approach to discovery of a more limited set of potentially important factors is essential (Glaser and Strauss, 1967).
Naturalistic field methods allow researchers a practical method of casting nets wide enough to minimize the chance of missing important contributing factors and yet focused enough to make it possible to do useful and timely work. This process unfolds in practice through an iterative process of conceptualization and data-gathering in which research questions and operations are continually refined as initial data analyses suggest subsequent data-gathering, ideally until the data themselves appear to reach a point of saturation, at which point subsequent data add very little to the overall picture (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). The naturalistic approach allows researchers to test any theoretical notions they have brought to the field against the perceptions of social actors in that field as well as to invite the social actors to nominate other potentially important factors. This systematic approach to discovery, while it does not eliminate the possibility that researchers may ignore important factors or impose biases as a result of preexisting theoretical predispositions, helps to minimize those risks.
While the working group of researchers on this project engaged in a minimum of discussion of these fundamental aspects of case study research, it is probably fair to say they shared many of these methodological assumptions as a result of past research experience. Prior to entering the field to collect data, they did engage in a concerted collective effort to identify a common set of theoretical categories for which data would be sought. For the most part, this effort was successful. (See the introduction to Part I for a list of the categories used. The work of Katherine Newman and her research team in generating the initial set of categories was particularly helpful for the entire working group.)
A notable aspect of the working group’s ongoing effort to identify and gather data for a common set of categories across the cases is the hierarchical, nested structure of the categories, including community-level, situational, and individual-level factors (see Figure A-1). The emergence of this hierarchical, nested structure was the outcome of a pragmatic group process of defining the task at hand. It was not the result of a preexisting set of theoretical orientations shared among a group of researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including sociology, anthropology, education, and psychiatry. Yet there is ample precedent for this kind of theoretical structure in a number of fields, including the study of violence. This appendix next discusses some of the intellectual roots of this approach, not because the particular scholarly traditions to be discussed were explicitly invoked during the process, but because the theories to be discussed help make explicit key issues that this enterprise