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The Case Study as a Research Method
Strengths of Case Studies

Case studies are widely used in psychology and amongst the best known were the ones carried out by Sigmund Freud. He conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses. Even today case histories are one of the main methods of investigation in abnormal psychology and psychiatry. For students of these disciplines they can give a vivid insight into what those who suffer from mental illness often have to endure.

Case studies are often conducted in clinical medicine and involve collecting and reporting descriptive information about a particular person or specific environment, such as a school. In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual. The information is mainly biographical and relates to events in the individual's past i. In order to produce a fairly detailed and comprehensive profile of the person, the psychologist may use various types of accessible data, such as medical records, employer's reports, school reports or psychological test results.

The interview is also an extremely effective procedure for obtaining information about an individual, and it may be used to collect comments from the person's friends, parents, employer, work mates and others who have a good knowledge of the person, as well as to obtain facts from the person him or herself.

This makes it clear that the case study is a method that should only be used by a psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist, i. There is an ethical issue of competence. Only someone qualified to diagnose and treat a person can conduct a formal case study relating to atypical i.

The procedure used in a case study means that the researcher provides a description of the behavior. This comes from interviews and other sources, such as observation. The client also reports detail of events from his or her point of view. The researcher then writes up the information from both sources above as the case study, and interprets the information.

Interpreting the information means the researcher decides what to include or leave out. A good case study should always make clear which information is factual description and which is an inference or the opinion of the researcher.

Because of their in-depth, multi-sided approach case studies often shed light on aspects of human thinking and behavior that would be unethical or impractical to study in other ways. Research which only looks into the measurable aspects of human behavior is not likely to give us insights into the subjective dimension to experience which is so important to psychoanalytic and humanistic psychologists.

In public-relations research, three types of case studies are used: Under the more generalized category of case study exist several subdivisions, each of which is custom selected for use depending upon the goals of the investigator.

These types of case study include the following:. At Harvard Law School In , Christopher Langdell departed from the traditional lecture-and-notes approach to teaching contract law and began using cases pled before courts as the basis for class discussions. Research in business disciplines is usually based on a positivist epistemology , [24] namely, that reality is something that is objective and can be discovered and understood by a scientific examination of empirical evidence.

But organizational behavior cannot always be easily reduced to simple tests that prove something to be true or false. Reality may be an objective thing, but it is understood and interpreted by people who, in turn, act upon it, and so critical realism , which addresses the connection between the natural and social worlds, is a useful basis for analyzing the environment of and events within an organization.

A critical case is defined as having strategic importance in relation to the general problem. A critical case allows the following type of generalization: The case study is effective for generalizing using the type of test that Karl Popper called falsification , which forms part of critical reflexivity.

Falsification offers one of the most rigorous tests to which a scientific proposition can be subjected: Popper himself used the now famous example: The case study is well suited for identifying "black swans" because of its in-depth approach: Galileo Galilei built his rejection of Aristotle 's law of gravity on a case study selected by information-oriented sampling and not by random sampling.

The rejection consisted primarily of a conceptual experiment and later on a practical one. These experiments, with the benefit of hindsight, seem self-evident. Nevertheless, Aristotle's incorrect view of gravity had dominated scientific inquiry for nearly two thousand years before it was falsified. In his experimental thinking, Galileo reasoned as follows: If the two objects are then stuck together into one, this object will have double the weight and will according to the Aristotelian view therefore fall faster than the two individual objects.

This conclusion seemed contradictory to Galileo. The only way to avoid the contradiction was to eliminate weight as a determinant factor for acceleration in free fall.

Rather, it was a matter of a single experiment, that is, a case study. The air pump made it possible to conduct the ultimate experiment, known by every pupil, whereby a coin or a piece of lead inside a vacuum tube falls with the same speed as a feather.

What is especially worth noting, however, is that the matter was settled by an individual case due to the clever choice of the extremes of metal and feather. Random and large samples were at no time part of the picture. However it was Galileo's view that was the subject of doubt as it was not reasonable enough to be the Aristotelian view. By selecting cases strategically in this manner one may arrive at case studies that allow generalization. It is generally believed [ by whom?

Other roots stem from the early 20th century, when researchers working in the disciplines of sociology, psychology, and anthropology began making case studies. The popularity of case studies in testing theories or hypotheses has developed only in recent decades. Educators have used case studies as a teaching method and as part of professional development , especially in business and legal education.

The problem-based learning PBL movement offers an example. When used in non-business education and professional development, case studies are often referred to as critical incidents. Ethnography exemplifies a type of case study, commonly found in communication case studies. Ethnography is the description, interpretation, and analysis of a culture or social group, through field research in the natural environment of the group being studied.

The main method of ethnographic research is thorough observation, where the researcher observes study participants over an extended period of time within the participants' own environment. Comparative case studies have become more popular [ when? One approach encourages researchers to compare horizontally, vertically, and temporally. Using case studies in research differs from their use in teaching, where they are commonly called case methods and casebook methods.

Teaching case studies have been a highly popular pedagogical format in many fields ranging from business education to science education. Harvard Business School has been among the most prominent developers and users of teaching case studies. Additional relevant documentation, such as financial statements, time-lines, and short biographies, often referred to in the case study as exhibits, and multimedia supplements such as video-recordings of interviews with the case subject often accompany the case studies.

Similarly, teaching case studies have become increasingly popular in science education. The National Center for Case Studies in Teaching Science has made a growing body of case studies available for classroom use, for university as well as secondary school coursework. Teaching case studies need not adhere strictly to the use of evidence, as they can be manipulated to satisfy educational needs. The generalizations from teaching case studies also may relate to pedagogical issues rather than the substance of the case being studied.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Not to be confused with case method , used in teaching. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. Design and Methods 5th ed. Classic Case Studies in Psychology. Collaborative Medicine Case Studies: Towards a pluralist future for international business research" PDF. Journal of International Business Studies.

The Case for Rigor and Comparative Logic". The Academy of Management Review. The Art of Case Study Research. The Extended Case Method: University of California Press.

American Political Science Review. In Ragin, Charles C. What Is a Case?: Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry. How to Do Your Case Study: A Guide for Students and Researchers. In Heath, Robert L. Encyclopedia of Public Relations. SAGE Publications published There are three major types of case studies common to public relations: The Inception of Modern Professional Education: Langdell, — Chapel Hill: Journal of Management Policy and Practice.

Limitations of Case Studies

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The Case Study as a Research Method Uses and Users of Information -- LIS D.1 -- Spring Introduction Case study research excels at bringing us to an understanding of a complex issue or object and can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research.

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Case studies is a popular research method in business area. Case studies aim to analyze specific issues within the boundaries of a specific environment.

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case study as a research method 2 investigate contemporary real-life phenomenon through detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions, and their relationships. What is a Case Study? Basically, a case study is an in depth study of a particular situation rather than a sweeping statistical is a method used to narrow down a very broad field of research into one easily researchable topic.

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MERRIAM () acknowledges case study research can use both quantitative and qualitative methods; however, when working on qualitative case studies, methods aimed at generating inductive reasoning and interpretation rather than testing hypothesis take priority. 3 A (VERY) BRIEF REFRESHER ON THE CASE STUDY METHOD The case study method embraces the full set of procedures needed to do case study research. These tasks include designing a case study, collecting the study’s data, ana-.