VALUE OF THE CASE STUDY APPROACH

The strengths and weaknesses of the case study approach are discussed in detail in Appendix A. For this study, the committee sees them as valuable in helping people to understand and respond to instances of lethal violence in schools and school rampages. The case descriptions reveal important possible causes and points of intervention that might never have been considered by social scientists working with general models of violence and relying on statistical information to guide their understanding of causes and solutions. To some degree, thick description of events allows for a different kind of causal analysis than is possible by using large samples of superficially described events. In sum, the cases present a different method for developing ideas about causes and potential interventions. Indeed, in looking at phenomena that are very rare and cannot be studied in laboratories, it may be that thick description is the only viable way of learning much about the likely causes or potentially important interventions.

The value of the cases goes beyond their value as evidence in the scientific process of finding causes and effective interventions. The cases are valuable as stories to be used by communities as they make their own judgments about the nature of this threat, what they ought to do to prevent it, and how they ought to react to it if a school shooting should occur in their midst. Despite the enormous advances of scientific knowledge, this probably remains the principal way that most people facing real problems continue to try to learn. We present these cases with the hope that they will support learning in the nation’s communities when they are used in formal and informal discussions about the problems of lethal violence in schools and school rampages, as well as when they are used as part of a more elaborate and formalized method of scientific inquiry into these matters.

NOTE

1  

Within the broad outline of the template developed by the committee, the field work for the case studies was conducted and the studies were signed by the case authors as independent researchers. The case authors determined who to interview and what records to review, and each team independently arrived at the findings and conclusions in the individual case studies. Moreover, only the case authors had access to interview transcripts on which these cases are based. The authors were responsible for compliance with the protection for human subjects consistent with the institutional review boards approvals as described.



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