What is a Case Study?
A case study is a detailed examination of a single person, organization, or event. It examines practically every aspect of a person’s life and background to find patterns and reasons for behavior.
Case studies are valuable in many domains, including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.
The hope is that the knowledge learned from one case example can be applied to various others. Unfortunately, case studies are often subjective, making it difficult to extrapolate findings to a larger population.
When should you conduct a case study?
When you wish to gather concrete, contextual, and in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject, a case study is an ideal research design. It enables you to investigate the case’s essential qualities, meanings, and ramifications.
Case studies are frequently an excellent alternative for a thesis or dissertation.
When you don’t have the expertise or patience to conduct extensive research and qualitative data collection, they keep your project focused and achievable.
What is the purpose of case studies?
Case studies can be used to explain, describe, or analyze occurrences or phenomena in their everyday surroundings.
The case study method is particularly suited to gathering information.
The case study method might provide additional insights into gaps in its delivery or why one implementation technique may be preferred over another. The case study can, in turn, aid in the refinement of theory or theory development.
When deciding on the best study design, examine whether it is desirable or even practicable to conduct a formal experimental investigation. Individuals and organizations are assigned to an intervention or control arm.
Case studies can be approached in various ways depending on the behavioral research groups philosophical standpoint, whether they take a critical, questioning oneself and others’ assumptions, interpretivism, attempting to understand collective and individual connotations, or positivist, orienting towards natural science criteria, such as concentrating on generalisability considerations.
While such a schema can be conceptually useful, using more than one approach in every case study may be appropriate, especially when conducting health services research.
Doolin, for instance, has emphasized that when conducting interpretative case studies, researchers can benefit from a critical, reflective approach that strives to account for the larger social and political milieu that has created the instance.
Types of Case Studies
Psychologists and other researchers may use a variety of case studies, including the following:
1. Collective case study
What is a case study that is collective?
A collective case study consists of more than one case, which may or may not overlap physically with other instances.
A collective case study can be carried out in a single location (for example, a school, hospital, or university) by examining several different departments or other units at that location.
2. Descriptive case study
What is a case study that is descriptive?
A descriptive case study is a tale about a real-life context that people or organizations faced and how they dealt with it.
A descriptive case study includes a concise but in-depth account of the facts of the situation, as well as expert commentary to help the readers understand the roots of the problem, the forces driving the solution, the outcomes of implementation, lessons learned, and connections to relevant theories, concepts, policies, and tools.
Descriptive cases are instructional resources, not research papers.
They necessitate research, yet the research provides ideas and material for the case study.
3. Explanatory case study
What is a case study that is explanatory?
The explanatory case study is concerned with explaining an issue or a phenomenon.
In a nutshell, an explanatory case study is 1 + 1 equals 2. The outcomes are not open to interpretation. A case study with a person or group would not be explanatory because humans will always be variations.
4. Explaratory case study
What is a case study that is exploratory?
The exploratory case study analyses different phenomenas distinguished by a lack of extensive preparatory research, particularly stated hypotheses that can be tested, and a distinctive research setting that restricts the choice of approach.
5. Instrumental case study
What is a case study that is instrumental?
An instrumental case study examines a case to gain insight into a specific situation, establish generalizations, or construct theories.
The case aids comprehension of something else in instrumental case research.
6. Intrinsic case study
What is a case study that is intrinsic?
An intrinsic case study investigates a case (e.g., a person, a specialized group, a vocation, a department, or an organization). The process-oriented case study itself is of main interest.
The case is secondary in an instrumental case study to analyze a specific topic, the development of theory, or the redrawing of generalizations.
An intrinsic case study is often conducted to learn about a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.
On the other hand, the instrumental case study uses a specific example of a case (some of which may be better than others) to obtain a larger understanding of an issue or phenomenon.
Writing a Case Study
A case study can also be conducted in various ways, including prospective and retrospective case study methodologies.
Methods used in prospective case studies involve observing a person or a group of people to identify outcomes.
Researchers may begin with a specific outcome, such as examining information about the individual’s real-life context.
Then go back to diseases to identify risk factors that may have led to the illness’s genesis. Historical data analysis is a part of retrospective case study methodologies.
Conducting Health Services Research
The scientific examination of the usage, costs, delivery, and consequences of health care treatments or services for people and populations is known as health services research.
The open-access journal BMC Medical Research Methodology includes original peer-reviewed research papers on methodological approaches to healthcare research.
Health services research systematically seeks information that will lead to advancements in the delivery of health-related case studies.
Complex Health Service Research
Case study research has probably not been used to its full potential in evaluating complex electronic health records, and it can learn a lot from other fields.
EHR (electronic health record systems) evaluation and usage for public health surveillance has rised as well. Much of this usage has been centered on infectious illness surveillance, with fewer examples concentrating on electronic health record system data for chronic disease surveillance.
Exploratory case studies
It has traditionally provided data on ‘process’ or initial ‘hypothesis-generating scope’ for evaluative research, but they may be becoming more important for explanatory objectives.
Choose a case
After you’ve created your problem statement and research questions, you should be able to select the specific example that you wish to focus on.
An excellent case study should be capable of:
- Giving new or surprising perspectives on the subject.
- Existing assumptions and theories should be challenged or complicated.
- Offer practical solutions to an issue.
- Open up new avenues for future investigation.
Unlike statistical or experimental research, a strong case study does not necessitate a random or representative sample. Case studies frequently intentionally focus on unique, ignored, or outlying situations that may throw new insight into the research subject.
The decision on how to select the case to analyze is a critical one that deserves significant thought. The case in an intrinsic case study is chosen on its own merits.
Consider the possible load and dangers of involvement for people who will be a part of the case study in advance.
Create a theoretical foundation
While case studies are more focused on specific facts than general ideas, they should always connect to theory development in the subject.
The case study could aim to:
- Demonstrate a hypothesis by demonstrating how it explains the case under examination.
- Extend a theory by discovering new concepts and ideas that must be included.
- Examine an outlier case study that does not fit with general assumptions with theory testing.
- To guarantee that your case analysis has a solid academic foundation, do a literature review of relevant sources and construct a theoretical framework.
Gather your data
You can acquire data about your subject using a variety of research approaches.
Case studies typically concentrate on qualitative research through interviews (real-life context, observations, and secondary sources of information, such as newspaper articles, photographs, and official records). A case study may also use quantitative methods for data collection.
The goal is to get as complete a knowledge of the case studies and their circumstances as possible.
Words are used to express qualitative research. It is utilized to comprehend ideas, thoughts, or experiences. This form of study allows you to gain in-depth knowledge about issues that are not generally known.
Interviews with open-ended inquiries, observations reported in words, and literature studies that investigate concepts and theories are all common qualitative research approaches.
Experiments, observations recorded as numbers, and surveys with closed-ended questions are examples of common quantitative procedures.
To develop a detailed understanding of the case, the case study approach typically includes acquiring multiple data sources, employing a variety of quantitative methods (e.g., research questions, audits, and analysis of evidence-based routinely collected healthcare data).
An underlying premise is that data collected in diverse ways should lead to comparable findings. Examining the same subject from different perspectives might aid in developing a comprehensive picture of the phenomenon.
The gathering, analyzing, and interpreting of non-numerical data, such as language, is qualitative research.
Qualitative research may be used to understand better how a person experiences and interprets their social world.
Qualitative research is a market research technique that focuses on gathering information through open-ended and conversational communication.
The qualitative methods seek to understand “what” people think and “why” they think that way. Consider a convenience shop that wants to increase its customer base.
Describe and examine the situation
How you report your findings is determined by the sort of study you conduct. Multiple case studies are organized in the same way as a typical scientific paper or thesis, with different sections or chapters for the techniques, results, and discussion.
When writing the case study, analyzing qualitative data collected to identify the issue as feasible is important.
Others are written in a more narrative style to conduct a comparative case study from many perspectives.
And analyzing their meanings and consequences, for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis.
Provide contextual information about the case, tie it to literature and theory, and explore how it fits into larger patterns or disputes.
Making sense of and providing a coherent interpretation of often different data sources (whether qualitative research alone or a combination of qualitative methods and quantitative methods) is important.
The repeated evaluation and sorting of the copious and detail-rich qualitative data analysis is an essential part of the process.
Data must be organized and coded for the important concerns obtained from the literature and appear from the information to be easily retrieved later.
An initial coding frame can assist in capturing these concerns and can be applied methodically to the entire dataset using a qualitative data analysis software tool.
The findings of case studies can have ramifications for both theory development and theory testing.
Meanwhile, these theoretical lenses should not be used as a straitjacket, and situations should not be “pressed to fit” the particular theoretical framework used.
When describing findings, it is critical to offer the reader adequate natural, real-life context to understand the procedures used and how the findings were reached.
Researchers in a collaborative case study may present the findings from individual cases before combining them across instances.
Researchers can obtain data about an individual or a group with commonly qualitative techniques or various sources and approaches. The following are four major sources that researchers have identified:
1. Archival records
Archival records include census records, survey records, and name lists, to name a few.
2. Direct observation
In this method, the subject is seen in a natural situation. While a solo observer is sometimes utilized, a group of observers is more typical.
Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, and other documents are commonly utilized as sources.
One of the essential strategies for acquiring information in multiple case studies is through interviews. Structured survey questions or more transparent questions can be used in an interview.
4. Participant observation
Participant observation would be if a researcher acts as a participant in a particular activity and observes the behaviors and outcomes.
What is a Case Study: Benefits and Drawbacks
A case study can have both advantages and disadvantages. Before deciding whether or not this form of study is acceptable for their purposes, researchers must weigh the benefits and drawbacks.
One of the most significant advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to analyze difficult or impossible phenomena to recreate in a laboratory.
Other advantages of a case study:
- Allows researchers to acquire a large amount of data.
- Allow researchers to gather data on rare or atypical cases.
- Allows researchers to come up with theories that can be tested in experiments.
- It is not always possible to extrapolate to a bigger population.
- Cannot show a link between cause and consequence
- It’s possible that it’s not scientifically sound.
- Can result in bias
- If researchers want to learn more about a unique or recently found phenomenon, they can conduct a case study.
- The knowledge acquired from the primary research interest can then help researchers develop new ideas and research questions to pursue in future studies.
What are the potential roadblocks in a case study, and how should they be avoided?
Case study research has indeed been chastised for its lack of scientific rigor and for offering no basis for generalization, such as creating conclusions that may be transferrable to other contexts.
What is a Case Study: Conclusion
Critical events, interventions, policy changes, and program-based service improvements, among other things, can be researched in detail in a real-life environment using the case study approach.
It should thus be addressed when an experimental design is either improper or impossible to conduct case study research questions.
Given the frequency with which innovations are increasingly being implemented in health research and how well the case study technique lends itself to in-depth understanding, complex health service research, we feel this methodology should be studied more broadly by academics.
When writing a case study, you should also include a section discussing the case study itself, emphasizing its merits and limitations.
It would be best if you considered how your case study conclusions might support earlier research.
Though inherently difficult, the research case study can give profound insights into many critical health and healthcare delivery elements if thoroughly conceptualized, undertaken, and documented.
I hope this article on “what is a case study” provided you with all the necessary information.