Many times, you may have heard about a new method of research and study across academia. This new approach is called a case study and it relies on empirical enquiries to conduct investigations of the occurrences in the context of real-life experiences.
Well, it does sound complicated, doesn’t it? But, if you look closer, it is a simple way to solve problems and conduct research in the academic world.
The way case studies are structured, they emulate the real-world with its various data sets and probabilistic estimates of data generalizations across examples. In other words, it is an intensive study about groups of people, organizations or any other unit.
Research prescribes the examination of data using different qualitative and quantitative aspects, thereby allowing a researcher to gain more insights into a particular phenomenon. This is what the case study approach is all about.
The Method of Case Study
The case study may employ both qualitative and quantitative methods of research. The steps in using the methodology of case study involve multiple steps. The first step is to define single or multiple cases into a package that can be taken up as a multiple-case study.
For this, a search is conducted to find what is known pertaining to the case. This involves the review of media, literature, reports, all of which clears the basic understanding of the case and help in developing questions for research. In the case of studies, the data is qualitative in almost all cases.
Types of Case Studies
In typical research, the following case studies are used:
Under each of these, there exist multiple methods and subdivisions, which can be described as follows:
Illustrative Case Study
In their first look, they are mostly descriptive studies. These use a single or double instance of any situation to showcase the whole situation comprehensively. The main aim of these studies is to make familiar certain concepts and situations which are unfamiliar, while also giving a platform to express thoughts about the topic in question
Cumulative Case Study
The purpose of a cumulative case study is an aggregation of information that is collected at different times. The concept of these studies is to leverage past case studies for the generalization of results rather than spending additional time or cost for newer studies which may turn out to be repetitive.
Exploratory Case Study
An exploratory case study is a subset of a larger case study, which is done in order to test the waters. In other words, these are condensed versions of case studies before the implementation of investigation on a large scale.
Among its most basic purposes is to find out the measurement types and questions before the larger investigation is started. However, a common pitfall for this kind of study is that preliminary findings may feel so convincing that researchers may fall in the trap of releasing them as conclusive facts prematurely.
Critical Instance Case Study
Primarily, these methods suit best for questions in the cause and effect domain. The critical instance case study determines sites for the examination of a situation with unique parameters of interest. It can also be used to question an assertion of a universal or generalized nature.
Assumptions of the Case Study Method
The successful execution of this method is dependent on several assumptions. These include:
- One of the most significant assumptions is that human nature is uniform across events and they tend to be rational beings. However, there is evidence to prove that the nature of human beings can change depending on the situation they are exposed to, also bordering on irrational at times.
- The concerned unit studied under the case study method needs to be studied. This method assumes that researchers are studying the natural history of this unit, without influences due to manipulation or tampering
- Another assumption is that the unit being studied is analysed comprehensively. However, in real life, this is difficult to achieve due to the evolving nature of the unit and lack of all types of data.
Benefits of Case Studies
One of the benefits that the methodology of case study provides in research is an in-depth understanding of processes. A single-case study is useful for a researcher who studies a fixed phenomenon arising from a particular entity. This leads to very in-depth analysis and understanding of that fixed single phenomenon and can be quite data-intensive as it needs you to collect all kinds of relevant data
Another benefit accrues with the use of a multi-case research study. This allows for higher assimilation of different cases in a unit and in-depth comprehension of the case, which is possible by comparing differences and similarities of the embedded individual cases. It is also proven that anecdotal evidence arising from these multi-case studies can be relied upon strongly in comparison to single-case studies and research.
Multi-case studies are also considered a comprehensive exploratory technique for the development of theory and questions for research.
Limitations of Case Studies
Apart from the obvious benefits of case studies illustrated above, there is a fair share of limitations that pose challenges and limitations to its implementation.
The first limitation is that the exploding volume of data that needs to be analysed and organized, prompting the need for robust data integration and analysis strategies. If the resulting data is not processed correctly, the results of the entire study go for a toss.
Another limitation or challenge is to report results from multi-case studies. This turns out to be a challenging task, as the volume of analysis increases multiple times. Apart from these, there is also a strong urge to drift away from the focus on research while conducting single-case and multi-case studies. This must be avoided, lest it defeats the very purpose of a case study for research.
The methodology of case studies helps to give a framework for analysing and evaluating complex problems and issues. It also shows the importance of data collection about single or multiple cases, which helps to grasp a better understanding of the even in question.