What is a case study? This question disturbs thousands of students all over the world. Here is the answer: case studies are a powerful method of investigation, capturing the smallest details and creating a complete picture of an issue. Want to learn more? Here is a guide with the answers to all your questions about the case study method.
Case study method: goals
A case study method is an in-depth investigation of one person, event, group, company, or condition. Usually, a researcher gathers the information from different sources and combines it, putting it together just like the pieces of a puzzle.
Like a photographer who uses zooming to capture the smallest details, a researcher collects small units of information. The main goals of the case study method are:
- to EXPLORE what was previously unclear or hidden;
- to DESCRIBE the underlying processes and establish the cause-and-effect relationships between different aspects;
- to EXPLAIN the object (event, phenomenon, etc.) in its complexity.
Case study method: strengths
The main advantages of case study research are:
- it offers detailed information;
- it highlights plenty of aspects which can be used for further research;
- it allows the investigation of some aspects that would be otherwise unavailable.
Case study method: limitations
On the other hand, the case study research method has a number of limitations, such as:
- no space for generalizations (the conclusions are usually applicable to only one case, the one under analysis);
- researcher’s bias can affect the process of collecting the information;
- a lot of time is needed for designing a case study, evaluating the data and drawing the conclusions;
Case study method: 6 steps to effective analysis
If you are assigned a case study analysis and your instructors give you a detailed investigation of one case, you should consider the following steps:
- Read the case quickly but thoroughly. You may also want to read it for the second time, making notes of the most important facts.
- Find the central problem and write it down.
- Find the influential factors affecting the problem and establish the relationships between them.
- Develop several alternative solutions to the problem.
- Select the best alternative.
- Create an action plan for the chosen solution.
Now you understand the main principles, advantages and disadvantages of the case study method, and can easily complete a case study analysis by taking the above 6 easy steps.