define case study

define case study

The Importance of Case Studies in Research

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1. Introduction

Case study is a well-organized and scientific way of doing research on a specific subject under a certain phenomenon. During the conducting of case study research, the researcher will first find an illustrative case and then compare this instance to the already existing theory, which provides a better understanding of the conducted research. In casuistry, the main aim is to develop theory. This involves seeking a pattern by comparing a theory with an instance. The criterion of success is the ability to find and test theories. Case study deals with qualitative and quantitative methods for data analysis, depending on the kind of problem and case. With the correct path, the decision to use the qualitative research method for a case often advances to a need to know how to apply qualitative methods to analyze and interpret data. A case study is an empirical approach to explore a phenomenon within its real-life context. It is a method of studying in depth rather than breadth. The case can be an instance of a class of phenomena, actions, programs, decisions, or a process of social change. The case is a bounded system. This means that the case has clearly determined edges with the aim to define the area of interest and search for these boundaries within the research questions. Case study emphasizes the detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their relationship.

2. Benefits of Case Studies

To start with the significance of case learning, it helps a person to develop a disciplined mind and thinking. He is helped in doing this as he is taught how to think logically and how to separate a fact from an assumption. A case study is one of the best training methods to get a student to execute a real examination of a particular event, period, or an institution. It is a research methodology and has been reconsidered as a type of analysis. It is the investigation and exploration of an event thoroughly and deeply. Case study provides the scholar with an opportunity to come to terms with reality, therefore it is no surprise that in competitive field as the field of learning, case study gains the approval teaching real life situations. Case studies give people a chance to utilize what they know, or what they think they know, in a secure environment. They can apply their learning to a realistic situation and learn from the results of their actions. This is the result of constructed conditions. This method is one of the most valuable options in teaching a wide range of intellectual services skills, particularly in decision analysis. This enables one to draw lessons on decision and action effectiveness.

3. Steps to Conduct a Case Study

After reading the literature on your case, it would be wise to find one or more theories that provide a background to your case. If there is too much information to read, a theory that is relevant to the research question, then develop a framework for the questions so it is easier to understand what the question is asking. Choosing a theory or developing a framework will prevent you from forgetting what it is you are trying to discover and will keep you on track.

One of the best sources for understanding the theory and concepts behind your case is to read and compare it to the existing literature. By doing so, it will provide insight as to whether your case is unique or similar to other cases. Reading the existing literature will help you choose the right case and will provide a greater understanding of the chosen case.

Once you have formulated your research questions/reason for your case study, conducted the appropriate literature review, and have an understanding of the theory/concept behind your study, the next step is to choose your case. There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration before choosing your case.

4. Limitations of Case Studies

Internal and external validity: Preoccupation with X-File type explanations may distract the researcher from considering alternative explanations for findings, and case studies often focus on unusual events which may have limited generalizability – another threat to internal validity. High levels of subjective interpretation reduce reliability, and data may not be replicable. In terms of reliability and validity, single case designs are often questioned compared to a study that can reproduce the same results more than once. A good case study will be able to reproduce the same results. However, reliability and validity are less of an issue for collective case studies where the research merely wants to investigate a certain topic across a number of cases.

Cross-sectional studies: Control is often difficult as the groups may differ in unknown ways. Case studies that do not follow a formal research method cannot be said to be either reliable or valid and are subject to many biases on the part of the researcher.

5. Conclusion

Although some researchers maintain that case studies themselves can be of use in generating theory which can be tested using subsequent experimentation, case studies are seen as being an appropriate research method by a considerable amount of the theoretical and applied researchers in the social sciences because they combine an empirical emphasis with the use of contemporary development and a complex example. This is often seen as being an appropriate method of research for testing the integration of a series of constructs using a correlational method and in the identification of causal variables.

It can be deemed that case study was originally derived from the clinical method of observation which was pioneered during the Enlightenment by a French army surgeon by the name of Jean Claude Adrien Helvetius. However, it was refined and systematically applied in experimental social sciences in the beginning of the 20th century when the need emerged to conduct research on peculiar but typical instances. However, given the debate between researchers as to the rigor of case study research and its failing to be a method that can provide generalization to the population with relative ease, case studies also have the potential to make a substantial contribution to the production of theory in the social sciences when they are conceptualized in the mode of the “theoretical case study”. An example of this is provided by the translation of Freud’s theories of the various stages of development of the human psyche into the structure and dynamics of the Etic’s Personality.

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