EIASM Advanced Doctoral Course on Case Studies in Business and Management

Time and place: December 4-9, 2023, Aalto University, Helsinki

Learning goal and objectives:

The purpose of this course is to introduce doctoral students from Europe and around the world to the diversity of ways of conducting case study research and to improve their own research practice. It aims to provide an overview of recent trends and debates on the case study in management and organization research.

This course will focus on issues that are often left out of methodology courses and training, notably: What are the different views on the theoretical contribution that a case study can make, and what lies behind these differences? As researchers, how can we theorize from case studies? How do ontological and epistemological assumptions affect views about case study quality and design? What is the ‘disciplinary convention’ regarding the case study in your own field of research, and why does it matter? What are your options when writing up your case study for publication? What are the current trends in case research in top management journals? What can management researchers learn from case study trends in other fields, such as political science? As a case researcher, how can you best defend your methodological choices? Detailed lecture notes and handouts will be provided and examples from top journals will be collectively analyzed by course participants.

This course has a strong focus on the process and practice of conducting case studies which necessitates interaction with fellow students and faculty. It is intended for doctoral students who conduct or at least are considering whether to conduct case study research and who have already passed an introductory research methods course.

After this course, students will be able to evaluate case research with increased confidence, enhance their own case study design and justify their methodological choices.

We have taught PhD courses on the case study at the Aalto University, the University of Sydney as well as at institutions in five other countries since 2007. 

Instruction and examination:

The course consists of the following elements:

  • Pre-assignment: please find and bring to the first seminar a case study-based article you admire from an academic journal in your field. Be prepared to discuss a) on what basis you decided this was a case study and b) why you think this is a quality piece of research.
  • Participation (20%): We will assess your participation and contribution to class discussion during the course.
  • Analysis of a PhD thesis (30%): You will be asked to analyse and present in teams of three students from different disciplines to analyse a case-study based PhD thesis. The purpose of this assignment is to reflect upon the seminar’s themes and apply your understanding of key methodological issues to the analysis of the PhD thesis. Formation of teams and the schedule for presentations will be decided upon during the first week. Each team will be able to choose a thesis to analyse.
  • Individual written essay (50%): For this task, you will be required to submit a written analysis of the philosophical underpinnings and methodological choices of a qualitative article published in a top management journal (8-10 pages double-spaced)

Credits: 6 ECTS


Participation in and contribution to class discussion: 20%

PhD thesis analysis/presentation in groups: 30%

Individual written essay: 50%


We recommend that students have taken a basic course in qualitative methodology and introduction to philosophy of science as this is an advanced course


Interested doctoral students should register online (and add the required documents) no later than September 10, 2023. Besides doctoral students, other researchers may participate. The number of participants will be limited to create a stimulating environment. The selection among the applicants will be conducted by the Institute’s Faculty. They will review the following documents which should necessarily complement each application form:

  • the applicant’s curriculum vitae demonstrating his/her capabilities of doing research;
  • a letter of recommendation of his/her local faculty supporting the application;
  • a two-page description of his/her doctoral research, indicating the general objectives, Students should outline the methodological approach of their proposed study.

(Please indicate at the end of your document whether you need the credits for your degree or not)

In case there are more applicants than places, students will be selected on the basis of:

1) the quality of their application, including motivation for undertaking the course and a discussion of how they are using the case study (or a related qualitative method) in their own research

2) their stage in the PhD program: given that this is an advanced course, preference for students who are not in their first year of study

3) relevance: preference for students who are using the case study approach (or something related) in their own research


Professor Rebecca Piekkari, Aalto University School of Business, FIN-00100 Helsinki, Finland (Programme Coordinator & Faculty)
E-mail: rebecca.piekkari@aalto.fi

Rebecca Piekkari is Professor of International Business at the Aalto University, School of Business (formerly Helsinki School of Economics) in Finland. She has published on qualitative research methods, particularly on the use of case studies in international business. Her most recent book entitled Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research was co-edited with Catherine Welch and published by Edward Elgar in May 2011. During the past few years, she has also developed a special interest in multilingual organisations and the methodological challenges associated with fieldwork that crosses language boundaries. Rebecca has worked as Visiting Professor at several well-known business schools and universities and taught the case study particularly to PhD students.

Professor Catherine Welch, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
E-mail:  welchc@tcd.ie

Catherine Welch is Professor of Strategic Management at  Trinity College Dublin.. She has a longstanding interest in qualitative research methods, and at the moment her research lies in applying process approaches to the study of firm internationalization. Together with Rebecca Piekkari, she has edited two volumes on qualitative research published by Edward Elgar: Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International Business (2004) and Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research (2011). She has published on numerous aspects of doing qualitative research, including interviewing, writing up and the case study. She, Rebecca Piekkari and their co-authors have published their work on the case study in Organizational Research Methods, Journal of International Business Studies, International Journal of Management Reviews and Industrial Marketing Management. She has taught PhD-level courses on the case study in six countries.

Course coordinator and contact information:

Valentina Arrieta, valentina.arrieta@aalto.fi