Using a case study methodology for my research allowed me, according to Cohen et al (2000), to "portray, analyse and interpret the uniqueness of real individuals and situations through accessible accounts". As a participant observer within this specified group of students, those with specific learning disabilities, I have been able to catch the holistic complexity and "situatedness of behaviour" and represent reality by giving a sense of becoming involved by actually being there (p 79).
One of the advantages of a case study is that the boundaries between phenomenon and context merge because it deals with how things happen and why, within their real life context and without attempting to control these events. By using questionnaires as well as direct observations, interviews and on-line journals as documentation, I was able to incorporate both formal and informal instruments in a similar way to an ethnographic study, but without having to become fully immersed in the group's lives, as an ethnographer does.
To overcome the critics' argument that the case study methodology lacks reliability, I used multiple sources of data to look at converging lines of inquiry resulting from triangulation (Mathison, 1988). Anderson (1990) considers the case study to be one of the most difficult methods to do well, but agrees that it is highly data based because it incorporates a wide range of data from separate methodologies, and strives for reliability and validity, as does any other research method.
Because there is an emphasis on understanding, as a case study researcher I needed to be a good listener and observer as well as being adaptable, flexible, inquiring and unbiased with a good knowledge of the relevant literature. By using both quantitative and interpretive approaches, greater credibility can be given to the findings obtained from a selection of different data collection methods (Fraser & Tobin, 1991).