Case study research: The view from complexity science

Ruth A. Anderson, Benjamin F. Crabtree, David J. Steele, Reuben R. McDaniel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Many wonder why there has been so little change in care quality despite substantial quality improvement efforts. Questioning why current approaches are not making true changes draws attention to the organization as a source of answers. The authors bring together the case study method and complexity science to suggest new ways to study health care organizations. The case study provides a method for studying systems. Complexity theory suggests that keys to understanding the system are contained in patterns of relationships and interactions among the system's agents. They propose some of the "objects" of study that are implicated by complexity theory and discuss how studying these using case methods might provide useful maps of the system. They offer complexity theory, partnered with case study method, as a place to begin the daunting task of studying a system as an integrated whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-685
Number of pages17
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Case study methods
  • Complexity science
  • Health care organizations
  • Research


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