A Quick Guide to Case Study - Research Prospect

A Quick Guide to Case Study

Published by at August 14th, 2021 , Revised On November 5, 2021

A case study is a documented history and detailed analysis of a situation concerning organisations, industries, and markets.

A case study:

  • Focuses on discovering new facts of the situation under observation.
  • Includes data collection from multiple sources over time.
  • Widely used in social sciences to study the underlying information, organization, community, or event.
  • It does not provide any solution to the problem.

When to Use Case Study? 

You can use a case study in your research when:

  • The focus of your study is to find answers to how and why questions.
  • You don’t have enough time to conduct extensive research; case studies are convenient for completing your project successfully.
  • You want to analyse real-world problems in-depth, then you can use the method of the case study.

You can consider a single case to gain in-depth knowledge about the subject, or you can choose multiple cases to know about various aspects of your research problem.

What are the Aims of the Case Study?

  • The case study aims at identifying weak areas that can be improved.
  • This method is often used for idiographic research (focuses on individual cases or events).
  • Another aim of the case study is nomothetic research (aims to discover new theories through data analysis of multiple cases).

Types of Case Studies

There are different types of case studies that can be categorised based on the purpose of the investigation.

Types of Case Study Definition Example
Explanatory case study Explanatory research is used to determine the answers to why and how two or more variables are interrelated. Researchers usually conduct experiments to know the effect of specific changes among two or more variables. A study to identify the impact of a nutritious diet on pregnant women.
Exploratory case study Exploratory research is conducted to understand the nature of the problem. It does not focus on finding evidence or a conclusion of the problem. It studies the problem to explore the research in-depth and covers such topics that were not considered before. An investigation of the growing crimes against women in India.
Descriptive case study Descriptive research is carried out to describe real-life situations, programs. It provides information about the issue through surveys and various fact-finding methods. The widespread contaminated diseases in a specific area of the town. Investigation reveals that there is no trash removal system in that area. A researcher can hypothesize why the improper trash removal system leads to the widespread of contaminated disease.
Intrinsic case study This type of case study is conducted to get an in-depth understanding of a specific case. A case study of the academic performance of class 12th students.
Instrumental case study This type of case study supports other interests by providing a base to understand other issues. The challenges of learning a new language can be studied in a case study of a bilingual school.
Collective/Multiple case study A researcher focuses on a single issue but selects multiple cases. It aims at analyzing various cases. A researcher repeats the procedures for each case. If you want to research the national child care program, you also need to focus on a child’s services agencies, reasons for child labour, or abandonment, as they may be separate cases that are interrelated to your case. These multiple cases may help you find your primary research question answers and uncover various other facts about the other relevant cases.
Longitudinal cumulative case study Researchers collect the information at multiple points in time. Usually, a specific group of participants is selected and examined numerous times at various periods. A researcher experiments on a group of women to determine the impact of a low-carb diet within six months. The women’s weight and a health check-up will be done multiple times to get the study’s evidence.

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How to Conduct a Case Study?

Step1: Select the Case to Investigate

The first step is to select a case to conduct your investigation. You should remember the following points.

  • Make sure that you perform the study in the available timeframe.
  • There should not be too much information available about the organization.
  • You should be able to get access to the organization.
  • There should be enough information available about the subject to conduct further research.

Step2: Formulate the Research Question

It’s necessary to formulate a research question to proceed with your case study. Most of the research questions begin with how, why, what, or what can

You can also use a research statement instead of a research question to conduct your research which can be conditional or non-conditional. 

Case Topic Research Question Research Statement
The process of decision making of men between 25-40 years How do men between 25 and 40 decide whether to set up their own business or continue their job? What factors influence their decision? There is a difference between decision-making among the men of 25-30 years of age related to their career options.
The experience of 25-40 years while choosing their career options whether to set up their business or take a job. How do men of 25-40 years of age describe their experiences of doing a job and running their own business? Do these experiences influence their decision-making related to their career? Men of 25-30 years of age share various experiences related to their field of work. These experiences play a crucial role in deciding on their career.
The decision-making of 25-40 years of age attending various seminars of career guidance. How do men of 25-30 years of age attending various career guidance seminars describe their decision-making related to their career? Men of 25-30 years of age attending various career guidance seminars describe their career decision-making experiences.

Step 3: Review of Literature

Once you formulate your research statement or question, you need to extensively review the documentation about the existing discoveries related to your research question or statement.

Step 4: Choose the Precise Case to Use in Your Study.

You need to select a specific case or multiple cases related to your research. It would help if you treated each case individually while using multiple cases. The outcomes of each case can be used as contributors to the outcomes of the entire study. 
You can select the following cases. 

  • Representing various geographic regions
  • Cases with various size parameters
  • Explaining the existing theories or assumptions
  • Leading to discoveries
  • Providing a base for future research.

Step 5: Select Data Collection and Analysis Techniques

You can choose both qualitative or quantitative approaches for collecting the data. You can use interviewssurveys, artifacts, documentation, newspapers, and photographs, etc. To avoid biased observation, you can triangulate your research to provide different views of your case. Even if you are focusing on a single case, you need to observe various case angles. It would help if you constructed validity, internal and external validity, as well as reliability.

Example:
Identifying the impacts of contaminated water on people’s health and the factors responsible for it.
You need to gather the data using qualitative and quantitative approaches to understand the case in such cases.

Construct validity: You should select the most suitable measurement tool for your research. 

Internal validity:  You should use various methodological tools to triangulate the data. Try different methods to study the same hypothesis.

External validity: You need to effectively apply the data beyond the case’s circumstances to more general issues.

Reliability:  You need to be confident enough to formulate the new direction for future studies based on your findings.

Also Read: Reliability and Validity

Step 6: Collect the Data.

Beware of the following when collecting data:

  • Information should be gathered systematically, and the collected evidence from various sources should contribute to your research objectives.
  • Don’t collect your data randomly.
  • Recheck your research questions to avoid mistakes.
  • You should save the collected data in any popular format for clear understanding.
  • While making any changes to collecting information, make sure to record the changes in a document.
  • You should maintain a case diary and note your opinions and thoughts evolved throughout the study.

Step 7: Analyze the Data.

The research data identifies the relationship between the objects of study and the research questions or statements. You need to reconfirm the collected information and tabulate it correctly for better understanding. 

Step 8: Prepare the Report.

It’s essential to prepare a report for your case study. You can write your case study in the form of a scientific paper or thesis discussing its detail with supporting evidence. 

A case study can be represented by incorporating quotations, stories, anecdotes, interview transcripts, etc., with empirical data in the result section. 

You can also write it in narrative styles using textual analysis or discourse analysis. Your report should also include evidence from published literature, and you can put it in the discussion section.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Study

Advantages Disadvantages
  • It’s useful for rare outcomes.
  • An ample amount of information is obtained with few participants.
  • Helps in developing strong reading, analytical, and planning skills.
  • Develops analytical thinking.
  • It consumes a lot of time compared to other research methods.
  • It cannot estimate the incidence of disease.
  • Limited results can be studied.
  • The information obtained can be biased.

About Alvin Nicolas

Nicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.