What Is Case Study Research And How To Conduct It?

case study research

Case study research allows a researcher to explore and understand complex issues through past study reports. If a study requires in-depth, holistic investigation, a case study provides a robust method. Most social sciences recognize this method as a tool and it’s more prominent when investigating issues in education, community, and sociology. Some of the issues that researchers investigate using this research method include unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and drug addiction.

A major reason why scientists recognized case study as one of their research methods is concerns about quantitative methods’ limitations in providing an in-depth and holistic explanation of behavioral and social problems in question. Using case study research design and methods, researchers can exceed quantitative statistical outcomes and understand different behavior conditions from the perspective of the author. Since a case study includes both qualitative and quantitative data, it helps with the explanation of the outcome and process of a phenomenon via complete observation, case analysis, and reconstruction.

What is Case Study Research?

Social science researchers use the term case study to refer to both the analysis method and specific study design for problem examination. And researchers can use both of them to generalize their findings in populations. Case study definition in research describes it as a method that researchers use to closely examine data in a specific context.

When using this method, most researchers select a small number of people or a limited geographical area as the study subjects. Essentially, a case study investigates and explores modern real-life phenomenon via a contextual, detailed analysis of a limited number of conditions or events, as well as, their relationships.

So, what is a case study research? Well, different experts define case study research slightly differently. However, they all agree that it’s an empirical inquiry or investigation into a unit, group of individuals, or a person, aimed at generalizing over more units. It can also mean an empirical inquiry and a research strategy that investigates a specific phenomenon within a real-life context.

The basis of case studies is an in-depth investigation of a group, an event, or a single person to explore the underlying principles’ causes. That’s why some people describe a case study as an exploratory and descriptive analysis of an event, a group, or a person. This research can be multiple or single case study, including quantitative evidence and depending on several evidence sources. What’s more, this study benefits from past theoretical propositions’ development.

Essentially, the case study is a research method in which a researcher analyzes persons, events, groups, events, periods, decisions, institutions, policies, and other systems studied holistically using one or several methods. That’s why some people describe it as an intensive and systematic investigation of the phenomenon by examining in-depth data that relates to different variables.

How to Do Case Study Research

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is a case study in research,” you may want to know how to conduct it. But before doing a case study, it’s crucial to note that this research method is ideal when you want to get contextual, concrete, or in-depth knowledge of a real-world subject. With this method, you can explore the main characteristics, implications, and meanings of a case. Here’s a step-by-step guide for using the case study research method.

  • Develop a thesis: Start by developing a thesis statement. This should be a statement that will keep your research focused. It also enables you to engage in manageable research depending on your resources or time.

  • Choose a case: Once you have a thesis statement and case study research questions, select the case to focus on. Your case should provide unexpected or new insights into a subject. It should also complicate or challenge existing theories or assumptions. What’s more, it should propose practical actions for solving the problem. It can also open new directions to guide future studies.

  • Create a theoretical framework: A case study should focus on concrete details instead of general theories. It should have a connection with a field’s theory. That’s why it’s integrated into the existing topic knowledge rather than an isolated description. Therefore, focus on exemplifying a specific theory, expanding a theory, or challenging a theory.

  • Collect data: Case study research design and methods enable researchers to gather information about their subjects. When gathering qualitative data, researchers use methods like observations, primary and secondary sources analysis, and interviews. In some cases, a researcher can college quantitative data.

  • Analyze and describe the case: When writing a case study research paper, bring together relevant aspects and provide a complete, clear picture of your subject. The report of the findings should depend on your research type. You can structure your case study like a scientific thesis or paper, with separate chapters or sections for methods, results, and analysis or discussion. You can also use a narrative style with a focus on exploring the case from different angles while analyzing the implications and meanings.

Limitations and Benefits of Case Study Research

A researcher needs a single case study when studying a specific phenomenon caused by one entity. That’s because one case study can enable a researcher to understand the phenomenon in detail. And this may involve collecting different data types.

However, a researcher may need multiple case studies when they need a more in-depth comprehension of cases as a single unit via the comparison of differences and similarities of individual cases in the quintain. More often, multiple case studies provide more reliable and stronger evidence than a single case study research. What’s more, case study qualitative research that involves multiple cases enhances comprehensive theory development and research questions’ exploration.

In summary, the benefits of a case study include:

  • Allowing a researcher to gather a great deal of data

  • Allowing the researcher to gather information on unusual or rare cases

  • Allowing a researcher to create hypotheses that they can explore through experimental research

But, a case study as a research method has its limitations. One of the limitations of case study research design is data volume. This research method yields data that researchers find difficult to analyze and organize. What’s more, a researcher needs to think through the integration strategies carefully.

In some cases, this research method can tempt a researcher to veer off the focus. Additionally, some researchers find reporting all findings from different case studies challenging. And this happens when a researcher has to refer to journal papers.

Here’s a summary of the limitations of a case study:

  • Not necessarily possible to generalize to a larger population

  • May not show causes and effects

  • Might not be rigorous scientifically

  • Can create bias

Despite the limitations of this study method, researchers use it to explore recently discovered or unique phenomenon. That’s because it provides insights they can use to develop more study questions or ideas that they can explore in their future studies.

Types of Case Study Research

Researchers like psychologists can use different approaches when it comes to case studies. Here are some of the types of this research method.

  • Collective case study: This entails the study of an individuals’ group. A researcher can study a group of individuals within a setting or consider the entire community.

  • Descriptive case study: This approach entails using a descriptive theory to start. After that, the researcher observes the subjects while gathering and comparing the information with a pre-existing theory.

  • Exploratory case study: A researcher can use this research case study method as a prelude for more in-depth research. It enables a researcher to get more information that enables them to develop research hypotheses and questions.

  • Explanatory case study: Researchers often use this type of research to conduct casual investigations. Thus, the researcher’s focus is not on factors that may have led to certain things.

  • Intrinsic case study: A researcher uses this case study type when they have a personal interest in a specific case. A good example of case study research in this category is when a parent observes their children based on a psychological theory.

  • Instrumental case study: This can happen when a group or an individual allows the researcher to comprehend more than the observers consider obvious.

The choice of the case study type should depend on the characteristics of a situation and the case itself. If unsure about the effectiveness of a case study type in your situation, check some case study research questions examples for each category. That way, you will know the case study type that can best answer the research questions that you have in mind.

Get Help With Case Study Research

Case study research methodology entails an in-depth investigation of a group, a person, or an event. Using this methodology, a researcher investigates almost all aspects of the history and life of the subject. They also analyze information about their subjects to seek behavior causes and patterns. Different fields, including, education, medicine, psychology, social work, political science, and anthropology use this research method. The goal of this methodology is to acquire information in one case and generalize it to others. However, this research method has limitations that researchers should consider. What’s more, researchers should consider different case study types to use ones that suit their situations.

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