What exactly is a case study? It’s the study of any specific case, often with limited resources, usually presented in a research paper or litigation document. A case study typically includes an in-depth, in-person, and up-close examination of a specific case or instances, within a more or less real-life context. Case studies are important for students preparing for cases in which they will be involved, as well as for lawyers who wish to present such cases.
Basically, case studies are descriptive studies. They are a way to paint a more vivid picture of the subject of the research. They are not reports, but rather detailed examinations of real cases that could help the researcher to gain insight into the practice at hand. In other words, a case study can be viewed much like a medical research study. As such, the similarities between medical research and case studies overlap significantly.
Case studies are organized in a variety of ways, depending on their topic and the research behind it. Some researchers choose to organize case studies chronologically, by identifying the cases from beginning to end. Others prefer to organize them by providing a brief overview at the end, with enough detail to allow readers to understand the findings presented therein. Still others may prefer to divide their topics into three or four parts, with each part consisting of at least two to four case studies.
One of the most common methods of organizing case studies is to examine the research approach itself. By examining the research approach, it’s easy to tell if the case study is well-researched, organized, and written well. The research approach should include relevant anecdotes, quotes from experts in the field, etc. Additionally, the case study should be written in a way that brings to light the real-life context of the phenomena being studied.
Some researchers use “natural language structuring” or NLS. NLS is described as the process of using natural language in constructing a research document. For example, an essay written about the effects of playing musical instruments on kids might begin, “Many children have said that playing the guitar is one of the few activities that actually bring their friends together.” This type of essay uses “natural language structuring” to group ideas and create a narrative that makes it easier for readers to follow along. Another common case study approach is to make observations in natural settings. One researcher has written a case study about the effect of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Most case studies are written with multiple points of view, but they also commonly include some form of social science background. A researcher might take his/her own personal experience with a given issue, a cultural tradition, or person, and connect it to the results of the research question. If a schoolteacher describes the difficulties she encountered in grading a student’s last test, she might write, “The teacher grading the test made it hard for me because she was having a hard time understanding why I was so frustrated; in addition, the student seemed to be extremely nervous and did not look happy when she came in.” Both statements describe a specific situation that raised (or failed to) some important aspects of her instruction method.
The researcher who implements a case study methodology must be very clear about what he/she is looking to achieve, i.e., interpret the quantitative data or results, draw inferences, and interpret the qualitative information. The field of case studies can be broken down into three broad categories: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. In general, case studies are written about specific examples that are relevant to the area of study, rather than general, abstract examples. For instance, if an essay examines the effectiveness of anti-vibration pads, a reviewer might describe two real-life examples (a vibration pad used by a dancer and a non-vibration pad) that illustrate how the anti-vibration pad reduces the noise in a room. A qualitative writer, on the other hand, might focus on how the anti-vibration pad impacted the dancer’s performance as compared with a control condition without considering the broader implications of the case study.
Case studies can be written about any aspect of social groups – people, organizations, etc. The researchers who use case studies need to consider a number of factors in order to gain the appropriate insights from the available data. First, the case study should relate specifically to the topic at hand. It should be based on real, valid examples from real people. The case study should be well-written, clear, concise, and supported by appropriate figures and references.