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  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

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case study analysis meaning

Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

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In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

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Case Study Analysis: Examples + How-to Guide & Writing Tips

A case study analysis is a typical assignment in business management courses. The task aims to show high school and college students how to analyze a current situation, determine what problems exist, and develop the best possible strategy to achieve the desired outcome.

Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for 13.00 10.40/page

Many students feel anxious about writing case analyses because being told to analyze a case study and provide a solution can seem like a big task. That is especially so when working with real-life scenarios. However, you can rest assured writing a case analysis paper is easier than you think. Just keep reading this article and you will find case study examples for students and the advice provided by Custom-writing experts!

  • 👣 Main Steps
  • 🕵 Preparing the Case

🔬 Analyzing the Case

  • 📑 Format & Structure
  • 🙅 Things to Avoid
  • 🏁 Conclusion

🔗 References

👣 writing a case study analysis: main steps.

Business management is built on case analysis. Every single economic result shows that the methods and instruments employed were either well-timed and expedient, in the event of success, or not, in case of failure. These two options indicate whether the strategy is efficient (and should be followed) or requires corrections (or complete change). Such an approach to the case study will make your writing piece more proficient and valuable for the reader. The following steps will direct your plan for writing a case study analysis.

Step 1: Preliminary work

  • Make notes and highlight the numbers and ideas that could be quoted.
  • Single out as many problems as you can, and briefly mark their underlying issues. Then make a note of those responsible. In the report, you will use two to five of the problems, so you will have a selection to choose from.
  • Outline a possible solution to each of the problems you found. Course readings and outside research shall be used here. Highlight your best and worst solution for further reference.

Case Study Analysis Includes Three Main Steps: Preparing the Case, Drafring the Case, and Finalizing the Case.

Step 2: Drafting the Case

  • Provide a general description of the situation and its history.
  • Name all the problems you are going to discuss.
  • Specify the theory used for the analysis.
  • Present the assumptions that emerged during the analysis, if any.
  • Describe the detected problems in more detail.
  • Indicate their link to, and effect on, the general situation.
  • Explain why the problems emerged and persist.
  • List realistic and feasible solutions to the problems you outlined, in the order of importance.
  • Specify your predicted results of such changes.
  • Support your choice with reliable evidence (i.e., textbook readings, the experience of famous companies, and other external research).
  • Define the strategies required to fulfill your proposed solution.
  • Indicate the responsible people and the realistic terms for its implementation.
  • Recommend the issues for further analysis and supervision.

Step 3: Finalizing the Case

Like any other piece of writing, a case analysis requires post-editing. Carefully read it through, looking for inconsistencies and gaps in meaning. Your purpose is to make it look complete, precise, and convincing.

🕵 Preparing a Case for Analysis

Your professor might give you various case study examples from which to choose, or they may just assign you a particular case study. To conduct a thorough data analysis, you must first read the case study. This might appear to be obvious. However, you’d be surprised at how many students don’t take adequate time to complete this part.

Read the case study very thoroughly, preferably several times. Highlight, underline, flag key information, and make notes to refer to later when you are writing your analysis report.

If you don’t have a complete knowledge of the case study your professor has assigned, you won’t conduct a proper analysis of it. Even if you make use of a business case study template or refer to a sample analysis, it won’t help if you aren’t intimately familiar with your case study.

You will also have to conduct research. When it comes to research, you will need to do the following:

  • Gather hard, quantitative data (e.g. 67% of the staff participated in the meeting).
  • Design research tools , such as questionnaires and surveys (this will aid in gathering data).
  • Determine and suggest the best specific, workable solutions.

It would be best if you also learned how to analyze a case study. Once you have read through the case study, you need to determine the focus of your analysis. You can do this by doing the following:

Compare your chosen solutions to the solutions offered by the experts who analyzed the case study you were given or to online assignments for students who were dealing with a similar task. The experts’ solutions will probably be more advanced than yours simply because these people are more experienced. However, don’t let this discourage you; the whole point of doing this analysis is to learn. Use the opportunity to learn from others’ valuable experience, and your results will be better next time.

If you are still in doubt, the University of South Carolina offers a great guide on forming a case study analysis.

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📑 Case Analysis Format & Structure

When you are learning how to write a case study analysis, it is important to get the format of your analysis right. Understanding the case study format is vital for both the professor and the student. The person planning and handing out such an assignment should ensure that the student doesn’t have to use any external sources .

In turn, students have to remember that a well-written case analysis provides all the data, making it unnecessary for the reader to go elsewhere for information.

Regardless of whether you use a case study template, you will need to follow a clear and concise format when writing your analysis report. There are some possible case study frameworks available. Still, a case study should contain eight sections laid out in the following format:

  • Describe the purpose of the current case study;
  • Provide a summary of the company;
  • Briefly introduce the problems and issues found in the case study
  • Discuss the theory you will be using in the analysis;
  • Present the key points of the study and present any assumptions made during the analysis.
  • Present each problem you have singled out;
  • Justify your inclusion of each problem by providing supporting evidence from the case study and by discussing relevant theory and what you have learned from your course content;
  • Divide the section (and following sections) into subsections, one for each of your selected problems.
  • Present a summary of each problem you have identified;
  • Present plausible solutions for each of the problems, keeping in mind that each problem will likely have more than one possible solution;
  • Provide the pros and cons of each solution in a way that is practical.
  • Conclusion . This is a summary of your findings and discussion.
  • Decide which solution best fits each of the issues you identified;
  • Explain why you chose this solution and how it will effectively solve the problem;
  • Be persuasive when you write this section so that you can drive your point home;
  • Be sure to bring together theory and what you have learned throughout your course to support your recommendations.
  • Provide an explanation of what must be done, who should take action, and when the solution should be carried out;
  • Where relevant, you should provide an estimate of the cost in implementing the solution, including both the financial investment and the cost in terms of time.
  • References. While you generally do not need to refer to many external sources when writing a case study analysis, you might use a few. When you do, you will need to properly reference these sources, which is most often done in one of the main citation styles, including APA, MLA, or Harvard. There is plenty of help when citing references, and you can follow these APA guidelines , these MLA guidelines , or these Harvard guidelines .
  • Appendices. This is the section you include after your case study analysis if you used any original data in the report. These data, presented as charts, graphs, and tables, are included here because to present them in the main body of the analysis would be disruptive to the reader. The University of Southern California provides a great description of appendices and when to make use of them.

When you’ve finished your first draft, be sure to proofread it. Look not only for potential grammar and spelling errors but also for discrepancies or holes in your argument.

You should also know what you need to avoid when writing your analysis.

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🙅 Things to Avoid in Case Analysis

Whenever you deal with a case study, remember that there are some pitfalls to avoid! Beware of the following mistakes:

  • Excessive use of colloquial language . Even though it is a study of an actual case, it should sound formal.
  • Lack of statistical data . Give all the important data, both in percentages and in numbers.
  • Excessive details. State only the most significant facts, rather than drowning the reader in every fact you find.
  • Inconsistency in the methods you have used . In a case study, theory plays a relatively small part, so you must develop a specific case study research methodology.
  • Trivial means of research . It is critical that you design your own case study research method in whatever form best suits your analysis, such as questionnaires and surveys.

It is useful to see a few examples of case analysis papers. After all, a sample case study report can provide you with some context so you can see how to approach each aspect of your paper.

👀 Case Study Examples for Students

It might be easier to understand how a case study analysis works if you have an example to look at. Fortunately, examples of case studies are easy to come by. Take a look at this video for a sample case study analysis for the Coca-Cola Company.

If you want another example, then take a look at the one below!

Business Case Analysis: Example

CRM’s primary focus is customers and customer perception of the brand or the company. The focus may shift depending on customers’ needs. The main points that Center Parcs should consider are an increase in customer satisfaction and its market share. Both of these points will enhance customer perception of the product as a product of value. Increased customer satisfaction will indicate that the company provides quality services, and increased market share can reduce the number of switching (or leaving) customers, thus fostering customer loyalty.

Case Study Topics

  • Equifax case study: the importance of cybersecurity measures . 
  • Study a case illustrating ethical issues of medical research.  
  • Examine the case describing the complications connected with nursing and residential care.  
  • Analyze the competitive strategy of Delta Airlines . 
  • Present a case study of an ethical dilemma showing the conflict between the spirit and the letter of the law.  
  • Explore the aspects of Starbucks’ marketing strategyin a case study.  
  • Research a case of community-based clinic organization and development.  
  • Customer service of United Airlines: a case study . 
  • Analyze a specific schizophrenia case and provide your recommendations.  
  • Provide a case study of a patient with hyperglycemia.  
  • Examine the growth strategy of United Healthcare. 
  • Present a case study demonstrating ethical issues in business .  
  • Study a case of the 5% shareholding rule application and its impact on the company.  
  • Case study of post-traumatic stress disorder . 
  • Analyze a case examining the issues of cross-cultural management .  
  • Write a case study exploring the ethical issues the finance manager of a long-term care facility can face and the possible reaction to them.  
  • Write a case study analyzing the aspects of a new president of a firm election. 
  • Discuss the specifics of supply chain management in the case of Tehindo company. 
  • Study a case of a life crisis in a family and the ways to cope with it.  
  • Case study of Tea Leaves and More: supply chain issues .   
  • Explore the case of ketogenic diet implementation among sportspeople.  
  • Analyze the case of Webster Jewelry shop and suggest some changes.  
  • Examine the unique aspects of Tea and More brand management .  
  • Adidas case study: an ethical dilemma .  
  • Research the challenges of Brazos Valley Food Bank and suggest possible solutions.  
  • Describe the case of dark web monitoring for business.  
  • Study a case of permissive parenting style .  
  • Case study of Starbucks employees . 
  • Analyze a case of workplace discrimination and suggest a strategy to avoid it.  
  • Examine a case of the consumer decision-making process and define the factors that influence it.  
  • Present a case study of Netflix illustrating the crucial role of management innovation for company development.  
  • Discuss a case describing a workplace ethical issue and propose ways to resolve it.  
  • Case study of the 2008 financial crisis: Graham’s value investing principles in the modern economic climate. 
  • Write a case study analyzing the harmful consequences of communication issues in a virtual team .  
  • Analyze a case that highlights the importance of a proper functional currency choice. 
  • Examine the case of Hitachi Power Systems management.  
  • Present a case study of medication research in a healthcare facility.  
  • Study the case of Fiji Water and the challenges the brand faces.  
  • Research a social problem case and suggest a solution.  
  • Analyze a case that reveals the connection between alcohol use and borderline personality disorder .  
  • Transglobal Airline case study: break-even analysis.   
  • Examine the case of Chiquita Brands International from the moral and business ethics points of view.  
  • Present a case study of applying for Social Security benefits. 
  • Study the case of a mass hacker attack on Microsoft clients and suggest possible ways to prevent future attacks.  
  • Case study of leadership effectiveness . 
  • Analyze a case presenting a clinical moral dilemma and propose ways to resolve it. 
  • Describe the case of Cowbell Brewing Company and discuss the strategy that made them successful.  
  • Write a case study of WeWork company and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of its strategy.  
  • Case study of medical ethical decision-making. 
  • Study the case of The Georges hotel and suggest ways to overcome its managerial issues.  

🏁 Concluding Remarks

Writing a case study analysis can seem incredibly overwhelming, especially if you have never done it before. Just remember, you can do it provided you follow a plan, keep to the format described here, and study at least one case analysis example.

If you still need help analyzing a case study, your professor is always available to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. You can also get help with any aspect of the project from a custom writing company. Just tackle the research and hand over the writing, write a rough draft and have it checked by a professional, or completely hand the project off to an expert writer.

Regardless of the path you choose, you will turn in something of which you can be proud!

✏️ Case Study Analysis FAQ

Students (especially those who study business) often need to write a case study analysis. It is a kind of report that describes a business case. It includes multiple aspects, for example, the problems that exist, possible solutions, forecasts, etc.

There should be 3 main points covered in a case study analysis:

  • The challenge(s) description,
  • Possible solutions,
  • Outcomes (real and/or foreseen).

Firstly, study some examples available online and in the library. Case study analysis should be a well-structured paper with all the integral components in place. Thus, you might want to use a template and/or an outline to start correctly.

A case study analysis is a popular task for business students. They typically hand it in the format of a paper with several integral components:

  • Description of the problem
  • Possible ways out
  • Results and/or forecasts

Students sometimes tell about the outcome of their research within an oral presentation.

  • Case Study: Academia
  • Windows of vulnerability: a case study analysis (IEEE)
  • A (Very) Brief Refresher on the Case Study Method: SAGE
  • The case study approach: Medical Research Methodology
  • Strengths and Limitations of Case Studies: Stanford University
  • A Sample APA Paper: Radford University
  • How to Write a Case Study APA Style: Seattle PI
  • The Case Analysis: GVSU
  • How to Outline: Purdue OWL
  • Incorporating Interview Data: UW-Madison Writing Center
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Quite an impressive piece The steps and procedures outlined here are well detailed and the examples facilitates understanding.

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Thank you for the great feedback, Collins!

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Thanks a lot. A knowledge shared with a structured template. Stay the course

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This is going to be a great help in my monthly analysis requirements for my subject. Thank you so much.

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This article was very helpful, even though I’ll have a clearer mind only after I do the case study myself but I felt very much motivated after reading this, as now I can at least have a plan of what to do compared to the clueless me I was before I read it. I hope if I have any questions or doubts about doing a case study I can clear it out here.

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Research Method

Home » Case Study – Methods, Examples and Guide

Case Study – Methods, Examples and Guide

Table of Contents

Case Study Research

A case study is a research method that involves an in-depth examination and analysis of a particular phenomenon or case, such as an individual, organization, community, event, or situation.

It is a qualitative research approach that aims to provide a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the case being studied. Case studies typically involve multiple sources of data, including interviews, observations, documents, and artifacts, which are analyzed using various techniques, such as content analysis, thematic analysis, and grounded theory. The findings of a case study are often used to develop theories, inform policy or practice, or generate new research questions.

Types of Case Study

Types and Methods of Case Study are as follows:

Single-Case Study

A single-case study is an in-depth analysis of a single case. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to understand a specific phenomenon in detail.

For Example , A researcher might conduct a single-case study on a particular individual to understand their experiences with a particular health condition or a specific organization to explore their management practices. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as content analysis or thematic analysis. The findings of a single-case study are often used to generate new research questions, develop theories, or inform policy or practice.

Multiple-Case Study

A multiple-case study involves the analysis of several cases that are similar in nature. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to identify similarities and differences between the cases.

For Example, a researcher might conduct a multiple-case study on several companies to explore the factors that contribute to their success or failure. The researcher collects data from each case, compares and contrasts the findings, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as comparative analysis or pattern-matching. The findings of a multiple-case study can be used to develop theories, inform policy or practice, or generate new research questions.

Exploratory Case Study

An exploratory case study is used to explore a new or understudied phenomenon. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to generate hypotheses or theories about the phenomenon.

For Example, a researcher might conduct an exploratory case study on a new technology to understand its potential impact on society. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as grounded theory or content analysis. The findings of an exploratory case study can be used to generate new research questions, develop theories, or inform policy or practice.

Descriptive Case Study

A descriptive case study is used to describe a particular phenomenon in detail. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to provide a comprehensive account of the phenomenon.

For Example, a researcher might conduct a descriptive case study on a particular community to understand its social and economic characteristics. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as content analysis or thematic analysis. The findings of a descriptive case study can be used to inform policy or practice or generate new research questions.

Instrumental Case Study

An instrumental case study is used to understand a particular phenomenon that is instrumental in achieving a particular goal. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to understand the role of the phenomenon in achieving the goal.

For Example, a researcher might conduct an instrumental case study on a particular policy to understand its impact on achieving a particular goal, such as reducing poverty. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as content analysis or thematic analysis. The findings of an instrumental case study can be used to inform policy or practice or generate new research questions.

Case Study Data Collection Methods

Here are some common data collection methods for case studies:

Interviews involve asking questions to individuals who have knowledge or experience relevant to the case study. Interviews can be structured (where the same questions are asked to all participants) or unstructured (where the interviewer follows up on the responses with further questions). Interviews can be conducted in person, over the phone, or through video conferencing.

Observations

Observations involve watching and recording the behavior and activities of individuals or groups relevant to the case study. Observations can be participant (where the researcher actively participates in the activities) or non-participant (where the researcher observes from a distance). Observations can be recorded using notes, audio or video recordings, or photographs.

Documents can be used as a source of information for case studies. Documents can include reports, memos, emails, letters, and other written materials related to the case study. Documents can be collected from the case study participants or from public sources.

Surveys involve asking a set of questions to a sample of individuals relevant to the case study. Surveys can be administered in person, over the phone, through mail or email, or online. Surveys can be used to gather information on attitudes, opinions, or behaviors related to the case study.

Artifacts are physical objects relevant to the case study. Artifacts can include tools, equipment, products, or other objects that provide insights into the case study phenomenon.

How to conduct Case Study Research

Conducting a case study research involves several steps that need to be followed to ensure the quality and rigor of the study. Here are the steps to conduct case study research:

  • Define the research questions: The first step in conducting a case study research is to define the research questions. The research questions should be specific, measurable, and relevant to the case study phenomenon under investigation.
  • Select the case: The next step is to select the case or cases to be studied. The case should be relevant to the research questions and should provide rich and diverse data that can be used to answer the research questions.
  • Collect data: Data can be collected using various methods, such as interviews, observations, documents, surveys, and artifacts. The data collection method should be selected based on the research questions and the nature of the case study phenomenon.
  • Analyze the data: The data collected from the case study should be analyzed using various techniques, such as content analysis, thematic analysis, or grounded theory. The analysis should be guided by the research questions and should aim to provide insights and conclusions relevant to the research questions.
  • Draw conclusions: The conclusions drawn from the case study should be based on the data analysis and should be relevant to the research questions. The conclusions should be supported by evidence and should be clearly stated.
  • Validate the findings: The findings of the case study should be validated by reviewing the data and the analysis with participants or other experts in the field. This helps to ensure the validity and reliability of the findings.
  • Write the report: The final step is to write the report of the case study research. The report should provide a clear description of the case study phenomenon, the research questions, the data collection methods, the data analysis, the findings, and the conclusions. The report should be written in a clear and concise manner and should follow the guidelines for academic writing.

Examples of Case Study

Here are some examples of case study research:

  • The Hawthorne Studies : Conducted between 1924 and 1932, the Hawthorne Studies were a series of case studies conducted by Elton Mayo and his colleagues to examine the impact of work environment on employee productivity. The studies were conducted at the Hawthorne Works plant of the Western Electric Company in Chicago and included interviews, observations, and experiments.
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment: Conducted in 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment was a case study conducted by Philip Zimbardo to examine the psychological effects of power and authority. The study involved simulating a prison environment and assigning participants to the role of guards or prisoners. The study was controversial due to the ethical issues it raised.
  • The Challenger Disaster: The Challenger Disaster was a case study conducted to examine the causes of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. The study included interviews, observations, and analysis of data to identify the technical, organizational, and cultural factors that contributed to the disaster.
  • The Enron Scandal: The Enron Scandal was a case study conducted to examine the causes of the Enron Corporation’s bankruptcy in 2001. The study included interviews, analysis of financial data, and review of documents to identify the accounting practices, corporate culture, and ethical issues that led to the company’s downfall.
  • The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster : The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster was a case study conducted to examine the causes of the nuclear accident that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in 2011. The study included interviews, analysis of data, and review of documents to identify the technical, organizational, and cultural factors that contributed to the disaster.

Application of Case Study

Case studies have a wide range of applications across various fields and industries. Here are some examples:

Business and Management

Case studies are widely used in business and management to examine real-life situations and develop problem-solving skills. Case studies can help students and professionals to develop a deep understanding of business concepts, theories, and best practices.

Case studies are used in healthcare to examine patient care, treatment options, and outcomes. Case studies can help healthcare professionals to develop critical thinking skills, diagnose complex medical conditions, and develop effective treatment plans.

Case studies are used in education to examine teaching and learning practices. Case studies can help educators to develop effective teaching strategies, evaluate student progress, and identify areas for improvement.

Social Sciences

Case studies are widely used in social sciences to examine human behavior, social phenomena, and cultural practices. Case studies can help researchers to develop theories, test hypotheses, and gain insights into complex social issues.

Law and Ethics

Case studies are used in law and ethics to examine legal and ethical dilemmas. Case studies can help lawyers, policymakers, and ethical professionals to develop critical thinking skills, analyze complex cases, and make informed decisions.

Purpose of Case Study

The purpose of a case study is to provide a detailed analysis of a specific phenomenon, issue, or problem in its real-life context. A case study is a qualitative research method that involves the in-depth exploration and analysis of a particular case, which can be an individual, group, organization, event, or community.

The primary purpose of a case study is to generate a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the case, including its history, context, and dynamics. Case studies can help researchers to identify and examine the underlying factors, processes, and mechanisms that contribute to the case and its outcomes. This can help to develop a more accurate and detailed understanding of the case, which can inform future research, practice, or policy.

Case studies can also serve other purposes, including:

  • Illustrating a theory or concept: Case studies can be used to illustrate and explain theoretical concepts and frameworks, providing concrete examples of how they can be applied in real-life situations.
  • Developing hypotheses: Case studies can help to generate hypotheses about the causal relationships between different factors and outcomes, which can be tested through further research.
  • Providing insight into complex issues: Case studies can provide insights into complex and multifaceted issues, which may be difficult to understand through other research methods.
  • Informing practice or policy: Case studies can be used to inform practice or policy by identifying best practices, lessons learned, or areas for improvement.

Advantages of Case Study Research

There are several advantages of case study research, including:

  • In-depth exploration: Case study research allows for a detailed exploration and analysis of a specific phenomenon, issue, or problem in its real-life context. This can provide a comprehensive understanding of the case and its dynamics, which may not be possible through other research methods.
  • Rich data: Case study research can generate rich and detailed data, including qualitative data such as interviews, observations, and documents. This can provide a nuanced understanding of the case and its complexity.
  • Holistic perspective: Case study research allows for a holistic perspective of the case, taking into account the various factors, processes, and mechanisms that contribute to the case and its outcomes. This can help to develop a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the case.
  • Theory development: Case study research can help to develop and refine theories and concepts by providing empirical evidence and concrete examples of how they can be applied in real-life situations.
  • Practical application: Case study research can inform practice or policy by identifying best practices, lessons learned, or areas for improvement.
  • Contextualization: Case study research takes into account the specific context in which the case is situated, which can help to understand how the case is influenced by the social, cultural, and historical factors of its environment.

Limitations of Case Study Research

There are several limitations of case study research, including:

  • Limited generalizability : Case studies are typically focused on a single case or a small number of cases, which limits the generalizability of the findings. The unique characteristics of the case may not be applicable to other contexts or populations, which may limit the external validity of the research.
  • Biased sampling: Case studies may rely on purposive or convenience sampling, which can introduce bias into the sample selection process. This may limit the representativeness of the sample and the generalizability of the findings.
  • Subjectivity: Case studies rely on the interpretation of the researcher, which can introduce subjectivity into the analysis. The researcher’s own biases, assumptions, and perspectives may influence the findings, which may limit the objectivity of the research.
  • Limited control: Case studies are typically conducted in naturalistic settings, which limits the control that the researcher has over the environment and the variables being studied. This may limit the ability to establish causal relationships between variables.
  • Time-consuming: Case studies can be time-consuming to conduct, as they typically involve a detailed exploration and analysis of a specific case. This may limit the feasibility of conducting multiple case studies or conducting case studies in a timely manner.
  • Resource-intensive: Case studies may require significant resources, including time, funding, and expertise. This may limit the ability of researchers to conduct case studies in resource-constrained settings.

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A case study research paper examines a person, place, event, condition, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis in order to extrapolate  key themes and results that help predict future trends, illuminate previously hidden issues that can be applied to practice, and/or provide a means for understanding an important research problem with greater clarity. A case study research paper usually examines a single subject of analysis, but case study papers can also be designed as a comparative investigation that shows relationships between two or more subjects. The methods used to study a case can rest within a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method investigative paradigm.

Case Studies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010 ; “What is a Case Study?” In Swanborn, Peter G. Case Study Research: What, Why and How? London: SAGE, 2010.

How to Approach Writing a Case Study Research Paper

General information about how to choose a topic to investigate can be found under the " Choosing a Research Problem " tab in the Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper writing guide. Review this page because it may help you identify a subject of analysis that can be investigated using a case study design.

However, identifying a case to investigate involves more than choosing the research problem . A case study encompasses a problem contextualized around the application of in-depth analysis, interpretation, and discussion, often resulting in specific recommendations for action or for improving existing conditions. As Seawright and Gerring note, practical considerations such as time and access to information can influence case selection, but these issues should not be the sole factors used in describing the methodological justification for identifying a particular case to study. Given this, selecting a case includes considering the following:

  • The case represents an unusual or atypical example of a research problem that requires more in-depth analysis? Cases often represent a topic that rests on the fringes of prior investigations because the case may provide new ways of understanding the research problem. For example, if the research problem is to identify strategies to improve policies that support girl's access to secondary education in predominantly Muslim nations, you could consider using Azerbaijan as a case study rather than selecting a more obvious nation in the Middle East. Doing so may reveal important new insights into recommending how governments in other predominantly Muslim nations can formulate policies that support improved access to education for girls.
  • The case provides important insight or illuminate a previously hidden problem? In-depth analysis of a case can be based on the hypothesis that the case study will reveal trends or issues that have not been exposed in prior research or will reveal new and important implications for practice. For example, anecdotal evidence may suggest drug use among homeless veterans is related to their patterns of travel throughout the day. Assuming prior studies have not looked at individual travel choices as a way to study access to illicit drug use, a case study that observes a homeless veteran could reveal how issues of personal mobility choices facilitate regular access to illicit drugs. Note that it is important to conduct a thorough literature review to ensure that your assumption about the need to reveal new insights or previously hidden problems is valid and evidence-based.
  • The case challenges and offers a counter-point to prevailing assumptions? Over time, research on any given topic can fall into a trap of developing assumptions based on outdated studies that are still applied to new or changing conditions or the idea that something should simply be accepted as "common sense," even though the issue has not been thoroughly tested in current practice. A case study analysis may offer an opportunity to gather evidence that challenges prevailing assumptions about a research problem and provide a new set of recommendations applied to practice that have not been tested previously. For example, perhaps there has been a long practice among scholars to apply a particular theory in explaining the relationship between two subjects of analysis. Your case could challenge this assumption by applying an innovative theoretical framework [perhaps borrowed from another discipline] to explore whether this approach offers new ways of understanding the research problem. Taking a contrarian stance is one of the most important ways that new knowledge and understanding develops from existing literature.
  • The case provides an opportunity to pursue action leading to the resolution of a problem? Another way to think about choosing a case to study is to consider how the results from investigating a particular case may result in findings that reveal ways in which to resolve an existing or emerging problem. For example, studying the case of an unforeseen incident, such as a fatal accident at a railroad crossing, can reveal hidden issues that could be applied to preventative measures that contribute to reducing the chance of accidents in the future. In this example, a case study investigating the accident could lead to a better understanding of where to strategically locate additional signals at other railroad crossings so as to better warn drivers of an approaching train, particularly when visibility is hindered by heavy rain, fog, or at night.
  • The case offers a new direction in future research? A case study can be used as a tool for an exploratory investigation that highlights the need for further research about the problem. A case can be used when there are few studies that help predict an outcome or that establish a clear understanding about how best to proceed in addressing a problem. For example, after conducting a thorough literature review [very important!], you discover that little research exists showing the ways in which women contribute to promoting water conservation in rural communities of east central Africa. A case study of how women contribute to saving water in a rural village of Uganda can lay the foundation for understanding the need for more thorough research that documents how women in their roles as cooks and family caregivers think about water as a valuable resource within their community. This example of a case study could also point to the need for scholars to build new theoretical frameworks around the topic [e.g., applying feminist theories of work and family to the issue of water conservation].

Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. “Building Theories from Case Study Research.” Academy of Management Review 14 (October 1989): 532-550; Emmel, Nick. Sampling and Choosing Cases in Qualitative Research: A Realist Approach . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2013; Gerring, John. “What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good for?” American Political Science Review 98 (May 2004): 341-354; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Seawright, Jason and John Gerring. "Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research." Political Research Quarterly 61 (June 2008): 294-308.

Structure and Writing Style

The purpose of a paper in the social sciences designed around a case study is to thoroughly investigate a subject of analysis in order to reveal a new understanding about the research problem and, in so doing, contributing new knowledge to what is already known from previous studies. In applied social sciences disciplines [e.g., education, social work, public administration, etc.], case studies may also be used to reveal best practices, highlight key programs, or investigate interesting aspects of professional work.

In general, the structure of a case study research paper is not all that different from a standard college-level research paper. However, there are subtle differences you should be aware of. Here are the key elements to organizing and writing a case study research paper.

I.  Introduction

As with any research paper, your introduction should serve as a roadmap for your readers to ascertain the scope and purpose of your study . The introduction to a case study research paper, however, should not only describe the research problem and its significance, but you should also succinctly describe why the case is being used and how it relates to addressing the problem. The two elements should be linked. With this in mind, a good introduction answers these four questions:

  • What is being studied? Describe the research problem and describe the subject of analysis [the case] you have chosen to address the problem. Explain how they are linked and what elements of the case will help to expand knowledge and understanding about the problem.
  • Why is this topic important to investigate? Describe the significance of the research problem and state why a case study design and the subject of analysis that the paper is designed around is appropriate in addressing the problem.
  • What did we know about this topic before I did this study? Provide background that helps lead the reader into the more in-depth literature review to follow. If applicable, summarize prior case study research applied to the research problem and why it fails to adequately address the problem. Describe why your case will be useful. If no prior case studies have been used to address the research problem, explain why you have selected this subject of analysis.
  • How will this study advance new knowledge or new ways of understanding? Explain why your case study will be suitable in helping to expand knowledge and understanding about the research problem.

Each of these questions should be addressed in no more than a few paragraphs. Exceptions to this can be when you are addressing a complex research problem or subject of analysis that requires more in-depth background information.

II.  Literature Review

The literature review for a case study research paper is generally structured the same as it is for any college-level research paper. The difference, however, is that the literature review is focused on providing background information and  enabling historical interpretation of the subject of analysis in relation to the research problem the case is intended to address . This includes synthesizing studies that help to:

  • Place relevant works in the context of their contribution to understanding the case study being investigated . This would involve summarizing studies that have used a similar subject of analysis to investigate the research problem. If there is literature using the same or a very similar case to study, you need to explain why duplicating past research is important [e.g., conditions have changed; prior studies were conducted long ago, etc.].
  • Describe the relationship each work has to the others under consideration that informs the reader why this case is applicable . Your literature review should include a description of any works that support using the case to investigate the research problem and the underlying research questions.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research using the case study . If applicable, review any research that has examined the research problem using a different research design. Explain how your use of a case study design may reveal new knowledge or a new perspective or that can redirect research in an important new direction.
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies . This refers to synthesizing any literature that points to unresolved issues of concern about the research problem and describing how the subject of analysis that forms the case study can help resolve these existing contradictions.
  • Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research . Your review should examine any literature that lays a foundation for understanding why your case study design and the subject of analysis around which you have designed your study may reveal a new way of approaching the research problem or offer a perspective that points to the need for additional research.
  • Expose any gaps that exist in the literature that the case study could help to fill . Summarize any literature that not only shows how your subject of analysis contributes to understanding the research problem, but how your case contributes to a new way of understanding the problem that prior research has failed to do.
  • Locate your own research within the context of existing literature [very important!] . Collectively, your literature review should always place your case study within the larger domain of prior research about the problem. The overarching purpose of reviewing pertinent literature in a case study paper is to demonstrate that you have thoroughly identified and synthesized prior studies in relation to explaining the relevance of the case in addressing the research problem.

III.  Method

In this section, you explain why you selected a particular case [i.e., subject of analysis] and the strategy you used to identify and ultimately decide that your case was appropriate in addressing the research problem. The way you describe the methods used varies depending on the type of subject of analysis that constitutes your case study.

If your subject of analysis is an incident or event . In the social and behavioral sciences, the event or incident that represents the case to be studied is usually bounded by time and place, with a clear beginning and end and with an identifiable location or position relative to its surroundings. The subject of analysis can be a rare or critical event or it can focus on a typical or regular event. The purpose of studying a rare event is to illuminate new ways of thinking about the broader research problem or to test a hypothesis. Critical incident case studies must describe the method by which you identified the event and explain the process by which you determined the validity of this case to inform broader perspectives about the research problem or to reveal new findings. However, the event does not have to be a rare or uniquely significant to support new thinking about the research problem or to challenge an existing hypothesis. For example, Walo, Bull, and Breen conducted a case study to identify and evaluate the direct and indirect economic benefits and costs of a local sports event in the City of Lismore, New South Wales, Australia. The purpose of their study was to provide new insights from measuring the impact of a typical local sports event that prior studies could not measure well because they focused on large "mega-events." Whether the event is rare or not, the methods section should include an explanation of the following characteristics of the event: a) when did it take place; b) what were the underlying circumstances leading to the event; and, c) what were the consequences of the event in relation to the research problem.

If your subject of analysis is a person. Explain why you selected this particular individual to be studied and describe what experiences they have had that provide an opportunity to advance new understandings about the research problem. Mention any background about this person which might help the reader understand the significance of their experiences that make them worthy of study. This includes describing the relationships this person has had with other people, institutions, and/or events that support using them as the subject for a case study research paper. It is particularly important to differentiate the person as the subject of analysis from others and to succinctly explain how the person relates to examining the research problem [e.g., why is one politician in a particular local election used to show an increase in voter turnout from any other candidate running in the election]. Note that these issues apply to a specific group of people used as a case study unit of analysis [e.g., a classroom of students].

If your subject of analysis is a place. In general, a case study that investigates a place suggests a subject of analysis that is unique or special in some way and that this uniqueness can be used to build new understanding or knowledge about the research problem. A case study of a place must not only describe its various attributes relevant to the research problem [e.g., physical, social, historical, cultural, economic, political], but you must state the method by which you determined that this place will illuminate new understandings about the research problem. It is also important to articulate why a particular place as the case for study is being used if similar places also exist [i.e., if you are studying patterns of homeless encampments of veterans in open spaces, explain why you are studying Echo Park in Los Angeles rather than Griffith Park?]. If applicable, describe what type of human activity involving this place makes it a good choice to study [e.g., prior research suggests Echo Park has more homeless veterans].

If your subject of analysis is a phenomenon. A phenomenon refers to a fact, occurrence, or circumstance that can be studied or observed but with the cause or explanation to be in question. In this sense, a phenomenon that forms your subject of analysis can encompass anything that can be observed or presumed to exist but is not fully understood. In the social and behavioral sciences, the case usually focuses on human interaction within a complex physical, social, economic, cultural, or political system. For example, the phenomenon could be the observation that many vehicles used by ISIS fighters are small trucks with English language advertisements on them. The research problem could be that ISIS fighters are difficult to combat because they are highly mobile. The research questions could be how and by what means are these vehicles used by ISIS being supplied to the militants and how might supply lines to these vehicles be cut off? How might knowing the suppliers of these trucks reveal larger networks of collaborators and financial support? A case study of a phenomenon most often encompasses an in-depth analysis of a cause and effect that is grounded in an interactive relationship between people and their environment in some way.

NOTE:   The choice of the case or set of cases to study cannot appear random. Evidence that supports the method by which you identified and chose your subject of analysis should clearly support investigation of the research problem and linked to key findings from your literature review. Be sure to cite any studies that helped you determine that the case you chose was appropriate for examining the problem.

IV.  Discussion

The main elements of your discussion section are generally the same as any research paper, but centered around interpreting and drawing conclusions about the key findings from your analysis of the case study. Note that a general social sciences research paper may contain a separate section to report findings. However, in a paper designed around a case study, it is common to combine a description of the results with the discussion about their implications. The objectives of your discussion section should include the following:

Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings Briefly reiterate the research problem you are investigating and explain why the subject of analysis around which you designed the case study were used. You should then describe the findings revealed from your study of the case using direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results. Highlight any findings that were unexpected or especially profound.

Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important Systematically explain the meaning of your case study findings and why you believe they are important. Begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most important or surprising finding first, then systematically review each finding. Be sure to thoroughly extrapolate what your analysis of the case can tell the reader about situations or conditions beyond the actual case that was studied while, at the same time, being careful not to misconstrue or conflate a finding that undermines the external validity of your conclusions.

Relate the Findings to Similar Studies No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your case study results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for choosing your subject of analysis. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your case study design and the subject of analysis differs from prior research about the topic.

Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings Remember that the purpose of social science research is to discover and not to prove. When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations revealed by the case study results, rather than just those that fit your hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. Be alert to what the in-depth analysis of the case may reveal about the research problem, including offering a contrarian perspective to what scholars have stated in prior research if that is how the findings can be interpreted from your case.

Acknowledge the Study's Limitations You can state the study's limitations in the conclusion section of your paper but describing the limitations of your subject of analysis in the discussion section provides an opportunity to identify the limitations and explain why they are not significant. This part of the discussion section should also note any unanswered questions or issues your case study could not address. More detailed information about how to document any limitations to your research can be found here .

Suggest Areas for Further Research Although your case study may offer important insights about the research problem, there are likely additional questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or findings that unexpectedly revealed themselves as a result of your in-depth analysis of the case. Be sure that the recommendations for further research are linked to the research problem and that you explain why your recommendations are valid in other contexts and based on the original assumptions of your study.

V.  Conclusion

As with any research paper, you should summarize your conclusion in clear, simple language; emphasize how the findings from your case study differs from or supports prior research and why. Do not simply reiterate the discussion section. Provide a synthesis of key findings presented in the paper to show how these converge to address the research problem. If you haven't already done so in the discussion section, be sure to document the limitations of your case study and any need for further research.

The function of your paper's conclusion is to: 1) reiterate the main argument supported by the findings from your case study; 2) state clearly the context, background, and necessity of pursuing the research problem using a case study design in relation to an issue, controversy, or a gap found from reviewing the literature; and, 3) provide a place to persuasively and succinctly restate the significance of your research problem, given that the reader has now been presented with in-depth information about the topic.

Consider the following points to help ensure your conclusion is appropriate:

  • If the argument or purpose of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize these points for your reader.
  • If prior to your conclusion, you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the conclusion of your paper to describe your main points and explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration of the case study's findings that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction or within a new context that emerges from your case study findings.

Note that, depending on the discipline you are writing in or the preferences of your professor, the concluding paragraph may contain your final reflections on the evidence presented as it applies to practice or on the essay's central research problem. However, the nature of being introspective about the subject of analysis you have investigated will depend on whether you are explicitly asked to express your observations in this way.

Problems to Avoid

Overgeneralization One of the goals of a case study is to lay a foundation for understanding broader trends and issues applied to similar circumstances. However, be careful when drawing conclusions from your case study. They must be evidence-based and grounded in the results of the study; otherwise, it is merely speculation. Looking at a prior example, it would be incorrect to state that a factor in improving girls access to education in Azerbaijan and the policy implications this may have for improving access in other Muslim nations is due to girls access to social media if there is no documentary evidence from your case study to indicate this. There may be anecdotal evidence that retention rates were better for girls who were engaged with social media, but this observation would only point to the need for further research and would not be a definitive finding if this was not a part of your original research agenda.

Failure to Document Limitations No case is going to reveal all that needs to be understood about a research problem. Therefore, just as you have to clearly state the limitations of a general research study , you must describe the specific limitations inherent in the subject of analysis. For example, the case of studying how women conceptualize the need for water conservation in a village in Uganda could have limited application in other cultural contexts or in areas where fresh water from rivers or lakes is plentiful and, therefore, conservation is understood more in terms of managing access rather than preserving access to a scarce resource.

Failure to Extrapolate All Possible Implications Just as you don't want to over-generalize from your case study findings, you also have to be thorough in the consideration of all possible outcomes or recommendations derived from your findings. If you do not, your reader may question the validity of your analysis, particularly if you failed to document an obvious outcome from your case study research. For example, in the case of studying the accident at the railroad crossing to evaluate where and what types of warning signals should be located, you failed to take into consideration speed limit signage as well as warning signals. When designing your case study, be sure you have thoroughly addressed all aspects of the problem and do not leave gaps in your analysis that leave the reader questioning the results.

Case Studies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Gerring, John. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education . Rev. ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1998; Miller, Lisa L. “The Use of Case Studies in Law and Social Science Research.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 14 (2018): TBD; Mills, Albert J., Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Putney, LeAnn Grogan. "Case Study." In Encyclopedia of Research Design , Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010), pp. 116-120; Simons, Helen. Case Study Research in Practice . London: SAGE Publications, 2009;  Kratochwill,  Thomas R. and Joel R. Levin, editors. Single-Case Research Design and Analysis: New Development for Psychology and Education .  Hilldsale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992; Swanborn, Peter G. Case Study Research: What, Why and How? London : SAGE, 2010; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Los Angeles, CA, SAGE Publications, 2014; Walo, Maree, Adrian Bull, and Helen Breen. “Achieving Economic Benefits at Local Events: A Case Study of a Local Sports Event.” Festival Management and Event Tourism 4 (1996): 95-106.

Writing Tip

At Least Five Misconceptions about Case Study Research

Social science case studies are often perceived as limited in their ability to create new knowledge because they are not randomly selected and findings cannot be generalized to larger populations. Flyvbjerg examines five misunderstandings about case study research and systematically "corrects" each one. To quote, these are:

Misunderstanding 1 :  General, theoretical [context-independent] knowledge is more valuable than concrete, practical [context-dependent] knowledge. Misunderstanding 2 :  One cannot generalize on the basis of an individual case; therefore, the case study cannot contribute to scientific development. Misunderstanding 3 :  The case study is most useful for generating hypotheses; that is, in the first stage of a total research process, whereas other methods are more suitable for hypotheses testing and theory building. Misunderstanding 4 :  The case study contains a bias toward verification, that is, a tendency to confirm the researcher’s preconceived notions. Misunderstanding 5 :  It is often difficult to summarize and develop general propositions and theories on the basis of specific case studies [p. 221].

While writing your paper, think introspectively about how you addressed these misconceptions because to do so can help you strengthen the validity and reliability of your research by clarifying issues of case selection, the testing and challenging of existing assumptions, the interpretation of key findings, and the summation of case outcomes. Think of a case study research paper as a complete, in-depth narrative about the specific properties and key characteristics of your subject of analysis applied to the research problem.

Flyvbjerg, Bent. “Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 12 (April 2006): 219-245.

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What Is a Case Study?

An in-depth study of one person, group, or event

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

case study analysis meaning

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

case study analysis meaning

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Benefits and Limitations

Types of case studies, how to write a case study.

A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior. Case studies can be used in various fields, including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.

The purpose of a case study is to learn as much as possible about an individual or group so that the information can be generalized to many others. Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective, and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.

While case studies focus on a single individual or group, they follow a format similar to other types of psychology writing. If you are writing a case study, it is important to follow the rules of APA format .  

A case study can have both strengths and weaknesses. Researchers must consider these pros and cons before deciding if this type of study is appropriate for their needs.

One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult to impossible to replicate in a lab. Some other benefits of a case study:

  • Allows researchers to collect a great deal of information
  • Give researchers the chance to collect information on rare or unusual cases
  • Permits researchers to develop hypotheses that can be explored in experimental research

On the negative side, a case study:

  • Cannot necessarily be generalized to the larger population
  • Cannot demonstrate cause and effect
  • May not be scientifically rigorous
  • Can lead to bias

Researchers may choose to perform a case study if they are interested in exploring a unique or recently discovered phenomenon. The insights gained from such research can help the researchers develop additional ideas and study questions that might be explored in future studies.

However, it is important to remember that the insights gained from case studies cannot be used to determine cause and effect relationships between variables. However, case studies may be used to develop hypotheses that can then be addressed in experimental research.

Case Study Examples

There have been a number of notable case studies in the history of psychology. Much of  Freud's work and theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include:

  • Anna O : Anna O. was a pseudonym of a woman named Bertha Pappenheim, a patient of a physician named Josef Breuer. While she was never a patient of Freud's, Freud and Breuer discussed her case extensively. The woman was experiencing symptoms of a condition that was then known as hysteria and found that talking about her problems helped relieve her symptoms. Her case played an important part in the development of talk therapy as an approach to mental health treatment.
  • Phineas Gage : Phineas Gage was a railroad employee who experienced a terrible accident in which an explosion sent a metal rod through his skull, damaging important portions of his brain. Gage recovered from his accident but was left with serious changes in both personality and behavior.
  • Genie : Genie was a young girl subjected to horrific abuse and isolation. The case study of Genie allowed researchers to study whether language could be taught even after critical periods for language development had been missed. Her case also served as an example of how scientific research may interfere with treatment and lead to further abuse of vulnerable individuals.

Such cases demonstrate how case research can be used to study things that researchers could not replicate in experimental settings. In Genie's case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity to learn language at critical points in her development.

This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to study phenomena that are otherwise impossible to reproduce.

There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists and other researchers might utilize:

  • Collective case studies : These involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community. For example, psychologists might explore how access to resources in a community has affected the collective mental well-being of those living there.
  • Descriptive case studies : These involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed, and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory.
  • Explanatory case studies : These   are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have caused certain things to occur.
  • Exploratory case studies : These are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses .
  • Instrumental case studies : These occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.
  • Intrinsic case studies : This type of case study is when the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget's observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic cast study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.

The three main case study types often used are intrinsic, instrumental, and collective. Intrinsic case studies are useful for learning about unique cases. Instrumental case studies help look at an individual to learn more about a broader issue. A collective case study can be useful for looking at several cases simultaneously.

The type of case study that psychology researchers utilize depends on the unique characteristics of the situation as well as the case itself.

There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study, including prospective and retrospective case study methods.

Prospective case study methods are those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to observe the progression of a particular disease.

Retrospective case study methods involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to look at information about the individual's life to determine risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of the illness.

Where to Find Data

There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. Six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:

  • Archival records : Census records, survey records, and name lists are examples of archival records.
  • Direct observation : This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting . While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
  • Documents : Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc., are the types of documents often used as sources.
  • Interviews : Interviews are one of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involve structured survey questions or more open-ended questions.
  • Participant observation : When the researcher serves as a participant in events and observes the actions and outcomes, it is called participant observation.
  • Physical artifacts : Tools, objects, instruments, and other artifacts are often observed during a direct observation of the subject.

Section 1: A Case History

This section will have the following structure and content:

Background information : The first section of your paper will present your client's background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.

Description of the presenting problem : In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with.

Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.

Your diagnosis : Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the client's symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.

Section 2: Treatment Plan

This portion of the paper will address the chosen treatment for the condition. This might also include the theoretical basis for the chosen treatment or any other evidence that might exist to support why this approach was chosen.

  • Cognitive behavioral approach : Explain how a cognitive behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
  • Humanistic approach : Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy . Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client's reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
  • Psychoanalytic approach : Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client's problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
  • Pharmacological approach : If treatment primarily involves the use of medications, explain which medications were used and why. Provide background on the effectiveness of these medications and how monotherapy may compare with an approach that combines medications with therapy or other treatments.

This section of a case study should also include information about the treatment goals, process, and outcomes.

When you are writing a case study, you should also include a section where you discuss the case study itself, including the strengths and limitiations of the study. You should note how the findings of your case study might support previous research. 

In your discussion section, you should also describe some of the implications of your case study. What ideas or findings might require further exploration? How might researchers go about exploring some of these questions in additional studies?

Here are a few additional pointers to keep in mind when formatting your case study:

  • Never refer to the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, their name or a pseudonym.
  • Read examples of case studies to gain an idea about the style and format.
  • Remember to use APA format when citing references .

A Word From Verywell

Case studies can be a useful research tool, but they need to be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They are helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a great deal of information about a specific individual or group of people.

If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to follow. If you are writing your case study for professional publication, be sure to check with the publisher for their specific guidelines for submitting a case study.

Simply Psychology. Case Study Method .

Crowe S, Cresswell K, Robertson A, Huby G, Avery A, Sheikh A. The case study approach . BMC Med Res Methodol . 2011 Jun 27;11:100. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100

Gagnon, Yves-Chantal.  The Case Study as Research Method: A Practical Handbook . Canada, Chicago Review Press Incorporated DBA Independent Pub Group, 2010.

Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . United States, SAGE Publications, 2017.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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What Is a Case Study and Why You Should Use Them

Case studies can provide more insights into your business while helping you conduct further research with robust qualitative data analysis to learn more.

If you're in charge of running a company, then you're likely always looking for new ways to run your business more efficiently and increase your customer base while streamlining as many processes as possible.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to determine how to go about implementing the proper program in order to be successful. This is why many business owners opt to conduct a case study, which can help significantly. Whether you've been struggling with brand consistency or some other problem, the right case study can identify why your problem exists as well as provide a way to rectify it.

A case study is a great tool that many businesses aren't even aware exists, and there are marketing experts like Mailchimp who can provide you with step-by-step assistance with implementing a plan with a case study. Many companies discover that not only do they need to start a blog in order to improve business, but they also need to create specific and relevant blog titles.

If your company already has a blog, then optimizing your blog posts may be helpful. Regardless of the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving all your professional goals, a case study can work wonders in helping you reverse this issue.

case study analysis meaning

What is a case study?

A case study is a comprehensive report of the results of theory testing or examining emerging themes of a business in real life context. Case studies are also often used in the healthcare industry, conducting health services research with primary research interest around routinely collected healthcare data.

However, for businesses, the purpose of a case study is to help small business owners or company leaders identify the issues and conduct further research into what may be preventing success through information collection, client or customer interviews, and in-depth data analysis.

Knowing the case study definition is crucial for any business owner. By identifying the issues that are hindering a company from achieving all its goals, it's easier to make the necessary corrections to promote success through influenced data collection.

Why are case studies important?

Now that we've answered the questions, "what is a case study?" Why are case studies important? Some of the top reasons why case studies are important include:

 Importance of case studies

  • Understand complex issues: Even after you conduct a significant amount of market research , you might have a difficult time understanding exactly what it means. While you might have the basics down, conducting a case study can help you see how that information is applied. Then, when you see how the information can make a difference in business decisions, it could make it easier to understand complex issues.
  • Collect data: A case study can also help with data tracking . A case study is a data collection method that can help you describe the information that you have available to you. Then, you can present that information in a way the reader can understand.
  • Conduct evaluations: As you learn more about how to write a case study, remember that you can also use a case study to conduct evaluations of a specific situation. A case study is a great way to learn more about complex situations, and you can evaluate how various people responded in that situation. By conducting a case study evaluation, you can learn more about what has worked well, what has not, and what you might want to change in the future.
  • Identify potential solutions: A case study can also help you identify solutions to potential problems. If you have an issue in your business that you are trying to solve, you may be able to take a look at a case study where someone has dealt with a similar situation in the past. For example, you may uncover data bias in a specific solution that you would like to address when you tackle the issue on your own. If you need help solving a difficult problem, a case study may be able to help you.

Remember that you can also use case studies to target your audience . If you want to show your audience that you have a significant level of expertise in a field, you may want to publish some case studies that you have handled in the past. Then, when your audience sees that you have had success in a specific area, they may be more likely to provide you with their business. In essence, case studies can be looked at as the original method of social proof, showcasing exactly how you can help someone solve their problems.

What are the benefits of writing a business case study?

Although writing a case study can seem like a tedious task, there are many benefits to conducting one through an in depth qualitative research process.

Benefits of Case Studies

  • Industry understanding: First of all, a case study can give you an in-depth understanding of your industry through a particular conceptual framework and help you identify hidden problems that are preventing you from transcending into the business world.
  • Develop theories: If you decide to write a business case study, it provides you with an opportunity to develop new theories. You might have a theory about how to solve a specific problem, but you need to write a business case study to see exactly how that theory has unfolded in the past. Then, you can figure out if you want to apply your theory to a similar issue in the future.
  • Evaluate interventions: When you write a business case study that focuses on a specific situation you have been through in the past, you can uncover whether that intervention was truly helpful. This can make it easier to figure out whether you want to use the same intervention in a similar situation in the future.
  • Identify best practices: If you want to stay on top of the best practices in your field, conducting case studies can help by allowing you to identify patterns and trends and develop a new list of best practices that you can follow in the future.
  • Versatility: Writing a case study also provides you with more versatility. If you want to expand your business applications, you need to figure out how you respond to various problems. When you run a business case study, you open the door to new opportunities, new applications, and new techniques that could help you make a difference in your business down the road.
  • Solve problems: Writing a great case study can dramatically improve your chances of reversing your problem and improving your business.
  • These are just a few of the biggest benefits you might experience if you decide to publish your case studies. They can be an effective tool for learning, showcasing your talents, and teaching some of your other employees. If you want to grow your audience , you may want to consider publishing some case studies.

What are the limitations of case studies?

Case studies can be a wonderful tool for any business of any size to use to gain an in-depth understanding of their clients, products, customers, or services, but there are limitations.

One limitation of case studies is the fact that, unless there are other recently published examples, there is nothing to compare them to since, most of the time, you are conducting a single, not multiple, case studies.

Another limitation is the fact that most case studies can lack scientific evidence.

case study analysis meaning

Types of case studies

There are specific types of case studies to choose from, and each specific type will yield different results. Some case study types even overlap, which is sometimes more favorable, as they provide even more pertinent data.

Here are overviews of the different types of case studies, each with its own theoretical framework, so you can determine which type would be most effective for helping you meet your goals.

Explanatory case studies

Explanatory case studies are pretty straightforward, as they're not difficult to interpret. This type of case study is best if there aren't many variables involved because explanatory case studies can easily answer questions like "how" and "why" through theory development.

Exploratory case studies

An exploratory case study does exactly what its name implies: it goes into specific detail about the topic at hand in a natural, real-life context with qualitative research.

The benefits of exploratory case studies are limitless, with the main one being that it offers a great deal of flexibility. Having flexibility when writing a case study is important because you can't always predict what obstacles might arise during the qualitative research process.

Collective case studies

Collective case studies require you to study many different individuals in order to obtain usable data.

Case studies that involve an investigation of people will involve many different variables, all of which can't be predicted. Despite this fact, there are many benefits of collective case studies, including the fact that it allows an ongoing analysis of the data collected.

Intrinsic case studies

This type of study differs from the others as it focuses on the inquiry of one specific instance among many possibilities.

Many people prefer these types of case studies because it allows them to learn about the particular instance that they wish to investigate further.

Instrumental case studies

An instrumental case study is similar to an intrinsic one, as it focuses on a particular instance, whether it's a person, organization, or something different.

One thing that differentiates instrumental case studies from intrinsic ones is the fact that instrumental case studies aren't chosen merely because a person is interested in learning about a specific instance.

case study analysis meaning

Tips for writing a case study

If you have decided to write case studies for your company, then you may be unsure of where to start or which type to conduct.

However, it doesn't have to be difficult or confusing to begin conducting a case study that will help you identify ways to improve your business.

Here are some helpful tips for writing your case studies:

1. Your case study must be written in the proper format

When writing a case study, the format that you should be similar to this:

Case study format

Administrative summary

The executive summary is an overview of what your report will contain, written in a concise manner while providing real-life context.

Despite the fact that the executive summary should appear at the beginning of your case studies, it shouldn't be written until you've completed the entire report because if you write it before you finish the report, this summary may not be completely accurate.

Key problem statement

In this section of your case study, you will briefly describe the problem that you hope to solve by conducting the study. You will have the opportunity to elaborate on the problem that you're focusing on as you get into the breadth of the report.

Problem exploration

This part of the case study isn't as brief as the other two, and it goes into more detail about the problem at hand. Your problem exploration must include why the identified problem needs to be solved as well as the urgency of solving it.

Additionally, it must include justification for conducting the problem-solving, as the benefits must outweigh the efforts and costs.

Proposed resolution

This case study section will also be lengthier than the first two. It must include how you propose going about rectifying the problem. The "recommended solution" section must also include potential obstacles that you might experience, as well as how these will be managed.

Furthermore, you will need to list alternative solutions and explain the reason the chosen solution is best. Charts can enhance your report and make it easier to read, and provide as much proof to substantiate your claim as possible.

Overview of monetary consideration

An overview of monetary consideration is essential for all case studies, as it will be used to convince all involved parties why your project should be funded. You must successfully convince them that the cost is worth the investment it will require. It's important that you stress the necessity for this particular case study and explain the expected outcome.

Execution timeline

In the execution times of case studies, you explain how long you predict it will take to implement your study. The shorter the time it will take to implement your plan, the more apt it is to be approved. However, be sure to provide a reasonable timeline, taking into consideration any additional time that might be needed due to obstacles.

Always include a conclusion in your case study. This is where you will briefly wrap up your entire proposal, stressing the benefits of completing the data collection and data analysis in order to rectify your problem.

2. Make it clear and comprehensive

You want to write your case studies with as much clarity as possible so that every aspect of the report is understood. Be sure to double-check your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and more, as you don't want to submit a poorly-written document.

Not only would a poorly-written case study fail to prove that what you are trying to achieve is important, but it would also increase the chances that your report will be tossed aside and not taken seriously.

3. Don't rush through the process

Writing the perfect case study takes time and patience. Rushing could result in your forgetting to include information that is crucial to your entire study. Don't waste your time creating a study that simply isn't ready. Take the necessary time to perform all the research necessary to write the best case study possible.

Depending on the case study, conducting case study research could mean using qualitative methods, quantitative methods, or both. Qualitative research questions focus on non-numerical data, such as how people feel, their beliefs, their experiences, and so on.

Meanwhile, quantitative research questions focus on numerical or statistical data collection to explain causal links or get an in-depth picture.

It is also important to collect insightful and constructive feedback. This will help you better understand the outcome as well as any changes you need to make to future case studies. Consider using formal and informal ways to collect feedback to ensure that you get a range of opinions and perspectives.

4. Be confident in your theory development

While writing your case study or conducting your formal experimental investigation, you should have confidence in yourself and what you're proposing in your report. If you took the time to gather all the pertinent data collected to complete the report, don't second-guess yourself or doubt your abilities. If you believe your report will be amazing, then it likely will be.

5. Case studies and all qualitative research are long

It's expected that multiple case studies are going to be incredibly boring, and there is no way around this. However, it doesn't mean you can choose your language carefully in order to keep your audience as engaged as possible.

If your audience loses interest in your case study at the beginning, for whatever reason, then this increases the likelihood that your case study will not be funded.

Case study examples

If you want to learn more about how to write a case study, it might be beneficial to take a look at a few case study examples. Below are a few interesting case study examples you may want to take a closer look at.

  • Phineas Gage by John Martin Marlow : One of the most famous case studies comes from the medical field, and it is about the story of Phineas Gage, a man who had a railroad spike driven through his head in 1848. As he was working on a railroad, an explosive charge went off prematurely, sending a railroad rod through his head. Even though he survived this incident, he lost his left eye. However, Phineas Gage was studied extensively over the years because his experiences had a significant, lasting impact on his personality. This served as a case study because his injury showed different parts of the brain have different functions.
  • Kitty Genovese and the bystander effect : This is a tragic case study that discusses the murder of Kitty Genovese, a woman attacked and murdered in Queens, New York City. Shockingly, while numerous neighbors watched the scene, nobody called for help because they assumed someone else would. This case study helped to define the bystander effect, which is when a person fails to intervene during an emergency because other people are around.
  • Henry Molaison and the study of memory : Henry Molaison lost his memory and suffered from debilitating amnesia. He suffered from childhood epilepsy, and medical professionals attempted to remove the part of his brain that was causing his seizures. He had a portion of his brain removed, but it completely took away his ability to hold memories. Even though he went on to live until the age of 82, he was always forced to live in the present moment, as he was completely unable to form new memories.

Case study FAQs

When should you do a case study.

There are several scenarios when conducting a case study can be beneficial. Case studies are often used when there's a "why" or "how" question that needs to be answered. Case studies are also beneficial when trying to understand a complex phenomenon, there's limited research on a topic, or when you're looking for practical solutions to a problem.

How can case study results be used to make business decisions?

You can use the results from a case study to make future business decisions if you find yourself in a similar situation. As you assess the results of a case study, you can identify best practices, evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention, generate new and creative ideas, or get a better understanding of customer needs.

How are case studies different from other research methodologies?

When compared to other research methodologies, such as experimental or qualitative research methodology, a case study does not require a representative sample. For example, if you are performing quantitative research, you have a lot of subjects that expand your sample size. If you are performing experimental research, you may have a random sample in front of you. A case study is usually designed to deliberately focus on unusual situations, which allows it to shed new light on a specific business research problem.

Writing multiple case studies for your business

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of writing a case study and it seems completely foreign, then you aren't alone. Writing a case study for a business is a very big deal, but fortunately, there is help available because an example of a case study doesn't always help.

Mailchimp, a well-known marketing company that provides comprehensive marketing support for all sorts of businesses, can assist you with your case study, or you can review one of their own recently published examples.

Mailchimp can assist you with developing the most effective content strategy to increase your chances of being as successful as possible. Mailchimp's content studio is a great tool that can help your business immensely.

Case Studies

This guide examines case studies, a form of qualitative descriptive research that is used to look at individuals, a small group of participants, or a group as a whole. Researchers collect data about participants using participant and direct observations, interviews, protocols, tests, examinations of records, and collections of writing samples. Starting with a definition of the case study, the guide moves to a brief history of this research method. Using several well documented case studies, the guide then looks at applications and methods including data collection and analysis. A discussion of ways to handle validity, reliability, and generalizability follows, with special attention to case studies as they are applied to composition studies. Finally, this guide examines the strengths and weaknesses of case studies.

Definition and Overview

Case study refers to the collection and presentation of detailed information about a particular participant or small group, frequently including the accounts of subjects themselves. A form of qualitative descriptive research, the case study looks intensely at an individual or small participant pool, drawing conclusions only about that participant or group and only in that specific context. Researchers do not focus on the discovery of a universal, generalizable truth, nor do they typically look for cause-effect relationships; instead, emphasis is placed on exploration and description.

Case studies typically examine the interplay of all variables in order to provide as complete an understanding of an event or situation as possible. This type of comprehensive understanding is arrived at through a process known as thick description, which involves an in-depth description of the entity being evaluated, the circumstances under which it is used, the characteristics of the people involved in it, and the nature of the community in which it is located. Thick description also involves interpreting the meaning of demographic and descriptive data such as cultural norms and mores, community values, ingrained attitudes, and motives.

Unlike quantitative methods of research, like the survey, which focus on the questions of who, what, where, how much, and how many, and archival analysis, which often situates the participant in some form of historical context, case studies are the preferred strategy when how or why questions are asked. Likewise, they are the preferred method when the researcher has little control over the events, and when there is a contemporary focus within a real life context. In addition, unlike more specifically directed experiments, case studies require a problem that seeks a holistic understanding of the event or situation in question using inductive logic--reasoning from specific to more general terms.

In scholarly circles, case studies are frequently discussed within the context of qualitative research and naturalistic inquiry. Case studies are often referred to interchangeably with ethnography, field study, and participant observation. The underlying philosophical assumptions in the case are similar to these types of qualitative research because each takes place in a natural setting (such as a classroom, neighborhood, or private home), and strives for a more holistic interpretation of the event or situation under study.

Unlike more statistically-based studies which search for quantifiable data, the goal of a case study is to offer new variables and questions for further research. F.H. Giddings, a sociologist in the early part of the century, compares statistical methods to the case study on the basis that the former are concerned with the distribution of a particular trait, or a small number of traits, in a population, whereas the case study is concerned with the whole variety of traits to be found in a particular instance" (Hammersley 95).

Case studies are not a new form of research; naturalistic inquiry was the primary research tool until the development of the scientific method. The fields of sociology and anthropology are credited with the primary shaping of the concept as we know it today. However, case study research has drawn from a number of other areas as well: the clinical methods of doctors; the casework technique being developed by social workers; the methods of historians and anthropologists, plus the qualitative descriptions provided by quantitative researchers like LePlay; and, in the case of Robert Park, the techniques of newspaper reporters and novelists.

Park was an ex-newspaper reporter and editor who became very influential in developing sociological case studies at the University of Chicago in the 1920s. As a newspaper professional he coined the term "scientific" or "depth" reporting: the description of local events in a way that pointed to major social trends. Park viewed the sociologist as "merely a more accurate, responsible, and scientific reporter." Park stressed the variety and value of human experience. He believed that sociology sought to arrive at natural, but fluid, laws and generalizations in regard to human nature and society. These laws weren't static laws of the kind sought by many positivists and natural law theorists, but rather, they were laws of becoming--with a constant possibility of change. Park encouraged students to get out of the library, to quit looking at papers and books, and to view the constant experiment of human experience. He writes, "Go and sit in the lounges of the luxury hotels and on the doorsteps of the flophouses; sit on the Gold Coast settees and on the slum shakedowns; sit in the Orchestra Hall and in the Star and Garter Burlesque. In short, gentlemen [sic], go get the seats of your pants dirty in real research."

But over the years, case studies have drawn their share of criticism. In fact, the method had its detractors from the start. In the 1920s, the debate between pro-qualitative and pro-quantitative became quite heated. Case studies, when compared to statistics, were considered by many to be unscientific. From the 1930's on, the rise of positivism had a growing influence on quantitative methods in sociology. People wanted static, generalizable laws in science. The sociological positivists were looking for stable laws of social phenomena. They criticized case study research because it failed to provide evidence of inter subjective agreement. Also, they condemned it because of the few number of cases studied and that the under-standardized character of their descriptions made generalization impossible. By the 1950s, quantitative methods, in the form of survey research, had become the dominant sociological approach and case study had become a minority practice.

Educational Applications

The 1950's marked the dawning of a new era in case study research, namely that of the utilization of the case study as a teaching method. "Instituted at Harvard Business School in the 1950s as a primary method of teaching, cases have since been used in classrooms and lecture halls alike, either as part of a course of study or as the main focus of the course to which other teaching material is added" (Armisted 1984). The basic purpose of instituting the case method as a teaching strategy was "to transfer much of the responsibility for learning from the teacher on to the student, whose role, as a result, shifts away from passive absorption toward active construction" (Boehrer 1990). Through careful examination and discussion of various cases, "students learn to identify actual problems, to recognize key players and their agendas, and to become aware of those aspects of the situation that contribute to the problem" (Merseth 1991). In addition, students are encouraged to "generate their own analysis of the problems under consideration, to develop their own solutions, and to practically apply their own knowledge of theory to these problems" (Boyce 1993). Along the way, students also develop "the power to analyze and to master a tangled circumstance by identifying and delineating important factors; the ability to utilize ideas, to test them against facts, and to throw them into fresh combinations" (Merseth 1991).

In addition to the practical application and testing of scholarly knowledge, case discussions can also help students prepare for real-world problems, situations and crises by providing an approximation of various professional environments (i.e. classroom, board room, courtroom, or hospital). Thus, through the examination of specific cases, students are given the opportunity to work out their own professional issues through the trials, tribulations, experiences, and research findings of others. An obvious advantage to this mode of instruction is that it allows students the exposure to settings and contexts that they might not otherwise experience. For example, a student interested in studying the effects of poverty on minority secondary student's grade point averages and S.A.T. scores could access and analyze information from schools as geographically diverse as Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, and New Mexico without ever having to leave the classroom.

The case study method also incorporates the idea that students can learn from one another "by engaging with each other and with each other's ideas, by asserting something and then having it questioned, challenged and thrown back at them so that they can reflect on what they hear, and then refine what they say" (Boehrer 1990). In summary, students can direct their own learning by formulating questions and taking responsibility for the study.

Types and Design Concerns

Researchers use multiple methods and approaches to conduct case studies.

Types of Case Studies

Under the more generalized category of case study exist several subdivisions, each of which is custom selected for use depending upon the goals and/or objectives of the investigator. These types of case study include the following:

Illustrative Case Studies These are primarily descriptive studies. They typically utilize one or two instances of an event to show what a situation is like. Illustrative case studies serve primarily to make the unfamiliar familiar and to give readers a common language about the topic in question.

Exploratory (or pilot) Case Studies These are condensed case studies performed before implementing a large scale investigation. Their basic function is to help identify questions and select types of measurement prior to the main investigation. The primary pitfall of this type of study is that initial findings may seem convincing enough to be released prematurely as conclusions.

Cumulative Case Studies These serve to aggregate information from several sites collected at different times. The idea behind these studies is the collection of past studies will allow for greater generalization without additional cost or time being expended on new, possibly repetitive studies.

Critical Instance Case Studies These examine one or more sites for either the purpose of examining a situation of unique interest with little to no interest in generalizability, or to call into question or challenge a highly generalized or universal assertion. This method is useful for answering cause and effect questions.

Identifying a Theoretical Perspective

Much of the case study's design is inherently determined for researchers, depending on the field from which they are working. In composition studies, researchers are typically working from a qualitative, descriptive standpoint. In contrast, physicists will approach their research from a more quantitative perspective. Still, in designing the study, researchers need to make explicit the questions to be explored and the theoretical perspective from which they will approach the case. The three most commonly adopted theories are listed below:

Individual Theories These focus primarily on the individual development, cognitive behavior, personality, learning and disability, and interpersonal interactions of a particular subject.

Organizational Theories These focus on bureaucracies, institutions, organizational structure and functions, or excellence in organizational performance.

Social Theories These focus on urban development, group behavior, cultural institutions, or marketplace functions.

Two examples of case studies are used consistently throughout this chapter. The first, a study produced by Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman (1988), looks at a first year graduate student's initiation into an academic writing program. The study uses participant-observer and linguistic data collecting techniques to assess the student's knowledge of appropriate discourse conventions. Using the pseudonym Nate to refer to the subject, the study sought to illuminate the particular experience rather than to generalize about the experience of fledgling academic writers collectively.

For example, in Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman's (1988) study we are told that the researchers are interested in disciplinary communities. In the first paragraph, they ask what constitutes membership in a disciplinary community and how achieving membership might affect a writer's understanding and production of texts. In the third paragraph they state that researchers must negotiate their claims "within the context of his sub specialty's accepted knowledge and methodology." In the next paragraph they ask, "How is literacy acquired? What is the process through which novices gain community membership? And what factors either aid or hinder students learning the requisite linguistic behaviors?" This introductory section ends with a paragraph in which the study's authors claim that during the course of the study, the subject, Nate, successfully makes the transition from "skilled novice" to become an initiated member of the academic discourse community and that his texts exhibit linguistic changes which indicate this transition. In the next section the authors make explicit the sociolinguistic theoretical and methodological assumptions on which the study is based (1988). Thus the reader has a good understanding of the authors' theoretical background and purpose in conducting the study even before it is explicitly stated on the fourth page of the study. "Our purpose was to examine the effects of the educational context on one graduate student's production of texts as he wrote in different courses and for different faculty members over the academic year 1984-85." The goal of the study then, was to explore the idea that writers must be initiated into a writing community, and that this initiation will change the way one writes.

The second example is Janet Emig's (1971) study of the composing process of a group of twelfth graders. In this study, Emig seeks to answer the question of what happens to the self as a result educational stimuli in terms of academic writing. The case study used methods such as protocol analysis, tape-recorded interviews, and discourse analysis.

In the case of Janet Emig's (1971) study of the composing process of eight twelfth graders, four specific hypotheses were made:

  • Twelfth grade writers engage in two modes of composing: reflexive and extensive.
  • These differences can be ascertained and characterized through having the writers compose aloud their composition process.
  • A set of implied stylistic principles governs the writing process.
  • For twelfth grade writers, extensive writing occurs chiefly as a school-sponsored activity, or reflexive, as a self-sponsored activity.

In this study, the chief distinction is between the two dominant modes of composing among older, secondary school students. The distinctions are:

  • The reflexive mode, which focuses on the writer's thoughts and feelings.
  • The extensive mode, which focuses on conveying a message.

Emig also outlines the specific questions which guided the research in the opening pages of her Review of Literature , preceding the report.

Designing a Case Study

After considering the different sub categories of case study and identifying a theoretical perspective, researchers can begin to design their study. Research design is the string of logic that ultimately links the data to be collected and the conclusions to be drawn to the initial questions of the study. Typically, research designs deal with at least four problems:

  • What questions to study
  • What data are relevant
  • What data to collect
  • How to analyze that data

In other words, a research design is basically a blueprint for getting from the beginning to the end of a study. The beginning is an initial set of questions to be answered, and the end is some set of conclusions about those questions.

Because case studies are conducted on topics as diverse as Anglo-Saxon Literature (Thrane 1986) and AIDS prevention (Van Vugt 1994), it is virtually impossible to outline any strict or universal method or design for conducting the case study. However, Robert K. Yin (1993) does offer five basic components of a research design:

  • A study's questions.
  • A study's propositions (if any).
  • A study's units of analysis.
  • The logic that links the data to the propositions.
  • The criteria for interpreting the findings.

In addition to these five basic components, Yin also stresses the importance of clearly articulating one's theoretical perspective, determining the goals of the study, selecting one's subject(s), selecting the appropriate method(s) of collecting data, and providing some considerations to the composition of the final report.

Conducting Case Studies

To obtain as complete a picture of the participant as possible, case study researchers can employ a variety of approaches and methods. These approaches, methods, and related issues are discussed in depth in this section.

Method: Single or Multi-modal?

To obtain as complete a picture of the participant as possible, case study researchers can employ a variety of methods. Some common methods include interviews , protocol analyses, field studies, and participant-observations. Emig (1971) chose to use several methods of data collection. Her sources included conversations with the students, protocol analysis, discrete observations of actual composition, writing samples from each student, and school records (Lauer and Asher 1988).

Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman (1988) collected data by observing classrooms, conducting faculty and student interviews, collecting self reports from the subject, and by looking at the subject's written work.

A study that was criticized for using a single method model was done by Flower and Hayes (1984). In this study that explores the ways in which writers use different forms of knowing to create space, the authors used only protocol analysis to gather data. The study came under heavy fire because of their decision to use only one method.

Participant Selection

Case studies can use one participant, or a small group of participants. However, it is important that the participant pool remain relatively small. The participants can represent a diverse cross section of society, but this isn't necessary.

For example, the Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman (1988) study looked at just one participant, Nate. By contrast, in Janet Emig's (1971) study of the composition process of twelfth graders, eight participants were selected representing a diverse cross section of the community, with volunteers from an all-white upper-middle-class suburban school, an all-black inner-city school, a racially mixed lower-middle-class school, an economically and racially mixed school, and a university school.

Often, a brief "case history" is done on the participants of the study in order to provide researchers with a clearer understanding of their participants, as well as some insight as to how their own personal histories might affect the outcome of the study. For instance, in Emig's study, the investigator had access to the school records of five of the participants, and to standardized test scores for the remaining three. Also made available to the researcher was the information that three of the eight students were selected as NCTE Achievement Award winners. These personal histories can be useful in later stages of the study when data are being analyzed and conclusions drawn.

Data Collection

There are six types of data collected in case studies:

  • Archival records.
  • Interviews.
  • Direct observation.
  • Participant observation.

In the field of composition research, these six sources might be:

  • A writer's drafts.
  • School records of student writers.
  • Transcripts of interviews with a writer.
  • Transcripts of conversations between writers (and protocols).
  • Videotapes and notes from direct field observations.
  • Hard copies of a writer's work on computer.

Depending on whether researchers have chosen to use a single or multi-modal approach for the case study, they may choose to collect data from one or any combination of these sources.

Protocols, that is, transcriptions of participants talking aloud about what they are doing as they do it, have been particularly common in composition case studies. For example, in Emig's (1971) study, the students were asked, in four different sessions, to give oral autobiographies of their writing experiences and to compose aloud three themes in the presence of a tape recorder and the investigator.

In some studies, only one method of data collection is conducted. For example, the Flower and Hayes (1981) report on the cognitive process theory of writing depends on protocol analysis alone. However, using multiple sources of evidence to increase the reliability and validity of the data can be advantageous.

Case studies are likely to be much more convincing and accurate if they are based on several different sources of information, following a corroborating mode. This conclusion is echoed among many composition researchers. For example, in her study of predrafting processes of high and low-apprehensive writers, Cynthia Selfe (1985) argues that because "methods of indirect observation provide only an incomplete reflection of the complex set of processes involved in composing, a combination of several such methods should be used to gather data in any one study." Thus, in this study, Selfe collected her data from protocols, observations of students role playing their writing processes, audio taped interviews with the students, and videotaped observations of the students in the process of composing.

It can be said then, that cross checking data from multiple sources can help provide a multidimensional profile of composing activities in a particular setting. Sharan Merriam (1985) suggests "checking, verifying, testing, probing, and confirming collected data as you go, arguing that this process will follow in a funnel-like design resulting in less data gathering in later phases of the study along with a congruent increase in analysis checking, verifying, and confirming."

It is important to note that in case studies, as in any qualitative descriptive research, while researchers begin their studies with one or several questions driving the inquiry (which influence the key factors the researcher will be looking for during data collection), a researcher may find new key factors emerging during data collection. These might be unexpected patterns or linguistic features which become evident only during the course of the research. While not bearing directly on the researcher's guiding questions, these variables may become the basis for new questions asked at the end of the report, thus linking to the possibility of further research.

Data Analysis

As the information is collected, researchers strive to make sense of their data. Generally, researchers interpret their data in one of two ways: holistically or through coding. Holistic analysis does not attempt to break the evidence into parts, but rather to draw conclusions based on the text as a whole. Flower and Hayes (1981), for example, make inferences from entire sections of their students' protocols, rather than searching through the transcripts to look for isolatable characteristics.

However, composition researchers commonly interpret their data by coding, that is by systematically searching data to identify and/or categorize specific observable actions or characteristics. These observable actions then become the key variables in the study. Sharan Merriam (1988) suggests seven analytic frameworks for the organization and presentation of data:

  • The role of participants.
  • The network analysis of formal and informal exchanges among groups.
  • Historical.
  • Thematical.
  • Ritual and symbolism.
  • Critical incidents that challenge or reinforce fundamental beliefs, practices, and values.

There are two purposes of these frameworks: to look for patterns among the data and to look for patterns that give meaning to the case study.

As stated above, while most researchers begin their case studies expecting to look for particular observable characteristics, it is not unusual for key variables to emerge during data collection. Typical variables coded in case studies of writers include pauses writers make in the production of a text, the use of specific linguistic units (such as nouns or verbs), and writing processes (planning, drafting, revising, and editing). In the Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman (1988) study, for example, researchers coded the participant's texts for use of connectives, discourse demonstratives, average sentence length, off-register words, use of the first person pronoun, and the ratio of definite articles to indefinite articles.

Since coding is inherently subjective, more than one coder is usually employed. In the Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman (1988) study, for example, three rhetoricians were employed to code the participant's texts for off-register phrases. The researchers established the agreement among the coders before concluding that the participant used fewer off-register words as the graduate program progressed.

Composing the Case Study Report

In the many forms it can take, "a case study is generically a story; it presents the concrete narrative detail of actual, or at least realistic events, it has a plot, exposition, characters, and sometimes even dialogue" (Boehrer 1990). Generally, case study reports are extensively descriptive, with "the most problematic issue often referred to as being the determination of the right combination of description and analysis" (1990). Typically, authors address each step of the research process, and attempt to give the reader as much context as possible for the decisions made in the research design and for the conclusions drawn.

This contextualization usually includes a detailed explanation of the researchers' theoretical positions, of how those theories drove the inquiry or led to the guiding research questions, of the participants' backgrounds, of the processes of data collection, of the training and limitations of the coders, along with a strong attempt to make connections between the data and the conclusions evident.

Although the Berkenkotter, Huckin, and Ackerman (1988) study does not, case study reports often include the reactions of the participants to the study or to the researchers' conclusions. Because case studies tend to be exploratory, most end with implications for further study. Here researchers may identify significant variables that emerged during the research and suggest studies related to these, or the authors may suggest further general questions that their case study generated.

For example, Emig's (1971) study concludes with a section dedicated solely to the topic of implications for further research, in which she suggests several means by which this particular study could have been improved, as well as questions and ideas raised by this study which other researchers might like to address, such as: is there a correlation between a certain personality and a certain composing process profile (e.g. is there a positive correlation between ego strength and persistence in revising)?

Also included in Emig's study is a section dedicated to implications for teaching, which outlines the pedagogical ramifications of the study's findings for teachers currently involved in high school writing programs.

Sharan Merriam (1985) also offers several suggestions for alternative presentations of data:

  • Prepare specialized condensations for appropriate groups.
  • Replace narrative sections with a series of answers to open-ended questions.
  • Present "skimmer's" summaries at beginning of each section.
  • Incorporate headlines that encapsulate information from text.
  • Prepare analytic summaries with supporting data appendixes.
  • Present data in colorful and/or unique graphic representations.

Issues of Validity and Reliability

Once key variables have been identified, they can be analyzed. Reliability becomes a key concern at this stage, and many case study researchers go to great lengths to ensure that their interpretations of the data will be both reliable and valid. Because issues of validity and reliability are an important part of any study in the social sciences, it is important to identify some ways of dealing with results.

Multi-modal case study researchers often balance the results of their coding with data from interviews or writer's reflections upon their own work. Consequently, the researchers' conclusions become highly contextualized. For example, in a case study which looked at the time spent in different stages of the writing process, Berkenkotter concluded that her participant, Donald Murray, spent more time planning his essays than in other writing stages. The report of this case study is followed by Murray's reply, wherein he agrees with some of Berkenkotter's conclusions and disagrees with others.

As is the case with other research methodologies, issues of external validity, construct validity, and reliability need to be carefully considered.

Commentary on Case Studies

Researchers often debate the relative merits of particular methods, among them case study. In this section, we comment on two key issues. To read the commentaries, choose any of the items below:

Strengths and Weaknesses of Case Studies

Most case study advocates point out that case studies produce much more detailed information than what is available through a statistical analysis. Advocates will also hold that while statistical methods might be able to deal with situations where behavior is homogeneous and routine, case studies are needed to deal with creativity, innovation, and context. Detractors argue that case studies are difficult to generalize because of inherent subjectivity and because they are based on qualitative subjective data, generalizable only to a particular context.

Flexibility

The case study approach is a comparatively flexible method of scientific research. Because its project designs seem to emphasize exploration rather than prescription or prediction, researchers are comparatively freer to discover and address issues as they arise in their experiments. In addition, the looser format of case studies allows researchers to begin with broad questions and narrow their focus as their experiment progresses rather than attempt to predict every possible outcome before the experiment is conducted.

Emphasis on Context

By seeking to understand as much as possible about a single subject or small group of subjects, case studies specialize in "deep data," or "thick description"--information based on particular contexts that can give research results a more human face. This emphasis can help bridge the gap between abstract research and concrete practice by allowing researchers to compare their firsthand observations with the quantitative results obtained through other methods of research.

Inherent Subjectivity

"The case study has long been stereotyped as the weak sibling among social science methods," and is often criticized as being too subjective and even pseudo-scientific. Likewise, "investigators who do case studies are often regarded as having deviated from their academic disciplines, and their investigations as having insufficient precision (that is, quantification), objectivity and rigor" (Yin 1989). Opponents cite opportunities for subjectivity in the implementation, presentation, and evaluation of case study research. The approach relies on personal interpretation of data and inferences. Results may not be generalizable, are difficult to test for validity, and rarely offer a problem-solving prescription. Simply put, relying on one or a few subjects as a basis for cognitive extrapolations runs the risk of inferring too much from what might be circumstance.

High Investment

Case studies can involve learning more about the subjects being tested than most researchers would care to know--their educational background, emotional background, perceptions of themselves and their surroundings, their likes, dislikes, and so on. Because of its emphasis on "deep data," the case study is out of reach for many large-scale research projects which look at a subject pool in the tens of thousands. A budget request of $10,000 to examine 200 subjects sounds more efficient than a similar request to examine four subjects.

Ethical Considerations

Researchers conducting case studies should consider certain ethical issues. For example, many educational case studies are often financed by people who have, either directly or indirectly, power over both those being studied and those conducting the investigation (1985). This conflict of interests can hinder the credibility of the study.

The personal integrity, sensitivity, and possible prejudices and/or biases of the investigators need to be taken into consideration as well. Personal biases can creep into how the research is conducted, alternative research methods used, and the preparation of surveys and questionnaires.

A common complaint in case study research is that investigators change direction during the course of the study unaware that their original research design was inadequate for the revised investigation. Thus, the researchers leave unknown gaps and biases in the study. To avoid this, researchers should report preliminary findings so that the likelihood of bias will be reduced.

Concerns about Reliability, Validity, and Generalizability

Merriam (1985) offers several suggestions for how case study researchers might actively combat the popular attacks on the validity, reliability, and generalizability of case studies:

  • Prolong the Processes of Data Gathering on Site: This will help to insure the accuracy of the findings by providing the researcher with more concrete information upon which to formulate interpretations.
  • Employ the Process of "Triangulation": Use a variety of data sources as opposed to relying solely upon one avenue of observation. One example of such a data check would be what McClintock, Brannon, and Maynard (1985) refer to as a "case cluster method," that is, when a single unit within a larger case is randomly sampled, and that data treated quantitatively." For instance, in Emig's (1971) study, the case cluster method was employed, singling out the productivity of a single student named Lynn. This cluster profile included an advanced case history of the subject, specific examination and analysis of individual compositions and protocols, and extensive interview sessions. The seven remaining students were then compared with the case of Lynn, to ascertain if there are any shared, or unique dimensions to the composing process engaged in by these eight students.
  • Conduct Member Checks: Initiate and maintain an active corroboration on the interpretation of data between the researcher and those who provided the data. In other words, talk to your subjects.
  • Collect Referential Materials: Complement the file of materials from the actual site with additional document support. For example, Emig (1971) supports her initial propositions with historical accounts by writers such as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence. Emig also cites examples of theoretical research done with regards to the creative process, as well as examples of empirical research dealing with the writing of adolescents. Specific attention is then given to the four stages description of the composing process delineated by Helmoltz, Wallas, and Cowley, as it serves as the focal point in this study.
  • Engage in Peer Consultation: Prior to composing the final draft of the report, researchers should consult with colleagues in order to establish validity through pooled judgment.

Although little can be done to combat challenges concerning the generalizability of case studies, "most writers suggest that qualitative research should be judged as credible and confirmable as opposed to valid and reliable" (Merriam 1985). Likewise, it has been argued that "rather than transplanting statistical, quantitative notions of generalizability and thus finding qualitative research inadequate, it makes more sense to develop an understanding of generalization that is congruent with the basic characteristics of qualitative inquiry" (1985). After all, criticizing the case study method for being ungeneralizable is comparable to criticizing a washing machine for not being able to tell the correct time. In other words, it is unjust to criticize a method for not being able to do something which it was never originally designed to do in the first place.

Annotated Bibliography

Armisted, C. (1984). How Useful are Case Studies. Training and Development Journal, 38 (2), 75-77.

This article looks at eight types of case studies, offers pros and cons of using case studies in the classroom, and gives suggestions for successfully writing and using case studies.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1997). Beyond Methods: Components of Second Language Teacher Education . New York: McGraw-Hill.

A compilation of various research essays which address issues of language teacher education. Essays included are: "Non-native reading research and theory" by Lee, "The case for Psycholinguistics" by VanPatten, and "Assessment and Second Language Teaching" by Gradman and Reed.

Bartlett, L. (1989). A Question of Good Judgment; Interpretation Theory and Qualitative Enquiry Address. 70th Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Francisco.

Bartlett selected "quasi-historical" methodology, which focuses on the "truth" found in case records, as one that will provide "good judgments" in educational inquiry. He argues that although the method is not comprehensive, it can try to connect theory with practice.

Baydere, S. et. al. (1993). Multimedia conferencing as a tool for collaborative writing: a case study in Computer Supported Collaborative Writing. New York: Springer-Verlag.

The case study by Baydere et. al. is just one of the many essays in this book found in the series "Computer Supported Cooperative Work." Denley, Witefield and May explore similar issues in their essay, "A case study in task analysis for the design of a collaborative document production system."

Berkenkotter, C., Huckin, T., N., & Ackerman J. (1988). Conventions, Conversations, and the Writer: Case Study of a Student in a Rhetoric Ph.D. Program. Research in the Teaching of English, 22, 9-44.

The authors focused on how the writing of their subject, Nate or Ackerman, changed as he became more acquainted or familiar with his field's discourse community.

Berninger, V., W., and Gans, B., M. (1986). Language Profiles in Nonspeaking Individuals of Normal Intelligence with Severe Cerebral Palsy. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 2, 45-50.

Argues that generalizations about language abilities in patients with severe cerebral palsy (CP) should be avoided. Standardized tests of different levels of processing oral language, of processing written language, and of producing written language were administered to 3 male participants (aged 9, 16, and 40 yrs).

Bockman, J., R., and Couture, B. (1984). The Case Method in Technical Communication: Theory and Models. Texas: Association of Teachers of Technical Writing.

Examines the study and teaching of technical writing, communication of technical information, and the case method in terms of those applications.

Boehrer, J. (1990). Teaching With Cases: Learning to Question. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 42 41-57.

This article discusses the origins of the case method, looks at the question of what is a case, gives ideas about learning in case teaching, the purposes it can serve in the classroom, the ground rules for the case discussion, including the role of the question, and new directions for case teaching.

Bowman, W. R. (1993). Evaluating JTPA Programs for Economically Disadvantaged Adults: A Case Study of Utah and General Findings . Washington: National Commission for Employment Policy.

"To encourage state-level evaluations of JTPA, the Commission and the State of Utah co-sponsored this report on the effectiveness of JTPA Title II programs for adults in Utah. The technique used is non-experimental and the comparison group was selected from registrants with Utah's Employment Security. In a step-by-step approach, the report documents how non-experimental techniques can be applied and several specific technical issues can be addressed."

Boyce, A. (1993) The Case Study Approach for Pedagogists. Annual Meeting of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. (Address). Washington DC.

This paper addresses how case studies 1) bridge the gap between teaching theory and application, 2) enable students to analyze problems and develop solutions for situations that will be encountered in the real world of teaching, and 3) helps students to evaluate the feasibility of alternatives and to understand the ramifications of a particular course of action.

Carson, J. (1993) The Case Study: Ideal Home of WAC Quantitative and Qualitative Data. Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. (Address). San Diego.

"Increasingly, one of the most pressing questions for WAC advocates is how to keep [WAC] programs going in the face of numerous difficulties. Case histories offer the best chance for fashioning rhetorical arguments to keep WAC programs going because they offer the opportunity to provide a coherent narrative that contextualizes all documents and data, including what is generally considered scientific data. A case study of the WAC program, . . . at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh demonstrates the advantages of this research method. Such studies are ideal homes for both naturalistic and positivistic data as well as both quantitative and qualitative information."

---. (1991). A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing. College Composition and Communication. 32. 365-87.

No abstract available.

Cromer, R. (1994) A Case Study of Dissociations Between Language and Cognition. Constraints on Language Acquisition: Studies of Atypical Children . Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 141-153.

Crossley, M. (1983) Case Study in Comparative and International Education: An Approach to Bridging the Theory-Practice Gap. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Conference of the Australian Comparative and International Education Society. Hamilton, NZ.

Case study research, as presented here, helps bridge the theory-practice gap in comparative and international research studies of education because it focuses on the practical, day-to-day context rather than on the national arena. The paper asserts that the case study method can be valuable at all levels of research, formation, and verification of theories in education.

Daillak, R., H., and Alkin, M., C. (1982). Qualitative Studies in Context: Reflections on the CSE Studies of Evaluation Use . California: EDRS

The report shows how the Center of the Study of Evaluation (CSE) applied qualitative techniques to a study of evaluation information use in local, Los Angeles schools. It critiques the effectiveness and the limitations of using case study, evaluation, field study, and user interview survey methodologies.

Davey, L. (1991). The Application of Case Study Evaluations. ERIC/TM Digest.

This article examines six types of case studies, the type of evaluation questions that can be answered, the functions served, some design features, and some pitfalls of the method.

Deutch, C. E. (1996). A course in research ethics for graduate students. College Teaching, 44, 2, 56-60.

This article describes a one-credit discussion course in research ethics for graduate students in biology. Case studies are focused on within the four parts of the course: 1) major issues, 2 )practical issues in scholarly work, 3) ownership of research results, and 4) training and personal decisions.

DeVoss, G. (1981). Ethics in Fieldwork Research. RIE 27p. (ERIC)

This article examines four of the ethical problems that can happen when conducting case study research: acquiring permission to do research, knowing when to stop digging, the pitfalls of doing collaborative research, and preserving the integrity of the participants.

Driscoll, A. (1985). Case Study of a Research Intervention: the University of Utah’s Collaborative Approach . San Francisco: Far West Library for Educational Research Development.

Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, Denver, CO, March 1985. Offers information of in-service training, specifically case studies application.

Ellram, L. M. (1996). The Use of the Case Study Method in Logistics Research. Journal of Business Logistics, 17, 2, 93.

This article discusses the increased use of case study in business research, and the lack of understanding of when and how to use case study methodology in business.

Emig, J. (1971) The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders . Urbana: NTCE.

This case study uses observation, tape recordings, writing samples, and school records to show that writing in reflexive and extensive situations caused different lengths of discourse and different clusterings of the components of the writing process.

Feagin, J. R. (1991). A Case For the Case Study . Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

This book discusses the nature, characteristics, and basic methodological issues of the case study as a research method.

Feldman, H., Holland, A., & Keefe, K. (1989) Language Abilities after Left Hemisphere Brain Injury: A Case Study of Twins. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 9, 32-47.

"Describes the language abilities of 2 twin pairs in which 1 twin (the experimental) suffered brain injury to the left cerebral hemisphere around the time of birth and1 twin (the control) did not. One pair of twins was initially assessed at age 23 mo. and the other at about 30 mo.; they were subsequently evaluated in their homes 3 times at about 6-mo intervals."

Fidel, R. (1984). The Case Study Method: A Case Study. Library and Information Science Research, 6.

The article describes the use of case study methodology to systematically develop a model of online searching behavior in which study design is flexible, subject manner determines data gathering and analyses, and procedures adapt to the study's progressive change.

Flower, L., & Hayes, J. R. (1984). Images, Plans and Prose: The Representation of Meaning in Writing. Written Communication, 1, 120-160.

Explores the ways in which writers actually use different forms of knowing to create prose.

Frey, L. R. (1992). Interpreting Communication Research: A Case Study Approach Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

The book discusses research methodologies in the Communication field. It focuses on how case studies bridge the gap between communication research, theory, and practice.

Gilbert, V. K. (1981). The Case Study as a Research Methodology: Difficulties and Advantages of Integrating the Positivistic, Phenomenological and Grounded Theory Approaches . The Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration. (Address) Halifax, NS, Can.

This study on an innovative secondary school in England shows how a "low-profile" participant-observer case study was crucial to the initial observation, the testing of hypotheses, the interpretive approach, and the grounded theory.

Gilgun, J. F. (1994). A Case for Case Studies in Social Work Research. Social Work, 39, 4, 371-381.

This article defines case study research, presents guidelines for evaluation of case studies, and shows the relevance of case studies to social work research. It also looks at issues such as evaluation and interpretations of case studies.

Glennan, S. L., Sharp-Bittner, M. A. & Tullos, D. C. (1991). Augmentative and Alternative Communication Training with a Nonspeaking Adult: Lessons from MH. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 7, 240-7.

"A response-guided case study documented changes in a nonspeaking 36-yr-old man's ability to communicate using 3 trained augmentative communication modes. . . . Data were collected in videotaped interaction sessions between the nonspeaking adult and a series of adult speaking."

Graves, D. (1981). An Examination of the Writing Processes of Seven Year Old Children. Research in the Teaching of English, 15, 113-134.

Hamel, J. (1993). Case Study Methods . Newbury Park: Sage. .

"In a most economical fashion, Hamel provides a practical guide for producing theoretically sharp and empirically sound sociological case studies. A central idea put forth by Hamel is that case studies must "locate the global in the local" thus making the careful selection of the research site the most critical decision in the analytic process."

Karthigesu, R. (1986, July). Television as a Tool for Nation-Building in the Third World: A Post-Colonial Pattern, Using Malaysia as a Case-Study. International Television Studies Conference. (Address). London, 10-12.

"The extent to which Television Malaysia, as a national mass media organization, has been able to play a role in nation building in the post-colonial period is . . . studied in two parts: how the choice of a model of nation building determines the character of the organization; and how the character of the organization influences the output of the organization."

Kenny, R. (1984). Making the Case for the Case Study. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 16, (1), 37-51.

The article looks at how and why the case study is justified as a viable and valuable approach to educational research and program evaluation.

Knirk, F. (1991). Case Materials: Research and Practice. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 4 (1 ), 73-81.

The article addresses the effectiveness of case studies, subject areas where case studies are commonly used, recent examples of their use, and case study design considerations.

Klos, D. (1976). Students as Case Writers. Teaching of Psychology, 3.2, 63-66.

This article reviews a course in which students gather data for an original case study of another person. The task requires the students to design the study, collect the data, write the narrative, and interpret the findings.

Leftwich, A. (1981). The Politics of Case Study: Problems of Innovation in University Education. Higher Education Review, 13.2, 38-64.

The article discusses the use of case studies as a teaching method. Emphasis is on the instructional materials, interdisciplinarity, and the complex relationships within the university that help or hinder the method.

Mabrito, M. (1991, Oct.). Electronic Mail as a Vehicle for Peer Response: Conversations of High and Low Apprehensive Writers. Written Communication, 509-32.

McCarthy, S., J. (1955). The Influence of Classroom Discourse on Student Texts: The Case of Ella . East Lansing: Institute for Research on Teaching.

A look at how students of color become marginalized within traditional classroom discourse. The essay follows the struggles of one black student: Ella.

Matsuhashi, A., ed. (1987). Writing in Real Time: Modeling Production Processes Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Investigates how writers plan to produce discourse for different purposes to report, to generalize, and to persuade, as well as how writers plan for sentence level units of language. To learn about planning, an observational measure of pause time was used" (ERIC).

Merriam, S. B. (1985). The Case Study in Educational Research: A Review of Selected Literature. Journal of Educational Thought, 19.3, 204-17.

The article examines the characteristics of, philosophical assumptions underlying the case study, the mechanics of conducting a case study, and the concerns about the reliability, validity, and generalizability of the method.

---. (1988). Case Study Research in Education: A Qualitative Approach San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Merry, S. E., & Milner, N. eds. (1993). The Possibility of Popular Justice: A Case Study of Community Mediation in the United States . Ann Arbor: U of Michigan.

". . . this volume presents a case study of one experiment in popular justice, the San Francisco Community Boards. This program has made an explicit claim to create an alternative justice, or new justice, in the midst of a society ordered by state law. The contributors to this volume explore the history and experience of the program and compare it to other versions of popular justice in the United States, Europe, and the Third World."

Merseth, K. K. (1991). The Case for Cases in Teacher Education. RIE. 42p. (ERIC).

This monograph argues that the case method of instruction offers unique potential for revitalizing the field of teacher education.

Michaels, S. (1987). Text and Context: A New Approach to the Study of Classroom Writing. Discourse Processes, 10, 321-346.

"This paper argues for and illustrates an approach to the study of writing that integrates ethnographic analysis of classroom interaction with linguistic analysis of written texts and teacher/student conversational exchanges. The approach is illustrated through a case study of writing in a single sixth grade classroom during a single writing assignment."

Milburn, G. (1995). Deciphering a Code or Unraveling a Riddle: A Case Study in the Application of a Humanistic Metaphor to the Reporting of Social Studies Teaching. Theory and Research in Education, 13.

This citation serves as an example of how case studies document learning procedures in a senior-level economics course.

Milley, J. E. (1979). An Investigation of Case Study as an Approach to Program Evaluation. 19th Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research. (Address). San Diego.

The case study method merged a narrative report focusing on the evaluator as participant-observer with document review, interview, content analysis, attitude questionnaire survey, and sociogram analysis. Milley argues that case study program evaluation has great potential for widespread use.

Minnis, J. R. (1985, Sept.). Ethnography, Case Study, Grounded Theory, and Distance Education Research. Distance Education, 6.2.

This article describes and defines the strengths and weaknesses of ethnography, case study, and grounded theory.

Nunan, D. (1992). Collaborative language learning and teaching . New York: Cambridge University Press.

Included in this series of essays is Peter Sturman’s "Team Teaching: a case study from Japan" and David Nunan’s own "Toward a collaborative approach to curriculum development: a case study."

Nystrand, M., ed. (1982). What Writers Know: The Language, Process, and Structure of Written Discourse . New York: Academic Press.

Owenby, P. H. (1992). Making Case Studies Come Alive. Training, 29, (1), 43-46. (ERIC)

This article provides tips for writing more effective case studies.

---. (1981). Pausing and Planning: The Tempo of Writer Discourse Production. Research in the Teaching of English, 15 (2),113-34.

Perl, S. (1979). The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers. Research in the Teaching of English, 13, 317-336.

"Summarizes a study of five unskilled college writers, focusing especially on one of the five, and discusses the findings in light of current pedagogical practice and research design."

Pilcher J. and A. Coffey. eds. (1996). Gender and Qualitative Research . Brookfield: Aldershot, Hants, England.

This book provides a series of essays which look at gender identity research, qualitative research and applications of case study to questions of gendered pedagogy.

Pirie, B. S. (1993). The Case of Morty: A Four Year Study. Gifted Education International, 9 (2), 105-109.

This case study describes a boy from kindergarten through third grade with above average intelligence but difficulty in learning to read, write, and spell.

Popkewitz, T. (1993). Changing Patterns of Power: Social Regulation and Teacher Education Reform. Albany: SUNY Press.

Popkewitz edits this series of essays that address case studies on educational change and the training of teachers. The essays vary in terms of discipline and scope. Also, several authors include case studies of educational practices in countries other than the United States.

---. (1984). The Predrafting Processes of Four High- and Four Low Apprehensive Writers. Research in the Teaching of English, 18, (1), 45-64.

Rasmussen, P. (1985, March) A Case Study on the Evaluation of Research at the Technical University of Denmark. International Journal of Institutional Management in Higher Education, 9 (1).

This is an example of a case study methodology used to evaluate the chemistry and chemical engineering departments at the University of Denmark.

Roth, K. J. (1986). Curriculum Materials, Teacher Talk, and Student Learning: Case Studies in Fifth-Grade Science Teaching . East Lansing: Institute for Research on Teaching.

Roth offers case studies on elementary teachers, elementary school teaching, science studies and teaching, and verbal learning.

Selfe, C. L. (1985). An Apprehensive Writer Composes. When a Writer Can't Write: Studies in Writer's Block and Other Composing-Process Problems . (pp. 83-95). Ed. Mike Rose. NMY: Guilford.

Smith-Lewis, M., R. and Ford, A. (1987). A User's Perspective on Augmentative Communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 3, 12-7.

"During a series of in-depth interviews, a 25-yr-old woman with cerebral palsy who utilized augmentative communication reflected on the effectiveness of the devices designed for her during her school career."

St. Pierre, R., G. (1980, April). Follow Through: A Case Study in Metaevaluation Research . 64th Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. (Address).

The three approaches to metaevaluation are evaluation of primary evaluations, integrative meta-analysis with combined primary evaluation results, and re-analysis of the raw data from a primary evaluation.

Stahler, T., M. (1996, Feb.) Early Field Experiences: A Model That Worked. ERIC.

"This case study of a field and theory class examines a model designed to provide meaningful field experiences for preservice teachers while remaining consistent with the instructor's beliefs about the role of teacher education in preparing teachers for the classroom."

Stake, R. E. (1995). The Art of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

This book examines case study research in education and case study methodology.

Stiegelbauer, S. (1984) Community, Context, and Co-curriculum: Situational Factors Influencing School Improvements in a Study of High Schools. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Discussion of several case studies: one looking at high school environments, another examining educational innovations.

Stolovitch, H. (1990). Case Study Method. Performance And Instruction, 29, (9), 35-37.

This article describes the case study method as a form of simulation and presents guidelines for their use in professional training situations.

Thaller, E. (1994). Bibliography for the Case Method: Using Case Studies in Teacher Education. RIE. 37 p.

This bibliography presents approximately 450 citations on the use of case studies in teacher education from 1921-1993.

Thrane, T. (1986). On Delimiting the Senses of Near-Synonyms in Historical Semantics: A Case Study of Adjectives of 'Moral Sufficiency' in the Old English Andreas. Linguistics Across Historical and Geographical Boundaries: In Honor of Jacek Fisiak on the Occasion of his Fiftieth Birthday . Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

United Nations. (1975). Food and Agriculture Organization. Report on the FAO/UNFPA Seminar on Methodology, Research and Country: Case Studies on Population, Employment and Productivity . Rome: United Nations.

This example case study shows how the methodology can be used in a demographic and psychographic evaluation. At the same time, it discusses the formation and instigation of the case study methodology itself.

Van Vugt, J. P., ed. (1994). Aids Prevention and Services: Community Based Research . Westport: Bergin and Garvey.

"This volume has been five years in the making. In the process, some of the policy applications called for have met with limited success, such as free needle exchange programs in a limited number of American cities, providing condoms to prison inmates, and advertisements that depict same-sex couples. Rather than dating our chapters that deal with such subjects, such policy applications are verifications of the type of research demonstrated here. Furthermore, they indicate the critical need to continue community based research in the various communities threatened by acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS) . . . "

Welch, W., ed. (1981, May). Case Study Methodology in Educational Evaluation. Proceedings of the Minnesota Evaluation Conference. Minnesota. (Address).

The four papers in these proceedings provide a comprehensive picture of the rationale, methodology, strengths, and limitations of case studies.

Williams, G. (1987). The Case Method: An Approach to Teaching and Learning in Educational Administration. RIE, 31p.

This paper examines the viability of the case method as a teaching and learning strategy in instructional systems geared toward the training of personnel of the administration of various aspects of educational systems.

Yin, R. K. (1993). Advancing Rigorous Methodologies: A Review of 'Towards Rigor in Reviews of Multivocal Literatures.' Review of Educational Research, 61, (3).

"R. T. Ogawa and B. Malen's article does not meet its own recommended standards for rigorous testing and presentation of its own conclusions. Use of the exploratory case study to analyze multivocal literatures is not supported, and the claim of grounded theory to analyze multivocal literatures may be stronger."

---. (1989). Case Study Research: Design and Methods. London: Sage Publications Inc.

This book discusses in great detail, the entire design process of the case study, including entire chapters on collecting evidence, analyzing evidence, composing the case study report, and designing single and multiple case studies.

Related Links

Consider the following list of related Web sites for more information on the topic of case study research. Note: although many of the links cover the general category of qualitative research, all have sections that address issues of case studies.

  • Sage Publications on Qualitative Methodology: Search here for a comprehensive list of new books being published about "Qualitative Methodology" http://www.sagepub.co.uk/
  • The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education: An on-line journal "to enhance the theory and practice of qualitative research in education." On-line submissions are welcome. http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/tf/09518398.html
  • Qualitative Research Resources on the Internet: From syllabi to home pages to bibliographies. All links relate somehow to qualitative research. http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/qualres.html

Citation Information

Bronwyn Becker, Patrick Dawson, Karen Devine, Carla Hannum, Steve Hill, Jon Leydens, Debbie Matuskevich, Carol Traver, and Mike Palmquist. (1994-2023). Case Studies. The WAC Clearinghouse. Colorado State University. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/repository/resources/writing/guides/.

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  • Roberta Heale 1 ,
  • Alison Twycross 2
  • 1 School of Nursing , Laurentian University , Sudbury , Ontario , Canada
  • 2 School of Health and Social Care , London South Bank University , London , UK
  • Correspondence to Dr Roberta Heale, School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON P3E2C6, Canada; rheale{at}laurentian.ca

https://doi.org/10.1136/eb-2017-102845

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What is it?

Case study is a research methodology, typically seen in social and life sciences. There is no one definition of case study research. 1 However, very simply… ‘a case study can be defined as an intensive study about a person, a group of people or a unit, which is aimed to generalize over several units’. 1 A case study has also been described as an intensive, systematic investigation of a single individual, group, community or some other unit in which the researcher examines in-depth data relating to several variables. 2

Often there are several similar cases to consider such as educational or social service programmes that are delivered from a number of locations. Although similar, they are complex and have unique features. In these circumstances, the evaluation of several, similar cases will provide a better answer to a research question than if only one case is examined, hence the multiple-case study. Stake asserts that the cases are grouped and viewed as one entity, called the quintain . 6  ‘We study what is similar and different about the cases to understand the quintain better’. 6

The steps when using case study methodology are the same as for other types of research. 6 The first step is defining the single case or identifying a group of similar cases that can then be incorporated into a multiple-case study. A search to determine what is known about the case(s) is typically conducted. This may include a review of the literature, grey literature, media, reports and more, which serves to establish a basic understanding of the cases and informs the development of research questions. Data in case studies are often, but not exclusively, qualitative in nature. In multiple-case studies, analysis within cases and across cases is conducted. Themes arise from the analyses and assertions about the cases as a whole, or the quintain, emerge. 6

Benefits and limitations of case studies

If a researcher wants to study a specific phenomenon arising from a particular entity, then a single-case study is warranted and will allow for a in-depth understanding of the single phenomenon and, as discussed above, would involve collecting several different types of data. This is illustrated in example 1 below.

Using a multiple-case research study allows for a more in-depth understanding of the cases as a unit, through comparison of similarities and differences of the individual cases embedded within the quintain. Evidence arising from multiple-case studies is often stronger and more reliable than from single-case research. Multiple-case studies allow for more comprehensive exploration of research questions and theory development. 6

Despite the advantages of case studies, there are limitations. The sheer volume of data is difficult to organise and data analysis and integration strategies need to be carefully thought through. There is also sometimes a temptation to veer away from the research focus. 2 Reporting of findings from multiple-case research studies is also challenging at times, 1 particularly in relation to the word limits for some journal papers.

Examples of case studies

Example 1: nurses’ paediatric pain management practices.

One of the authors of this paper (AT) has used a case study approach to explore nurses’ paediatric pain management practices. This involved collecting several datasets:

Observational data to gain a picture about actual pain management practices.

Questionnaire data about nurses’ knowledge about paediatric pain management practices and how well they felt they managed pain in children.

Questionnaire data about how critical nurses perceived pain management tasks to be.

These datasets were analysed separately and then compared 7–9 and demonstrated that nurses’ level of theoretical did not impact on the quality of their pain management practices. 7 Nor did individual nurse’s perceptions of how critical a task was effect the likelihood of them carrying out this task in practice. 8 There was also a difference in self-reported and observed practices 9 ; actual (observed) practices did not confirm to best practice guidelines, whereas self-reported practices tended to.

Example 2: quality of care for complex patients at Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics (NPLCs)

The other author of this paper (RH) has conducted a multiple-case study to determine the quality of care for patients with complex clinical presentations in NPLCs in Ontario, Canada. 10 Five NPLCs served as individual cases that, together, represented the quatrain. Three types of data were collected including:

Review of documentation related to the NPLC model (media, annual reports, research articles, grey literature and regulatory legislation).

Interviews with nurse practitioners (NPs) practising at the five NPLCs to determine their perceptions of the impact of the NPLC model on the quality of care provided to patients with multimorbidity.

Chart audits conducted at the five NPLCs to determine the extent to which evidence-based guidelines were followed for patients with diabetes and at least one other chronic condition.

The three sources of data collected from the five NPLCs were analysed and themes arose related to the quality of care for complex patients at NPLCs. The multiple-case study confirmed that nurse practitioners are the primary care providers at the NPLCs, and this positively impacts the quality of care for patients with multimorbidity. Healthcare policy, such as lack of an increase in salary for NPs for 10 years, has resulted in issues in recruitment and retention of NPs at NPLCs. This, along with insufficient resources in the communities where NPLCs are located and high patient vulnerability at NPLCs, have a negative impact on the quality of care. 10

These examples illustrate how collecting data about a single case or multiple cases helps us to better understand the phenomenon in question. Case study methodology serves to provide a framework for evaluation and analysis of complex issues. It shines a light on the holistic nature of nursing practice and offers a perspective that informs improved patient care.

  • Gustafsson J
  • Calanzaro M
  • Sandelowski M

Competing interests None declared.

Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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Writing a Case Study

Hands holding a world globe

What is a case study?

A Map of the world with hands holding a pen.

A Case study is: 

  • An in-depth research design that primarily uses a qualitative methodology but sometimes​​ includes quantitative methodology.
  • Used to examine an identifiable problem confirmed through research.
  • Used to investigate an individual, group of people, organization, or event.
  • Used to mostly answer "how" and "why" questions.

What are the different types of case studies?

Man and woman looking at a laptop

Note: These are the primary case studies. As you continue to research and learn

about case studies you will begin to find a robust list of different types. 

Who are your case study participants?

Boys looking through a camera

What is triangulation ? 

Validity and credibility are an essential part of the case study. Therefore, the researcher should include triangulation to ensure trustworthiness while accurately reflecting what the researcher seeks to investigate.

Triangulation image with examples

How to write a Case Study?

When developing a case study, there are different ways you could present the information, but remember to include the five parts for your case study.

Man holding his hand out to show five fingers.

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❔What is a Case Study Analysis?

☝️Types of Case Studies

📃Case Study Examples

✏️Writing a Case Study Draft

📝How to Format a Case Study

✍️How to Write an Outline

📌How to Write a Case Study

📑Creating a Title Page and Citing

Many students struggle with how to do a case study analysis. Writing such an assignment is always daunting, as it requires you to analyze something and form conclusions based on your research.

It usually focuses on phenomena you can't study in a typical way. Therefore, when writing such a text, you have to prepare thoughtfully. In the  PapersOwl article, you will find out what this academic writing is and how to write a case analysis.

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What is a Case Study Analysis?

A case study analysis is a form of writing that analyzes a specific situation, event, object, person, or even place. The said analysis should be written and structured to lead to a conclusion. Typically, you cannot analyze the subject of this essay via quantitative methods.

Note that such studies can be used in various fields and require the use of many theories that can give you a unique approach to the matter. For example, you can write a paper like this about social sciences, business, medicine, and many other fields. Each of these will require a particular approach.

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Difference Between Research Paper and Case Study

Like all papers share similarities, these two are no different. Hence, knowing these parallels and distinctions, you will be able to learn how to write a case study assignment correctly.

A case study introduction can present the topic but does not require a citation of other similar works or the writer's opinion. On the other hand, research papers do not need a complete introduction about the general topic, but need citation since you will be using other people's works.

In addition, a writer must present their thoughts and views about the case they research. Finally, the most significant difference is that the research papers make the readers focus on a specific issue. On the contrary, the case study goes more into the matter and shifts the focus to all the details.

Types of Case Studies

When it comes to writing case study analysis, there are five types you must learn to differentiate. That is important because whether you get such an assignment, you will have to understand the task first and then start with the writing.

Here are the types of case studies which you will encounter most often:

  • Problem-oriented - this type focuses on real-life situations or theoretical issues and aims to solve them. For example, "World Hunger."

The second type is critical, also known as innate. The goal is to investigate a specific case, particularly its effects and what causes them - "Why Toys Remain Gender Stereotyped."

Historical case studies papers focus on events from our past. The text should contain information about a specific historical period of this type. Your goal will be to provide different perspectives of an event and parallel them to current-day issues. An example of such a topic is "Racism During Ancient Times - Roman Empire."

The illustrative or Instrumental type focuses on describing a particular event. Here you have to explain the event's outcome and what you have learned from it. A sample of such a topic is "The Effects of Dance Therapy in Depressed Adolescents."

Collective case studies are the fifth type. They include a collection of data about a specific case you will use to compare. E.g., "The Management Leadership at Work."

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Case Study Title Examples

When writing a case study analysis, titles usually point out that the text is a study. Thus, most of them contain "case study" in the header. Here are some case study analysis examples:

  • Santander's Expansion in Canada: Case Study Analysis
  • Case Study on the Effects of Art Therapy on Children with ADHD
  • The National Health Service's Treatment of People with Learning Disabilities, Case Study Analysis
  • Toxicological Case Study of The Mississippi River
  • Reading Development in Remote Areas of Nigeria: A Case Study
  • Case Study on the Growth of Veganism in Berlin

Writing a Case Study Draft

Creating a rough draft is the foremost step to take while writing such a paper. It is an essential step you must take, no matter how experienced you are. By doing it, you will be able to get more creative. In addition, you can explore options and decide on what to focus on more precisely, which will eventually result in a higher grade for your work.

So, sit down in a quiet place, bring an old-fashioned pen and paper, and start drafting ideas. Read them briefly while sipping on your tea and edit. After you have decided where your focus will lay, you have to develop these ideas and thoughts a bit more, then pick the best one.

How to Format a Case Study

Knowing how a case study analysis format should look is crucial. Therefore, you must know what the text structure should look like. The standard one contains about eight sections:

  • Introduction/The Executive Summary: As the first part here, you have to hook the reader's attention, so the introduction of the case study is the most important part of the writing.  Then present them with a brief overview of your case study analyses and their findings. Make sure to form a good thesis statement , as this is the pivotal point of your work.
  • Literary Review/Background information: Similarly to other papers, in this part, you have to write your most important facts or findings while identifying the case issue.
  • Method/Findings/Discussion: This section can be written separately based on how your text flows. Here you will have to explore more about the case and its findings. Allow yourself to go into more detail instead of just briefly covering them.
  • Solutions/Recommendations/Implementation Part: You have to discuss the answers you came up with. Basically, you say why they are fit to solve the case and how you think they can be used in practice. Note that you must write only realistic and practical solutions for the problem. It's possible to write testable evidence that can support your recommendations.
  • Conclusion: Here, you are supposed to cover your whole paper briefly and even repeat the thesis (rephrased). Make sure to highlight the critical points of your case study.
  • References or Bibliography: This section must include the sources from which you collected data or whom you consulted. Usually, this part is on a separate page, and the listing should be according to your academic institution's requirements.
  • Appendices (include only if applicable): It is usual for some parts of your materials to be too lengthy or unfit for the other sections of the case study. Therefore, you have to include them here. That can be pictures, raw data of statistics, graphs, notes, etc. The appendix section is strictly for subsidiary materials, do not put the most relevant ones here.
  • Author Note: Remember that all educational institutions have their requirement for a case study format. The abovementioned is an example; thus, you may see a section or another is missing, or there are additional ones.

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How to Write a Case Study Outline

To write a case study outline, you have first to conduct research. The best way to do so is by accessing academic search engines like Google Scholar or by using old-fashioned books and published works. From there, you should understand how to structure and what key points to form your text. Then, construct your thesis statement around the idea you picked.

The outline for your case study paper is essential to your writing process. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas in order to present a comprehensive, well-structured paper. Furthermore, it allows your professor to evaluate your understanding of the subject, the correct formatting and structure, and to identify any potential issues with your paper. Having an outline serves as a guide for both you and your professor, making it easier to plan and write your paper . With the help of a well-crafted outline, your professor can navigate your paper more easily and spot any issues before they arise. Writing a case study paper can be daunting, but the outline helps make it easier.

A case study outline will most likely consist of the following sections and information: 

  • Case study title;
  • Student’s name;
  • Educational instructor's name;
  • Course name.

Introduction/Summary

  • It briefly overviews your case study, thesis statement, and essential findings.

Main Body Paragraphs - usually three to five

  • Literature Review/Background Information;
  • Method/Findings;
  • Discussion/Solutions/Recommendations.
  • Repeat a paraphrased version of your thesis;
  • Summarize your case study key points;
  • Finish with a statement that can recommend the audience to read further by giving them thoughts to contemplate and develop new ideas.

Reference List or Bibliography

  • List all the sources of evidence used to create your case study in your educational organization's required citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, Turabian, etc.).

How to Write a Case Study

The way to write a case study is by strictly following the main idea of your thesis. You already know that a study's main body consists of an introduction, literature review, method, discussion, and conclusion sections. Thus, all that is left is to focus on these parts and understand how to make them perfect.

  • The Introduction/Summary: The introduction of a case study should start with a solid first sentence that will hook the reader. Afterward, you must explain the question you will be answering and why you are doing it. You should include some of the topic's relevant history and details here. Also, you should explain how your case study will enrich the available information. Also, briefly summarize your literature review, which your findings will use as a base. Try to finish positively and make the reader see the benefits of reading your work.
  • Background Information/Literature Review: ‍Structure and present the data from your academic sources . This section will show the reader how vital your work is and the basis for it.
  • Method/Findings: This part aims to explain the case you selected, how it connects to the issue, and why you chose them. You can also add what methods you use. Here you must note that the data collection methods are qualitative, not quantitative, for case studies. That means the data is not random but well-structured and chronically taken from interviews, focus groups, and other sources.
  • Discussion/Solutions: Restate your thesis but rephrase it, then draw your conclusions from what you have discovered via your research and link to your statement. Inform the audience of your main findings and define why the results are relevant to the field. Think about the following questions:

Were the results unexpected? Why/Why not?

How do your findings compare to previous similar case studies in your literature review?

Do your findings correlate to previous results, or do they contradict them?

Are your findings helpful in deepening the current understanding of the topic?

Next, explore possible alternative explanations or interpretations of your findings. Be subjective and explain your paper's limitations. End with some suggestions for further exploration based on the limits of your work. ‍

  • Conclusion: Inform the reader precisely why your case study and findings are relevant, and restate your thesis and main results. Give a summary of previous studies you reviewed and how you contributed to expanding current knowledge. The final should explain how your work can be helpful and implemented in future research. 

Your instructor should have an excellent example they can show you, so feel free to ask. They will surely want to help you learn how to write a case study!

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How to Create a Title Page and Cite a Case Study

A case study in APA format for students can differ from one institution to another. So, knowing your college or school requirements is crucial before you start writing. Nonetheless, the general one should look like this:

  • Title - A header no longer than nine words has "Case Study" and reflects the content and the idea behind it yet is engaging to read;
  • Write your full name;
  • The name of your course/class;
  • Next is your professor or instructor name;
  • The university/school name;
  • The date of submission.

When citing in your paper, you must ensure it is done accurately and in your academic style. If you are unsure how to do it, research the requirements and google "How to do a case study analysis in Harvard", for example. Note that short citations can be in your text, but longer ones should be in the bibliography section. 

Hruby, A. (2018). Hruby, A., & Hu, F. B. (2015). The epidemiology of obesity: a big picture. Pharmacoeconomics, 33(7), 673-689. www.sciepub.com. http://www.sciepub.com/reference/254744

Case studies strive to analyze an event, location, case, or person. They can be similar to research papers, so you must pay close attention to the structure and what your professor has requested from you.

Finally, the process of writing can be overwhelming due to the many sections. However, if you take the process step by step and do your preparations properly, you will have an easy time writing the paper. You can also look for assistance online - many services offer to order case study online help . With the right kind of assistance, you can be sure that your paper is of high quality and is due on time!

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case study analysis meaning

Do Your Students Know How to Analyze a Case—Really?

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  • Case Teaching
  • Student Engagement

J ust as actors, athletes, and musicians spend thousands of hours practicing their craft, business students benefit from practicing their critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Students, however, often have limited exposure to real-world problem-solving scenarios; they need more opportunities to practice tackling tough business problems and deciding on—and executing—the best solutions.

To ensure students have ample opportunity to develop these critical-thinking and decision-making skills, we believe business faculty should shift from teaching mostly principles and ideas to mostly applications and practices. And in doing so, they should emphasize the case method, which simulates real-world management challenges and opportunities for students.

To help educators facilitate this shift and help students get the most out of case-based learning, we have developed a framework for analyzing cases. We call it PACADI (Problem, Alternatives, Criteria, Analysis, Decision, Implementation); it can improve learning outcomes by helping students better solve and analyze business problems, make decisions, and develop and implement strategy. Here, we’ll explain why we developed this framework, how it works, and what makes it an effective learning tool.

The Case for Cases: Helping Students Think Critically

Business students must develop critical-thinking and analytical skills, which are essential to their ability to make good decisions in functional areas such as marketing, finance, operations, and information technology, as well as to understand the relationships among these functions. For example, the decisions a marketing manager must make include strategic planning (segments, products, and channels); execution (digital messaging, media, branding, budgets, and pricing); and operations (integrated communications and technologies), as well as how to implement decisions across functional areas.

Faculty can use many types of cases to help students develop these skills. These include the prototypical “paper cases”; live cases , which feature guest lecturers such as entrepreneurs or corporate leaders and on-site visits; and multimedia cases , which immerse students into real situations. Most cases feature an explicit or implicit decision that a protagonist—whether it is an individual, a group, or an organization—must make.

For students new to learning by the case method—and even for those with case experience—some common issues can emerge; these issues can sometimes be a barrier for educators looking to ensure the best possible outcomes in their case classrooms. Unsure of how to dig into case analysis on their own, students may turn to the internet or rely on former students for “answers” to assigned cases. Or, when assigned to provide answers to assignment questions in teams, students might take a divide-and-conquer approach but not take the time to regroup and provide answers that are consistent with one other.

To help address these issues, which we commonly experienced in our classes, we wanted to provide our students with a more structured approach for how they analyze cases—and to really think about making decisions from the protagonists’ point of view. We developed the PACADI framework to address this need.

PACADI: A Six-Step Decision-Making Approach

The PACADI framework is a six-step decision-making approach that can be used in lieu of traditional end-of-case questions. It offers a structured, integrated, and iterative process that requires students to analyze case information, apply business concepts to derive valuable insights, and develop recommendations based on these insights.

Prior to beginning a PACADI assessment, which we’ll outline here, students should first prepare a two-paragraph summary—a situation analysis—that highlights the key case facts. Then, we task students with providing a five-page PACADI case analysis (excluding appendices) based on the following six steps.

Step 1: Problem definition. What is the major challenge, problem, opportunity, or decision that has to be made? If there is more than one problem, choose the most important one. Often when solving the key problem, other issues will surface and be addressed. The problem statement may be framed as a question; for example, How can brand X improve market share among millennials in Canada? Usually the problem statement has to be re-written several times during the analysis of a case as students peel back the layers of symptoms or causation.

Step 2: Alternatives. Identify in detail the strategic alternatives to address the problem; three to five options generally work best. Alternatives should be mutually exclusive, realistic, creative, and feasible given the constraints of the situation. Doing nothing or delaying the decision to a later date are not considered acceptable alternatives.

Step 3: Criteria. What are the key decision criteria that will guide decision-making? In a marketing course, for example, these may include relevant marketing criteria such as segmentation, positioning, advertising and sales, distribution, and pricing. Financial criteria useful in evaluating the alternatives should be included—for example, income statement variables, customer lifetime value, payback, etc. Students must discuss their rationale for selecting the decision criteria and the weights and importance for each factor.

Step 4: Analysis. Provide an in-depth analysis of each alternative based on the criteria chosen in step three. Decision tables using criteria as columns and alternatives as rows can be helpful. The pros and cons of the various choices as well as the short- and long-term implications of each may be evaluated. Best, worst, and most likely scenarios can also be insightful.

Step 5: Decision. Students propose their solution to the problem. This decision is justified based on an in-depth analysis. Explain why the recommendation made is the best fit for the criteria.

Step 6: Implementation plan. Sound business decisions may fail due to poor execution. To enhance the likeliness of a successful project outcome, students describe the key steps (activities) to implement the recommendation, timetable, projected costs, expected competitive reaction, success metrics, and risks in the plan.

“Students note that using the PACADI framework yields ‘aha moments’—they learned something surprising in the case that led them to think differently about the problem and their proposed solution.”

PACADI’s Benefits: Meaningfully and Thoughtfully Applying Business Concepts

The PACADI framework covers all of the major elements of business decision-making, including implementation, which is often overlooked. By stepping through the whole framework, students apply relevant business concepts and solve management problems via a systematic, comprehensive approach; they’re far less likely to surface piecemeal responses.

As students explore each part of the framework, they may realize that they need to make changes to a previous step. For instance, when working on implementation, students may realize that the alternative they selected cannot be executed or will not be profitable, and thus need to rethink their decision. Or, they may discover that the criteria need to be revised since the list of decision factors they identified is incomplete (for example, the factors may explain key marketing concerns but fail to address relevant financial considerations) or is unrealistic (for example, they suggest a 25 percent increase in revenues without proposing an increased promotional budget).

In addition, the PACADI framework can be used alongside quantitative assignments, in-class exercises, and business and management simulations. The structured, multi-step decision framework encourages careful and sequential analysis to solve business problems. Incorporating PACADI as an overarching decision-making method across different projects will ultimately help students achieve desired learning outcomes. As a practical “beyond-the-classroom” tool, the PACADI framework is not a contrived course assignment; it reflects the decision-making approach that managers, executives, and entrepreneurs exercise daily. Case analysis introduces students to the real-world process of making business decisions quickly and correctly, often with limited information. This framework supplies an organized and disciplined process that students can readily defend in writing and in class discussions.

PACADI in Action: An Example

Here’s an example of how students used the PACADI framework for a recent case analysis on CVS, a large North American drugstore chain.

The CVS Prescription for Customer Value*

PACADI Stage

Summary Response

How should CVS Health evolve from the “drugstore of your neighborhood” to the “drugstore of your future”?

Alternatives

A1. Kaizen (continuous improvement)

A2. Product development

A3. Market development

A4. Personalization (micro-targeting)

Criteria (include weights)

C1. Customer value: service, quality, image, and price (40%)

C2. Customer obsession (20%)

C3. Growth through related businesses (20%)

C4. Customer retention and customer lifetime value (20%)

Each alternative was analyzed by each criterion using a Customer Value Assessment Tool

Alternative 4 (A4): Personalization was selected. This is operationalized via: segmentation—move toward segment-of-1 marketing; geodemographics and lifestyle emphasis; predictive data analysis; relationship marketing; people, principles, and supply chain management; and exceptional customer service.

Implementation

Partner with leading medical school

Curbside pick-up

Pet pharmacy

E-newsletter for customers and employees

Employee incentive program

CVS beauty days

Expand to Latin America and Caribbean

Healthier/happier corner

Holiday toy drives/community outreach

*Source: A. Weinstein, Y. Rodriguez, K. Sims, R. Vergara, “The CVS Prescription for Superior Customer Value—A Case Study,” Back to the Future: Revisiting the Foundations of Marketing from Society for Marketing Advances, West Palm Beach, FL (November 2, 2018).

Results of Using the PACADI Framework

When faculty members at our respective institutions at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and the University of North Carolina Wilmington have used the PACADI framework, our classes have been more structured and engaging. Students vigorously debate each element of their decision and note that this framework yields an “aha moment”—they learned something surprising in the case that led them to think differently about the problem and their proposed solution.

These lively discussions enhance individual and collective learning. As one external metric of this improvement, we have observed a 2.5 percent increase in student case grade performance at NSU since this framework was introduced.

Tips to Get Started

The PACADI approach works well in in-person, online, and hybrid courses. This is particularly important as more universities have moved to remote learning options. Because students have varied educational and cultural backgrounds, work experience, and familiarity with case analysis, we recommend that faculty members have students work on their first case using this new framework in small teams (two or three students). Additional analyses should then be solo efforts.

To use PACADI effectively in your classroom, we suggest the following:

Advise your students that your course will stress critical thinking and decision-making skills, not just course concepts and theory.

Use a varied mix of case studies. As marketing professors, we often address consumer and business markets; goods, services, and digital commerce; domestic and global business; and small and large companies in a single MBA course.

As a starting point, provide a short explanation (about 20 to 30 minutes) of the PACADI framework with a focus on the conceptual elements. You can deliver this face to face or through videoconferencing.

Give students an opportunity to practice the case analysis methodology via an ungraded sample case study. Designate groups of five to seven students to discuss the case and the six steps in breakout sessions (in class or via Zoom).

Ensure case analyses are weighted heavily as a grading component. We suggest 30–50 percent of the overall course grade.

Once cases are graded, debrief with the class on what they did right and areas needing improvement (30- to 40-minute in-person or Zoom session).

Encourage faculty teams that teach common courses to build appropriate instructional materials, grading rubrics, videos, sample cases, and teaching notes.

When selecting case studies, we have found that the best ones for PACADI analyses are about 15 pages long and revolve around a focal management decision. This length provides adequate depth yet is not protracted. Some of our tested and favorite marketing cases include Brand W , Hubspot , Kraft Foods Canada , TRSB(A) , and Whiskey & Cheddar .

Art Weinstein

Art Weinstein , Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has published more than 80 scholarly articles and papers and eight books on customer-focused marketing strategy. His latest book is Superior Customer Value—Finding and Keeping Customers in the Now Economy . Dr. Weinstein has consulted for many leading technology and service companies.

Herbert V. Brotspies

Herbert V. Brotspies , D.B.A., is an adjunct professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He has over 30 years’ experience as a vice president in marketing, strategic planning, and acquisitions for Fortune 50 consumer products companies working in the United States and internationally. His research interests include return on marketing investment, consumer behavior, business-to-business strategy, and strategic planning.

John T. Gironda

John T. Gironda , Ph.D., is an assistant professor of marketing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research has been published in Industrial Marketing Management, Psychology & Marketing , and Journal of Marketing Management . He has also presented at major marketing conferences including the American Marketing Association, Academy of Marketing Science, and Society for Marketing Advances.

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  • Case Study | Definition, Examples & Methods

Case Study | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on 5 May 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 30 January 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organisation, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating, and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyse the case.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

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Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

Unlike quantitative or experimental research, a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

If you find yourself aiming to simultaneously investigate and solve an issue, consider conducting action research . As its name suggests, action research conducts research and takes action at the same time, and is highly iterative and flexible. 

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience, or phenomenon.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews, observations, and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data .

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis, with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results , and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyse its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

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How to Write a Case Study Analysis | Definition, Examples

case study analysis meaning

Writing a case study analysis essay is one of the most common academic assignments that are required in higher education. A case study is a special type of paper that requires critical thinking and analysis to understand specific problem(s) with potentially multiple solutions. A case study may come from any subject area but it has the same goal, which is to provide an in-depth analysis of a current societal issue or trend and recommend solutions. Most case studies focus on the events, issues and possible solutions within a certain time frame and they require extensive research to understand all perspectives of the problem.

Wondering how to write a case study paper, case study analysis, or even how to write a case study assignment in nursing or psychology? Then look no further, because in this guide, we will discuss the process of writing a case study and explore professional paper writing tips .

Let us first define what a case study is before we proceed further.

What Is a Case Study?

A case study is a research approach involving the collection of in-depth information on an individual, group, event or community to uncover how social factors influence behavior. A case study method is often confused with case management due to their similar characteristics. A case manager provides services for clients who have specific needs while a case study focuses on furthering knowledge for educational purposes.

What Is the Difference Between a Research Paper and a Case Study?

A research paper and a case study share some commonalities. The purpose of both is to explore and describe an issue, problem or situation; make comparisons; and develop conclusions.

While the purpose of a research paper is to illustrate what has been learned through observation and analysis, a case study reports on how individuals or groups behave depending on specific conditions such as cultural, social or educational factors.

What Are the Benefits of a Case Study?

There are numerous benefits to using a case study as a research method because it allows for real-life situations to be explored and captured in detail. A case study provides insights into phenomena that cannot be observed through other means such as surveys, interviews and observation. In addition to exploring a specific situation, case studies allow for in-depth analysis of the environment and its influence on behavior.

Types of Case Studies

There are various types of case studies. They range from formal studies such as an in-depth analysis of a certain topic, or to informal studies like reporting situations you’ve witnessed.

The types of case studies include:

  • Descriptive case studies
  • Exploratory case studies
  • Expository case studies
  • Diagnostic case studies
  • Prognostic case studies
  • Historical case studies

Descriptive case studies are similar to survey research because they involve collecting information about a specific group of people or entity, but unlike surveys, descriptive case studies also include information about the environment surrounding the subject being studied.

Exploratory case studies are often used to determine what constitutes a problem and how it should be analyzed before moving on to more formal methods. This type of case study is not as rigorous as other methods because they are used to explore a situation or problem before moving on to more formal methods.

Expository case studies are similar to descriptive and exploratory types because they also use observation and interviews, but the main objective of an expository case study is to explain why something happened rather than mere description. The process of developing an expository case study involves identifying key characteristics and/or an event, selecting a specific situation to analyze and then determining if any causal relationships exist in the given scenario.

Diagnostic case studies involve using observations and interviews in order to uncover why something happened. The main purpose of this research is to understand the cause of a specific event.

Prognostic case studies are similar to diagnostic cases in that they include observation and interviews, but the main difference is the goal of a prognostic case study is to predict what might happen in the future. There are four phases involved in this type of research: predicting the present, exploring different possibilities for the future, determining which course of action would be best or worst, and creating a plan to achieve the desired result.

Historical case studies examines events that have already taken place. These studies are often used to prevent similar events from occurring in the future or to confirm existing knowledge.

What Are Some Key Features of Case Studies?

Because case studies rely on observation and interviews for data collection, there are some commonalities in the types of information found within this type of research. This includes:

  • Types of participants or subjects
  • Conditions under which participants were studied
  • Purpose for studying participants
  • Key features that distinguish certain participants from others
  • Methods used to collect information about each participant
  • Other relevant information, such as results and conclusions reached by researchers using the case study method.

Case Study Format: Eight sections of a case study

The basic case study format has 8 parts namely:

Executive Summary

Recommendations, implementation.

These 8 parts of a case study that makes the case study structure are discussed below:

The executive summary provides an introduction to the case study. This is where you present your key findings, the scope of the investigation, and ongoing debate about issues related to the topic. It answers these questions concisely: What are the main problems? What are the possible causes of those problems? How has this issue been tackled in other contexts or organizations?

This section provides a detailed account of what was found during research into the problem. Here, you should develop your descriptions beyond simple facts by including both quantifiable data (e.g., sales figures) and non-quantifiable data (e.g., employee perceptions). By doing so, you will offer readers a full understanding of your analysis throughout your case study.

To generate a good discussion, you must first answer the basic questions: What has been done? What could be done? Why was each option chosen or rejected? If an alternative solution is proposed, it should not disregard existing recommendations and should offer a thorough examination of its pros and cons. It is also crucial to examine all sides to the debate and highlight weaknesses in your own analysis as well as those of others (without denigrating their work).

The conclusion section summarizes what you have written about. By focusing on who benefits from this issue and how it can impact future behavior, you can provide readers with a clear understanding of why this topic matters to them, now and into the future.

The recommendations section provides your thoughts on correcting the issues discussed in this case study. Keep in mind that your recommendations should not be restricted to solutions already mentioned or explored, but can also include new suggestions for discussion. Moreover, make sure that they are directly related to the findings of your analysis and supported by relevant information from other sources. Your recommendation should assist decision makers in tackling the issue at hand without disregarding any of its aspects. For example, you may recommend that management changes its scheduling policy because it is responsible for many problems associated with employees’ work-life balance. You could then go on to offer some options for improving the situation. One of these could be a flexible working schedule so workers have more autonomy and control over their time and activities.

Provide your thoughts on how your recommendation can actually be put into practice. Ensure that any implementation is addressed as part of the recommendations, not after it. If you are suggesting a new policy or system, for example, you may want to present some preliminary guidelines on its implementation before providing more general advice on what it should cover. You could also use this section to discuss who needs to implement the policy or take action in order for the recommendations to be successful, and why they might find this difficult. It might help if you include an action plan with milestones along the way to show progress toward actualizing your recommendations.

As noted above, all sources used throughout your case study should be cited in this section.

Case study appendices may include reports, questionnaires, interview transcripts, and so on. They usually follow citations in the References section at the end of your case study.

Case Study Outline – Example

A good case study outline example is the one given by the Harvard Business School and includes four major components:

  • The Situation : This outlines what prompted you to do the case study. For example, if you are doing a case study on Starbucks, this could be information about what the coffee industry is like currently or about Starbucks’ performance over the previous year.
  • The Challenge : Here you would outline what is happening in the case study that requires analysis to determine how it should be resolved. For example, if you are doing a case study on PepsiCo, this could include information about falling profits or increasing competition in their industry sector.
  • Your Conclusions and Recommendations : This outlines your thoughts on how the situation should be resolved based on your research of the case study topic. For example, if you are doing a case study on Microsoft, this part might include recommendations for improving product development or changing business practices within the company as a means to increase revenue and improve profitability.
  • An Assessment of Your Analysis : This one simply recaps your analysis and includes a brief summary of any of the “so what” questions raised by the case study.

How to Write a Case Study Analysis

The process of writing a case study paper includes writing a perfect analysis of the case. The following will show you how to write a case study paper, what to include in your case study analysis and where to find research material for your case study analysis.

The process can be divided into 3 steps:

Step 1: Preparing the Case Study

The first step in writing a case study paper is to prepare yourself for the analysis. This means having access to all relevant case study materials, such as reports, statements and transcripts. If you do not have access to these materials, try finding them online or asking someone who does have access if you can use them.

The preparation process can be broken down into 4 parts:

  • Read and Examine the Case Thoroughly : In order to write a high quality analysis of a case study, you need to read and examine it thoroughly. You need to make notes of all the facts, details and issues mentioned in the case study paper. Take your time going over the case – do not skim through it or rush.
  • Focus Your Analysis : Once you have finished reading the case, it is time to summarise what you have read and assess its significance. This can be done in a short paragraph at the beginning of your paper.
  • Uncover Possible Solutions Needed : The next step is to uncover issues and problems that need to be solved as a result of the case study. This can also be done in a short paragraph.
  • Select the Best Solution : Finally, you need to select the best solution(s) for the case study. This may be a single solution or a combination of several different solutions. You can also refer back to your notes on possible solutions from step 2 above.

Step 2: Drafting the Case

After sufficient preparation, it is time to write the case study first draft. This should include all the facts, details and issues mentioned in the case study paper.

  • Introduction : Write a short introduction to the case study which mentions what the paper is about.
  • Background : Provide a background about the case study. This should include who, what, when and where.
  • Evaluation of the Case : The next part of the first draft writing is to evaluate the case critically to identify great solutions to the problems.
  • Proposed Solutions : Finally, the paper should have proposed solutions. These may include but are not limited to: additional research, modification of existing procedures, addition of new procedures, increased efficiency of existing procedures, increased effectiveness of existing procedures, etc.
  • Recommendations : Once all of the above has been done, it is time to make some recommendations. You can recommend a few solutions in detail or provide several different options of what can be done.

After all of this, you will have a draft version of the case study paper.

Step 3: Writing the final draft

To transform the case study draft that you have written to a final paper, you will need to edit and proofread the paper carefully. Ensure that you have not missed anything important or included anything irrelevant, as it can affect how the case study is judged. If you do not feel confident in editing and proofreading, try sharing your paper with a few friends or asking your teacher to proofread it for you.

Case study writing service : You can also ask for proofreading and editing help from Tutlance online writing tutors .

After you have successfully completed the 3 steps outlined above, you now have a case study analysis paper that you can submit for grading.

Case Study Writing Checklist

Here is the checklist to use when writing a case study. Using this checklist is a great way to ensure that you include all of the necessary information.

  • State the nature and extent of the problem (including relevant background information), as clearly and concisely as possible.
  • Identify the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Identify the root cause of the problem. What are all possible reasons for this happening? How can you tell which is the main reason/s?
  • What evidence supports your decision?
  • What are the potential consequences of this solution?
  • Are there any negative personal consequences for employees or others involved?
  • What are the benefits of this solution?
  • State what your chosen solution entails.

Follow this checklist to write a good case studies for school.

Case Study Examples

Here are a few case study assignment examples to get you started.

A) “Case Study of a Small Town’s Struggle With Its Identity”

The Hamlet, North Carolina is the definition of small-town USA. It has a population of just more than three thousand people, and its landscape is decorated with large churches, farmlands, and small businesses. Though The Hamlet continues to grow in size each year due to an influx of interstate commuters looking for affordable housing, it still remains rooted in its traditional values. For years, The Hamlet has been dubbed as ‘the most patriotic town in America’ because every morning at 6:30 am sharp the American flag waves across Main Street. This is all thanks to one man- Jess Miller; who has remained passionate about waving the flag since his father passed away in 2003.

Today, Jess Miller is 82 years old and looks forward to waking up early everyday to perform his duty as The Hamlet’s morning flag waver. However, since his wife of fifty years passed away three years ago, his health has declined rapidly due to depression. He spends most days staring at the flag that waves across Main Street instead of participating in community events or visiting with friends and family members who live nearby. Nowhere does it say how this man will be saved from the clutches of depression nor if he feels fulfilled by waving the American flag every single day.

B) “Case Study on How Breastfeeding Can Improve Health Outcomes”

Human breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition, and breastfeeding is strongly encouraged by pediatricians. Clinical research has shown that babies who are breastfed have lower rates of asthma, obesity, Type II diabetes, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), urinary tract infection (UTI) and late-onset sepsis than babies who are fed formula exclusively.

C) “Case Study on the Dangers of Distracted Driving”

The National Safety Council reports that 1.6 million auto crashes occur each year due to distracted driving. Cell phone usage while operating a motor vehicle is among the top distractions leading to these accidents – it’s estimated that 660,000 drivers use their cell phones at least once per day while driving. Excessive multitasking while behind the wheel can lead to delayed reaction times and poor judgment, which increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident.

Here are pdf case analysis examples:

  • Business Case Study Analysis Example (pdf)
  • Case study analysis sample (pdf)
  • Example of case study analysis (pdf)

How to Create a Title Page and Cite a Case Study

A title page is displayed at the beginning of every research paper , so it’s important to get it right. The following are some guidelines on how to write one yourself: Include your last name, first name, middle initial (if needed), degree/program, department or affiliation, institution/university city and state or country address information on top. Leave two spaces directly below this header for running headings later in the document.

The title should be descriptive and include: the topic, a colon, and the hypothesis. It is okay to use abbreviations and acronyms in titles if they are commonly used. For instance, DNA or RNA could be included in the title of a research paper that discusses genetics. It is also acceptable to leave one space instead of two between your title and your running headings when you write them later in the document.

How to Cite a Case Study

Citations provide readers with background information about where you found your information so they can find out more if they want. These references also prevent plagiarism, a major offense in academic writing.

Below are example template for the APA and MLA case study analysis format title page:

  • APA Title Page Example
  • MLA Title Page Example

Click on the files links above to download the sample case study essay cover page .

  • How to write a case study
  • APA Case Study Format & Example
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Writing A Case Study

Types Of Case Study

Barbara P

Understand the Types of Case Study Here

Published on: Jun 22, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 29, 2023

Types of Case Study

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A Complete Case Study Writing Guide With Examples

Simple Case Study Format for Students to Follow

Brilliant Case Study Examples and Templates For Your Help

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Case studies are effective research methods that focus on one specific case over time. This gives a detailed view that's great for learning.

Writing a case study is a very useful form of study in the educational process. With real-life examples, students can learn more effectively. 

A case study also has different types and forms. As a rule of thumb, all of them require a detailed and convincing answer based on a thorough analysis.

In this blog, we are going to discuss the different types of case study research methods in detail.

So, let’s dive right in!

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Understanding Case Studies

Case studies are a type of research methodology. Case study research designs examine subjects, projects, or organizations to provide an analysis based on the evidence.

It allows you to get insight into what causes any subject’s decisions and actions. This makes case studies a great way for students to develop their research skills.

A case study focuses on a single project for an extended period, which allows students to explore the topic in depth.

What are the Types of Case Study?

Multiple case studies are used for different purposes. The main purpose of case studies is to analyze problems within the boundaries of a specific organization, environment, or situation. 

Many aspects of a case study such as data collection and analysis, qualitative research questions, etc. are dependent on the researcher and what the study is looking to address. 

Case studies can be divided into the following categories:

Illustrative Case Study

Exploratory case study, cumulative case study, critical instance case study, descriptive case study, intrinsic case study, instrumental case study.

Let’s take a look at the detailed description of each type of case study with examples. 

An illustrative case study is used to examine a familiar case to help others understand it. It is one of the main types of case studies in research methodology and is primarily descriptive. 

In this type of case study, usually, one or two instances are used to explain what a situation is like. 

Here is an example to help you understand it better:

Illustrative Case Study Example

An exploratory case study is usually done before a larger-scale research. These types of case studies are very popular in the social sciences like political science and primarily focus on real-life contexts and situations.

This method is useful in identifying research questions and methods for a large and complex study. 

Let’s take a look at this example to help you have a better understanding:

Exploratory Case Study Example

A cumulative case study is one of the main types of case studies in qualitative research. It is used to collect information from different sources at different times.

This case study aims to summarize the past studies without spending additional cost and time on new investigations. 

Let’s take a look at the example below:

Cumulative Case Study Example

Critical instances case studies are used to determine the cause and consequence of an event. 

The main reason for this type of case study is to investigate one or more sources with unique interests and sometimes with no interest in general. 

Take a look at this example below:

Critical Instance Case Study Example

When you have a hypothesis, you can design a descriptive study. It aims to find connections between the subject being studied and a theory.

After making these connections, the study can be concluded. The results of the descriptive case study will usually suggest how to develop a theory further.

This example can help you understand the concept better:

Descriptive Case Study Example

Intrinsic studies are more commonly used in psychology, healthcare, or social work. So, if you were looking for types of case studies in sociology, or types of case studies in social research, this is it.

The focus of intrinsic studies is on the individual. The aim of such studies is not only to understand the subject better but also their history and how they interact with their environment.

Here is an example to help you understand;

Intrinsic Case Study Example

This type of case study is mostly used in qualitative research. In an instrumental case study, the specific case is selected to provide information about the research question.

It offers a lens through which researchers can explore complex concepts, theories, or generalizations.

Take a look at the example below to have a better understanding of the concepts:

Instrumental Case Study Example

Review some case study examples to help you understand how a specific case study is conducted.

Types of Subjects of Case Study 

In general, there are 5 types of subjects that case studies address. Every case study fits into the following subject categories. 

  • Person: This type of study focuses on one subject or individual and can use several research methods to determine the outcome. 
  • Group: This type of study takes into account a group of individuals. This could be a group of friends, coworkers, or family. 
  • Location: The main focus of this type of study is the place. It also takes into account how and why people use the place. 
  • Organization: This study focuses on an organization or company. This could also include the company employees or people who work in an event at the organization. 
  • Event: This type of study focuses on a specific event. It could be societal or cultural and examines how it affects the surroundings. 

Benefits of Case Study for Students

Here's a closer look at the multitude of benefits students can have with case studies:

Real-world Application

Case studies serve as a crucial link between theory and practice. By immersing themselves in real-world scenarios, students can apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations.

Critical Thinking Skills

Analyzing case studies demands critical thinking and informed decision-making. Students cultivate the ability to evaluate information, identify key factors, and develop well-reasoned solutions – essential skills in both academic and professional contexts.

Enhanced Problem-solving Abilities

Case studies often present complex problems that require creative and strategic solutions. Engaging with these challenges refines students' problem-solving skills, encouraging them to think innovatively and develop effective approaches.

Holistic Understanding

Going beyond theoretical concepts, case studies provide a holistic view of a subject. Students gain insights into the multifaceted aspects of a situation, helping them connect the dots and understand the broader context.

Exposure to Diverse Perspectives

Case studies often encompass a variety of industries, cultures, and situations. This exposure broadens students' perspectives, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the world and the challenges faced by different entities.

So there you have it!

We have explored different types of case studies and their examples. Case studies act as the tools to understand and deal with the many challenges and opportunities around us.

Case studies are being used more and more in colleges and universities to help students understand how a hypothetical event can influence a person, group, or organization in real life. 

Not everyone can handle the case study writing assignment easily. It is even scary to think that your time and work could be wasted if you don't do the case study paper right. 

Our professional paper writing service is here to make your academic journey easier. 

Let us worry about your essay and buy case study today to ease your stress and achieve academic success.

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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Case Analysis: Format, Structure, & Examples for Students

Case analysis.

Do you want to find out how to write a case analysis?

It is a challenging assignment, including both theory and practice. Strategic managers use this analysis tool to improve the performance of a company. For example, Netflix conducts case studies regularly, which lets them implement new strategies.

And there’s no need to tell how successful they are, right?

This article is a guide for students who want to write a perfect case analysis. You will find information on the structure and purposes of your writing. Look for report examples at the end!

  • 📌 Case Analysis Definition
  • 📑 Case Analysis Structure
  • 👔 Case Analysis Examples

📌 What Is a Case Analysis?

Case analysis allows you to use the knowledge gained in class in an actual situation. You need to demonstrate your understanding of the theory and how you can use it.

We will discuss the objectives and case analysis format below.

Case Analysis Definition

A case analysis is a thorough study of an issue, primarily used in business & marketing. It is an effective decision-making tool and requires attention to the following aspects. Consider all costs, risks, and benefits to the potential choices you might make. In the corporate world, businesses and project managers use case analysis to develop their strategies.

Is a Business Case Analysis Any Different from a Business Case?

Yes, it is. A business case refers just to the presented report. A business case analysis is an overall approach to research, its procedures, and results.

Case Analysis Purpose

While being a handy tool for managers and researchers, a case analysis presents the following purposes.

  • Finding existing and potential problems of a business. You need to analyze all the factors that influence the business’ performance to find issues.
  • Evaluating possible solutions and decisions. To do that, consider the previous strategies that the company used. At this stage, you need to compare all the potential factors and pay attention to the details that might influence the results.
  • Choosing the best strategy for a business. After you have assessed all the available options, you need to find out which is the best one. Then it’s time to prove the critical point of case analysis to the readers.

The picture lists three main purposes of a case analysis.

📑 Case Analysis Format & Structure

Now you know what a case analysis is so that we can move on.

A typical case analysis incorporates seven parts. We will explain what to write in each of them and how to avoid common mistakes.

Here, we will focus on business cases. Read the passages below to know everything about the report format.

Let’s start!

1. Executive Summary

An executive summary is a short review of the whole research, covering the main points. Better write it last, and here’s why: once you have a complete case analysis in front of you, it is easier to highlight the key information.

Here are the main points that you need to mention in the executive summary:

  • The purpose of your paper.
  • The field of research you have chosen.
  • Key issues and findings.
  • Your theory and suggested course of action.

Always think about the readers – there is no need to include details they already know. At the same time, ensure to show your deep understanding of the problem and the business needs.

2. Introduction

In this part, include a detailed description of the case study analysis problems. Mention the purposes of the research. Add the background information and aspects you haven’t covered before.

At the end of the introduction, state your hypothesis. It should include an explanation of the problems and the suggested solution strategies.

Try to fit your introduction in 2-4 paragraphs.

A case study method is how you gather and use the information in the study.

Here are some standard methods:

  • Observation
  • Documentary analysis

Each method defines certain boundaries of the case. In other words, you state your data gathering method and the scope you want to cover. It can be a specific place, period, market, etc. At this point, there should be clear answers to these questions: What are the characteristics of your case? Which data do you need to collect? How are you going to do it?

4. Solutions & Assumptions

According to the case analysis structure, this is the section to describe the solutions. Reveal those solutions that were briefly mentioned in the introduction. To show that you’ve researched your case correctly, provide as many details as possible. All the solutions should be realistic and achievable in the existing circumstances.

Also, assume what the consequences of these solutions might be. Explain your predictions with the help of the gathered evidence. The best idea is to rely on scientific data, research results, or interviews conducted.

5. Recommendations

In this part, share your thoughts in a persuasive tone to convince the audience. If you have chosen one strategy that you think works best, describe how to implement it. If not, share ideas on several strategies a business can use to succeed.

An excellent bonus will be to mention minor problems you’ve noticed during the research. Offer ways to eliminate these problems. And don’t forget to refer to the theory you’ve learned in the classroom.

6. Conclusion

The case analysis format requires more than just summarizing the main points. The goal here is to synthesize the key findings of the case study: show the role of each and how they work together. Remind your readers about the importance of the research and its results.

It is essential to share the insights you’ve had while studying the issue. State if the case needs further research and its possible directions. You might address a controversy or knowledge gap you’ve found while researching.

7. References & Appendices

Gather all the external sources used during the analysis. You need to be careful with the formatting at this stage. A reference list is usually made in APA, MLA, or Chicago citation styles. If you are not sure how to use them, find guidelines on your college’s website. Or check this mini-guide about three major referencing styles of academic writings .

Appendices that come in the very end contain charts, graphs, tables, etc. These data would be destructive to the readers if you placed it in the main body.

👔 Case Analysis Examples for Students

We hope it was a helpful structure manual. Now we are ready to provide you with some case study samples for high school and college students.

We will take a look at three popular companies: Starbucks, Netflix, and Tesla. While being successful, all of them have issues and need adjustments constantly. Solve these puzzles with us!

Starbucks Case Analysis

A closer look at the specifics of Starbucks’ operations in the target environment revealed some problems. Although Starbucks has become a household name for a significant part of the population across the world, it had seen its dark days, when the company’s leaders were trying to find the solution that would make the company unique and memorable, while at the same time expanding into the global economy and catering to a broader audience (Koehn et al. 1-3). […]

Read how Starbucks has dealt with the problems that occurred during the crisis of 2008.

Netflix Case Analysis

Throughout the years, Netflix has been expanding to new markets by developing relationships with partners and creating its media content (“Long-term view,” n.d.). These measures can ensure the organization’s sustainable development in the long-term perspective. It might be assumed that Netflix is the leader in the market because the company focuses both on internal and external processes. […]

Check the full version of the Netflix case analysis to figure out the company’s position in the competitive environment.

Tesla Motors Case Analysis

Tesla is an excellent example of how a developing and successful company might fall behind on producing a new product and become unable to keep up with demand. The company executives believe lack of motivation and ineffective training to be the significant factors contributing to the team’s slow progress and poor quality of the finished product. Considering these problems to be influencing the final product significantly, this case analysis will be dedicated to creating a training plan to address the situation. The main focus will be on shaping the company’s strategies, changing the leadership approach, and executing a motivational system for employees. […]

Continue reading about Tesla’s ways to deal with the business decline and rising demand.

More Case Study Examples

  • Rocket Internet company case study .
  • Chick-Fill-A: The firm’s international expansion challenges .
  • Analysis of Goya Foods company case .
  • The Enron Corporation scandal analysis .
  • The Netflix case of 2011: Mistakes and solutions .
  • TOMS Shoes: 4Ps, innovation, and marketing recommendations .
  • Walmart corporation’s case of using robots .
  • Apple Inc. in 2020: SWOT analysis and VRIO framework .
  • Training at Brighten Inc.: Case study .
  • Peloton Interactive Inc.’s crisis and solution .
  • Volkswagen emission scandal: Case analysis .
  • What helps Crocs to achieve success in the market .
  • Square Solar Inc.’s intellectual assets & property security .
  • Strategic planning: McDonald’s case .
  • Markets of YA.SI.GA.MO.MA.GE: Case study .
  • PepsiCo: Operation and supply chain management strategies .
  • Nokia’s 5G coverage in the North American region .
  • Google company’s human resource management .
  • Unilever company and the risks it can face .
  • P&G: The development of the data governance and management strategies .
  • The CJ Industries and heavey pumps contract case .
  • Valero Energy Corporation (VLO): Issues and their solutions .
  • Vision, mission, and change: Microsoft’s acquisition of CloudKnox Security .
  • The controversy of nicotine and its effects on Altria .
  • The Covid-19 impact on Microsoft’s productivity .
  • Operations management of Boeing .
  • Amazon’s foreign direct investment in Finland .
  • General Motors company: Case analysis and solutions .
  • Fitbit firm’s competitive advantage, opportunities, and threats .
  • Zara: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability .
  • Environmental analysis: A case study of Apple Inc .
  • Tesla’s vertically integrated supply chain .
  • Case study: Consulting firm’s lost paradise .
  • Post-covid reality in the case of Wirkkala company .
  • JetBlue’s opportunities for sustainable value creation .
  • Green Energy and Environmental Services Co. W.L.L: Case study .
  • Passenger Rail Agency’s (PRASA) organizational change .
  • Agthia Group’s critical success factors, valuable resources, and competitive advantages .
  • Off-White case study: Summary of success .
  • Fisher-Price case and corporate public apology .

Case Analysis Checklist for Students

To wrap the discussion, we’ve made this checklist for you. Go through each step to ensure your case analysis is done qualitatively.

  • Define the issue that you will study. Choose the specific problem and dig into its main defects.
  • Research the issue. Find more data about this particular case or compare it with similar ones.
  • Filter the data that you will use. Not all the information you’ve found is necessary to your case analysis.
  • Think about how to solve the issue. It is enough to have at least three solutions or strategies.
  • Compare the solutions. Define their advantages, disadvantages, risks, and costs.
  • Take a look at examples. Use them as references, and don’t forget to check credibility.
  • Study the structure. Check the requirements for your paper and make a list of the sections you will need.
  • Draft your case analysis. Note the main thoughts for each section. Then you can make everything you’ve written more detailed and sophisticated.
  • Make sure you don’t repeat yourself. Your thoughts should flow in one direction, but don’t use the same words. Try to at least paraphrase everything that looks similar.
  • Proofread your paper. Start with the cover page and end with the last one. Everything has to be perfect.

Well, that’s all for today. Thank you for being so attentive and motivated to read this article till the end. We hope you’ve found all the information you need to write a perfect case analysis. Take some notes on the most important moments of this article and begin your journey.

You have a lot of work ahead, but we believe you can make it.

Incredible, phenomenal blog page arrangement! How long have you been writing for?

Your content is good as well as informative in my personal opinion. You have truly done a lot of research on this topic. Thank you for sharing it.

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Case study definition

case study analysis meaning

Case study, a term which some of you may know from the "Case Study of Vanitas" anime and manga, is a thorough examination of a particular subject, such as a person, group, location, occasion, establishment, phenomena, etc. They are most frequently utilized in research of business, medicine, education and social behaviour. There are a different types of case studies that researchers might use:

• Collective case studies

• Descriptive case studies

• Explanatory case studies

• Exploratory case studies

• Instrumental case studies

• Intrinsic case studies

Case studies are usually much more sophisticated and professional than regular essays and courseworks, as they require a lot of verified data, are research-oriented and not necessarily designed to be read by the general public.

How to write a case study?

It very much depends on the topic of your case study, as a medical case study and a coffee business case study have completely different sources, outlines, target demographics, etc. But just for this example, let's outline a coffee roaster case study. Firstly, it's likely going to be a problem-solving case study, like most in the business and economics field are. Here are some tips for these types of case studies:

• Your case scenario should be precisely defined in terms of your unique assessment criteria.

• Determine the primary issues by analyzing the scenario. Think about how they connect to the main ideas and theories in your piece.

• Find and investigate any theories or methods that might be relevant to your case.

• Keep your audience in mind. Exactly who are your stakeholder(s)? If writing a case study on coffee roasters, it's probably gonna be suppliers, landlords, investors, customers, etc.

• Indicate the best solution(s) and how they should be implemented. Make sure your suggestions are grounded in pertinent theories and useful resources, as well as being realistic, practical, and attainable.

• Carefully proofread your case study. Keep in mind these four principles when editing: clarity, honesty, reality and relevance.

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Luckily, there are!

We completely understand and have been ourselves in a position, where we couldn't wrap our head around how to write an effective and useful case study, but don't fear - our service is here.

We are a group that specializes in writing all kinds of case studies and other projects for academic customers and business clients who require assistance with its creation. We require our writers to have a degree in your topic and carefully interview them before they can join our team, as we try to ensure quality above all. We cover a great range of topics, offer perfect quality work, always deliver on time and aim to leave our customers completely satisfied with what they ordered.

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Modeling and Case Analysis of Biological System Interpretation Based on Logical Meaning

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  • Open access
  • Published: 15 December 2023

A retrospective analysis of the clinical efficacy of pancreatic duct stent implantation in the management of acute biliary pancreatitis requiring ERCP

  • Bo Peng 1   na1 ,
  • Zuoquan Wang 2   na1 ,
  • Chengsi Zhao 1 ,
  • Genwang Wang 3 ,
  • Tongtong Dong 4 ,
  • Jinping Shi 4 ,
  • Zuozheng Wang 3 &
  • Weijie Yao 3  

European Journal of Medical Research volume  28 , Article number:  594 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

This study aimed to investigate the feasibility, effectiveness, and safety of pancreatic duct stenting in managing acute biliary pancreatitis (ABP) necessitating endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). It further aimed to provide valuable insights for subsequent clinical diagnosis and treatment.

This research employs an observational retrospective case–control study design, encompassing patients with ABP who underwent ERCP at the hepatobiliary surgery department of the General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University between August 1, 2018, and December 31, 2020. A total of 229 cases were screened based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. Regardless of ABP severity, patients were categorized into the stent group (141) and the non-stent group (88). Changes in blood amylase (Amy), lipase (LIP), leukocyte count (WBC), total bilirubin (TBIL), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), hematocrit (HCT), and creatinine (CR) were compared between the two groups. Moreover, variables such as recovery time for oral feeding, hospitalization duration, hospitalization costs, local complications, systemic complications, and new organ failure were recorded to assess the therapeutic effect of pancreatic duct stenting.

No significant differences were observed in gender, age, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score, ABP severity grade, organ failure (OF), cholangitis, or biliary obstruction between the pancreatic stent and non-stent groups ( P  > 0.05). There was no significant difference in the incidence of complications related to acute pancreatitis between the two groups ( P  > 0.05). The median fasting and hospitalization times of patients in the stent group were significantly shorter than those in the non-stent group ( P  < 0.05). No significant differences between the groups were observed in hospitalization costs and in-hospital mortality ( P  > 0.05). There were no significant variations in white blood cell (WBC) count, TBIL, ALT, and creatinine (Cr) at admission, 72 h, and in the differences between the two groups ( P  > 0.05). The levels of Amy at admission and 72 h in the stent group were significantly higher than those in the non-stent group ( P  < 0.05). The differences in LIP and HCT in the stent group were considerably higher than in the non-stent group ( P  < 0.05). Although no significant differences were observed in mean Amy and LIP between the two groups ( P  > 0.05), the mean 72-h HCT in the stent group was 38.39% (95% confidence interval [CI] 37.82%–38.96%) was lower than that in the non-stent group (39.44%, 95% CI 38.70–40.17%) ( P  < 0.05).

In the stent group, feeding time and hospital stay were significantly shorter than those in the non-stent group. No significant differences were observed between the two groups in the incidence of complications and mortality. The HCT value decreased more rapidly in the stent group. Early pancreatic stent implantation demonstrated the potential to shorten the eating and hospitalization duration of patients with ABP, facilitating their prompt recovery.

Trial Registration : This study was registered as a single-center, retrospective case series (ChiCTR1800019734) at chictr.org.cn.

Introduction

Acute pancreatitis (AP) stands out as a prevalent digestive system disorder. In recent years, its incidence has seen a steady rise, attributed to advancements in living standards and shifts in dietary patterns. Beyond posing a threat to human health, AP imposes substantial economic burdens. Reports indicate that AP-related medical expenses in European and American nations surpass 2.6 billion US dollars annually [ 1 ]. While the majority of AP incidents manifest as mild cases with no organ failure (OF) or complications, resolving within a week of medical intervention, some patients experience severe acute pancreatitis (SAP). SAP is characterized by prolonged (> 48 h) OF, posing a significant threat to multiple systems, such as respiration, circulation, and digestion, with mortality rates ranging from 15 to 30% [ 2 ]. The causative factors behind SAP-led OF remain inadequately elucidated. Early OF is frequently linked to aseptic inflammation, resulting in high mortality. In instances where septicemia follows infectious pancreatic necrosis, late-stage OF may also ensue [ 3 ]. Consequently, SAP necessitates comprehensive interdisciplinary management.

The etiology of AP is diverse, exhibiting regional variations. In developed nations, alcoholism and cholelithiasis account for the majority of cases (36%). Conversely, cholelithiasis is the primary culprit in China, contributing to approximately 40–70% of AP incidence rates [ 4 ]. Despite extensive investigation, the pathogenesis of acute biliary pancreatitis (ABP) remains incompletely understood. The interplay of anatomy, genetics, biliary factors, and pancreatic duct obstruction is presumed to contribute to the onset of this condition. As far back as a century ago, Opie et al. proposed the “common pathway theory”, positing that bile reflux resulting from bile duct obstruction served as the initiating event for ABP. Fifty years later, Acosta and Ledesma introduced the “gallstone passage theory”, suggesting that the onset of ABP was triggered by the abnormal stimulation of transitional stones traversing the common channel of the biliary and pancreatic duct [ 5 ]. Both theories emphasize that following bile duct obstruction, the pressure in the bile duct exceeds normal levels, leading to the retrograde flow of bile or duodenal fluid into the pancreatic duct. The retrograde flow overly stimulates and activates pancreatic enzymes, resulting in excessive self-digestion of the pancreas and the occurrence of ABP [ 6 ]. Nipple edema or Oddi sphincter spasm induced by temporary stone obstruction is crucial in developing ABP [ 7 ]. Despite ongoing debates surrounding the pathogenesis of ABP, the prevailing consensus supports the “common channel” theory. This theory asserts that the merging and opening of the bile duct and pancreatic duct to the duodenal papilla form a common channel. Any factor causing common bile duct obstruction, mainly stones, can elevate the pressure of the bile and pancreatic ducts. The reflux of bile and its cytokines then stimulates the pancreas, triggering the abnormal activation of trypsin and leading to AP [ 8 ].

Conservative medical treatment and surgical intervention represent common strategies for managing ABP. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy serves as a frequently employed surgical approach; however, patients commonly experience abdominal and shoulder pain post-laparoscopy, primarily attributed to residual blood in the abdominal cavity and carbon dioxide (CO 2) pneumoperitoneum. As an endoscopic procedure involving the implantation of a plastic pancreatic duct stent, pancreatic duct stenting offers a solution to enhance pancreatic drainage, reduce CO 2 residue, and effectively address biliopancreatic duct obstruction [ 9 ]. This intervention alleviates the clinical symptoms of pancreatitis in patients, reducing the likelihood of recurrence. There are limited clinical studies on using pancreatic duct stenting to treat patients with ABP. Therefore, this study aims to observe the clinical effectiveness of pancreatic duct stenting in ABP treatment, providing a valuable reference for its management.

General information

This observational retrospective case–control study enrolled patients with ABP who underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) in the hepatobiliary surgery department of the General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University from August 1, 2018, to December 31, 2020. A total of 229 cases were screened based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. Irrespective of ABP severity, patients were categorized into the stent group (141) and the non-stent group (88). This study adhered to ethical standards outlined in the Declaration of Helsinki (2013 revision), approved by the ethics committee of the General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University (No.: [2018]0725A). All patients provided informed consent before ERCP, granting permission to use clinical data in subsequent research.

Patients in the pancreatic duct stent group underwent ERCP within 72 h after admission, with pancreatic duct stents placed during the operation. The decision to perform biliary lithotomy or endoscopic sphincterotomy (EST) was determined based on intraoperative cholangiography. Patients in the non-stent group received conservative treatment post-admission. The timing of ERCP was based on their condition, without placing pancreatic stents during the operation. The timing and indications of ERCP in the non-pancreatic stent group aligned with the following American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) guidelines for AP treatment: [ 10 ] I. Patients with AP complicated by acute cholangitis should undergo ERCP within 24 h of admission. II. Emergency ERCP is not required without laboratory or clinical evidence of persistent biliary obstruction. III. If common bile duct stones are highly suspected in the absence of cholangitis, jaundice, or both, ERCP should be performed after confirmation by magnetic resonance cholangiography (MRCP) or endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS).

Inclusion criteria

I. Age ≥ 18 years old. II. A diagnosis consistent with ABP [ 11 ]. III. Onset time ≤ 72 h. IV. Complete clinical case data (diagnosis, auxiliary examination, and operation records).

Exclusion criteria

I. AP during pregnancy. II. Contraindications related to endoscopic surgery. II. Acute attack of chronic pancreatitis. IV. Previous ERCP due to AP. V. AP caused by drinking habits and hyperlipidemia or other metabolic diseases. VI. Incomplete clinical data.

Diagnostic criteria for AP [ 12 ]

I Presence of typical epigastric pain in AP. II Blood amylase, lipase concentrations, or both exceeding three times the upper limit of normal. III Enhanced CT or MRI features indicative of AP. Clinically, AP can be diagnosed if at least two of the above three criteria are met.

Diagnostic criteria for ABP [ 11 ]

I. Manifestation of typical upper abdominal pain symptoms associated with AP. II. Imaging examinations (such as abdominal CT and B-mode ultrasound) revealing the presence of stones in the biliary system or acute cholecystitis. III. Elevated blood amylase, urine amylase levels, or both exceeding three times the normal value. IV. Abnormal total serum bilirubin (TBIL) levels, liver function, or both. V. Absence of other diseases causing elevated levels of TBIL, amylase, or aspartate aminotransferase (AST)/alanine transaminase (ALT).

Diagnostic criteria for complications

Systemic complications and organ dysfunction.

I. Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS): body temperature > 38 ℃ or < 36 ℃, heart rate > 90 beats/min, breathing > 20 times/min, or PaCO 2  < 4.3kpa (32 mmHg). Leukocyte count > 12 × 10 9 /L or < 4 × 10 9 /L or immature neutrophils > 10%. Diagnosis requires meeting the above two requirements. II. Sepsis: presence of pathogen evidence and meeting the diagnosis of SIRS. III. Acute OF: occurs if any one organ fails or has a modified Marshall score > 2. IV. Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS): according to the modified Marshall score scale, any organ score ≥ 2 defines the existence of OF. V. Abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS): [ 13 ] continuous increase of abdominal pressure (> 20 mmHg, with or without abdominal perfusion pressure ≤ 60 mmHg) and new organ dysfunction/failure (various causes).

Local complications

I. Acute peripancreatic fluid collection (APFC): fluid accumulation around the pancreas or organ space without forming a package 4 weeks before AP. II. Acute necrosis collection (ANC): in the early stage of AP, the fluid around the pancreas or organ space is mixed with necrotic tissue around the pancreas or pancreatic parenchyma without forming a complete capsule. III. Walled-off necrosis: occurs 4 weeks after AP, forming a cystic unit that wraps the pancreas or peripancreatic necrotic tissue with a complete envelope. IV. Pancreatic pseudocyst (PPC): develops in the late stage of AP and is characterized by the accumulation of peripancreatic fluid with a complete capsule. V. Infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN): infection secondary to acute necrotic accumulation or encapsulated necrosis.

Surgical instruments

In this study, we utilized OLYMPUS TJF 240 V and TJF 260 electronic duodenoscopes, Olympus disposable high-frequency papillotome (KD-V411M-720), The COOK ® company’s ribbon guide wire (ACRO-35-450), and The COOK company’s pancreatic duct support (diameter 5–7 Fr, length 4–12 cm).

Preoperative preparation

I. Upon admission, patients in the stent and non-stent groups received standard conservative treatment, including fasting, rehydration, acid inhibition, enzyme inhibition, nutritional support, and antibiotic therapy tailored to their needs. Analgesic and gastrointestinal decompression methods were employed for patients experiencing severe abdominal pain.

II. Before the operation, patients in both groups underwent a detailed briefing about their medical condition, past medical history, and laboratory and imaging results. A comprehensive evaluation of heart, lung, kidney, and other organ functions was conducted. The operative procedure, potential risks, accidents, and postoperative complications were thoroughly explained to the patients and their families. The potential anesthetic risks during the procedure were also discussed. The patient’s family members must sign the surgical treatment consent form.

Stenting of the main pancreatic duct during ERCP was employed to relieve pancreatic duct obstruction, targeting patients experiencing intractable pain due to pancreatic duct stenosis, pancreatic duct stones, or duodenal papillary stenosis.

ERCP treatment process: All patients underwent a preoperative water fast for > 6 h. Intramuscular injection of 10 mg scopolamine butyrate and oral lidocaine gel (10  g : 0.2  g ) was administered 15 min preoperatively to relax the gastrointestinal tract fully. Continuous monitoring of cardiopulmonary function was maintained. After intravenous anesthesia, the patient assumed a left lateral position, and duodenoscopy through the mouth into the gastric cavity proceeded to the descending segment of the duodenum. The position, shape, and opening of the nipple on the inner side of the duodenum were observed. In the pancreatic duct stent group, pancreatic duct intubation was performed using the guide wire guidance method. After successful intubation, fluoroscopy confirmed the guide wire’s alignment with the pancreatic duct. Duodenal papillary sphincter incision knife for nipple micro-incision and suction of the pancreatic duct followed until clear pancreatic juice outflow was observed. The pancreatic duct stent was inserted along the guide wire, followed by the bile duct intubation using the same method. After successful bile duct intubation, duodenal papillary sphincter incision followed along the guide wire, contrast agent injection for cholangiography, stone removal using a stone basket or balloon (ODI’s sphincterotomy if necessary), and mechanical or electrohydraulic lithotripsy shall be performed if needed. Cholangiography was repeated to ensure no residual stones and a nasobiliary drainage tube was placed. In the non-stent group, bile duct intubation was accomplished through the guide wire guidance method. After radiographic confirmation, the catheter was sent along the guide wire, and a contrast agent was injected for observation. Upon confirming the diagnosis of stones, endoscopic removal of stones ensured no residual stones, followed by the placement of a nasobiliary drainage tube.

Postoperative management

Postoperative management, dietary restrictions, and discharge standards aligned with our previous studies [ 14 , 15 ]. All patients were treated with diet prohibition, acid inhibition, spasmolysis, fluid replacement, and antibiotic therapy based on changes in inflammatory factors and the patient’s condition. Daily observations of test indices and the patient’s condition were conducted postoperatively. For those with relief of symptoms such as nausea, abdominal distension, and abdominal pain (NRS ≤ 2), and serum amylase decreased to less than three times the upper limit of normal, a return to a soft diet was initiated. The eating time was recorded when the patient returned to a soft diet without stopping oral intake due to symptom recurrence. For patients with moderate or severe AP, enhanced CT scans were performed weekly during hospitalization to evaluate local complications. In the presence of late local complications leading to clinical symptoms, rapid expansion of complications, and secondary infection, and when conservative internal medicine treatment proved ineffective, timely surgical intervention measures were implemented to address the local complications. The choice of intervention method depended on the patient's condition and the location of the local complications. The patient was discharged when oral feeding could not be tolerated without complications and clinical symptoms.

Patients in both groups underwent biochemical and nasobiliary cholangiography examinations 1–2 weeks after discharge. Once there was no jaundice, abnormal liver function, and residual stones, the nasobiliary drainage tube could be removed. Patients in the stent group underwent enhanced CT 2–3 months after discharge to observe pancreatic recovery and the position of the pancreatic duct stent. If the recovery was satisfactory with no necrosis or effusion, the pancreatic duct stent was removed in the outpatient department.

Observation indices

I. Time of admission. II. Laboratory indices: Amy, LIP, WBC count, hematocrit (HCT), TBIL, ALT, and creatinine (Cr) at admission and 72 h after admission. III. Efficacy evaluation indicators: recovery time for oral feeding, length of hospital stay, hospitalization cost, late local complications, the incidence of new systemic complications and new OF, and mortality.

Statistical analysis

The statistical analyses were conducted using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 20.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Non-normally distributed metric variables were analyzed using the Kruskal–Wallis and Mann–Whitney U -tests. Unless otherwise stated, values were presented as mean ± standard deviation. For asymmetrically distributed measurement data, it was expressed as the median (interquartile interval) [M (IQR)]. Discrepancies in Amy, HCT, and LIP values between the two groups at admission were noted. Therefore, the analysis of covariance was employed to compare Amy, HCT, and LIP between the two groups at 72 h after admission. Statistical significance was set at P  < 0.05.

A total of 229 patients with ABP were included, with an average age of (61.86 ± 15.28) years, including 131 men and 98 women. Based on different treatment measures, 141 cases were categorized to the stent group and 88 to the non-stent group. The case screening process is illustrated in Fig.  1 . In the stent group, some patients experienced pancreatic duct-blocking substances. During the pancreatic duct stenting procedure, observations revealed the presence of pancreatic ducts, with the scalpel cutting along the nipple, as depicted in Fig.  2 .

figure 1

Flowchart illustrating patient inclusion and exclusion

figure 2

Panoramic depiction of pancreatic duct obstruction and intubation. A Duodenal papilla (black arrow). B After intubation and aspiration of the pancreatic duct, a substantial amount of obstructive white substances (black arrows) were observed. C Fluoroscopy revealed the guide wire (black arrow) following the course of the pancreatic duct. D Fluoroscopy demonstrated the successful placement of the pancreatic duct stent (black arrow)

Comparison of baseline data between the two groups

No significant differences were observed in gender, age, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score, ABP severity grade [ 16 ], OF, cholangitis or biliary obstruction, and bilirubin levels between the stent and non-stent groups ( P  > 0.05) (Table 1 ).

Comparison of treatment effects between the two groups

The results indicated no significant difference in the incidence of complications related to AP between the two groups ( P  > 0.05). The median fasting time and hospital stay in the stent group were significantly shorter than those in the non-stent group ( P  < 0.05). No significant differences were observed in hospitalization expenses and in-hospital mortality between the two groups ( P  > 0.05) (Table 2 ) .

Comparison of laboratory indices between the two groups after admission and 72 h after admission

When comparing the differences in Amy, WBC, ALT, TBIL, HCT, LIP, Cr, and other laboratory indices between the two groups at admission and 72 h after admission, the results revealed no significant differences in WBC, TBIL, ALT, Cr at admission and 72 h after admission ( P  > 0.05). The levels of AMY at admission and 72 h in the stent group were significantly elevated compared to those in the non-stent group ( P  < 0.05). No significant difference was observed between the two groups ( P  > 0.05). Furthermore, the levels of LIP and HCT in the stent group were significantly higher than those in the non-stent group ( P  < 0.05) (Table 3 ) .

Analysis of covariance of some laboratory indices in the two groups

Variations were observed in the values of Amy, HCT, and LIP between the two groups at admission. Due to uneven baseline conditions, an analysis of covariance was employed to assess Amy, HCT, and LIP levels in both groups 72 h after admission. The results demonstrated no significant differences in mean Amy and LIP between the two groups ( P  > 0.05). However, the mean 72-h HCT in the stent group was 38.39% [95% confidence interval (CI) 37.82%–38.96%], which was significantly lower than that in the non-stent group, [39.44% (95% CI 38.70%–40.17%), P  < 0.05] (Table 4 ) .

Pancreatic duct stents, commonly used for pancreatic drainage, have gained recognition in treating chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic duct division, and complications of AP (such as pancreatic duct rupture and pancreatic pseudocyst). Moreover, pancreatic duct stents are crucial in preventing pancreatitis following ERCP. During ERCP operation, factors such as duodenal papilla intubation can induce spasm and edema of the papillary sphincter, impeding the smooth discharge of pancreatic juice. The utilization of pancreatic duct stents facilitates the adequate drainage of pancreatic fluid, thereby preventing complications in certain patients post-ERCP [ 17 ]. There is a lack of consensus regarding the treatment approach and optimal timing for stent placement in ABP. This study aimed to address this gap by reviewing and analyzing clinical data from our pancreatitis center, focusing on patients with ABP treated using pancreatic duct stents and comparing them with those treated without stents to explore the efficacy and feasibility of this intervention.

The study included 229 patients with ABP who underwent ERCP. The median ALT at admission was 245.90 U/L, indicating liver injury. Liver function impairment is a common complication of ABP, attributed to the overactivation of pancreatin, cytokine release, and disturbances in liver microcirculation. ABP can induce hepatocyte degeneration and necrosis as overactivated pancreatin and bacterial toxins reach the liver through the portal vein system. In addition, most ABPs have bile duct obstruction and poor bile excretion. Bacterial toxins, released during secondary infections, can cause bacteremia, directly impacting the liver via the bloodstream [ 18 ]. Therefore, endoscopic treatment alleviated biliary obstruction and reduced bile duct pressure, followed by nasobiliary drainage tube placement, facilitated smooth bile drainage, terminated the inflammatory reaction, and prevented further liver damage.

Moreover, some scholars have reported that the duration of ampullary obstruction in patients with ABP is linked to liver function impairment and positively correlates with the severity of AP. Prolonged ampullary obstruction exacerbates the condition, contributing to pancreatic bleeding and necrosis. Effectively addressing the block within 24 h can prevent patient deterioration. Beyond 48 h, the risk of pancreatic tissue necrosis increases, resulting in critical conditions, challenging treatment, poor prognosis, and slow patient recovery [ 19 ]. Therefore, under favorable conditions, it is crucial to comprehensively evaluate the patient's condition, identify the surgical indications, and promptly relieve ampullary obstruction in patients with obstruction. This approach significantly contributes to enhanced patient recovery. In this study, leukocyte count, TBIL, and serum Amy and LIP levels showed significant decreases in all patients 72 h after admission, returning to normal levels. These findings underscore the positive impact of ERCP in relieving bile duct obstruction and ensuring bile emptying in the rehabilitation of patients with ABP. Consequently, industry guidelines advocate for early intervention in those patients with ABP with biliary obstruction or acute cholangitis to alleviate obstruction and improve clinical outcomes [ 10 , 20 ].

While the effectiveness of endoscopic treatment for ABP is well-established, questions linger regarding the comparative benefits of pancreatic stent implantation for patients. Patients were categorized into two groups based on distinct treatment approaches to delve into the efficacy of pancreatic stent implantation during ERCP in ABP treatment. No significant differences between the two groups were observed in WBC and ALT before and after admission ( P  > 0.05). Differences in Amy, HCT, and LIP existed between the groups upon admission, possibly stemming from prior treatment at other hospitals for some patients. Analysis of covariance was employed to compare Amy, HCT, and LIP levels between the two groups 72 h after admission to mitigate the impact of this baseline variation on this efficacy assessment. The results revealed no significant differences in Amy and LIP at 72 h; however, the HCT at 72 h in the stent group was significantly lower than in the non-stent group. The elevation of HCT during ABP may be attributed to abnormal trypsin activation, leading to the release of numerous cell inflammations, thereby increasing capillary wall permeability and causing substantial plasma-like-fluid exudation from the circulatory system into the abdominal cavity or tissue space [ 21 ]. Research has indicated that using HCT alone to evaluate the condition upon admission yields sensitivity and negative predictive value equivalent to the Ranson score after 48 h. However, its specificity, positive predictive value, and overall accuracy are relatively low. HCT demonstrates a significant correlation with the Balthazar score, length of stay in the ICU, and total length of hospitalization. It can serve as an indicator for predicting the condition and assessing the severity of patients with AP [ 22 ]. Subsequently, patients in the stent group exhibited a more rapid decrease in HCT, possibly attributed to unimpeded drainage of pancreatic juice, reducing the interaction between trypsin and substrate. This reduction weakened trypsin’s impact on vascular permeability, resulting in a relatively diminished plasma exudation. Thereby, the patient’s condition improved after pancreatic duct stent implantation, mitigating disease progression to some extent.

In this investigation, patients in the stent group experienced significantly shorter hospitalization periods than those in the non-stent group. This outcome may be attributed to symptom improvement post-stent implantation, facilitating a swift eating recovery and promoting gastrointestinal tract restoration. Gastrointestinal tract recovery holds paramount importance for patients with AP, given that the majority of them suffer from varying degrees of gastrointestinal dysfunction. This dysfunction is primarily caused by systemic inflammation-induced inadequate blood supply and oxygen to the gastrointestinal mucosa, frequently resulting in symptoms such as abdominal distension and intestinal paralysis [ 23 ]. Persistent gastrointestinal dysfunction increases the risk of intestinal flora translocation and secondary infection [ 24 ]. Some studies propose that early (within 48 h) initiation of enteral nutrition and intervention measures, such as enhancing intestinal microcirculation, alleviating abdominal pain, reducing intestinal edema, providing intestinal decompression, and cleansing, contribute to restoring intestinal function [ 25 ]. Initiating oral feeding or enteral nutrition promptly upon restoring intestinal function is crucial to minimize the risk of infection effectively [ 26 ]. However, the advantages of early resumption of oral feeding surpass those of enteral nutrition. Consequently, patients in the stent group experience shorter hospitalization times and reduced costs. Research has indicated that continuous high pressure in the pancreatic duct can diminish pancreatic blood flow, leading to pancreatic ischemia—a significant factor in pancreatic edema, bleeding, and necrosis [ 27 ]. Elevated pancreatic duct pressure may also facilitate the infiltration of inflammatory mediators into the pancreatic parenchyma, triggering a cascade reaction and causing damage to the pancreatic tissue. In our study, the smooth insertion of a pancreatic duct stent facilitated the drainage of pancreatic juice, alleviating pancreatic duct hypertension and preventing further harm to the pancreas, thereby contributing to favorable patient outcomes. Compared to non-stent treatments, this approach significantly shortens the patients’ course.

Selecting a pancreatic duct stent involves careful consideration of its inner diameter and length. The 5 Fr, 7 Fr, or 8.5 Fr stents are generally employed for small pancreatic ducts. Patients with evident main pancreatic ductal expansion or chronic pancreatitis may benefit from 10 Fr–11.5 Fr stents or 5–7 Fr double stents. A 3 Fr pancreatic duct stent is commonly used for ERCP to prevent ERCP-related pancreatitis after Oddi’s sphincterotomy, typically self-dislodging within 1–2 weeks post-ERCP [ 28 ]. In our study, the choice of pancreatic duct stents aligned with the degree of pancreatic duct expansion, utilizing 5 Fr stents for patients without expansion and 7 Fr stents for those with ductal expansion. Pancreatic duct stent displacement following implantation is a recognized long-term complication. Johanson et al. [ 29 ] documented migration rates of 5.2% to the proximal end [ 14 ] and 7.5% to the distal end [ 20 ] among 267 patients with pancreatic duct stent implantation. In this study, with 141 patients in the pancreatic duct stent group, a portion of the pancreatic duct stents naturally dislodged, passing through the intestine and subsequently expelled with feces. Some patients independently removed the stent during outpatient visits, utilizing a 5F spiral basket retractor to cover the stent’s side and extract it without requiring additional surgical intervention. Various scholars have raised concerns regarding the potential risk of bacterial entry into the pancreatic duct with the placement of small-diameter pancreatic duct stents during recurrent attacks of ABP. This risk may be attributed to transforming the aseptic necrotic pancreatic microenvironment into infectious necrosis or abscess formation. Intraoperative sterility principles were strictly adhered to mitigate this risk by refraining from injecting contrast agents into the pancreatic duct or using minimal amounts during intubation. Extensive incisions of the nipple sphincter were avoided to preserve the normal barrier function of the major duodenal papilla and minimize the likelihood of bacterial migration. No considerable increase in sepsis complications associated with pancreatic stent placement was observed in the stent group.

This study reported no severe postoperative complications such as gastrointestinal bleeding, perforation, or severe pancreatitis following ERCP in both groups. Our approach of avoiding extensive incisions of the Oddi sphincter intraoperatively and opting for smaller incisions to facilitate endoscopic procedures for most patients, contributed to preventing certain endoscopic complications linked to large Oddi sphincter incisions. In placing pancreatic duct stents, we employed the guide wire guidance method and double guide wire intubation method to minimize repeated intubation, thereby defining the direction of bile duct opening. This approach facilitates endoscopic stone removal and nasal bile duct placement. Moreover, previous studies have highlighted that more experienced endoscopists exhibit lower complication rates and higher success rates [ 30 ], a phenomenon observed in this study where seasoned professionals conducted all ERCP procedures with an annual average of over 500 ERCP operations per endoscopist and a cumulative total of > 1000 pancreatic duct intubations. This proficiency contributed to the avoidance of most complications. It is crucial to note that patients with severe AP may present with severe duodenal and ampullary edema in the early stages. Lack of ERCP and pancreatic duct intubation experience in such cases can lead to serious adverse events [ 31 ]. Therefore, we recommend that experienced ERCP centers and operators carry out ERCP operations for SAP.

In summary, pancreatic stent implantation, compared to non-pancreatic stent surgery, significantly shortens the time for oral feeding and hospitalization in patients with ABP. This approach fosters the swift recovery of patients with ABP, suggesting the safety and efficacy of pancreatic stent implantation in ABP treatment. Moreover, this study sheds light on the potential role of pancreatic duct obstruction/hypertension in ABP pathogenesis.

Limitations of the study: This retrospective analysis is a single-center study, lacking the rigorous experimental design in multi-center randomized controlled trials. Consequently, the results have a degree of bias, rendering the level of evidence low. Given the limited cases in this study, further validation through multi-center, large-sample studies is essential. Despite these limitations, this research offers novel insights into the treatment and analysis of ABP.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

Not applicable.

This research was supported by Key Research and Development Projects of Ningxia (No.: 2021BEG03042, 2022BEG02002), and Science and Technology Innovation Leading Talents Program of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in 2021(No.: 2021GKLRLX04).

Author information

Bo Peng and Zuoquan Wang have contributed equally to this work and are co-first authors.

Authors and Affiliations

General Surgery Center, People’s Hospital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Yinchuan, Ningxia, China

Bo Peng & Chengsi Zhao

General Surgery, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Medical University, Xi ‘an, Shaanxi, China

Zuoquan Wang

Hepatobiliary Surgery, General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University, No. 804, Shengli South Street, Xingqing District, Yinchuan, 750004, Ningxia, China

Genwang Wang, Di Liu, Zuozheng Wang & Weijie Yao

School of Clinical Medicine, Ningxia Medical University, Yinchuan, Ningxia, China

Tongtong Dong & Jinping Shi

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Contributions

(I) Conception and design: ZW and WY; (II) Administrative support: ZW and WY; (III) Provision of study materials or patients: BP; (IV) Collection and assembly of data: ZW; (V) Data analysis and interpretation, CZ, DL and TL; (VI) Manuscript writing: All authors; (VII) Final approval of manuscript: All authors.

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Correspondence to Zuozheng Wang or Weijie Yao .

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The authors are accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. The study was approved by Ethics Committee of General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University (No.: [2018]0725A). and written informed consent was obtained from all patients. All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki (as revised in 2013).

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Peng, B., Wang, Z., Zhao, C. et al. A retrospective analysis of the clinical efficacy of pancreatic duct stent implantation in the management of acute biliary pancreatitis requiring ERCP. Eur J Med Res 28 , 594 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40001-023-01557-x

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Received : 04 July 2023

Accepted : 29 November 2023

Published : 15 December 2023

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s40001-023-01557-x

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  • Biliary pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic duct stenting
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
  • Endoscopic nasobiliary drainage

European Journal of Medical Research

ISSN: 2047-783X

case study analysis meaning

ICH M11 guideline, clinical study protocol template and technical specifications - Scientific guideline

The purpose of this new harmonised guideline is to introduce the clinical protocol template and the technical specification to ensure that protocols are prepared in a consistent fashion and provided in a harmonised data exchange format acceptable to the regulatory authorities. The ICH M11 Clinical Electronic Structured Harmonised Protocol Template provides comprehensive clinical protocol organization with standardized content with both required and optional components. The Technical Specification that are acceptable to all regulatory authorities of the ICH regions presents the conformance, cardinality, and other technical attributes that enable the interoperable electronic exchange of protocol content with a view to develop an open, non-proprietary standard to enable electronic exchange of clinical protocol information.

Keywords: protocol, harmonised template, interventional clinical trials, technical specification, data exchange, non proprietary standard

Current version

ICH M11 guideline, clinical study protocol template and technical specifications - Step 2b

Overview of comments received on ICH M11 guideline, clinical study protocol template and technical specifications

ICH M11 technical specification - Step 2b

Overview of comments received on ICH M11 technical specification

ICH M11 template - Step 2b

Overview of comments received on ICH M11 template

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  • ICH: multidisciplinary
  • ICH guidelines
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