Case Study – Definition, Types & Examples

20.08.22 Types of research studies Time to read: 25min

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A case study is a research method that delves deeply into a specific instance to analyze its complexities and draw broader insights applicable to similar situations. Through a structured methodology, encompassing data collection, analysis, and interpretation, case studies offer a comprehensive understanding of real-life phenomena within their natural contexts. This approach allows researchers to explore intricate details, uncover patterns, and derive valuable implications.

Case study in a nutshell

A case study is a detailed examination of a particular project, event, individual, or organization over a defined period. It focuses on the complexities and outcomes of real-life situations, providing an in-depth understanding of the factors leading to successes or failures.

Definition: Case study

A case study is a research methodology that involves an in-depth, detailed examination of a case or cases within a real-life context. It is used across various disciplines, including psychology, sociology, education, business, and law. The purpose of a case study is to explore and understand complex issues, processes, or behaviors by analyzing them from multiple angles and using multiple sources of evidence. Case studies are particularly useful for investigating phenomena that cannot be studied through experimental methods, offering insights into aspects of the subject that might be overlooked by other research methodologies.

Case studies are valuable for generating hypotheses that can be tested with other methods, developing theories, and providing practical solutions to real-world problems. They are particularly effective in capturing the nuances and complexities of situations that are too complex for more straightforward research designs. The following outlines the key characteristics of case studies.

Case studies provide a thorough understanding of the case in question, including its historical background, current situation, and the various factors influencing it.

They consider the subject’s context, recognizing that behaviors, decisions, and outcomes are often deeply influenced by environmental, social, and historical factors.

A mixed-methods case study approach relies on qualitative data like interviews, observations, and document analysis, and also includes quantitative data to support findings.

Case studies typically draw on various data sources, such as documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant observation, and physical artifacts, to provide a comprehensive view of the overall case.

They focus on a specific case, event, individual, or organization, allowing for a detailed examination that might not be feasible with broader research methods.

Case study research is flexible, allowing researchers to adapt their approaches as new insights emerge during the investigation.

The goal is to gain insights and a deeper understanding of the case and its broader implications, rather than to generalize findings to all cases.

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Types of case studies

Case studies vary widely in focus and purpose, adapting to the needs of different academic disciplines and professional fields. Each type of case study serves a different purpose and can be chosen based on the specific objectives of the research, the nature of the subject being studied, and the available resources. They are a powerful tool for researchers and practitioners alike, offering detailed insights and a deep understanding of complex phenomena, behaviors, and processes within their real-life contexts. Despite this diversity, they can generally be categorized into several main types based on their intent and approach.


Collective case studies

A collective case study also referred to as a multiple case study, involves the detailed examination and analysis of several cases simultaneously or sequentially to investigate a phenomenon, condition, or situation. These cases are chosen because they are expected to exhibit particular features or outcomes significant to the research question or hypothesis. By studying multiple cases, researchers aim to gain a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand, identifying patterns, variations, and insights that might not be evident when conducting single case study research alone.

  • Involves multiple cases, allowing for a comparison to identify similarities between different instances of the phenomenon.
  • The cases are purposefully selected based on their ability and extent to provide insight into the research question of the case.
  • Aims to understand the phenomenon within its real-life context, recognizing the influence of various complex factors.
  • Data are individually and in aggregate analyzed, allowing researchers to identify overarching patterns across cases.
  • Variability by acknowledging and exploring the differences between cases to understand the spectrum of possible outcomes.
  • Enhances generalizability: Examining multiple cases, allows researchers to test the finding of one case against others, enhancing the generalizability of the observations.
  • Rich insights: Collective case studies provide rich, multifaceted, contextual insights into the studied phenomenon, ensuring the possibility to investigate the complexity of real-life situations.
  • Theory development: These studies are particularly useful for developing theories, allowing researchers to refine and build upon existing ones based on the findings.

Topic: Patient experiences with telehealth services

  • Objective: Exploring patient satisfaction and challenges faced when using telehealth services across various demographics.
  • Cases: Patients from different age groups, health conditions, and regions who have used telehealth services for at least six months.
  • Result: A comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing patient satisfaction with telehealth, including technological literacy, communication quality, and access to care, informing improvements in telehealth practices.

Comparative case studies

A comparative case study is a research approach that involves the detailed analysis and comparison of two or more cases, which can be organizations, communities, individuals, events, etc. It aims to investigate and explore similarities, contrasts, and pattern variations across cases to gain a deeper understanding of the studied topic and why certain phenomena vary under different conditions.

  • Systematically examines the differences and similarities between cases to draw insights that may not emerge from one case.
  • Serves as a cornerstone for developing, testing, or refining existing theories or generating new theories and concepts.
  • The cases are carefully selected based on the variations in dimensions to understand the influence of different conditions.
  • Does not sacrifice the depth of understanding each case individually, allowing researchers to consider the contribution of contextual factors.
  • This type of case study includes qualitative and quantitative methods and approaches for collecting and analyzing data.
  • Rich insights: They provide contextual and detailed insights into the dynamics of each case, which is crucial for understanding complex phenomena.
  • Theory development: Comparative case studies are conducive to testing existing theories in different contexts and building new theories based on observed patterns.
  • Flexibility: Methods and approaches can be adapted as the study progresses, allowing for the exploration of unexpected findings or new research questions.

Topic: Impact of socioeconomic factors on academic achievement

  • Objective: Exploring how socioeconomic status (SES) influences academic achievement in primary schools.
  • Case A: Primary school located in an affluent neighborhood with high-income families.
  • Case B: Primary school located in an area with primarily low-income families.
  • Result: Emphasis on the importance of addressing disparities in resources, support systems, and community factors to ensure equitable educational opportunities for all the students.

Critical instance case studies

A critical instance case study entails focused research that investigates one or two instances to understand one occurrence rather than generalizing the situation. It explores a unique, unusual, or particularly informative phenomenon. These cases are typically chosen because they are expected to provide insight into an area of interest or to challenge or refine existing theoretical concepts and assumptions. The goal of this method is to understand the complexity and uniqueness of critical cases and how they inform broader understandings and generalizations about a topic.

  • Dives into a specific case(s) to uncover the intricacies that contribute to its unique characteristics.
  • Useful for examining phenomena that are too complex or rare to be captured through broader studies.
  • Cases are selected for their potential to provide insight into an issue or to challenge universal opinions.
  • A detailed qualitative analysis, but quantitative methods can also complement the examination.
  • Creates a balance between the uniqueness of the case and the potential for making broader inferences.
  • In-depth understanding: Critical instance case studies aim to provide an in-depth and nuanced understanding of a specific case or cases, underscoring the contextual factors that influence outcomes.
  • Theory development: By focusing on cases that are expected to challenge or refine theoretical assumptions, this type of study contributes to developing and refining theories.
  • Flexibility: The methods used can be adapted to the specific demands of the case, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of the unique aspects of the critical instance.

Topic: Impact of innovative teaching methods on student engagement in a rural school

  • Objective: Investigating how the implementation of project-based learning in a rural primary school affects student engagement and learning outcomes.
  • Case: A primary school in a rural area that has recently implemented project-based learning across all grades.
  • Result: Detailed analysis of the challenges and successes of implementing innovative teaching methods in a resource-constrained environment, highlighting the role of community support and teacher adaptability in fostering positive educational outcomes and results.

Cumulative case studies

A cumulative case study involves aggregating information from several sites collected at different times. The goal is to collect past studies to increase generalization without costing more time or money on new, possibly repetitive studies. It synthesizes findings from multiple cases over adequate time to understand a broader phenomenon or to identify patterns and trends. These studies are chosen because their cumulative evidence can provide a more convincing and comprehensive insight into a subject of interest, supporting or contradicting theoretical assumptions through a wider lens of observation.

  • Aggregates findings from different cases and existing sources to uncover common themes.
  • Specifically, valuable for integrating and comparing data from already studied situations.
  • Case selection based on whether they can compare and contrast multiple instances.
  • Employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, facilitating a more comprehensive analysis.
  • Strike a balance between diversity and the potential for generalization.
  • Comprehensive synthesis: This approach aims to synthesize data across multiple instances, offering a broader perspective on the subject matter that highlights commonalities and differences.
  • Pattern identification: By examining various cases collectively, this approach seeks to identify underlying patterns, trends, and themes that might not be apparent in single case study research.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Accumulating evidence from existing studies, allows for a more resource-efficient way to gain a wide-ranging understanding. Thereby, the expenses and time of conducting new, individual studies can also be avoided.

Topic: Effectiveness of remote learning across different socio-economic backgrounds

  • Objective: Analyzing how remote learning during school closures impacted students’ academic performance across various socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Cases: Multiple schools from diverse socio-economic areas that implemented remote learning during the same period.
  • Result: A comparative analysis revealing patterns of engagement, accessibility issues, and academic outcomes, highlighting the importance of addressing equity in access to technology and learning resources.

Descriptive case studies

A descriptive case study, a process-oriented case study, is a research approach focused on providing a detailed account and analysis of a specific case (or cases) within its real-life context. Unlike other types of case studies that might seek to test hypotheses or understand causal relationships, descriptive research aims to document the unique characteristics, conditions, processes, and outcomes of the case in question. The primary goal is to describe the phenomenon in depth and detail, offering a comprehensive understanding of the context and variables involved.

  • Captures the nuances, providing a rich, detailed description that covers various aspects.
  • Considers the environment of the case, recognizing the context’s significant influences.
  • Employs a mixed-methods case study approach using qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Identifies patterns that may inform future research, like hypotheses for causal research or theories.
  • Illustrates a particular phenomenon within its real-world context, providing valuable insights.
  • Comprehensive documentation: It provides an exhaustive description of a case, which involves documenting contexts, processes, and results, aiming to capture complexities.
  • Insightful understanding: Descriptive case studies shed light on how and why things happen under specific circumstances through detailed examination. Their detailed outcomes help to inform practice, policy, or further research.
  • Pattern identification: While not primarily focusing on hypothesis testing or theory development, descriptive research often suggests areas for further research by identifying patterns.

Topic: The role of community gardens in urban food security

  • Objective: Exploring the impact of community gardens on food security in urban areas extensively, seeking to understand how the gardens contribute to the availability and accessibility of fresh produce for residents.
  • Cases: Three community gardens that are located in different urban neighborhoods, each with varying levels of access to supermarkets or fresh food markets.
  • Result: Detailed description and comparison of each garden’s operation, community involvement, challenges faced, and the benefits realized in terms of food security, emphasizing the importance of community leadership, support from local organizations, and adaptability of garden practices to local needs.

Explanatory case studies

Similar to the descriptive type, an explanatory case study is also a process-oriented case study, that seeks to explain the underlying mechanisms or reasons behind a particular phenomenon or set of outcomes within its real-life context. Unlike descriptive case studies, which focus primarily on providing a detailed account of a specific case, explanatory case studies aim to uncover how and why certain events occur, offering insights into causal pathways and processes leading to a particular outcome.

  • Process-oriented case study that explores the causal mechanisms that lead to certain outcomes.
  • Allows researchers to examine complex real-life contexts in their natural setting.
  • Uses multiple sources of evidence, like qualitative data and sometimes quantitative data.
  • Frequently employs existing theoretical framework to guide their analysis and explain findings.
  • Contributes to the development and refinement of theoretical concepts, offering practical insights.
  • Uncovering causal relationships: It explores the causal mechanisms that lead to certain outcomes within a case or across cases, seeking to elucidate the processes and factors that contribute to the studied topic.
  • Theory development: This type of case study can be employed to test existing theories in new contexts or to refine and develop new theoretical frameworks based on its findings.
  • Informing policy and practice: Provides valuable insights that can inform policy-making, strategy, and practical interventions, emphasizing its applicability to real-world challenges.

Topic: Impact of remote work on employee productivity and well-being

  • Objective: Aiming to explain the causal relationships between remote work and its effects on employee productivity and well-being, seeking to uncover the mechanisms through which remote work influences these outcomes and to identify the conditions under which the effects are most pronounced.
  • Cases: Examining three companies in different industries, technology, finance, and education, that implemented long-term remote work arrangements as a response to external factors like the global pandemic.
  • Result: The comparative analysis reveals that the presence of supportive digital infrastructure, degree of flexibility in work arrangements, and opportunities for informal interactions are critical factors influencing the outcome of remote work policies, suggesting that it can enhance the productivity and well-being of employees.

Exploratory case studies

Exploratory case studies are qualitative research methods used to conduct preliminary projects for little-understood phenomena to develop hypotheses and establish research priorities. Unlike explanatory or descriptive case studies that aim to explain the aspects of specific cases, exploratory case studies are often conducted when a problem is not clearly defined, and there is a need for further investigation to understand the context.

  • Serves as an initial step in researching a new area, gathering as much information as possible.
  • Flexible research design, allowing for adjustments as new insights are gained in the process.
  • Generates hypotheses or theories that can be applied and tested in further research.
  • Relies on qualitative data collection methods to gain an understanding of the case in real-life context.
  • Foundation for explanatory studies, experimental designs, or large-scale quantitative research.
  • Comprehensive understanding: Aims to gain a clear understanding of the studied phenomenon, especially when it is new, complex, or not well defined.
  • Generating hypotheses: Through detailed observation, data collection, and analysis, it is geared towards generating hypotheses or theories about the phenomenon.
  • Research priorities: Determines which aspects of the case merit further research by uncovering the most significant issues, challenges, or opportunities in association.

Topic: The adoption of virtual reality (VR) technologies in higher education

  • Objective: Aiming to explore how and why higher education institutions are adopting VR technologies for teaching and learning purposes. The study seeks to understand the motivations, processes, challenges, and initial impacts of VR adoption on pedagogical practices and student engagement.
  • Cases: Examining three universities that have recently integrated VR technologies into their curriculum, each representing a different approach such as for enhancing engineering and architecture courses, medical and healthcare training, and art and history courses.
  • Result: The exploratory research uncovers various motivations, such as the desire to enhance student learning experiences, improve student engagement, and prepare students for future technological landscapes. Challenges identified across the cases include technical issues, high costs or implementation, and the need for faculty training and support.

Illustrative case studies

An illustrative case study primarily describes and demonstrates a particular phenomenon in a detailed and understandable way. It utilizes a descriptive approach, aiming to make the unfamiliar familiar by providing concrete examples that illuminate broader themes or issues. This type of case study is primarily used to provide insight into and highlight specific aspects of a research problem, helping to convey the complexities of real-life situations through the detailed examination of one or more instances.

  • Provides a comprehensive description of the phenomenon that occurs within the case(s) being studied.
  • Used as educational tools in various fields to help visualize complex theories and concepts.
  • Simplifies particular points within a larger analysis, supporting the understanding of broader principles.
  • Presents complex issues in a clear and accessible manner by focusing on specific instances.
  • Primarily descriptive research, but also serves as a preliminary step towards further research.
  • Clarification of complex phenomena: Aims to break down complex processes, making them more understandable by providing a detailed view.
  • Introduction of issues: Introduces common and uncommon issues through detailed storytelling, shedding light on specific challenges or successes.
  • Theory development: Enhances theoretical knowledge by providing concrete examples that support or exemplify theoretical concepts or frameworks.

Topic: Digital transformation in small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Objective: Aiming to illustrate the strategies and challenges small businesses faced while undergoing digital transformation due to the pandemic by highlighting how these businesses adapted to the sudden need for digital operations, the impact of these changes on their operations, and the lessons learned throughout.
  • Case A: A family-owned restaurant that transitioned to online orders and delivery.
  • Case B: A local bookstore that implemented an e-commerce platform for online sales and virtual book clubs.
  • Case C: A small fitness studio that shifted to offering online workout classes.
  • Result: The collective insights from these cases demonstrate the critical role of digital literacy, the need for flexible business models, and the importance of maintaining customer relationships during the transition. Conclusively, the study findings underscore the potential of digital transformation to not only sustain small businesses during crises but also to catalyze growth and innovation.

Instrumental case studies

An instrumental case study is an individual case study, focusing on a single subject to gain a broader understanding of a phenomenon. In contrast to other types of case studies that aim to describe or explain the case in great detail, instrumental case studies use the particular case as an instrument to understand something else. In other words, the case merely plays a supportive role in facilitating insight into larger issues or refining theoretical concepts.

  • The case allows for thorough exploration and understanding of the broader phenomenon at hand.
  • Instrumental case studies aim to extend findings beyond the case to address a broader issue.
  • The research questions are framed to explore the broader phenomenon rather than just the specifics.
  • Uses multiple sources of data and data collection methods within a real-life context.
  • Develops theories by examining the representation of the broader issues in the specific case.
  • Broader insights into particular issues: Uses the specific case as a vehicle to explain a broader phenomenon, contributing to refining theoretical frameworks.
  • Informs policy or practice: Provides valuable insights that can guide decision-making processes that address the complexities of real-world situations.
  • Identifies patterns: Explores the case in-depth to identify patterns that may apply to similar contexts by a detailed assessment of the case as a representative instance.

Topic: Integration of technology in high school education

  • Objective: Aiming to explore the effect of integrating technology into high school education on student engagement and academic performance to understand how the use of technology and digital platforms can enhance the learning experience, foster engagement, and improve outcomes in high school settings.
  • Cases: Examining three specific classrooms, such as science, literature, and mathematics, within the same high school that is known for integrating technology across all subject areas.
  • Result: The study findings reveal that technology integration, when effectively implemented, significantly enhances student engagement and academic performance across the various subject areas. Thereby, it underscores the importance of strategic planning, professional development for teachers, and the selection of appropriate technological tools that align with educational objectives.

Intrinsic case studies

As opposed to instrumental case studies that aim to understand a broader phenomenon beyond the case, an intrinsic case study primarily focuses on the case itself. An intrinsic case study is selected not because it is representative of other cases, but because it presents a unique phenomenon that is worth exploring thoroughly on its own merits. In other words, an intrinsic case study is used when a case is revealing, distinctive, or intriguing in a way that warrants detailed examination.

  • An intrinsic case study focuses on the idiosyncrasies and specifics of a case due to its uniqueness.
  • Captures the essence with a profound description of the case’s contexts, processes, and outcomes.
  • The insights gained from intrinsic case studies can be primarily applied to the case itself.
  • Understanding the case from various perspectives, involving a flexible research process.
  • Intrinsic case studies primarily use qualitative research methods to gather rich and contextual data.
  • Insight into the particular case: Aims to gain a deep understanding of the case for its own sake by focusing on the uniqueness and complexities of the case.
  • Explorative and interpretative: Delves into outstanding features, challenges, conditions, and opportunities of the case to uncover its distinct intricacies.
  • Contribution to theories: Through the detailed study of the case, patterns may be determined that offer insights, resonating with wider concepts or theories.

Topic: Transformation of a historic library into a community hub

  • Objective: Aiming to explore the transformation of a historic library in a small town into a vibrant community hub by focusing on this particular library due to its unique position in the community’s history, architectural heritage, and the innovative approach it has taken to evolve beyond traditional library services.
  • Case: It revolves around the Elmwood Library, built in the early 1900s and known for its architectural significance and deep-rooted place in the town’s history. Over time, its role and relevance faced challenges due to digitalization and the change in community needs. Thus, the study examines the redefinition of becoming a community hub of the library, focusing on digital access, community engagement, and preservation of historical essence.
  • Result: The study findings uncover the multifaceted impact of Elmwood Library’s transformation by highlighting the successful navigation of its historical preservation alongside modernization to meet current community needs. Key outcomes include increased community engagement, enhanced digital literacy, and the library’s role in fostering a sense of communal identity.
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When to perform a case study

A case study is the right research method for examining and gaining precise, contextual insights about a real-world problem or scenario. It gives researchers a method of studying the main characteristics, definitions, and inferences about a specific individual, group, event, or organization. The decision whether to perform a case study should be driven by the nature of the research question, objectives, and the value of gaining a contextualized understanding of the issues at hand. The following illustrates a few scenarios and research objectives that typically warrant the use of a case study.

When the goal is to explore a complex phenomenon in detail, particularly within its real-life context, case studies serve as ideal methods for investigating and explaining multifaceted issues thoroughly.

Case study research is also relevant to conduct to examine rare or unique conditions that are not easily replicated or found in larger populations. Examples are studying a rare disease, unique institution, or significant event.

When you test theoretical models or hypotheses within real-life contexts, case studies allow you to observe how theoretical principles play out in practice, providing valuable insights into the applicability and limitations of these theories. Case studies also assist in generating new theories because existing theories do not adequately explain a phenomenon. They can identify patterns and relationships that lead to the formulation of new theoretical propositions through elaborate analysis.

Case studies are often relevant to use in educational settings to provide real-life examples for students to analyze. They are particularly valuable for policymakers and practitioners seeking an in-depth understanding of a scenario to inform decision-making processes.

Prospective case studies have the main objective of observing changes over an adequate time period within a specific context or group. Thus, prospective case studies are suitable for conducting research over extended periods to track developments, understand cause-and-effect relationships, and observe the impact of interventions.

Case studies are also relevant for research that benefits from a multi-perspective analysis, as they enable the use of multiple data sources and methods such as interviews, observations, and document analysis to provide a comprehensive view of the studied subject.

Conducting a case study

The process of conducting a case study can be divided into five crucial stages such as defining the case(s), selecting the case(s), collecting and analysis of data, interpreting data, and reporting the findings.


Defining the case(s)

Defining the case(s) for a case study involves specifying the unit of analysis or the main entity that you are investigating. This stage is crucial as it sets the boundaries of what is to be studied, guiding the focus of the research, and shaping the research questions, data collection, and analysis. A well-defined case is essential for ensuring the research is manageable, coherent, and capable of addressing the objectives effectively. It also requires a clear understanding of the purpose of the study research, context, and perspectives from which it will be explored.

In terms of the nature of the case, you must clarify whether the case is a group, organization, individual, event, or geographical unit. This in turn will affect the type of data and evidence that will be collected and further affect the interpretation of results. In addition to this, the scope of the case determines the time period and geographical boundaries.

Selecting the case

Selecting the case is a crucial stage, as it significantly influences the research questions, problem statement, depth of the research, and potential contribution to existing knowledge. Thus, it is imperative to choose a specific focus to ground your research. Key considerations in selecting the case are:

  • Clearly define what you want to achieve with your case study; What are the research objectives?
  • Determine the type of case study, as this will influence the type of case you select.
  • Develop criteria that the case must meet to ensure it is suitable for your study.
  • Identify cases that may have rich potential for contributing to your research objectives.
  • Assess the potential cases against your selection criteria by considering the pros and cons.
  • Offer the potential to answer your research questions, meet the aims, and ensure access to data.
  • Justify how the case meets your selection criteria and how it will assist in reaching the research objectives.
  • Ensure the case adheres to ethical considerations, like consent and confidentiality.
  • Consider the feasibility of conducting the case such as resources, adequate time, and access to information.

Case studies usually focus on outliers rather than deliberate sampling techniques. Thus, they often do not require representative cases or random samples before research.

Collecting and analysis of data

For a case study approach, data is typically collected systematically, gathering detailed and comprehensive information that will support the analysis and conclusion of the study. This stage of the process is essential, as the relevance of the data impacts the depth and internal validity of the case study findings.

Case studies often employ multiple data sources or methods (data triangulation) that are primarily qualitative. Common methods include semi-structured interviews or structured interviews, direct observations, analyzing relevant documents, focus groups, or audiovisual materials. These types of qualitative methods can undergo thematic analysis, coding, or narrative analysis, depending on their relevance.

In some cases, quantitative methods are used to complement qualitative data to provide a broader understanding of the case study and enhance internal validity. These methods involve surveys and questionnaires or existing data sets that are relevant to the study for secondary data analysis. For these, you can employ, e.g., statistical analysis or trend analysis. Utilizing a mixed-methods case study approach offers the opportunity to provide a deeper and elaborate overview of the study.

Theoretical framework and interpreting data

Case studies overlook general theories in favor of specific details. A theoretical framework serves as the foundation that navigates every aspect of the study, ranging from data collection to data analysis and assists in interpreting findings within a broader context. Understanding its application in interpreting data is crucial for creating meaningful and impactful research.

The theoretical framework entails a variety of interrelated concepts and theories that guide your research, determining what will be measured and what statistical relationships may be looked for. It provides a general set of principles, explanations, and definitions that help organize the entire research process. A theoretical framework can be used to:

  • Challenge an existing theoryby investigating deviance that is not considered in the universal assumptions.
  • Expand on established theoriesby proposing new ideas that should be included.
  • Exemplify a given theoryby showing the relationship between the case and the theory.
  • Explain the theory for your research, grounding your study in a conceptual context.
  • Guide the research question, influencing the research design, including what data to collect and interpret.
  • Assist in identifying the limits to those generalizations your study can and cannot make.
  • Provide a rationale for your research, indicating why it is a worthwhile contribution to knowledge.

Reporting findings

Reporting the findings of your case study poses one of the last crucial stages of finalizing your study. It involves presenting your data and analyses in a structured and compelling way and requires careful consideration of your audience, whether they are academics, industry professionals, or other stakeholders. This section is the heart of your report and should be given careful attention. Here is a short overview of the structure of reporting findings.

  1. Organize by theme or research question
  2. Support the findings with evidence from your data
  3. Incorporate tables, graphs, and charts to visualize data
  4. Present detailed narratives of events and processes clearly

For effective reporting, aim for clear and concise expression, explaining complex concepts clearly, and avoiding unnecessary jargon. Also, maintaining consistency in terms of formatting and presentation style throughout the report is vital to keeping academic integrity. Keep in mind that the goal fo your case study report is not just to present your findings, but to communicate their significance and implications effectively. Thus, tailoring your report to your audience in an engaging manner, will draw the reader into the study and thereby, enhance its impact and value.

Pros and cons

Case studies can take on the shapes of at least four research designs and can be associated with an array of types, each leading to different applications. Nonetheless, understanding their unique epistemological and ontological assumptions is important for the substantial methodological differences, they entail. The following table outlines the general benefits and limitations of using a case study for your research.

Pros Cons

  • Explores complex phenomena within their real-life contexts

  • High flexibility in research design and data collection methods

  • Investigates rare cases that are not covered by larger studies

  • Generates new theories and hypotheses for future research

  • Studies theoretical concepts in real-world applications and contexts

  • Often not widely generalizable, thereby, limiting broader application

  • Often time-consuming and resource intensive for long-term studies

  • Higher risk of introducing biases due to the subject(s) and researcher

  • Multiple sources can be challenging to organize, interpret, and present

  • Risk of overdependence on the findings from a single case study research


A case study entails at least four sections:

  • Introduction
  • Body: background information, explaining the purpose, presenting the findings
  • Conclusion
  • References

The case study method is an in-depth investigation of a research subject, individual, or group. It is a focused research method that analyzes the causes and consequences of a specific phenomenon. A case study facilitates the exploration of a real-life issues within a defined context, using multiple date sources.

Case studies are widely used in psychology and clinical contexts, analyzing rare or unique conditions. Popular ones are:

  • Phineas Gage (the man who hat a railway spike through his head) – John Martin Marlow
  • Little Hans and The Rat Man – Sigmund Freud

In psychology, it is typically an individual case study, focusing on a single person, community, or event that relies on data in clinical contexts drawn from psychometric testing, observations, interviews, experiments, and existing case studies.

Case studies are often criticized for their subjectivity, bias, or lack of rigor, as they typically rely heavily on the researcher’s interpretations and selection of data, which is often influences by personal views, preferences, or assumptions.