A case study refers to both specific research design and method of analysis of a problem, both of which are important in generalizing findings across populations. It examines an individual subject, phenomenon, or event to deduce key results and themes that are essential in elucidating about a previously unknown problem that is applicable in real life, as well as predicting future trends (Cozby & Bates, 2015). While there are many research methods and designs, case study remains unique since it can rest within qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method investigative approaches. It is essential for advancing theory by expanding relationships across different distinctive settings.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Case study Approach
Research approaches have different benefits and downsides, which make them appropriate for various research contexts. A case study approach is essential, especially when dealing with unique cases. For example, Griffith et al. (2017) inform that case studies are crucial in understanding wild or feral children. Such children grow in isolated areas without access to other humans, which imply they have no social contact or language fundamental to human civilization and child’s development. Notably, Griffith et al. (2017) enlighten that there are barely a hundred feral children globally. For this reason, the case study method offers an ideal opportunity to address such instances considered to be of great interest to researchers. Another significant advantage of using a case study is that it permits the collection of data that would be difficult to collect when using other methods. Importantly, the data collected using this approach is often in-depth and more productive than what other approaches can achieve (Cozby & Bates, 2015). The method is flexible and broad since it allows the simultaneous application of different research techniques, ranging from detailed accounts to brief descriptive summaries. For this reason, it enables a researcher to present the dynamics of a phenomenon and giving room to present the research outcomes in a complex manner, without being confined to the limitations inherent to other research methods. Hence, the case study approach is integral in unlocking rich knowledge regarding a subject matter.
While case studies have verifiable benefits, various downsides are connected to their use. A significant disadvantage and criticism against the case study approach is that a single case, even though well developed and provides in-depth insights into the subject matter, does not provide sufficient evidence to reach a generalized or universal conclusion. The rationale behind this criticism is that a single subject cannot present a verifiable pattern (Griffith et al., 2017). Another disadvantage attributed to case studies is that it is very challenging to deduce a definite cause/effect.
Reasons for Using a Case Study Approach
When using a case study, researchers consider that it allows for striking a balance between using confidential information and providing essential illustrative materials responsibly and carefully (American Psychological Association, 2019). Another factor considered when using case studies is that the approach provides an avenue for developing new theories, and it aids in challenging traditional methods. The rationale behind this statement is that a case study offers researchers an opportunity to evaluate real-time events, and it gives insights into how and why the events are occurring. Moreover, using a case study can help to explore, describe, or explain phenomena or events in their context of occurrence. Furthermore, based on the epistemological approach of a researcher, a case study may embrace different techniques. For instance, a researcher may take a critical approach in which they question other people’s assumptions as well as their own, a positivist approach that allows the researcher to orientate the study towards natural sciences, or an interpretivist approach in which the researcher tries to comprehend the shared or individual’s social meanings.
Ways a Researcher can Acquire Information Essential for a Case Study
A researcher employing a case study approach may acquire information or data from different sources. According to Cozby and Bates (2015), these sources may range from interviews, documentation, direct observations, physical artifacts, archival records, psychological testing, such as kinesics, and proxemics, among others. Understanding information pertinent to a case study is vital in fully comprehending or solving a problem in case studies. For instance, information provided by a patient during a counseling session is essential to that individual’s case study. Such information gamut from medical information, to family history, recent events in their life, and history of neglect, abuse, and trauma, which are considered crucial to that particular case study.
The case study approach is essential in collecting information, especially to cases that present rare events. When one considers the ethical issues attributed to research studies, it would be unethical to expose mass subjects to experimental designs, such as ones involving body parts, to meet the larger sample size requirement. However, with the cumulative collection of data from different case studies, as in the case of feral children, it is possible to build vast information that helps to apply such knowledge in real life as much as possible.
American Psychological Association. (2019). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). American Psychological Association.
Cozby, P. C., & Bates, S. C. (2015). Methods in behavioral research (12th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Griffith, H., Keirns, N., Strayer, E., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Scarauzzo, G., …, Jones, F. (2017). Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax College.