I’m confused about which research methodology I should pick for my PhD research proposal. My research is focused to studying the experience of Indian immigrants working in the middle east as manual labourers or as domestic staff. It will include discussing their experience of immigration and the process of cultural assimilation in the new country and will be primarily undertaken through interviews with expatriates. I cannot figure out whether I should adopt the case study research method or the ethnographic research method for my proposed topic since according to me both of them will be used for my research.
According to me the research method for your chosen topic will be decided according to the sample size of your research, if you choose to base it on interviews with less than 5 people, then it can be termed as case study research and if you choose to base it on a larger group, such as a substantial number of the expatriate population living in a particular country then it can be termed as an ethnographic study, since you will be looking at the immigrant community as a whole.
Apart from the differences listed in the last answer on this thread according to me there are other substantial differences between the two research methodologies. Ethnographic research is mainly used when the objective is to study and observe an entire cultural group, in their natural habitat and to observe patterns of shared value systems and traditions. Often such research is undertaken through participant observation and the researcher’s interpretation of the cultural group in question.
Case study research on the other hand is mainly used when the intention is to use a particular case as an illustration, to sort of prove a point. It is done when you have to discuss an issue in a fixed context and system, through two-three cases. Case study research is popular in fields like psychology( if you have heard of Freud’s famous case-studies),and in medicine and law.
I think that it will be better if you adopt the case study research method for your work, or you can choose to combine the two as well, it needn’t have to be a case of either/or. The reason why I’m advising you to go for the case-study approach is because for this you will only have to do interviews with a few expatriates and that will be all. Ethnographic research on the other hand is much more detailed and time-consuming since it requires a lot of field work. Going by your topic if you decide to do an ethnographic study you will have to spend a considerable amount of time within the immigrant community, as a participant observer to for your research. For an ethnographic study the time-line is much longer as compared to other qualitative research approaches.