Entering a Dialogue: Positioning Case Study Findings towards Theory

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Abstract

Demonstrating a theoretical contribution is seen as a central challenge in case study research; however, the literature provides little guidance on the crucial step of positioning the study's theoretical claims in relationship to prior theory. This paper addresses the question of how to enter into a dialogue with extant theory in theory building case study research in the field of management. We present three ways of positioning to demonstrate a theoretical contribution, illustrating each with examples from recent case studies drawing on the dynamic capabilities approach. By distinguishing between seeking complementarities and dissimilarities in theory building, we add to this discussion and shed light on the benefits of entering a synergistic, antagonistic and pluralistic dialogue for making a significant theoretical contribution. Methodologically, we more fully specify how case study researchers can elaborate upon their theoretical claims in relation to prior theory.

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