern-matching is a means to compare the theoretically based predictions with the data in the site: “For case study analysis, one of the most preferred techniques is to use a pattern-matching logic. Such a logic (…) compares an empirically based pattern–that is, one based on the findings from your case study–with a predicted one made before you collected your data (….)” (Yin 2014 : 143). The comparison of propositions and the rich case material is the ground for new elements or relationships within the tentative theory.

Such findings aim to enhance the scientific usefulness of the theory (Corley and Gioia 2011 ). To enhance the validity of the new elements or relationships of the tentative theory, literal replication is a means to confirm the new findings. By that, the theory is developed by new antecedents, moderators, mediators, or outcomes. This modification or extension of the theory contributes to the analytical generalization of the theory.

If new cases provide similar results, the search for regularities is based on more solid ground. Therefore, the strength of case study research in “Gaps and Holes” lies in search for mechanisms in their specific context which can reveal causes and effects more precisely.

The “Gaps and Holes” case study research design is an adequate candidate for this phase of the theory continuum. Case studies at this point of the theory continuum, therefore, have to outline the tentative theory; to demonstrate the lacks and gaps of the tentative theory; to specify how and why the tentative theory is aimed to be extended and/or modified; to develop theoretically based propositions which guide the investigation; and to evaluate new elements, relationships, and mechanisms related to the previous theory (analytical generalization).

As a result and compared to theory-building, a different research strategy exists. While in theory building the research strategy is based on the eliciting of concepts (constructs) and relationships out of data, in theory development, it has to be demonstrated that the research strategy aims to identify new elements and relationships within a tentative theory, identifying mechanisms which explain the phenomenon more precisely.

4.3 Test of theory

In “Gaps and Holes” and “Anomalies”, an extended theory exists. The phenomenon is understood. There is no search for additional components or relationships. Mechanisms seem to explain the functioning or processes of the phenomenon. The research strategy is focused on testing whether the theory holds under different circumstances or under different conditions. Such a test of theories is mainly the domain of experimental and quantitative studies. It is based on previously developed constructs and variables which are the foundation for stating specific testable hypotheses and testing the relations on the basis of quantitative data sets. As a result, highly sophisticated statistical tools enable falsification of the theory. Therefore, testing theory in “Gaps and Holes” is restricted on specific events.

Single case can serve as a test. There is a debate in case study research whether the test of theories is related to the falsification logic of Karl Popper (Flyvbjerg 2006 ; Tsang 2013 ). Another stream of the debate is related to theoretical generalizability (Hillebrand et al. 2001 ; Welch et al. 2011 ). More specifically, test in” Gaps and Holes” is analogous to a single experiment if a single case represents a critical case. If the theory has specified a clear set of propositions and defines the exact conditions within which the theory might explain the phenomena under investigation, a single case study, testing the theory, can confirm or challenge the theory. In sum Yin states: “Overall, the single-case design is eminently justifiable under certain conditions—where the case represents (a) a critical test of existing theory, …” (Yin 2014 : 56). In their survey in the field of International Business, Welch et al. conclude: “In addition, the widespread assumption that the role of the case study lies only in the exploratory, theory-building phase of research downplays its potential to propose causal mechanisms and linkages, and test existing theories” (Welch et al. 2011 : 755).

In multiple case studies, a theoretical replication is a test of theory by comparing the findings with new cases. If a series of cases have revealed pattern-matching between propositions and the data, theoretical replication can be revealed by new waves of cases with contrasting propositions. If the contrasting propositions reveal contrasting results, the findings of the first wave are confirmed. Several possibilities exist to test the initial findings of multiple case studies using different lenses from inside and outside the management realm (Corley and Gioia 2011 ; LePine and Wilcox-King 2010 ; Okhuysen and Bonardi 2011 ; Zahra and Newey 2009 ), but have not become a standard in case study research.

In rival explanations, rival theoretical propositions are developed as a test of the previous theory. This can be distinguished from theoretical replication where contrasting propositions aim to confirm the initial findings. This can, as well, be distinguished from developing theory where rival explanations might develop theory by the elimination of possible influences (interventions, implementations). The rich data enable one to identify internal and external interventions that might be responsible for the findings. Alternative explanations in a new series of cases enable to test, whether a theory “different from the original theory explains the results better (…)” (Yin 2014 : 141).

As a result, it astonishes that theoretical replication and rival explanations, being one of the strengths of case study research, are rarely used. Although the general debate about “lenses” has informed the discussion about theory contributions, this paper demonstrates that there is a wide range of possible integration of vertical or horizontal lenses in case study research design. Case study research designs aiming to test theories have to outline modes of replication and the elimination of rival explanations.

The “anomaly approach” is placed in the final phase of the theory testing, as well. In this approach, a theory exists, but the theory fails to explain anomalies. Burawoy goes a step further. While Yin ( 2014 ) sees a critical case as a test that challenges or contradicts a well formulated theory, in Burawoy’s approach, in contrast to falsification logic (Popper 2002 ), the theory is not rejected but reconstructed. Burawoy relates extended case study design to society and history. Existing theory is challenged by intervention into the social field. Identifying processes of historical roots and social circumstances and considering external forces by structuration lead to the reconstruction of the theory.

It is surprising that this design has been neglected so far in management research. Is there no need to reflect social tensions and distortions in management research? While case study research has, per definition, to investigate phenomena in its natural environment, it is hard to understand why this design has widely been ignored in management and organization research. As a result, testing theory in case study research has to demonstrate that an extended theory exists; a critical case or an anomaly can challenge the theory; theoretical replication and rival explanations will be means to contradict or confirm the theory; and societal circumstances and external forces explain the anomaly.

Compared to theory-building (new concepts/constructs and relationships out of data) and theory development (new elements and relationships within a tentative theory), testing theory challenges extended theory by empirical investigations into failures and anomalies that the current theory cannot explain.

5 Conclusion

Case studies provide a better understanding of phenomena regarding concrete context-dependent knowledge (Andersen and Kragh 2010 ; Flyvbjerg 2006 : 224), but as literature reviews indicate, there is still confusion regarding the adequate utilization of case study methodology (Welch et al. 2011 ). This can be interpreted in a way that authors and even reviewers are not always aware of the methodological fit in case study research. Case study research is mainly narrowed to its “explorative” function, neglecting the scope of possibilities that case study research provides. The claim for more homogeneity of specified rules in case study research misses the important aspect that a method is not a means in itself, but aims at providing improved theories (van Maanen et al. 2007 ). This paper contributes to the fit of case study research designs and the theory continuum regarding the following issues.

5.1 Heterogeneity of case study designs

Although case study research, overall, has similar characteristics, it incorporates various case study research designs that have heterogeneous theoretical goals and use various elements to reach these goals. The analysis revealed that the classical understanding, whereby case study research is adequate for the “exploration” of a theory and quantitative research is adequate for “testing” theory, is oversimplified. Therefore, the theoretical goals of case study research have to be outlined precisely. This study demonstrates that there is variety of case study research designs that have thus far been largely neglected. Case study researchers can utilize the entire spectrum, but have to consider how the phenomenon is related to the theory continuum.

Case study researchers have to demonstrate how they describe new or surprising phenomena, develop new constructs and relationships, add constructs (variables), antecedents, outcomes, moderators, or mediators to a tentative theory, challenge a theory by a critical case, theoretical replication or discarding rival explanations, and reconstruct a theory by tracking failures and anomalies to external circumstances.

5.2 Methodological fit

The rigor of the case study can be enhanced by considering the specific contribution of various case study research designs in each phase of the theory continuum. This paper provides a portfolio of case study research designs that enables researchers and reviewers to evaluate whether the case study arsenal has been adequately located:

At an early phase of the theory continuum, case studies have their strengths in rich descriptions and investigations into new or surprising empirical phenomena and trends. Researchers and readers can benefit from such rich descriptions in understanding and analyzing these phenomena.

Next, on the theory continuum, there is the well-known contribution of case study research in building tentative theory by eliciting constructs or concepts and their relationships out of data.

Third, development of theories is strongly related to literal replication. Strict comparisons, on the one hand, and controlled theoretical advancement, on the other hand, enable the identification of mechanisms, strengthen the notions of causality, and provide generalizable statements.

Fourth, there are specific circumstances under which case study approaches enable one to test theories. This is to confront the theory with a critical case, to test findings of pattern-matching by theoretical replication and discarding rival explanations. Therefore, “Gaps and Holes” provide the opportunity for developing and testing theories through case study design on the theory continuum.

Finally, testing and contradicting theory are not the final rejection of a theory, but is the basis for reconstructing theory by means of case study design. Anomalies can be traced to historical sources, social processes, and external forces.

This paper demonstrates that the precise interplay of case study research designs and theory contributions on the theory continuum is a prerequisite for the contribution of case study research to better theories. If case study research design is differentiated from qualitative research, the intended contribution to theory is stated and designs that fit the aimed contribution to theory are outlined and substantiated; this will critically enhance the rigor of case study research.

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Theory Test Case Study

A case study represents a driving scenario. You will need to read the case study and then answer five questions based on it.

A case study represents a driving scenario. You will need to read the case study and then answer five questions based on it. The questions test whether you have truly understood and can apply the driving theory knowledge in a practical and typical driving situation.

Case Study Example

You are going to visit your cousin who lives in the next town. You have a road atlas in your car although you have been before and know the route really well. You also have your mobile phone and have promised to call your cousin if you get delayed. On the way you find that a country lane you usually travel on is flooded and decide to turn back.

Qu.1 You are on a country lane and see that it is flooded ahead. How can you judge the depth of water? Choose one answer.

A. park at the roadside and wait for another vehicle to drive through

B. drive through slowly and keep checking through the side window

C. look for a depth gauge at then roadside

D. get out of your vehicle and wade in

Correct answer: C

Qu.2 You find that you can't judge the depth of the water so you decide to turn around. The road is quite narrow. The best method of turning would be: Choose one answer.

A. to give a signal and make a quick U-turn

B. turn around in the road using forward and reverse gears

C. reverse back down the country lane until you find a farm entrance to turn into

D. drive slowly forward to a wider section of road to turn around in.

Correct answer: B

Qu.3 You have turned around on the narrow country lane because you can't follow your usual route. The best thing to do to find a new route would be to: Choose one answer.

A. call you cousin to ask for directions as you drive back towards the main road

B. drive on slowly whilst checking your road atlas

C. find a safe place to pull in and consult your road atlas

D. wait until you are back on the main road before calling your cousin for help

Qu.4 On the way back to the main road you are delayed by a slow-moving farm vehicle ahead. You are worried about being late and should: Choose one answer.

A. sound your horn so the driver of the farm vehicle will get out of your way

B. follow the farm vehicle closely so you can overtake at the earliest opportunity

C. pull out to overtake even though the road is very narrow

D. keep well back from the farm vehicle so you can see well ahead

Correct answer: D

Qu.5 You decide to let your cousin know that you will be late. You should: Choose one answer.

A. find a safe place to pull in and make a call on your mobile phone

B. rely on your hands-free kit to keep you safe whilst you make a call

C. stop and get out of your car to make the call

D. drive slowly and send a text message to your cousin

Correct answer: A

The image below shows you how the question will appear when you actually take the theory test.

Theory Test case study


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    Theory Test FAQs. The test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions taken from a bank of over 1000 questions, all based on the Highway Code, the environment, and road safety matters. The questions include a case study - a scenario on which five questions are based. The case study will involve a real-life situation that a driver could face while ...

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    Update 2: Clips removed. www.driving-theory-test.com. Support. Try the new visual case study questions. DVSA introduced the new visual case study questions From 28 September 2020. The way the theory test works in England, Scotland and Wales will changed from 28 September 2020. Currently, these new case study questions are for car theory test.

  7. CPC Case Study

    CPC Case Study Practice Test. There are 10 multiple choice questions in this LGV driver CPC case study practice test. Read the case study carefully and ensure you fully understand the scenario before starting the mock test. There may be more than one correct answer for each question. You need to score 8 out of 10 to pass.

  8. Case Study Questions for the Official Theory Driving Test

    Each question will still be in the multiple choice format as with the other Theory Test questions. You will still need to answer 50 multiple choice questions that are broken down as follows: -. 45 multiple choice questions. 5 multiple choice questions that relate to the case study. The pass mark remains at 43/50.

  9. PCV CPC Module 2 Case Studies

    PCV CPC Module 2 Case Studies. Grace, a driver of a city transit bus in the UK, regularly transports a diverse group of passengers. She has received basic first aid training and is familiar with the first aid kit on her bus. Grace knows the importance of quickly and safely responding to medical emergencies, such as falls, sudden illnesses, or ...

  10. CPC Module 2 Case Study Revision

    Before the test starts, you have 15 minutes to get to grips with how the testing equipment works. This means you will have 75 minutes in which to answer the questions on the case studies. You will be using a Visual Display Unit (VDU) like the one used for the Theory Test. Each case study has between 5 and 10 questions asked about each scenario.

  11. Theory test: cars: Theory test revision and practice

    The multiple-choice questions in the theory test are based on 3 books: The Highway Code. Know your traffic signs. Driving - the essential skills. Study these to learn the rules and skills you'll ...

  12. Theory Test Case Study Videos Questions & Answers All Explained

    I did a twenty-question mock test all about the case study videos. If you didn't know in the theory test, your last three questions are based on videos that ...

  13. How Many Questions are on the 2020 Theory Test?

    There are a total of 50 questions that you'll be asked on the 2020 theory test. Each question is multiple choice where you'll use a mouse to click in a box to select your answer. Some questions will require more than one answer. A message will display if you don't select enough answers. Previously what was included in the 50 questions ...

  14. Theory Test Practice Online 2024

    Free Theory Test. You have 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice driving theory test questions. At least 43 out of 50 questions must be answered correctly in order to pass the test. Answers may be reviewed after each question or you can wait until the end of the test for your final score. Good luck!

  15. Driving Theory Test Case Study 2020

    Enrol onto our new and improved theory course: https://www.lpodtheorytraining.co.uk/courses/theory-courseWelcome to our training course on safety and your ve...

  16. Driving Theory Test (2024)

    Car Mock Test 1. You have 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice driving theory test questions from the latest 2024 question bank. At least 43 out of 50 questions must be answered correctly in order to pass the test. Answers may be reviewed after each question or you can wait until the end of the test for your final score.

  17. Driving Theory Test Practice 2024

    As of 28 September 2020, three out of the 50 questions in your theory test will be based on a short video clip. Below are 9 video clip tests for you to practice with. ... These questions will appear at the very end of the multiple-choice section of the driving theory test. The case study is designed to test your ability to apply your ...

  18. Case Study Questions for the Official Theory Driving Test undated 2020

    Since 28th September 2009 you need to answer a case study-style question as part of your Theory Test. Now from 28th September 2020 Video clips are to replace written scenarios in UK driving theory tests to make them more accessible. (These changes were postponed as the theory test service was closed on 20 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

  19. Theory Test Changes 2020

    What is a Theory Test Case Study? Original theory test case study compared to the new 2020 video case study. The theory test case study is part of the 50 multiple choice questions that make up the first section of the driving theory test. Case studies focus on specific events or scenarios that may potentially happen to you as a driver. After ...

  20. The theory contribution of case study research designs

    Case study research designs aiming to test theories have to outline modes of replication and the elimination of rival explanations. The "anomaly approach" is placed in the final phase of the theory testing, as well. In this approach, a theory exists, but the theory fails to explain anomalies.

  21. Theory Test Case Study

    Correct answer: D. Qu.5 You decide to let your cousin know that you will be late. You should: Choose one answer. A. find a safe place to pull in and make a call on your mobile phone. B. rely on your hands-free kit to keep you safe whilst you make a call. C. stop and get out of your car to make the call.

  22. Theory test practice online

    Getting ready for your DVSA theory test? Practise online for the UK theory test. Skip to main content Main navigation. Theory Test. Theory test 1; Theory test 2; Theory test 3 ... 2020-09-12: New case study questions : 2019-06-11: 14 New CGI Hazard Perception Clips: 2018-06-23: Motorcycle theory test updated: THEORY TEST PRACTICE. Theory test ...

  23. Theory Test Case Study Questions and Answers 2024

    Driving Theory Test Practice Case Study 2024. Free case study theory test questions 2024 to pass theory test case study answers. For mock theory test case study 2024 you must go through real exam. For that we provide case study theory test questions and answers book real test. We discuss in these driver theory test case study questions and answers pdf from different topics like driving case ...


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