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We shall now analyze a case in a first approximation at empirically testing the theoretical propositions above. We have opted for the method of the case study. This method is appropriate for answering “how” and “why” questions (Yin, 1984), and the central questions of this chapter are “how” and “why” IT influences in network formation. Moreover, when the expected results are not tangible (for example, obtaining knowledge from another member of the network, or gaining from its reputation), it is clear that we have to develop a qualitative study (Rouse & Daellenbach, 1999). The relations between firms are so complex and abstruse that qualitative methods must be used in order to understand the key concepts and their interrelations (Parkhe, 1993).
The option of the case study is also recommended by Eisenhardt (1989), Bonache (1999), and Lee (1999), who pointed out that this method is appropriate for creating and exploring new theoretical frameworks. In this sense, Borch and Arthur (1995) argued that generating new theory in complex and dynamic systems, such as networks, requires a methodology that contributes to increasing the contextual analysis. These authors recommend the case study method in particular for researching strategic networks.
According to Bonache (1999), the case study methodology for explanatory studies (1) does not separate the phenomenon from its context (Yin, 1984); (2) is based on a preliminary theoretical model, and has the objective of building theory and obtaining a more complete explanatory model; (3) chooses the cases for reasons of theory rather than for statistical representativity; (4) looks for objectivity via triangulation (Yin, 1984), with more sources of evidence than quantitative studies; (5) allows the researcher to be more flexible in the research process (Stoecker, 1991), which is useful in the process of constructing and refining the theory (Sutton, 1997); and (6) leads to theoretical deductions from the fieldwork using analytical induction, rather than using statistical generalizations for a population. In this chapter, we do not aim for a statistical generalization, rather we attempt to generalize the theory, that is, we want an analytical generalization (Yin, 1984).
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