The Epistemological Relevance of Case Studies as Narratives in Design-Based Research


  • Tina Emmler Universität Paderborn
  • Petra Frehe-Halliwell



Case study, phenomenological understanding, Walter Benjamin, Writing in Research, Reflective Writing


In the context of empirical-phenomenological research various text products are created. Practitioners develop concepts, methods, techniques, etc. to solve certain problems that have arisen in their workplace. Actors of science accompany these problem-solving processes and support them by developing materials or scientific inputs. In addition, they strive to understand the field of practice and to grasp its structures and (interpretation) patterns. In order to make this possible a knowledge management is necessary with the help of which the text products resulting from the research and development process are produced and interpreted (Emmler 2015). Here, the importance of the case study[1] for the development of (new) knowledge is analysed. Normally, case studies are only considered to be by-products created during DBR. However, we believe that case studies do not only serve as an instrument for communicating project content to others, but are a medium for the researchers themselves to ascertain their own learning processes that take place in the exploration of the field of research.

This paper aims to be the initial point for a methodological discussion on the thesis that (a) case studies as narrative text products contribute to an understanding of phenomena as underlying structures of the field of practice and that (b) they are one part of a two-fold research process in which they are the basis for the reflection of experiences. Therefore, we invite you to follow us on a journey to the discipline of arts, especially to Walter Benjamin, a famous writer and translator who, in the year 1923, discovered the differences in writing a poem and translating into another language. Both processes ask for writing competences which at first glance seem to be very similar, but at the second reveal their diametrical opposition. We suggest to adopt Benjamin’s explanations to the writing processes in DBR. In DBR it is the world of science on the one hand and the field of practice on the other that make a translation necessary: the languages applied in both fields differ, although the people working there might all belong to one and the same nationality which might allow them to communicate with the people from the other “world”. However, this does not mean that researchers understand the practice and the emerging phenomena per se. A translation between the worlds is necessary. For this, the case study is the first step.





How to Cite

Emmler, T., & Frehe-Halliwell, P. (2020). The Epistemological Relevance of Case Studies as Narratives in Design-Based Research. EDeR. Educational Design Research, 4(1).