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Case Study Research: How to get an “A”

The Case Study as a Research Method

❶This conclusion seemed contradictory to Galileo. These case studies are likely to appear in formal research venues, as journals and professional conferences, rather than popular works.

Limitations of Case Studies

What is a Case Study?
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It is useful to show some numerical data but remember that you are only trying to judge trends and not analyze every last piece of data. Constantly refer back to your bullet points so that you do not lose focus.

It is always a good idea to assume that a person reading your research may not possess a lot of knowledge of the subject so try to write accordingly.

In addition, unlike a scientific study which deals with facts, a case study is based on opinion and is very much designed to provoke reasoned debate. There really is no right or wrong answer in a case study. Check out our quiz-page with tests about:.

Martyn Shuttleworth Apr 1, Case Study Research Design. Retrieved Sep 11, from Explorable. The text in this article is licensed under the Creative Commons-License Attribution 4.

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Don't have time for it all now? No problem, save it as a course and come back to it later. Share this page on your website: This article is a part of the guide: Select from one of the other courses available: Don't miss these related articles:. Check out our quiz-page with tests about: Back to Overview "Research Design". Search over articles on psychology, science, and experiments. Leave this field blank: Change and progress have stemmed from parallel influences of historical transformations in approaches to research and individual researcher's preferences, perspectives, and interpretations of this design.

Researchers who have contributed to the development of case study research come from diverse disciplines with different philosophical perspectives, resulting in a variety of definitions and approaches. For the researcher new to using case study, such variety can create a confusing platform for its application. In this article, we explore the evolution of case study research, discuss methodological variations, and summarize key elements with the aim of providing guidance on the available options for researchers wanting to use case study in their work.

Case study research has grown in reputation as an effective methodology to investigate and understand complex issues in real world settings.

Case study designs have been used across a number of disciplines, particularly the social sciences, education, business, law, and health, to address a wide range of research questions. Consequently, over the last 40 years, through the application of a variety of methodological approaches, case study research has undergone substantial development. Change and progress have stemmed from parallel influences from historical approaches to research and individual researcher's preferences, perspectives on, and interpretations of case study research.

Central to these variations is the underpinning ontological and epistemological orientations of those involved in the evolution of case study research. Researchers who have contributed to the development of case study research come from diverse disciplines and their philosophical underpinnings have created variety and diversity in approaches used.

Consequently, various designs have been proposed for preparing, planning, and conducting case study research with advice on key considerations for achieving success. As a result, while case study research has evolved to be a pragmatic, flexible research approach, the variation in definition, application, validity, and purposefulness can create a confusing platform for its use.

In this article, we examine each of these issues in turn, with the aim of improving our understanding of case study research and clarifying the requisite tenets to consider when designing a case study. We begin with an overview of the history and evolution of case study research, followed by a discussion of the methodological and philosophical variations found within case study designs. We end with a summary of the common characteristics of case study research and a table that brings together the fundamental elements that we found common in all case study approaches to research.

Sociologists and anthropologists investigated people's lives, experiences, and how they understood the social and cultural context of their world, with the aim of gaining insight into how individuals interpreted and attributed meaning to their experiences and constructed their worlds JOHANSSON, ; SIMONS, Such investigations were conducted in the natural setting of those experiences with results presented descriptively or as a narrative MERRIAM, With the emergence and dominance of positivism in science in the late s and s, quantitative methods became a popular focus for the social sciences.

As a result, surveys, experiments, and statistical methods anchored in quantitative approaches were favored and considered more rigorous than qualitative designs JOHANSSON, The dominance of research using experimental designs continued through the s and s with quantitative empirical results considered to be gold standard evidence.

Case studies continued to be used during this time, however usually as a method within quantitative studies or referred to as descriptive research to study a specific phenomenon MERRIAM, This context led to a philosophical division in research approaches: Here, anthropologists practiced their methods on university cultures or by conducting lengthy case studies involving field-based observations of groups with the aim of understanding their social and cultural lives CRESWELL et al.

According to JOHANSSON , Robert YIN followed this progress, and drawing on scientific approaches to research gained from his background in the social sciences, applied experimental logic to naturalistic inquiry, and blended this with qualitative methods, further bridging the methodological gap and strengthening the methodological quality of case study research. He presented a structured process for undertaking case study research where formal propositions or theories guide the research process and are tested as part of the outcome, highlighting his realist approach to qualitative case study research.

While still qualitative and inductive, it was deterministic in nature with an emphasis on cause and effect, testing theories, and an apprehension of the truth BROWN, ; YIN, The integration of formal, statistical, and narrative methods in a single study, combined with the use of empirical methods for case selection and causal inference, demonstrated the versatility of case study design and made a significant contribution to its methodological evolution ibid.

The continued use of case study to understand the complexities of institutions, practices, processes, and relations in politics, has demonstrated the utility of case study for researching complex issues, and testing causal mechanisms that can be applied across varied disciplines. Methods were required that could be used to explore factors such as participants' perspectives and the influence of socio-political contexts on curriculum successes and failures SIMONS, Development of case study research in education, focused on the need to determine the impact of educational programs and provide relevant evidence for policy and practice decisions that supported social and educational change in the United Kingdom and the United States ibid.

STAKE , an educational psychologist with an interest in developing program evaluation methods, used a constructivist orientation to case study. This resulted in placing more emphasis on inductive exploration, discovery, and holistic analysis that was presented in thick descriptions of the case. Similar to STAKE , , MERRIAM , was not as structured in her approach as YIN , but promoted the use of a theoretical framework or research questions to guide the case study and organized, systematic data collection to manage the process of inquiry.

Simple in theory yet complex in nature, the planning, preparation and execution of case study research has developed to a point where the continued application of case study research across a number of professions particularly education, health, and social sciences, has provided a unique platform for credible research endeavors.

Key contributors to case study research and major contextual influences on its evolution are included. As the figure highlights, early case studies were conducted in the social sciences. With the dominance of logical positivism from the 's through to the 's and 's case study methodology was viewed with skepticism and criticism.

The development of grounded theory in the 's led to a resurgence in case study research, with its application in the social sciences, education, and the humanities. Over the last 50 years, case study has been re-established as a credible, valid research design that facilitates the exploration of complex issues. While over time the contributions of researchers from varied disciplines have helped to develop and strengthen case study research, the variety of disciplinary backgrounds has also added complexity, particularly around how case study research is defined, described, and applied in practice.

In the sections that follow, the nature of this complexity in explored. There are a number of definitions and descriptions presented across the literature, which can create confusion when attempting to understand case study research. YIN's two-part definition focuses on the scope, process, and methodological characteristics of case study research, emphasizing the nature of inquiry as being empirical, and the importance of context to the case. On the other hand, STAKE takes a more flexible stance and while concerned with rigor in the processes, maintains a focus on what is studied the case rather than how it is studied the method.

For STAKE case study research is "the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances" p.

These varied definitions stem from the researchers' differing approaches to developing case study methodology and often reflect the elements they emphasize as central to their designs. The diversity of approaches subsequently adds diversity to definition and description. A further challenge to understanding case study research relates to it being referred to and used as both a methodology and a method.

MILLS distinguishes methods as procedures and techniques employed in the study, while methodology is the lens through which the researcher views and makes decisions about the study. The ambiguity about case study being either or both a methodology and method, is compounded by the terminology used in discussions about case study. Often these terms are used interchangeably without definitional clarity. For example, YIN discusses case study research and in the context of presenting case study, refers to it as a research method while emphasizing the procedures used.

He does not use the terms methodology or strategy. This mixed use of terminology is confusing given the definitional separations between methodology and methods and the varied application of case study in research endeavors.

This distinction accentuates the need for researchers to describe the particular underpinning methodology adopted and to clarify the alignment of chosen methods used with their philosophical assumptions and their chosen approach.

Exploring the philosophical orientation of case study research and variations in different case study approaches can help to clarify these differences, and promote a better understanding of how to apply these principles in practice.

Many methodologies are aligned with specific philosophical positions that guide the research process. Philosophically, case study research can be orientated from a realist or positivist perspective where the researcher holds the view that there is one single reality, which is independent of the individual and can be apprehended, studied and measured, through to a relativist or interpretivist perspective.

In the context of healthcare research and specifically nursing, LUCK et al. Qualitative paradigms are broad and can encompass exploratory, explanatory, interpretive, or descriptive aims.

Each methodology is unique in approach depending on the ontological and epistemological stance, however all stem from the motivation to explore, seek understanding, and establish the meaning of experiences from the perspective of those involved ibid. These attributes are commonly exemplified in case study research. Like other forms of qualitative research, the researcher will seek to explore, understand and present the participants' perspectives and get close to them in their natural setting CRESWELL, As with any other academic writing, this kind of paper has a stable structure.

Different paragraphs play specific roles and cannot be substituted with each other. Its main parts are an introduction, a review on literature piece, a page with methods description, a discussion, and a conclusion page. Case study research design and methods can vary from paper to paper, but the structure is relatively stable.

The only exception is the usage of different appendixes e. It must be a roadmap for the audience. An author must describe why a certain case is being studied and how it is related to a problem. The answers to these questions must be connected.

To write the introduction, you are to answer the following questions:. The next part is called an annotated bibliography literature review. Its goal is giving the background for the research case study. It can help with the following: As a rule, this section is divided into three parts: For writing a profound section, one should know what methodology in research is.

The audience must know their authors, purposes, and ways of use. Then an author should describe participants of the research. How they were involved and what their essential peculiarities were used in the research. The last section of the case study research methodology section tells about all the possible ways of the data analysis. Why they are relevant and how they were used in the case study.

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Advantages of case study method include data collection and analysis within the context of phenomenon, integration of qualitative and quantitative data in data analysis, and the ability to capture complexities of real-life situations so that the phenomenon can be studied in greater levels of depth.

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The case study method, with its use of multiple data collection methods and analysis techniques, provides researchers with opportunities to triangulate data in order to strengthen the research findings and conclusions.

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For example, YIN () discusses case study research and in the context of presenting case study, refers to it as a research method while emphasizing the procedures used. He does not use the terms methodology or strategy. Although case study methods remain a controversial approach to data collection, they are widely recognised in many social science studies especially when in-depth explanations of a social behaviour are sought after. This article, therefore, discusses several aspects of case studies as a research method.

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CHAPTER 1. A (VERY) BRIEF REFRESHER ON THE CASE STUDY METHOD 5 different research methods, including the case study method, can be determined by the kind of research question that a study is trying to address (e.g., Shavelson. Qualitative case study methodology provides tools for researchers to study complex phenomena within their contexts. When the approach is applied correctly, it becomes a valuable method for health science research to develop theory, evaluate programs, and develop interventions.