case study research design

case study research design

Importance of Case Study Research Design

1. Introduction to Case Study Research Design

Another strength of case studies is that they can provide an in-depth and detailed analysis of a single and small entity, be that entity a person, a small group, a specific event, or a particular situation. Since a case study is designed to look closely at an entity, it usually uses several different methods of data collection to produce rich and extensive findings. Depth is a well-known aspect of a case study. There are often many longitudinal data collection methods and data that comes from many sources, allowing for a great depth of data collection. This depth is a benefit as much can be learned that was unclear before. This is particularly useful as case studies are often used as pilot studies for further large-scale research. The detailed data collection methods mean that since the study is so detailed, future research would not have to spend time on preliminary data collection due to all data already being available. Thus, it can fill the gaps that arise from other inquiries, which is particularly useful if testing a hypothesis generated from a previous case study. He Yin, a Chinese economist, gave the example of China’s economic reforms in the 1980s where widespread reforms were made in 70% of China’s provinces. He claimed that the only way to look at the exact effects of these reforms was on each province individually using a case study.

Firstly, one clear strength of the case study is that it can generate hypotheses for later testing. Gersick (1988) says that researchers can use case studies to help make the argument for new theories being valuable and even necessary by testing them in the real world. This is done by testing the theories on the case being studied and seeing whether they soundly predict the events that occur. If the case study shows that a theory is only partially sound, it can be adjusted and then tested again. This was seen clearly by the work of Kogut and Zander (1995), which generated their case of the evolution of theory in a longitudinal manner to ensure accurate observation and alteration of the theory. This method of hypothesis generation is not possible in a large N study where the most that can be done with a theory is look for statistical confirmation as to its probable accuracy. Therefore, case studies are good to generate hypotheses because they allow researchers to take their theories into the field, look for areas where the theory has tested negatively, and then refine the theory in the light of these new findings.

2. Benefits of Using Case Study Research Design

In general, a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, when the boundaries between the phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used (Yin, 1984, p. 23). The case study is the one research design that can be used in its original form. Most other research designs, in contrast, are adaptations, modifying one or more of characteristics. Benefits of case study research is used to gain a deep understanding of the central phenomenon. It can be used to explore causal mechanisms in the real life context using many different types of evidence either looking for differences within the case, or different cases, the case study can capture variation that other research methods cannot due to the investigation of contemporary events, and it is, by nature flexible. A further benefit to case study research is the detailed conditions in which it can produce, for example. the WHO Global Programme on AIDS case study of Brazil produced detailed accounts in the form of summaries about the epidemiological and health policies knowledge useful to researchers, practitioners and the people in that country.

3. Key Components of Case Study Research Design

Given the various different types of case study and the different advantages, utilizing a method section to write out the study is very important. It declares what type of case study is being conducted and also guides the implementation of the study. Types of case study can be categorized by the different research objectives. These four types are: illustrative case studies (describe familiar events in order to give people a common insight into an issue), exploratory case studies (these are about an event that has not been looked into in detail before, and the aim is to give the researcher a clear view and understanding), instrumental case studies (this type of case study is used to understand something more in depth and the case in consideration could act as a lead into a general understanding), and the most common and difficult to achieve: the multiple or collective case study. In this type of case study, more than one case is used to study the same issue in order to compare the cases and draw conclusions. This type of case study can also be subdivided into an intrinsic case study (where the aim is to understand the case, and nothing else) and a holistic case study (this studies just one case but does it in depth, with the aim to understand the whole).

A case study is an in-depth investigation of a particular instance in order to understand it as a phenomenon. It is best understood in its natural context. This is an appropriate method to use when an investigation is taking place on a topic that has not been investigated extensively, and there is a need to get a detailed understanding in its context. This type of research is also good to employ when the researcher has little or no control over the events, and when there is a contemporary phenomenon involved. This is certainly the case within healthcare, with the introduction of a new policy or a new health innovation; the impact of which could be a case study in itself. Another reason one might use a case study is if the research question concerns a complex issue, a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question for which a detailed explanation is needed. A case study is particularly useful in the situation of testing some well-formulated hypotheses on the cause and effect relationships between variables.

Selecting a research design is based on the research question and issues that one wants to answer. Different types of research designs are available and the major ones are: experimental, quasi-experimental, causal comparative, correlational, case study, and action research.

4. Limitations of Case Study Research Design

4.2 Lack of Statistical Significance: This is an issue depending on the type of case study and its on the more clinical/population-based side of the spectrum. For instance, it would be a problem for an intrinsic case study on the incidence of religious experiences in multiple cultures, while it may not be a concern for a collective case study on the impact of deregulation of the airline industry.

4.1 Selection Bias: This is a problem particularly with embedded case studies in which the researcher is working with a smaller case to begin with and the case is selected because of its similarities to other cases (for multiple case studies). Should this occur, there is a risk for the findings of the study to no longer be applicable to the original case that was selected.

The fourth section of your essay on case study research, “Limitations of Case Study Research Design,” is an especially important part of the essay. This is where you have the opportunity to explain to readers in great detail just what your case study is going to accomplish, particularly if it does not answer the research question and solve the problem with the finality that they would like. This is also the place to tell readers if they can expect your results to have any real generalizability. Finally, you need to remember that this is primarily a part of your essay in which the goal is to convince readers that the results that your case study will achieve are valid. This being the case, you should be comfortable with the research strategy that you have chosen to use and perhaps also prepare yourself for a situation in which your study may be replicated or generalized to different populations at some point in the future.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

Reaching a consensus on the matter was thought near impossible until a recent re-analysis of the method provided a different view on its reliability. This was a new take on the issue, discussing the reliability of a case study as a type of study and what could make it reliable or not, rather than just the reliability of its data. With the standardization of the various types of case study design came the idea that if the method and framework of a case study is standardized, it can be repeated for the same topic to produce the same result. The use of multiple case studies on various topics, it was thought, could also highlight patterns to show that a similar result is achievable across all cases. This is contrasted with earlier this decade, where the reliability of a case study was measured by a so-called trait. For example, ethnographic case studies to study cultural traits of a particular group, a fixed-standard approach would not suit such flexible research. This development has seen researchers and scholars provide an affirmative answer to case study reliability, a trait thought impossible a mere decade ago.

The issue of reliability in case study research design has over the years been a long and winding road. It was not until recently that a consensus on the matter was reached. It had been claimed that case studies were subjective, had low reliability, and that they were hard to replicate because the amount of variables on which a case study is based is too great. From as early as 1991, the quest to find an effective method to study the reliability of a case study was proving to be elusive. Stephenson (1991) suggested earlier that a common framework to standardize case studies would be the best means to achieve reliability. This was supported by Hammersley and Gomm, who published their find in the book Case Study Method. Hammersley claimed the best way to achieve reliability within a case study was to compare it with another case study result on the same topic to see if they were similar. Earlier, they had suggested creating a replicable case study.

The case study method is linked with several benefits and advantages in comparison to an experimental design and other qualitative research tools. It is a method often used to give a well-rounded qualitative description of a complex issue or practice. Case study research design’s relevance to the research question is an important issue. The case study research design is also useful for testing whether a specific theory and model actually applies to phenomena in the real world. It is a useful design for testing whether historical frameworks can be applied to contemporary events and issues. Formulations of case study questions, whether that question is descriptive, explanatory, or exploratory, has been identified as being a critical part of the case study research (Mariano, 1993; Stake, 1994) because the types of questions will steer the design and method of the case study. This issue is then linked to the identification of the unit of analysis. This can define how a case suitably represents a topic that is being studied. Stake (1994) suggests that case study is a method for empirical inquiry which investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context when the boundaries between the phenomenon and the context are not clearly evident and in which multiple sources of evidence are used. Aiming to provide a thorough understanding of a phenomenon, this suggests that a case should be sampled for its intrinsic characteristics. (study) It has been said the unit of analysis is the main factor that differentiates case studies across all social science disciplines.

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