Case study research is a useful tool for investigating trends and specific situations in many scientific disciplines. It is a deep study of an object, so as to allow ample and detailed knowledge about it, which would be practically impossible through other methods of research. The case study has been especially used in social sciences, psychology, medicine, anthropology and ecology. This method of study is especially useful in trying to test theoretical models using them in real-world situations. For example, if an anthropologist lived in a remote tribe, as long as his observations did not produce quantitative data, they are still useful to science.
This method is also used when the phenomenon to be studied is broad and complex and can not be studied outside the context where it occurs naturally. It is an empirical study that seeks to determine or test a theory, and has as one of the most important sources of information, interviews. Through them the interviewee will express their opinion on a certain subject, using their own interpretations.
What is a case study research?
Initially this methodology was born from the need to convey in full the complexity of real situations with which we confront each other every day. The initial application took place in the areas of medicine, where it is impossible to consider all the factors that can influence a given situation and that require several advances and retreats in the way we direct the resolution of the problem that is placed.
Basically, a case study research is an in-depth study of a particular situation rather than a comprehensive statistical research. It is a method used to restrict a very broad field of research into an easily searchable topic. It is based on the proposal to solve a problem on which the student did not receive preparatory information, and that will oblige him to discover the problems and possible resolutions for himself. The student is the main engine in the search for information, knowledge and other components of this methodology.
But a survey will not answer a question completely, but will provide some pointers and allow for more elaboration and hypothesis of creating a target.
The case study research project is also useful for testing whether scientific theories and models really work in the real world. For psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists have been considered as a valid research method for many years. Scientists are sometimes guilty of getting bogged down in the larger picture and it is sometimes important to understand specific cases and ensure a more holistic approach to research.
The case for and against case study research
Some argue that because a case study research is such a narrow field that its results show only an extremely narrow example. On the other hand, it is argued that a case study provides more realistic answers than a purely statistical survey.
The truth is probably between the two and it is probably best to try to synergize the two approaches by conducting case study research, but they may be linked to more general statistical processes. The other main thing to remember about case studies is their flexibility. A case study can introduce new and unexpected results and discover new directions.
The discussion between case study and statistical method also seems to be one of the important points. In the areas of psychology, anthropology and ecology are an essential tool. But it is important to ensure that you realize that a case study can not be generalized to suit an entire population or ecosystem.
The case study trend is to try to clarify decisions to be made. He investigates a contemporary phenomenon from its real context, using multiple sources of evidence. The case studies can be:
Exploratory: when to find preliminary information on the subject studied;
Descriptive: whose purpose is to describe the case study;
Analytical: when one wants to construct or develop new theories that will be confronted with the theories that already existed, providing advances in knowledge.
As for the case study research objectives, it is:
- Produce an inductive reasoning. From the study, observation and data collection it defines hypotheses or theories;
- Produce new knowledge for the reader, or confirm theories that were already known;
- Make a chronicle, a record of what is happening throughout the study;
- Describe situations or facts;
- Check or contrast phenomena, situations or events;
- It aims to develop scenarios.
That is, the case study aims to explore, describe, explain, evaluate and / or transform. The case study can help in the search for new theories and questions that would serve as a basis for future research.
How to design and conduct a case study and identify the key question or issues
The first basis of the case study is the subject matter and the relevance. In designing a case study, it is important to plan and design how you will approach the study and make sure that all the data collected is relevant. Unlike a scientific report, there is not a rigid set of rules, so the most important part is to make sure that the study is focused and concise. Otherwise you will end up having to go through a lot of irrelevant information. Research needs to identify key issues and issues, propose and evaluate alternative measures and draw appropriate conclusions, identify the most important facts related to the case, specify and evaluate alternative measures, and ultimately recommend and justify the best measure. short list of 4 or 5 points of everything you will try to deal with during the study. If you make sure that all research refers to these then you will not be disoriented during your research and to the final correct conclusions can be drawn. It must have different theoretical visions about the subject studied, since they will be the basis for guiding the discussions about a certain phenomenon and about whether or not the alternatives are accepted.
Use the facts provided by the case to identify the issue or key issues. Many cases have multiple issues or problems. Identify the most important ones and separate them from trivial questions. Set the main problem or challenge of the case study. You also need to find out which factors are most relevant to explaining the occurrence of the problem. Evaluate each alternative using the facts and issues you identified, given the conditions and information available. Define the risks as well as the rewards associated with each measure. Define your choice as to the best measure and explain in detail why you made that decision. You can also explain why other alternatives have been rejected. Your final recommendation should flow logically from the rest of the analysis and clearly specify in which assumptions the conclusion is based. In general there is no single ‘correct’ answer, and each option tends to present risks and rewards.
Analyzing the results
The analysis of the results of a case study should be more opinion-based than statistical methods. The usual idea is to try to gather your data in a manageable way and build a narrative around them. Use examples in your narrative while keeping things concise and interesting. It’s useful for showing some numeric data, but remember that you’re trying to analyze trends. When writing the final text one should constantly return to the key issues so as not to lose focus. It is always a good idea to assume that a person who reads your research may not have much knowledge of the subject, so seek to write as clearly as possible. In addition, unlike a scientific study that deals with facts, a case study is opinion-based and is designed for a consequent debate. There really is no right or wrong answer in a case study research.
The applications of the case study are many and varied. They are very useful in exploratory and comparative research. As all research presents advantages and limitations in its application, deserving the necessary care when searching for generalizations. At no time, the researcher should despise, in search of simplification, the scientific rigor necessary for its validation.