The Monographic Method and the Case Study Method
Because of the need to polish the generated theoretical concept, it became necessary to select a research strategy, which - on the one hand - would enable the application of the concept in question, and - on the other - would allow us to apply scientific reasoning, albeit without the necessity to satisfy the condition of the representativeness of the sample with regard to the population. The above criteria are fulfilled by the monographic method, the benefit of which is its assumption on the isolation of substantive parts (whole) of a considerable size from the general reality, which are characterized by relative independence from their surroundings, as well as internal differentiation and multidimensionality (i.e. they are structures comprising elements with lower degrees of complication). From the perspective of research on COs, which are an example of formations which are distinctly separate from their surroundings (by way of their formalization) and internally differentiated (by way of comprising entities of different specificity) - the adoption of such a theoretical basis with a view to further study was completely justified. Another benefit of the monographic method is that it is performed with a view to exploring the relationship between the parts and the whole and understanding the principles of their functioning, as well as the dynamics of the whole; an approach which is harmonious with the principle of the dynamic nature of the analyzed cluster cooperation. As the result of the application of this method in the research of COs, it was possible to expect to arrive at a relatively comprehensive, complete description of the analyzed organizations from the perspective of the generated concept.
The application of monographic analysis also requires the fulfillment of specific conditions, among which is the necessity to comply with the principle of historicism, according to which each subject researched with the use of this method must have a strict spatial, temporal, and cultural location. From the perspective of research practice, this translates to the necessity to formally define the spatial, temporal and cultural boundaries of the studied phenomena, with a view to becoming certain that the results of the study which follows will be correctly assigned to the appropriate category. This is tied to the fact that the application of the monographic method does not lead to broad generalizations made on the basis of results derived from large random samples, but rather, results in a relatively comprehensive scientific description of a strictly selected minor part of the population.
The study at hand combined the monographic method with the research strategy of a case study (Yin, 2014). Case studies are a research strategy which pertains to the in-depth research of a selected program, event, activity, process, person, or group of people. In its course, varied procedures are applied to collect data over a longer time period (Stake, 2005). The strength of this strategy rests in the fact that it applies a deepened outlook on the analyzed case within the day-to-day context of its functioning (Yin, 2014). To develop Yin’s thought further, it can be said that when the desire to clarify the picture of a given situation or phenomenon and understand its essence and specificity by remaining close to the phenomenon at hand is at least among one of the goals set before the study, it is precisely the case study method which provides a stable foundation to perform direct observations and collect data in neutral conditions from the perspective of the phenomenon or situation in question.
The study with the use of the case study method was prepared in three steps proposed by Yin, which enabled the authors to precisely define the subject of the study and the scope of actions required to capture its essence. In the first step, the authors defined the studied objects, i.e. the COs. In the second step, they decided between two general variants of case analysis: single- and multiple case studies. The authors decided against using the monographic method in its narrower scope (i.e. based strictly on a single case study) in favor of a multiple case study, i.e. the creation of a series of monographs which are then considered together. Each of the three selected COs was subject to a study with the use of the same tool, which - on the one hand - enabled the researchers to derive conclusions characteristic for the entire group of COs in question, and - on the other - to account for the inter-cluster differentiation of results in the study conclusions. The third step mentioned by Yin - the adoption (or rejection) of the perspective of one of the scientific theories/theore- tical concepts a certain lens, through which the analysis proper would be conducted - was performed almost “automatically” because of the fact that the fundamental objective of the study was the application of the described theoretical concept of the trajectory of the development of cooperative relationships to the analysis of selected COs. In effect, this conditioned the research procedure and the selection of the data collection, use and interpretation techniques.