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Article contents

Qualitative research and case studies in public administration.

  • Jason L. Jensen Jason L. Jensen Institute of Policy and Business Analytics, University of North Dakota
  •  and  Laura C. Hand Laura C. Hand College of Business and Public Administration, University of North Dakota
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.1747
  • Published online: 29 November 2021

Public administration has experienced academic growing pains and longstanding debates related to its identity as a social and administrative science. The field’s evolution toward a narrow definition of empiricism through quantitative measurement has limited knowledge cumulation. Because the goal of all scientific endeavors is to advance by building upon and aggregating knowledge across studies, a field-level point of view eschewing traditional dichotomies such as qualitative/quantitative debates in favor of methodological pluralism allows for examination of both the art and science of public administration.

To accomplish this, traditional notions of quality, namely rigor, must be reconceptualized in a way that is appropriate for the philosophical commitments of a selected methodology. Rigor should focus on the accuracy, exhaustiveness, and systematicity of data collection and analysis. This allows for quality judgments about the degree to which the methods resulted in evidence that addresses the research questions and supports stated conclusions. This is a much broader approach to rigor that addresses multiple types of inquiry and knowledge creation. Once the question of rigor is not limiting the types of research done in the field, attention can be turned to the ways in which high-quality studies can contribute to knowledge cumulation.

Case studies can be used as an example of a field-level point of view, as they have the ability to utilize abductive reasoning to consider both the whole (the entire case) and the particular (factors that contribute to outcomes, processes, or theories). Case studies explore the relationship between context-independent theories and context-dependent factors using different types of data collection and analysis: a triangulation of sorts. They can test theories in multiple ways and create or suggest new theories. Considering field-level questions as a case study and synthesizing findings from multiple related studies, regardless of methodology, can help move the field forward in terms of its connection between theory and practice, art and science.

  • methodological pluralism
  • case studies
  • qualitative methods
  • metasynthesis
  • public administration and policy

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Case Study: Impact of Leadership on Governance in Public Administration

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Case studies in public management and administration

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Home > ETD > Doctoral > 5589

Doctoral Dissertations and Projects

Ethics as a stand-alone course for ph.d. in public administration.

Daniel Scott , Liberty University Follow

Helms School of Government

Doctor of Philosophy

Eugene Belmain

public administration, experiential learning, Ph.D., ethics


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration

Recommended Citation

Scott, Daniel, "Ethics as a Stand-Alone Course for Ph.D. in Public Administration" (2024). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects . 5589. https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/doctoral/5589

Ethics is an essential aspect of society and public administration (PA). Despite being an essential aspect of PA, ethics courses are not universally integrated into higher education programs. Few higher education institutions have adopted a comprehensive approach to ethics, and ethics courses are not required for most doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) graduates in PA. The purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand the ramifications of not having a stand-alone ethics course in PA Ph.D. programs. The research questions that guided this study are: What are the ramifications of not having a stand-alone ethics course in PA Ph.D. programs? What are the perceived gaps in ethical knowledge among graduate students from PA Ph.D. programs without a stand-alone ethics course? What are the similarities and differences of the Ph.D. PA program ethics courses? Applying Kolb’s experiential learning (EL) theory provided this study with a theoretical underpinning. Data to answer the research questions were collected by 12 semi-structured interviews, two focus groups, and document analysis. Braun and Clarke’s six-step thematic data analysis process was applied, resulting in identifying the themes to answer the research questions. The six themes identified are: Limited ability to overcome complex ethical dilemmas, a deficit in ethical awareness and sensitivity, limited conceptual understanding, uncertainty balancing multiple ethical obligations, course structure, and integration with other courses. The findings in this study have empirical, theoretical, and practical implications.

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