A case study is a research design used mainly in social sciences to gather multi-faceted, in-depth information relating to an intricate issue in the actual life context. It is a method of profoundly exploring a particular process or an event in its ordinary context. For this reason, it is called naturalistic design because the researcher does not exert direct control over or seek to manipulate existing variables for their interest. In defining a case study, researchers have characterized it into three major parts: instrumental, intrinsic, and collective (Heale & Twycross, 2018). An inherent case study refers to specific research where the researcher intends to study a particular exclusive phenomenon. In this case, the researcher must identify the situation’s uniqueness, differentiating it from the rest.
On the other hand, an instrumental case study is one where the researcher uses a specific case (some might be more favorable than others) to obtain a broader appreciation of a phenomenon. A collective case study is research that involves the analysis of various cases sequentially or concurrently to get a more general appreciation of a specific issue at hand (Heale & Twycross, 2018). The three explanations describe how researchers examine a particular situation in a natural setting to enhance understanding. Collecting quantitative and qualitative data concerning a specific research condition helps the researcher get a better in-depth insight than when a single dataset is used. In simple terms, case study methods provide the framework for better analysis and evaluation of complex situations.
Advantages of the Case Study Approach
Using a single-case study is helpful if the researcher wants to examine a specific situation originating from a known entity. This is based on the fact that the method gives room for an in-depth understanding of the distinct phenomenon and involves collecting data from various sources. In addition, the use of multiple-case studies gives detailed comprehension of situations as units through a close comparison of existing differences and similarities of the specific cases (Heale & Twycross, 2018). In this approach, the evidence from multiple points tends to be more dependable than those from single-case research. Therefore, it is clear that multiple-case analysis allows the researcher to examine study questions and concept improvement comprehensively. Using the case study approach is essential in establishing intensive unit research as one can obtain a detailed report on an event or person.
Moreover, case studies are the best approaches for stimulating efforts toward new research in various facets. After completing a case study, valuable findings from the information gathered can influence new and sometimes advanced research in the field. In this case, it is essential to realize that there exists a significant research deal completed that would not be possibly done in the absence of prior case studies. Therefore, case studies are the primary influencers of new studies that help people learn more about an issue and improve improvement methods.
Case studies also help in giving contradicting details, particularly on existing questionable theories. This is evidenced by the case of Dr. Money, who held that sexuality was a result of nurture as opposed to nature. His attempt to change the boy’s gender through surgery was greatly criticized because of his inability to change his masculinity traits to act as a girl in his socialization. Additionally, case studies can give an insight into a difficult situation to learn by any other means. A perfect example of this is evidenced in the life of Sidney Bradford, who was blind from his youth and later regained sight at 52 years old through a corneal transplant. This situation helped the researcher understand how motion and perception change when sudden sight is given. Through this, they could establish how dimensions and colors influence general human processes. Although Bradford regained sight, he continued to operate with his eyes closed due to the stimulating effect of view.
Disadvantages of Case Studies
Most case studies fail the replication test; they cannot be corroborated to be used in other scenarios. This implies that the findings of one case study can only be used for that case as it might fail to give similar results in different designs. In addition, it is possible to form a bias when the author directs a case study. The bias resulting from this case can be from the data collection, subject, or interpretation. This is a common practice since it is the nature of human beings to be subjective, making the researcher lose their standpoint as an outsider.
Since the generalization of outcomes is limited due to the general focus on small groups, data classification is impossible. However, when conception is not one of the study’s primary aims, this is not a significant issue of concern. Moreover, case studies are usually time-intensive due to the long and intensive data collection process. In simple terms, it takes considerable time to conduct a case study and give a comprehensive analysis. Finally, case studies may have possible errors related to judgment or memory. This is because memory is the critical player in the reconstruction of case history.
Reasons for Using a Case Study Approach
Case studies can describe or explain an event in the context they occur in everyday operations. This helps explain and understand the causal pathways and links between a service development or novel policy initiative. Unlike experimental approaches that seek to test the particular hypothesis by manipulating the surrounding, the use of a case study seeks more explanation by capturing details relating to ‘why’, ‘what,’ and ‘how’. A case study gives a clear insight into the gaps in its use or why a particular implementation approach is preferred over the other.
Additionally, using the case study method helps access multiple information sources that aid in establishing claims concerning a specific situation. Case studies use various sources, from online sites, textual materials, and personal observations to interviews (Govindan, et al., 2020). Case studies dictate the appropriate type of information to be generated from every source. For every source used, a proper cross-reference is done to ensure the required depiction of the condition is conveyed without bias.
The use of the case study method is also appropriate because it gives the researcher room for setting parameters on what must be included within a particular analysis. In this case, the introduction part of the theoretical framework provides a detailed overlay of facts that the researcher needs to use when exploring and describing the occurrence (Crawford, et al., 2017). Since the approach is multidimensional, it is known for giving practical ways useful in investigating current situations in a real-life situation.
Sources of Information for a Case Study
Documentary, as one of the relevant sources, takes various forms and needs to be the significant object of clear data-gathering plans. They include e-mail correspondence, calendars, administrative documents, newspapers, and other articles (Govindan, et al., 2020). Most of these materials are available from internet searches, although some might not be as accurate as desired. The essential use of documents in case studies is to augment and corroborate evidence from other springs. Moreover, an archival record as a source of information takes the form of computer files and records as found in the U.S. database. They include service and organizational documents, maps and charts, survey data, and other public use files (Crawford et al., 2017). The utility of these records changes from one case to another depending on the type of study being conducted. However, the user of archival records must first investigate their accuracy level by analyzing the situations under which it was generated.
The use of interviews involves guided communication that generates information required to conduct a case study. The interviewer can ask significant correspondents to get individuals’ opinions about the event. Interviews can take place over a long period and in different settings. Since case studies are conducted primarily in natural settings, the interviewer can engage in direct observation. The observations can take various forms, from casual to formal data recording activities. Moreover, the use of participant observation is a unique type of observation in which the observer also plays an active role in studying events. In this case, the participant can engage in social interactions with the respondents or undertake particular functional activities. Finally, physical artifacts use artwork, technological tools, or tangible evidence collected for a case study. Although artifacts have less relevance in most case studies, they provide material information that gives desired results when the need arises.
Crawford, G., Jaspersen, L. J., Kruckenberg, L., Loubere, N., & Morgan, R. (Eds.). (2017). Understanding global development research: Fieldwork issues, experiences and reflections. Sage.
Govindan, K., Mina, H., & Alavi, B. (2020). A decision support system for demand management in healthcare supply chains considering the epidemic outbreaks: A case study of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, 138, 101967. Web.
Heale, R., & Twycross, A. (2018). What is a case study?. Evidence-Based Nursing, 21(1), 7-8. Web.