The Ground Floor of Government in Context
Edited by Peter Hupe
Chapter 25: Using vignettes in street-level bureaucracy research
The use of vignettes, that is, short stories presenting scenarios, cases or characters, has become widespread in the social sciences. This chapter discusses the use of vignettes in street-level bureaucracy research, both in quantitative and qualitative studies. The author argues that vignettes can be particularly helpful when studying discretion-in-use, as vignettes give the researcher the opportunity to design a specific situation or case (for example, a client) and have street-level bureaucrats evaluate and make decisions with regard to the hypothetical situation or case. Further, vignettes can be used in comparative studies to systematically compare street-level bureaucrats in quite different contexts, as well as in experimental designs to systematically test the impact of a specific characteristic of a situation or a case. The author presents the vignette method and its use for different purposes, while also giving advice on how to design vignettes paying attention to different validity concerns.
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