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Research project case study parenting licence essay

Research project case study

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:. Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. 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. 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. 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:. 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.

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:.

In this section, you explain why you selected a particular case [i. 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. 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. 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.

Note that these issues apply to a specific group of people used as a case study unit of analysis [e. 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. It is also important to articulate why a particular place as the case for study is being used if similar places also exist [i. If applicable, describe what type of human activity involving this place makes it a good choice to study [e. 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. 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:.

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. 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:. 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 differently 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. Colorado State University; Gerring, John.

Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. Salkind, editor. Case Study Research in Practice. In the s, 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.

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing. See editing example. 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:. 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. Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data. 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. Have a language expert improve your writing. Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes. Do the check. Generate your APA citations for free!

APA Citation Generator. Home Knowledge Base Methodology How to do a case study. Example of an outlying case study In the s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. Example of a representative case study In the s, 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.

What can proofreading do for your paper? Is this article helpful? Shona McCombes Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis.

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Doolin has, for example, noted that in the context of undertaking interpretative case studies, researchers can usefully draw on a critical, reflective perspective which seeks to take into account the wider social and political environment that has shaped the case[ 11 ]. Here, we focus on the main stages of research activity when planning and undertaking a case study; the crucial stages are: defining the case; selecting the case s ; collecting and analysing the data; interpreting data; and reporting the findings.

Carefully formulated research question s , informed by the existing literature and a prior appreciation of the theoretical issues and setting s , are all important in appropriately and succinctly defining the case[ 8 , 12 ]. Crucially, each case should have a pre-defined boundary which clarifies the nature and time period covered by the case study i. A theory driven approach to defining the case may help generate knowledge that is potentially transferable to a range of clinical contexts and behaviours; using theory is also likely to result in a more informed appreciation of, for example, how and why interventions have succeeded or failed[ 13 ].

For example, in our evaluation of the introduction of electronic health records in English hospitals Table 3 , we defined our cases as the NHS Trusts that were receiving the new technology[ 5 ]. Our focus was on how the technology was being implemented. However, if the primary research interest had been on the social and organisational dimensions of implementation, we might have defined our case differently as a grouping of healthcare professionals e. The precise beginning and end of the case may however prove difficult to define.

Pursuing this same example, when does the process of implementation and adoption of an electronic health record system really begin or end? Such judgements will inevitably be influenced by a range of factors, including the research question, theory of interest, the scope and richness of the gathered data and the resources available to the research team. The decision on how to select the case s to study is a very important one that merits some reflection.

In an intrinsic case study, the case is selected on its own merits[ 8 ]. The case is selected not because it is representative of other cases, but because of its uniqueness, which is of genuine interest to the researchers. This was, for example, the case in our study of the recruitment of minority ethnic participants into asthma research Table 1 as our earlier work had demonstrated the marginalisation of minority ethnic people with asthma, despite evidence of disproportionate asthma morbidity[ 14 , 15 ].

In another example of an intrinsic case study, Hellstrom et al. For an instrumental case study, selecting a "typical" case can work well[ 8 ]. In contrast to the intrinsic case study, the particular case which is chosen is of less importance than selecting a case that allows the researcher to investigate an issue or phenomenon. For example, in order to gain an understanding of doctors' responses to health policy initiatives, Som undertook an instrumental case study interviewing clinicians who had a range of responsibilities for clinical governance in one NHS acute hospital trust[ 17 ].

Sampling a "deviant" or "atypical" case may however prove even more informative, potentially enabling the researcher to identify causal processes, generate hypotheses and develop theory. In collective or multiple case studies, a number of cases are carefully selected. Choosing a "typical" case may enable the findings to be generalised to theory i. Yin suggests two or three literal replications i.

However, critics might argue that selecting 'cases' in this way is insufficiently reflexive and ill-suited to the complexities of contemporary healthcare organisations. The selected case study site s should allow the research team access to the group of individuals, the organisation, the processes or whatever else constitutes the chosen unit of analysis for the study. Access is therefore a central consideration; the researcher needs to come to know the case study site s well and to work cooperatively with them.

Selected cases need to be not only interesting but also hospitable to the inquiry [ 8 ] if they are to be informative and answer the research question s. Case study sites may also be pre-selected for the researcher, with decisions being influenced by key stakeholders. For example, our selection of case study sites in the evaluation of the implementation and adoption of electronic health record systems see Table 3 was heavily influenced by NHS Connecting for Health, the government agency that was responsible for overseeing the National Programme for Information Technology NPfIT [ 5 ].

This prominent stakeholder had already selected the NHS sites through a competitive bidding process to be early adopters of the electronic health record systems and had negotiated contracts that detailed the deployment timelines. It is also important to consider in advance the likely burden and risks associated with participation for those who or the site s which comprise the case study.

Of particular importance is the obligation for the researcher to think through the ethical implications of the study e. The outcome of providing this information might be that the emotive burden associated with participation, or the organisational disruption associated with supporting the fieldwork, is considered so high that the individuals or sites decide against participation. In our example of evaluating implementations of electronic health record systems, given the restricted number of early adopter sites available to us, we sought purposively to select a diverse range of implementation cases among those that were available[ 5 ].

We chose a mixture of teaching, non-teaching and Foundation Trust hospitals, and examples of each of the three electronic health record systems procured centrally by the NPfIT. At one recruited site, it quickly became apparent that access was problematic because of competing demands on that organisation.

Recognising the importance of full access and co-operative working for generating rich data, the research team decided not to pursue work at that site and instead to focus on other recruited sites. In order to develop a thorough understanding of the case, the case study approach usually involves the collection of multiple sources of evidence, using a range of quantitative e. The use of multiple sources of data data triangulation has been advocated as a way of increasing the internal validity of a study i.

An underlying assumption is that data collected in different ways should lead to similar conclusions, and approaching the same issue from different angles can help develop a holistic picture of the phenomenon Table 2 [ 4 ]. Brazier and colleagues used a mixed-methods case study approach to investigate the impact of a cancer care programme[ 22 ]. Here, quantitative measures were collected with questionnaires before, and five months after, the start of the intervention which did not yield any statistically significant results.

Qualitative interviews with patients however helped provide an insight into potentially beneficial process-related aspects of the programme, such as greater, perceived patient involvement in care. The authors reported how this case study approach provided a number of contextual factors likely to influence the effectiveness of the intervention and which were not likely to have been obtained from quantitative methods alone.

In collective or multiple case studies, data collection needs to be flexible enough to allow a detailed description of each individual case to be developed e. It is important that data sources from different cases are, where possible, broadly comparable for this purpose even though they may vary in nature and depth. Making sense and offering a coherent interpretation of the typically disparate sources of data whether qualitative alone or together with quantitative is far from straightforward.

Repeated reviewing and sorting of the voluminous and detail-rich data are integral to the process of analysis. In collective case studies, it is helpful to analyse data relating to the individual component cases first, before making comparisons across cases. Attention needs to be paid to variations within each case and, where relevant, the relationship between different causes, effects and outcomes[ 23 ].

Data will need to be organised and coded to allow the key issues, both derived from the literature and emerging from the dataset, to be easily retrieved at a later stage. An initial coding frame can help capture these issues and can be applied systematically to the whole dataset with the aid of a qualitative data analysis software package.

The Framework approach is a practical approach, comprising of five stages familiarisation; identifying a thematic framework; indexing; charting; mapping and interpretation , to managing and analysing large datasets particularly if time is limited, as was the case in our study of recruitment of South Asians into asthma research Table 1 [ 3 , 24 ].

Theoretical frameworks may also play an important role in integrating different sources of data and examining emerging themes. For example, we drew on a socio-technical framework to help explain the connections between different elements - technology; people; and the organisational settings within which they worked - in our study of the introduction of electronic health record systems Table 3 [ 5 ].

Our study of patient safety in undergraduate curricula drew on an evaluation-based approach to design and analysis, which emphasised the importance of the academic, organisational and practice contexts through which students learn Table 4 [ 6 ]. Case study findings can have implications both for theory development and theory testing. They may establish, strengthen or weaken historical explanations of a case and, in certain circumstances, allow theoretical as opposed to statistical generalisation beyond the particular cases studied[ 12 ].

These theoretical lenses should not, however, constitute a strait-jacket and the cases should not be "forced to fit" the particular theoretical framework that is being employed. When reporting findings, it is important to provide the reader with enough contextual information to understand the processes that were followed and how the conclusions were reached. In a collective case study, researchers may choose to present the findings from individual cases separately before amalgamating across cases.

Care must be taken to ensure the anonymity of both case sites and individual participants if agreed in advance by allocating appropriate codes or withholding descriptors. In the example given in Table 3 , we decided against providing detailed information on the NHS sites and individual participants in order to avoid the risk of inadvertent disclosure of identities[ 5 , 25 ]. The case study approach is, as with all research, not without its limitations.

When investigating the formal and informal ways undergraduate students learn about patient safety Table 4 , for example, we rapidly accumulated a large quantity of data. The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted on the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources.

This highlights a more general point of the importance of avoiding the temptation to collect as much data as possible; adequate time also needs to be set aside for data analysis and interpretation of what are often highly complex datasets. Case study research has sometimes been criticised for lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalisation i.

There are several ways to address these concerns, including: the use of theoretical sampling i. Transparency can be achieved by describing in detail the steps involved in case selection, data collection, the reasons for the particular methods chosen, and the researcher's background and level of involvement i. Seeking potential, alternative explanations, and being explicit about how interpretations and conclusions were reached, help readers to judge the trustworthiness of the case study report.

Stake provides a critique checklist for a case study report Table 9 [ 8 ]. The case study approach allows, amongst other things, critical events, interventions, policy developments and programme-based service reforms to be studied in detail in a real-life context.

It should therefore be considered when an experimental design is either inappropriate to answer the research questions posed or impossible to undertake. Considering the frequency with which implementations of innovations are now taking place in healthcare settings and how well the case study approach lends itself to in-depth, complex health service research, we believe this approach should be more widely considered by researchers.

Though inherently challenging, the research case study can, if carefully conceptualised and thoughtfully undertaken and reported, yield powerful insights into many important aspects of health and healthcare delivery. Yin RK: Case study research, design and method. Google Scholar. Keen J, Packwood T: Qualitative research; case study evaluation. PLoS Med. Article Google Scholar. J Health Serv Res Policy.

Article PubMed Google Scholar. Health Policy. Stake RE: The art of case study research. Br J Gen Pract. Doolin B: Information technology as disciplinary technology: being critical in interpretative research on information systems. Journal of Information Technology. Implementation Science. Som CV: Nothing seems to have changed, nothing seems to be changing and perhaps nothing will change in the NHS: doctors' response to clinical governance.

International Journal of Public Sector Management. Lincoln Y, Guba E: Naturalistic inquiry. Barbour RS: Checklists for improving rigour in qualitative research: a case of the tail wagging the dog?. Mason J: Qualitative researching. Integr Cancer Ther. Qualitative research in health care. Malterud K: Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines. Yin R: Case study research: design and methods.

Case Studies. Writing CSU. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. London: SAGE, General information about how to choose a topic to investigate can be found under the " Choosing a Research Problem " tab in this writing guide. Review this page because it may help you identify a subject of analysis that can be investigated using a single 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:. Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. 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. 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. 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:.

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. 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:.

In this section, you explain why you selected a particular case [i. 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. 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.

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. Note that these issues apply to a specific group of people used as a case study unit of analysis [e.

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. It is also important to articulate why a particular place as the case for study is being used if similar places also exist [i.

If applicable, describe what type of human activity involving this place makes it a good choice to study [e. 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. 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:. 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.

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:. 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 differently 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.

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The precise beginning and end of the case may however prove difficult to define. Pursuing this same example, when does the process of implementation and adoption of an electronic health record system really begin or end? Such judgements will inevitably be influenced by a range of factors, including the research question, theory of interest, the scope and richness of the gathered data and the resources available to the research team.

The decision on how to select the case s to study is a very important one that merits some reflection. In an intrinsic case study, the case is selected on its own merits[ 8 ]. The case is selected not because it is representative of other cases, but because of its uniqueness, which is of genuine interest to the researchers. In another example of an intrinsic case study, Hellstrom et al. For an instrumental case study, selecting a "typical" case can work well[ 8 ].

In contrast to the intrinsic case study, the particular case which is chosen is of less importance than selecting a case that allows the researcher to investigate an issue or phenomenon. For example, in order to gain an understanding of doctors' responses to health policy initiatives, Som undertook an instrumental case study interviewing clinicians who had a range of responsibilities for clinical governance in one NHS acute hospital trust[ 17 ].

Sampling a "deviant" or "atypical" case may however prove even more informative, potentially enabling the researcher to identify causal processes, generate hypotheses and develop theory. In collective or multiple case studies, a number of cases are carefully selected. Choosing a "typical" case may enable the findings to be generalised to theory i.

Yin suggests two or three literal replications i. However, critics might argue that selecting 'cases' in this way is insufficiently reflexive and ill-suited to the complexities of contemporary healthcare organisations. The selected case study site s should allow the research team access to the group of individuals, the organisation, the processes or whatever else constitutes the chosen unit of analysis for the study.

Access is therefore a central consideration; the researcher needs to come to know the case study site s well and to work cooperatively with them. Selected cases need to be not only interesting but also hospitable to the inquiry [ 8 ] if they are to be informative and answer the research question s.

Case study sites may also be pre-selected for the researcher, with decisions being influenced by key stakeholders. This prominent stakeholder had already selected the NHS sites through a competitive bidding process to be early adopters of the electronic health record systems and had negotiated contracts that detailed the deployment timelines.

It is also important to consider in advance the likely burden and risks associated with participation for those who or the site s which comprise the case study. Of particular importance is the obligation for the researcher to think through the ethical implications of the study e.

The outcome of providing this information might be that the emotive burden associated with participation, or the organisational disruption associated with supporting the fieldwork, is considered so high that the individuals or sites decide against participation.

In our example of evaluating implementations of electronic health record systems, given the restricted number of early adopter sites available to us, we sought purposively to select a diverse range of implementation cases among those that were available[ 5 ]. We chose a mixture of teaching, non-teaching and Foundation Trust hospitals, and examples of each of the three electronic health record systems procured centrally by the NPfIT.

At one recruited site, it quickly became apparent that access was problematic because of competing demands on that organisation. Recognising the importance of full access and co-operative working for generating rich data, the research team decided not to pursue work at that site and instead to focus on other recruited sites. In order to develop a thorough understanding of the case, the case study approach usually involves the collection of multiple sources of evidence, using a range of quantitative e.

The use of multiple sources of data data triangulation has been advocated as a way of increasing the internal validity of a study i. Brazier and colleagues used a mixed-methods case study approach to investigate the impact of a cancer care programme[ 22 ]. Here, quantitative measures were collected with questionnaires before, and five months after, the start of the intervention which did not yield any statistically significant results.

Qualitative interviews with patients however helped provide an insight into potentially beneficial process-related aspects of the programme, such as greater, perceived patient involvement in care. The authors reported how this case study approach provided a number of contextual factors likely to influence the effectiveness of the intervention and which were not likely to have been obtained from quantitative methods alone. In collective or multiple case studies, data collection needs to be flexible enough to allow a detailed description of each individual case to be developed e.

It is important that data sources from different cases are, where possible, broadly comparable for this purpose even though they may vary in nature and depth. Making sense and offering a coherent interpretation of the typically disparate sources of data whether qualitative alone or together with quantitative is far from straightforward. Repeated reviewing and sorting of the voluminous and detail-rich data are integral to the process of analysis.

In collective case studies, it is helpful to analyse data relating to the individual component cases first, before making comparisons across cases. Attention needs to be paid to variations within each case and, where relevant, the relationship between different causes, effects and outcomes[ 23 ]. Data will need to be organised and coded to allow the key issues, both derived from the literature and emerging from the dataset, to be easily retrieved at a later stage.

An initial coding frame can help capture these issues and can be applied systematically to the whole dataset with the aid of a qualitative data analysis software package. Theoretical frameworks may also play an important role in integrating different sources of data and examining emerging themes. Case study findings can have implications both for theory development and theory testing. They may establish, strengthen or weaken historical explanations of a case and, in certain circumstances, allow theoretical as opposed to statistical generalisation beyond the particular cases studied[ 12 ].

These theoretical lenses should not, however, constitute a strait-jacket and the cases should not be "forced to fit" the particular theoretical framework that is being employed. When reporting findings, it is important to provide the reader with enough contextual information to understand the processes that were followed and how the conclusions were reached. In a collective case study, researchers may choose to present the findings from individual cases separately before amalgamating across cases.

Care must be taken to ensure the anonymity of both case sites and individual participants if agreed in advance by allocating appropriate codes or withholding descriptors. The case study approach is, as with all research, not without its limitations. The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted on the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources. This highlights a more general point of the importance of avoiding the temptation to collect as much data as possible; adequate time also needs to be set aside for data analysis and interpretation of what are often highly complex datasets.

Case study research has sometimes been criticised for lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalisation i. There are several ways to address these concerns, including: the use of theoretical sampling i. Transparency can be achieved by describing in detail the steps involved in case selection, data collection, the reasons for the particular methods chosen, and the researcher's background and level of involvement i.

Seeking potential, alternative explanations, and being explicit about how interpretations and conclusions were reached, help readers to judge the trustworthiness of the case study report. Stake's checklist for assessing the quality of a case study report[ 8 ]. The case study approach allows, amongst other things, critical events, interventions, policy developments and programme-based service reforms to be studied in detail in a real-life context.

It should therefore be considered when an experimental design is either inappropriate to answer the research questions posed or impossible to undertake. Considering the frequency with which implementations of innovations are now taking place in healthcare settings and how well the case study approach lends itself to in-depth, complex health service research, we believe this approach should be more widely considered by researchers.

Though inherently challenging, the research case study can, if carefully conceptualised and thoughtfully undertaken and reported, yield powerful insights into many important aspects of health and healthcare delivery.

AS conceived this article. SC and AS are guarantors. We are grateful to the participants and colleagues who contributed to the individual case studies that we have drawn on. We would also like to thank the expert reviewers for their insightful and constructive feedback. Our thanks are also due to Dr.

Allison Worth who commented on an earlier draft of this manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Jun Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Sarah Crowe: ku. Received Nov 29; Accepted Jun This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The case study approach allows in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life settings. Introduction The case study approach is particularly useful to employ when there is a need to obtain an in-depth appreciation of an issue, event or phenomenon of interest, in its natural real-life context.

Table 1 Example of a case study investigating the reasons for differences in recruitment rates of minority ethnic people in asthma research[ 3 ]. Context: Minority ethnic people experience considerably greater morbidity from asthma than the White majority population. Research has shown however that these minority ethnic populations are likely to be under-represented in research undertaken in the UK; there is comparatively less marginalisation in the US.

Study design: Single intrinsic case study The case: Centred on the issue of recruitment of South Asian people with asthma. A supplementary questionnaire was also provided to researchers. Analysis: Framework approach. The attitudes of the researchers' towards inclusion: The majority of UK researchers interviewed were generally supportive of the idea of recruiting ethnically diverse participants but expressed major concerns about the practicalities of achieving this; in contrast, the US researchers appeared much more committed to the policy of inclusion.

Stereotypes and prejudices: We found that some of the UK researchers' perceptions of ethnic minorities may have influenced their decisions on whether to approach individuals from particular ethnic groups. These stereotypes centred on issues to do with, amongst others, language barriers and lack of altruism. Demographic, political and socioeconomic contexts of the two countries: Researchers suggested that the demographic profile of ethnic minorities, their political engagement and the different configuration of the health services in the UK and the US may have contributed to differential rates.

Open in a separate window. Table 2 Example of a case study investigating the process of planning and implementing a service in Primary Care Organisations[ 4 ]. Context: Health work forces globally are needing to reorganise and reconfigure in order to meet the challenges posed by the increased numbers of people living with long-term conditions in an efficient and sustainable manner.

Through studying the introduction of General Practitioners with a Special Interest in respiratory disorders, this study aimed to provide insights into this important issue by focusing on community respiratory service development. Objective: To understand and compare the process of workforce change in respiratory services and the impact on patient experience specifically in relation to the role of general practitioners with special interests in a theoretically selected sample of Primary Care Organisations PCOs , in order to derive models of good practice in planning and the implementation of a broad range of workforce issues.

Study design: Multiple-case design of respiratory services in health regions in England and Wales. The cases: Four PCOs. Data collection: Face-to-face and telephone interviews, e-mail discussions, local documents, patient diaries, news items identified from local and national websites, national workshop. Analysis: Reading, coding and comparison progressed iteratively.

In the screening phase of this study which involved semi-structured telephone interviews with the person responsible for driving the reconfiguration of respiratory services in 30 PCOs , the barriers of financial deficit, organisational uncertainty, disengaged clinicians and contradictory policies proved insurmountable for many PCOs to developing sustainable services. A key rationale for PCO re-organisation in was to strengthen their commissioning function and those of clinicians through Practice-Based Commissioning.

However, the turbulence, which surrounded reorganisation was found to have the opposite desired effect. Implementing workforce reconfiguration was strongly influenced by the negotiation and contest among local clinicians and managers about "ownership" of work and income.

Despite the intention to make the commissioning system more transparent, personal relationships based on common professional interests, past work history, friendships and collegiality, remained as key drivers for sustainable innovation in service development. This work was conducted in the early stages of a major NHS reorganisation in England and Wales and thus, events are likely to have continued to evolve beyond the study period; we therefore cannot claim to have seen any of the stories through to their conclusion.

Table 3 Example of a case study investigating the introduction of the electronic health records[ 5 ]. Context: Healthcare systems globally are moving from paper-based record systems to electronic health record systems. In , the NHS in England embarked on the most ambitious and expensive IT-based transformation in healthcare in history seeking to introduce electronic health records into all hospitals in England by Objectives: To describe and evaluate the implementation and adoption of detailed electronic health records in secondary care in England and thereby provide formative feedback for local and national rollout of the NHS Care Records Service.

Study design: A mixed methods, longitudinal, multi-site, socio-technical collective case study. The cases: Five NHS acute hospital and mental health Trusts that have been the focus of early implementation efforts. Data collection: Semi-structured interviews, documentary data and field notes, observations and quantitative data.

Analysis: Qualitative data were analysed thematically using a socio-technical coding matrix, combined with additional themes that emerged from the data. Hospital electronic health record systems have developed and been implemented far more slowly than was originally envisioned. The top-down, government-led standardised approach needed to evolve to admit more variation and greater local choice for hospitals in order to support local service delivery.

A range of adverse consequences were associated with the centrally negotiated contracts, which excluded the hospitals in question. The unrealistic, politically driven, timeline implementation over 10 years was found to be a major source of frustration for developers, implementers and healthcare managers and professionals alike. Main limitations: We were unable to access details of the contracts between government departments and the Local Service Providers responsible for delivering and implementing the software systems.

This, in turn, made it difficult to develop a holistic understanding of some key issues impacting on the overall slow roll-out of the NHS Care Record Service. Table 4 Example of a case study investigating the formal and informal ways students learn about patient safety[ 6 ]. Context: There is a need to reduce the disease burden associated with iatrogenic harm and considering that healthcare education represents perhaps the most sustained patient safety initiative ever undertaken, it is important to develop a better appreciation of the ways in which undergraduate and newly qualified professionals receive and make sense of the education they receive.

Objectives: To investigate the formal and informal ways pre-registration students from a range of healthcare professions medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and pharmacy learn about patient safety in order to become safe practitioners.

Study design: Multi-site, mixed method collective case study. The cases : Eight case studies two for each professional group were carried out in educational provider sites considering different programmes, practice environments and models of teaching and learning. Data collection and analysis: Structured in phases relevant to the three knowledge contexts: Phase 1: Academic context Documentary evidence including undergraduate curricula, handbooks and module outlines , complemented with a range of views from course leads, tutors and students and observations in a range of academic settings.

Phase 2a: Organisational context Policy and management views of patient safety and influences on patient safety education and practice. NHS policies included, for example, implementation of the National Patient Safety Agency's Seven Steps to Patient Safety , which encourages organisations to develop an organisational safety culture in which staff members feel comfortable identifying dangers and reporting hazards. Phase 2b: Practice context The cultures to which students are exposed i.

NHS initiatives included, for example, a hand washing initiative or introduction of infection control measures. Practical, informal, learning opportunities were valued by students. On the whole, however, students were not exposed to nor engaged with important NHS initiatives such as risk management activities and incident reporting schemes.

NHS policy appeared to have been taken seriously by course leaders. Patient safety materials were incorporated into both formal and informal curricula, albeit largely implicit rather than explicit. Resource issues and peer pressure were found to influence safe practice. Variations were also found to exist in students' experiences and the quality of the supervision available. Main limitations: The curriculum and organisational documents collected differed between sites, which possibly reflected gatekeeper influences at each site.

The recruitment of participants for focus group discussions proved difficult, so interviews or paired discussions were used as a substitute. Discussion What is a case study? Table 5 Definitions of a case study. Author Definition Stake[ 8 ] "A case study is both the process of learning about the case and the product of our learning" p. Table 6 Example of epistemological approaches that may be used in case study research.

Approach Characteristics Criticisms Key references Critical Involves questioning one's own assumptions taking into account the wider political and social environment. It can possibly neglect other factors by focussing only on power relationships and may give the researcher a position that is too privileged. Howcroft and Trauth[ 30 ] Blakie[ 31 ] Doolin[ 11 , 32 ] Interprets the limiting conditions in relation to power and control that are thought to influence behaviour.

Focus is on theory building. Often difficult to explain unintended consequences and for neglecting surrounding historical contexts Stake[ 8 ] Doolin[ 11 ] Positivist Involves establishing which variables one wishes to study in advance and seeing whether they fit in with the findings. Focus is often on testing and refining theory on the basis of case study findings.

It does not take into account the role of the researcher in influencing findings. Yin[ 1 , 27 , 28 ] Shanks and Parr[ 34 ]. Defining the case Carefully formulated research question s , informed by the existing literature and a prior appreciation of the theoretical issues and setting s , are all important in appropriately and succinctly defining the case[ 8 , 12 ].

Table 7 Example of a checklist for rating a case study proposal[ 8 ]. Communication Clarity: Does the proposal read well? Integrity: Do its pieces fit together? Attractiveness: Does it pique the reader's interest? Content The case: Is the case adequately defined?

The issues: Are major research questions identified? Data Resource: Are sufficient data sources identified? Method Case Selection: Is the selection plan reasonable? Data Gathering: Are data-gathering activities outlined? You can use a number of techniques for the collection of information about the topic. The different techniques which you can utilize for gathering information about the specific case are survey, interview, observation, etc. These are basically a technique which you can utilize for accumulating primary information about the case.

You can gather secondary data about the case by reading books, newspapers, articles, etc. In the context of the case study on the establishment of wind farms in rural areas, the researcher needs to collect qualitative data about employment rates and revenue earned by companies.

After that you can analyze the facts. The main objective of the case study to analyze the different aspects of case. At the time of writing a case, you need to integrate different aspects which are essential in order to complete a picture. After that on the basis of type of research performed you need to report your finding. In the case study you need to write a separate section for methodology, discussion and results.

You should write a case study in a narrative style. While writing a case study your aim should be to analyze the case from different aspects. Before start writing a case study you should understand it meaning and importance. The different techniques which you can utilize for analyzing the case include textual analysis, discourse analysis, etc.

While writing all types of cases you need to provide background detail of the case. After that you need to link the same with existing literature and theory. A case study research design is considered as more suitable when you intend to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular subject.

It is a case study research design which allows researchers to identify the important characteristics, implications, and meaning of the different case. Making a selection of case study for writing thesis or dissertation is considering as the best decision. By utilizing the case study design you will be able to maintain the relevancy of the research project. It will also help you in managing the research project especially at that time when you have insufficient time and resources for performing study on a large scale.

The researcher can use a complex case study design for an in-depth analysis of one subject. You can utilize multiple cases for making comparisons and providing illustrations of the specific research problems. It has been summarized from the above that a case study can be helpful in relation to developing an in-depth understanding of the subject.

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These papers are intended to be used for reference and research purposes only. Posted on: 9 th Apr Views A case study in Research A case study in research is basically a strategy and empirical investigation which includes analysis of the real phenomenon.

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In collective or multiple case studies, data collection needs to be flexible enough to allow a detailed description of each individual case to be developed e. It is important that data sources from different cases are, where possible, broadly comparable for this purpose even though they may vary in nature and depth. Making sense and offering a coherent interpretation of the typically disparate sources of data whether qualitative alone or together with quantitative is far from straightforward.

Repeated reviewing and sorting of the voluminous and detail-rich data are integral to the process of analysis. In collective case studies, it is helpful to analyse data relating to the individual component cases first, before making comparisons across cases. Attention needs to be paid to variations within each case and, where relevant, the relationship between different causes, effects and outcomes[ 23 ]. Data will need to be organised and coded to allow the key issues, both derived from the literature and emerging from the dataset, to be easily retrieved at a later stage.

An initial coding frame can help capture these issues and can be applied systematically to the whole dataset with the aid of a qualitative data analysis software package. The Framework approach is a practical approach, comprising of five stages familiarisation; identifying a thematic framework; indexing; charting; mapping and interpretation , to managing and analysing large datasets particularly if time is limited, as was the case in our study of recruitment of South Asians into asthma research Table 1 [ 3 , 24 ].

Theoretical frameworks may also play an important role in integrating different sources of data and examining emerging themes. For example, we drew on a socio-technical framework to help explain the connections between different elements - technology; people; and the organisational settings within which they worked - in our study of the introduction of electronic health record systems Table 3 [ 5 ].

Our study of patient safety in undergraduate curricula drew on an evaluation-based approach to design and analysis, which emphasised the importance of the academic, organisational and practice contexts through which students learn Table 4 [ 6 ]. Case study findings can have implications both for theory development and theory testing. They may establish, strengthen or weaken historical explanations of a case and, in certain circumstances, allow theoretical as opposed to statistical generalisation beyond the particular cases studied[ 12 ].

These theoretical lenses should not, however, constitute a strait-jacket and the cases should not be "forced to fit" the particular theoretical framework that is being employed. When reporting findings, it is important to provide the reader with enough contextual information to understand the processes that were followed and how the conclusions were reached.

In a collective case study, researchers may choose to present the findings from individual cases separately before amalgamating across cases. Care must be taken to ensure the anonymity of both case sites and individual participants if agreed in advance by allocating appropriate codes or withholding descriptors. In the example given in Table 3 , we decided against providing detailed information on the NHS sites and individual participants in order to avoid the risk of inadvertent disclosure of identities[ 5 , 25 ].

The case study approach is, as with all research, not without its limitations. When investigating the formal and informal ways undergraduate students learn about patient safety Table 4 , for example, we rapidly accumulated a large quantity of data.

The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted on the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources. This highlights a more general point of the importance of avoiding the temptation to collect as much data as possible; adequate time also needs to be set aside for data analysis and interpretation of what are often highly complex datasets.

Case study research has sometimes been criticised for lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalisation i. There are several ways to address these concerns, including: the use of theoretical sampling i. Transparency can be achieved by describing in detail the steps involved in case selection, data collection, the reasons for the particular methods chosen, and the researcher's background and level of involvement i.

Seeking potential, alternative explanations, and being explicit about how interpretations and conclusions were reached, help readers to judge the trustworthiness of the case study report. Stake provides a critique checklist for a case study report Table 9 [ 8 ]. The case study approach allows, amongst other things, critical events, interventions, policy developments and programme-based service reforms to be studied in detail in a real-life context. It should therefore be considered when an experimental design is either inappropriate to answer the research questions posed or impossible to undertake.

Considering the frequency with which implementations of innovations are now taking place in healthcare settings and how well the case study approach lends itself to in-depth, complex health service research, we believe this approach should be more widely considered by researchers. Though inherently challenging, the research case study can, if carefully conceptualised and thoughtfully undertaken and reported, yield powerful insights into many important aspects of health and healthcare delivery.

Yin RK: Case study research, design and method. Google Scholar. Keen J, Packwood T: Qualitative research; case study evaluation. PLoS Med. Article Google Scholar. J Health Serv Res Policy. Article PubMed Google Scholar. Health Policy. Stake RE: The art of case study research.

Br J Gen Pract. Doolin B: Information technology as disciplinary technology: being critical in interpretative research on information systems. Journal of Information Technology. Implementation Science. Som CV: Nothing seems to have changed, nothing seems to be changing and perhaps nothing will change in the NHS: doctors' response to clinical governance.

International Journal of Public Sector Management. Lincoln Y, Guba E: Naturalistic inquiry. Barbour RS: Checklists for improving rigour in qualitative research: a case of the tail wagging the dog?. Mason J: Qualitative researching. Integr Cancer Ther. Qualitative research in health care. Malterud K: Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines.

Yin R: Case study research: design and methods. Yin R: Enhancing the quality of case studies in health services research. Health Serv Res. Green J, Thorogood N: Qualitative methods for health research. Book Google Scholar.

Blakie N: Approaches to Social Enquiry. Doolin B: Power and resistance in the implementation of a medical management information system. Info Systems J. Bloomfield BP, Best A: Management consultants: systems development, power and the translation of problems. Sociological Review.

Shanks G, Parr A: Positivist, single case study research in information systems: A critical analysis. Proceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems. Download references. We are grateful to the participants and colleagues who contributed to the individual case studies that we have drawn on.

We would also like to thank the expert reviewers for their insightful and constructive feedback. Our thanks are also due to Dr. Allison Worth who commented on an earlier draft of this manuscript. You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar. Correspondence to Sarah Crowe. AS conceived this article. SC and AS are guarantors. This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.

Reprints and Permissions. Crowe, S. The case study approach. Download citation. Received : 29 November Accepted : 27 June Published : 27 June Skip to main content. Search all BMC articles Search. Download PDF. Abstract The case study approach allows in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life settings. Introduction The case study approach is particularly useful to employ when there is a need to obtain an in-depth appreciation of an issue, event or phenomenon of interest, in its natural real-life context.

Table 1 Example of a case study investigating the reasons for differences in recruitment rates of minority ethnic people in asthma research[ 3 ] Full size table. Table 2 Example of a case study investigating the process of planning and implementing a service in Primary Care Organisations[ 4 ] Full size table. Table 3 Example of a case study investigating the introduction of the electronic health records[ 5 ] Full size table.

Table 4 Example of a case study investigating the formal and informal ways students learn about patient safety[ 6 ] Full size table. Discussion What is a case study? Table 5 Definitions of a case study Full size table. Table 6 Example of epistemological approaches that may be used in case study research Full size table. Table 7 Example of a checklist for rating a case study proposal[ 8 ] Full size table. Table 8 Potential pitfalls and mitigating actions when undertaking case study research Full size table.

Table 9 Stake's checklist for assessing the quality of a case study report[ 8 ] Full size table. Conclusions The case study approach allows, amongst other things, critical events, interventions, policy developments and programme-based service reforms to be studied in detail in a real-life context. The objectives of your discussion section should include the following:.

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. 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:. 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 differently 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.

Colorado State University; Gerring, John. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. Salkind, editor. Case Study Research in Practice. Levin, editors. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 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 5 : It is often difficult to summarize and develop general propositions and theories on the basis of specific case studies [p. 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. Search this Guide Search. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper Offers detailed guidance on how to develop, organize, and write a college-level research paper in the social and behavioral sciences.

The Abstract Executive Summary 4. The Introduction The C. The Discussion Limitations of the Study 9. The Conclusion Appendices Definition In the social sciences, the term case study refers to both a method of analysis and a specific research design for examining a problem, both of which can be used to generalize findings across populations. 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 this writing guide.

Given this, selecting a case includes considering the following: Does the case represent 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. Does the case provide 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. Does the case challenge and offer 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. Does the case provide 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. Does the case offer a new direction in future research? A case study can be used as a tool for exploratory investigation that highlights a need for further examination of the research 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! 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. 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.

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. 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.