Case study research is a type of qualitative research design. It’s often used in the social sciences because it involves observing subjects, or cases, in their natural setting, with minimal interference from the researcher.
In the case study method, researchers pose a specific question about an individual or group to test their theories or hypothesis. This can be done by gathering data from interviews with key informants.
Here’s what you need to know about case study research design.
What Is The Case Study Method?
Case study research is a great way to understand the nuances of a matter that can get lost in quantitative research methods. A case study is distinct from other qualitative studies in the following ways:
- It’s interested in the effect of a set of circumstances on an individual or group.
- It begins with a specific question about one or more cases.
- It focuses on individual accounts and experiences.
Here are the primary features of case study research:
- Case study research methods typically involve the researcher asking a few questions of one person or a small number of people—known as respondents—to test one hypothesis.
- Case study in research methodology may apply triangulation to collect data, in which the researcher uses several sources, including documents and field data. This is then analyzed and interpreted to form a hypothesis that can be tested through further research or validated by other researchers.
- The case study method requires clear concepts and theories to guide its methods. A well-defined research question is crucial when conducting a case study because the results of the study depend on it. The best approach to answering a research question is to challenge the existing theories, hypotheses or assumptions.
- Concepts are defined using objective language with no reference to preconceived notions that individuals might have about them. The researcher sets out to discover by asking specific questions on how people think or perceive things in their given situation.
They commonly use the case study method in business, management, psychology, sociology, political science and other related fields.
Main Approaches To Data Collection
A fundamental requirement of qualitative research is recording observations that provide an understanding of reality. When it comes to the case study method, there are two major approaches that can be used to collect data: document review and fieldwork.
A case study in research methodology also includes literature review, the process by which the researcher collects all data available through historical documents. These might include books, newspapers, journals, videos, photographs and other written material. The researcher may also record information using video cameras to capture events as they occur. The researcher can also go through materials produced by people involved in the case study to gain an insight into their lives and experiences.
Field research involves participating in interviews and observations directly. Observation can be done during telephone interviews, events or public meetings, visits to homes or workplaces, or by shadowing someone for a period of time. The researcher can conduct one-on-one interviews with individuals or group interviews where several people are interviewed at once.
Let’s look now at case study methodology.
Case Study Research Methods
The case study method can be divided into three stages: formulation of objectives; collection of data; and analysis and interpretation. The researcher first makes a judgment about what should be studied based on their knowledge. Next, they gather data through observations and interviews. Here are some of the common case study research methods:
One of the most basic methods is the survey. Respondents are asked to complete a questionnaire with open-ended and predetermined questions. It usually takes place through face-to-face interviews, mailed questionnaires or telephone interviews. It can even be done by an online survey.
2. Semi-structured Interview
For case study research a more complex method is the semi-structured interview. This involves the researcher learning about the topic by listening to what others have to say. This usually occurs through one-on-one interviews with the sample. Semi-structured interviews allow for greater flexibility and can obtain information that structured questionnaires can’t.
3. Focus Group Interview
Another method is the focus group interview, where the researcher asks a few people to take part in an open-ended discussion on certain themes or topics. The typical group size is 5–15 people. This method allows researchers to delve deeper into people’s opinions, views and experiences.
4. Participant Observation
Participant observation is another method that involves the researcher gaining insight into an experience by joining in and taking part in normal events. The people involved don’t always know they’re being studied, but the researcher observes and records what happens through field notes.
Case study research design can use one or several of these methods depending on the context.
How Case Studies Are Used
Case studies are widely used in the social sciences. To understand the impact of socio-economic forces, interpersonal dynamics and other human conditions, sometimes there’s no other way than to study one case at a time and look for patterns and data afterward.
It’s for the same reasons that case studies are used in business. Here are a few uses:
- Case studies can be used as tools to educate and give examples of situations and problems that might occur and how they were resolved. They can also be used for strategy development and implementation.
- Case studies can evaluate the success of a program or project. They can help teams improve their collaboration by identifying areas that need improvements, such as team dynamics, communication, roles and responsibilities and leadership styles.
- Case studies can explore how people’s experiences affect the working environment. Because the study involves observing and analyzing concrete details of life, they can inform theories on how an individual or group interacts with their environment.
- Case studies can evaluate the sustainability of businesses. They’re useful for social, environmental and economic impact studies because they look at all aspects of a business or organization. This gives researchers a holistic view of the dynamics within an organization.
- We can use case studies to identify problems in organizations or businesses. They can help spot problems that are invisible to customers, investors, managers and employees.
- Case studies are used in education to show students how real-world issues or events can be sorted out. This enables students to identify and deal with similar situations in their lives.
And that’s not all. Case studies are incredibly versatile, which is why they’re used so widely.
Case Study Model
Human beings are complex and they interact with each other in their everyday life in various ways. The researcher observes a case and tries to find out how the patterns of behavior are created, including their causal relations. Case studies help understand one or more specific events that have been observed. Here are some common methods:
1. Illustrative case study
This is where the researcher observes a group of people doing something. Studying an event or phenomenon this way can show cause-and-effect relationships between various variables.
2. Cumulative case study
A cumulative case study is one that involves observing the same set of phenomena over a period. Cumulative case studies can be very helpful in understanding processes, which are things that happen over time. For example, if there are behavioral changes in people who move from one place to another, the researcher might want to know why these changes occurred.
3. Exploratory case study
An exploratory case study collects information that will answer a question. It can help researchers better understand social, economic, political or other social phenomena.
There are several other ways to categorize case studies. They may be chronological case studies, where a researcher observes events over time. In the comparative case study, the researcher compares one or more groups of people, places, or things to draw conclusions about them. In an intervention case study, the researcher intervenes to change the behavior of the subjects. The study method depends on the needs of the research team.
Deciding how to analyze the information at our disposal is an important part of effective management. An understanding of the case study model can help. With Harappa’s Thinking Critically course, managers and young professionals receive input and training on how to level up their analytic skills. Knowledge of frameworks, reading real-life examples and lived wisdom of faculty come together to create a dynamic and exciting course that helps teams leap to the next level.
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