A case study is a research method that involves an in-depth and detailed examination of a specific individual, group, event, or phenomenon. It is a form of empirical inquiry investigating a contemporary situation or phenomenon within its real-life context, particularly when the boundaries between the phenomenon and context might be unclear.
Types of case studies
There are six common types of case studies:
- Descriptive case studies
- Explanatory case studies
- Exploratory case reports
- Intrinsic case studies
- Instrumental case studies
- Collective case reports
Key characteristics of case studies include:
- Focus on specificity: Case studies are highly focused on a particular case, be it an individual, a group, an organization, an event, or a specific situation. The emphasis is on depth rather than breadth.
- Real-life Context: The research is conducted within the natural setting of the case, allowing researchers to explore the phenomenon as it naturally occurs. This approach enhances the ecological validity of the study.
- Data collection: Case studies often involve multiple data sources, including interviews, observations, documents, archival records, and any other relevant information that can provide a comprehensive understanding of the case.
- Longitudinal or cross-sectional: Case studies can be longitudinal, where researchers study the case over an extended period, or cross-sectional, focusing on a specific point in time.
- Exploratory and descriptive: Case studies are often exploratory, seeking to understand and explore a phenomenon rather than testing a specific hypothesis. They are descriptive, providing a detailed account of the case.
List of recommended resources #
For a broad overview #
This writing resource guide examines case studies as a form of qualitative descriptive research. It gives an overview of the methodology of case studies including its history, applications, types and design concerns.
This blog on Scribbr by Shona McCombes gives an overview of the case study research design. The blog provides a step-by-step guide on how to conduct a case study for research.
For in depth understanding #
This article by Arya Priya attempts to look into the various dimensions of a case study research strategy, the different epistemological strands which determine the particular case study type and approach adopted in the field. It also discusses the factors which can enhance the effectiveness of a case study research.
This paper is centered around the questions: What is a case study? What are case studies used for? How are case studies conducted? What are the potential pitfalls and how can these be avoided? The authors draw in particular on four of their published examples of case studies to illustrate their discussion.
Case study #
This case study by Cate Reavis, Shira Springer and Ben Shields analyzes the growth potential of women’s sports, examines the strategic innovation process in the sports industry and explores how startup sports leagues are built, managed, and scaled, focusing particularly on Jonathan Soros and Jon Patricof’s concept for new professional sports startups.
This case study by Rebecca M. Henderson, Richard M. Locke and Christopher Lyddy aims to explore the role of an index tool as a vehicle for making products more sustainable., taking the particular case of Nike. Hannah Jones, Nike’s new VP of Corporate Responsibility in 2008, wanted the company to be a leader in creating sustainable footwear, and had developed a strategy for working with the product units to do so.