Our goal is to develop an on-line, cross - platform and transdisciplinary application which will enable an examination of diverse case studies and a cross-case comparison of research. We introduce fields of analysis which should provide the basis for comparing and contrasting case studies within and from different disciplines. In order to permit this functionality, we constructed, on the server side, an online database that contains tables for storing analyzed condensed data, and, on the user side, web pages that provides a visual display of the information and user interface for communication and interaction with the database.
4C Database version 2.0 is written in rubyonrails. Ruby is an object oriented programming language and Rails is an open source Ruby framework for developing database-backed web applications.
4C database version 1.0 was evaluated by a group of case study researchers in April 2006. We collected and analyzed the evaluation results to determine what to include in the next generation of the the 4C database (version 2.0). Findings indicate that case study researchers wanted to (a) personalize and contextualize case studies based on their own view and research interest and (b) share, recommend, and discuss case studies among themselves.
The current version of the database (version 2.0) incorporates these recommendations and adds several innovative design features to support a cross case analysis process that is both personal and adaptable. The new design takes advantage of the use of tags to provide researchers with the capacity to connect and identify the relationships between case studies in the database.
In order to allow researchers to contribute case studies to the 4C repository, the system provides each researcher with a personal library in which they can add the case studies that they are interested in. The system provides users with a set of pre-defined fields (e.g. title, focus, purpose, and research tool) to express the case studies. Researchers can also include case studies contributed by other researchers (from the public library) into their own personal library and further personalize them through assigning personal attributes (tags) and annotations. This personal library can be modified and updated at any time by its owner. Instead of limiting researchers to using only a set of pre-defined keywords to categorize and relate the case studies the 4C application allows them to create their own personal keywords (tags) and assign them to the case studies. The use of tags will allow the researchers to judge, label and relate different case studies. The provided support for personalized tags increases the flexibility and extensibility of the prototype database by providing researchers with the means to associate cases using terms that are meaningful to them and search these case studies using these terms.
In the 4C version 2.0, the case study researchers should be able to:
LAST PHASE: (Jan 2007 -)
4C's development concluded in 2007; however, we have maintained the site as a legacy site so that visitors can continue to view its pages and interact with cases.
March-4. The signup procedure was changed. In order to obatain an account with 4C users first need to be approved by the 4C admin.
Feb-17. The 4C forum development was completed. In the 4C forum, members can start a new discussion topic, reply to a posted topic, view all posted topics, view topic posted by a particular member, view topics posted by themselves.
Jan- 15. Access to the database was restricted to members only. Non logged-in people can only see the about page.
PHASE III: (September 2006 - December 2006)
Development of tutorials, faqs, and about pages was completed. These provide information about the 4C database, its features, as well as how to use them.
PHASE II: (May 2006 - August 2006)
PHASE I: (Jan 2006 - April 2006)
By the end of this phase the 4C database supported creation of personal spaces for case study researchers to create/modify/search their own case studies as well as creation of a public space which allows case study researchers to share/view/compare all members' case studies.
4C Database version 1.0 was utilized MySQL relational database to store the data and PHP programming language to display the studies and enable data search and analysis.
The 4C Database version 1.0 allows the followings:
The 4C database does not aim to substitute for existing qualitative research software, such as NUD'IST, NVIVO, ATLAS and HyperResearch. The main disadvantage of the existing qualitative research software is that it is a desktop application which does not allow accessing information outside one's computer. The goal for our online application is concentrated on finding patterns among studies instead of finding patterns within a single study.