What is a Case Study Method?

A case study is a research procedure that focuses on analyzing in detail an issue, a phenomenon, or a group of people, among others. It is used in social and human sciences, such as marketing or psychology, to formulate new theories. 

The case study differs from other forms of research in its structure, methodology, and, above all, its object of study. It can be a single case (if a single phenomenon is studied) or multiple cases (if more than one case is studied to account for a phenomenon).

But the object of study always corresponds to a specific topic that is generally topical or contemporary, whose characteristics differentiate it from others, and whose analysis does not allow generalizations to be made, i.e., it cannot be used to explain similar phenomena.

A case study is carried out to explain the causality of a phenomenon, exhaustively describe an event or topic, develop new theories or hypotheses, or modify reality by providing solutions to the problem being addressed.

Characteristics of the case study:

Qualitative. Because non-numerical data are collected to explain why a phenomenon occurs, interpret and determine its qualities, and generate knowledge, i.e., it seeks to produce a new theory, not to corroborate an existing one. However, quantitative procedures can be used to obtain data in some cases.

Inductive. Because it starts from theoretical propositions and particular premises, which arise from the observation and collection of information of a specific case, to arrive at general conclusions, which are theories or hypotheses that describe the issue.

Particularistic. Because a single case and its causes are studied since it is considered that phenomena are heterogeneous and cannot all be explained with the same descriptions.

Descriptive. Because phenomena, social groups, events or subjects, and each unit are analyzed, understood, and described exhaustively.

Heuristic. Because it seeks to analyze recent phenomena or make novel interpretations of an issue to generate original theories or knowledge.

Types of case studies:

There are different classifications of case studies, according to other authors. One of them is established by taking into account the characteristics of the report or the conclusions that can be drawn:

Descriptive case study. A descriptive case study describes what a phenomenon is like and why it happens.

Interpretative case study. It describes a phenomenon that correlates with an existing theory or allows the formulation of a new one.

Evaluative case study. A case study that focuses on explaining causality, i.e., the reason for the phenomenon, and usually includes value judgments that serve as proposals for intervention in the case.

Phases of the case study:

In the scientific community, there is no consensus on the case study phases. However, the following guidelines can be followed:

Determine the objectives, questions, and methodology. To determine the goals, you should establish what you want to achieve with the research. For example, describe, evaluate or explain the case, predict in relation to the phenomenon or propose a possible solution to a problem. 

Questions or propositions should be posed about the phenomenon and why it happens. To determine the methodology, it must be established how the research will be done; for example, it is decided that the information will be collected through surveys.

Review the existing bibliography related to the case. In addition, it is advisable to consult the bibliography to establish the theoretical framework to approach the phenomenon and choose an approach for analyzing the data collected.

Delimit the object of study. The case units to be analyzed should be specified since the study should focus on a specific issue. For example, if you want to study a social movement, you can study the characteristics of its leader since it is necessary to cut down the phenomenon.

Collect data. Surveys, interviews, tests, reviews of sources and documents, and observations can be made to obtain information about the case. In addition, it is necessary to determine how the researcher will act since he/she can participate, intervene, or not in what is being analyzed.

Analyze the data. The case must be studied inductively, i.e., starting with analyzing the characteristics, relationships, and comparisons of the data collected and the bibliography consulted, to conclude to describe the phenomenon and its causes.

Elaboration of the report or conclusion. The presentation of information on the analysis, a chronological account of the study, or a text in which conclusions, an explanation of the phenomenon, or possible solutions to a problem are written. You can use services of papers writers to design the text at this stage. Specialists will help make the text clear and grammatically correct. It will be necessary if the report you are preparing will have to be presented in public.

Some of the examples of case studies:

  • The study on how covid-19 care, effects, and vaccination were reported to people who do not have electronic devices and therefore do not have access to mass media.
  • The study shows a decrease in university enrollment, mainly in the third year of the degree courses. The aim is to determine the different reasons for this phenomenon.
  • The study on the causes of consumers’ decisions in a given area to purchase technological products.
  • The case study on how the advertisements of a well-known brand influence people.
  • The study focuses on posing possible solutions to the problem that users often have with a web platform.
  • The study on how the relationship between a school, the social environment, and the educational community works and how it originated.
  • The study on the operation of a non-graded school, its advantages over graded education, and why it was implemented.

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