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A case study is research method that involves an up-close, in-depth and detailed investigation of a subject of study and its related contextual position. They can be produced following a form of research. A case study helps in bringing the understanding of a complex issue or object. It can extend experience or add strength to the existing knowledge through previous research. Their contextual analysis revolves around a limited number of events or conditions and how they relate.
The case study has been used by researchers for a long time and has been applied in different disciplines. It has been widely used in social sciences as a qualitative research method to investigate contemporary real-life situations and has provided a foundation of application of ideas and extension of methods.

It has been defined as an empirical inquiry that examines a contemporary phenomenon within the context of its real life. However, some people have disagreed with this research method arguing that the study of a small number of cases does not offer enough ground to establish reliability or generality of findings. Others have argued that a case study is only used when applied as an exploratory tool, yet most researchers continue using it successfully in carefully planned studies that concern real-life situations, problems, and issues.

Case studies will more often than not appear in journals or professional conferences instead of popular works. A case study may be an individual, organization, action, event existing in a given time and place. For instance, there are case studies of individuals and clinical practices. When the term “case” is used in a claim, an argument, or a proposition; it can be the subject of a litany of research methods. A case study will involve quantitative and qualitative methods of research.

Researchers, on the other hand, are always spoilt for choice when they are determining the tools to use in dealing with their research question. This is because there is an array of both qualitative and quantitative research tools. They can be based on in-depth case studies or desk-based literature reviews. When using case study, the researcher will get an in-depth investigation of a phenomenon, individual, or an event. They help in investigating and understanding the underlying principles in an occurrence within a real-life context.

Benefits of using a case study for your research

  • They are comprehensiveCase studies enable a holistic review. A researcher can use a range of tools which he would otherwise not apply when using other stand-alone research techniques. This gives his time to develop an in-depth understanding of the topic and establish a credible platform to investigate the factors that affect a case study in extensive detail.
  • Case studies reduce bias

    They give room to the diversity of perspectives as opposed to when one is using a single view of a person you get with a survey response or an interview. It eliminates chances of potential bias by giving an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the subject under investigation. Lack of bias dilutes the agenda of a given individual.

Challenges of using a case study

  • Broad relevance

    One of the criticisms that case study method gets is that the findings cannot be generalized. However, when a case study is part of broader research can explore common problems in detail.
  • Permissions

    The identity of the research participants is crucial in painting a real picture of whatever that is taking place. Many researchers have found out that participants are more comfortable in situation s where they are sure that the identity will remain anonymous. However, this presents a challenge given the comprehensive nature of the study. In-depth case studies will require one to seek confirmation that the leading research participant agrees that the material is accurate and anonymous. This enables the confidence on the part of the researcher as well as the participant. Gaining permission can take quite some time and could culminate to additional restatements of the published research.
  • TimeCase studies consume time. You have to plan for multiple interviews, waiting for the data to come in; coordinating focus groups can take quite a substantial, amount of time. For instance, if you are depending on a voluntary case study participant who is going on with his daily business, that might present a challenge. You can overcome these issues by offering incentives to your participants and then outline what you expect from each of them from the onset and sending deadline notifications in advance. This helps in receiving the data early enough.

When using a case study several steps ought to be used

  • Decide and define the research questions
  • Select your case studies and determine the techniques for data collection and analysis
  • Prepare to engage in data collection
  • Collect data in the field
  • Cary out data evaluation and analysis
  • Write your report

Decide and determine your research questions

You have to decide on the questions you want to use in your research. They are a referral for the researcher as he seeks to provide answers to them. The researcher has to establish the focus of the student by coming up with questions that concern the problem or the situation being studied and to determine the purpose of the study. The case study here might involve a program, an entity, a person, or a group of people. Each object has a relationship that is connected to social, political, historical, and personal issues. This provides wide-ranging possibilities for questions and adds complexities to the case study.

The case study must answer questions that begin with “why” or “how.” These questions are directed to a limited number of events or conditions and their inter-relationships. One way that enables researchers to formulate these questions is by conducting a literature review. This allows them to establish what previous researchers found out, and they enable in formulating insightful questions necessary for the examination of the problem. Well defined questions from the onset direct one on where to get more evidence and also helps in determining analysis method for the study, The definition of case study purpose, the literature review and the early decision on the potential audience for the final report will help in providing guidance on how the study will be conducted and published.

Select your case study and settle on the data collection and analysis technique

The design phase of the case study research gives the researcher an opportunity to decide what the approach will be when it comes to selecting the single or multiple real-life cases for examination. It will also help in deciding the data gathering approaches and the instruments used. When working with multiple cases, each case is treated individually. The conclusion of the individual case can be used as information that contributes to the whole study.

Excellent case studies often select and carefully examine the existing choices in the research tools at disposal with the objective of raising the study validity. You can create boundaries when you do careful discrimination when you are carrying out the selection. One of the strengths of case study method is by the use of multiple techniques and sources in the process of gathering data. The researcher makes an early determination of the evidence he has to gather and the analysis method he will apply for him to answer the research questions. The data gathered may be largely qualitative but can also be quantitative. One can use surveys, interviews, observation, documentation review, or the collection of physical artifacts as tools of data collection. The researcher ought to distribute the data gathering tools systematically when collecting the evidence. The researcher must ensure that the research is constructed to achieve, internal validity, external validity, construct validity and reliability. This should be achieved during the design phase.

Prepare for the data collection process

Case study often generates big amounts of data from multiple sources. As such, it is important to organize your data systematically to prevent cases of confusion or getting overwhelmed by the incoming data. This helps the researcher to maintain sight of the original research purpose and questions.

One can prepare databases to help in sorting, categorizing, storing, and retrieving data for analysis. Some of the best case studies carries out training for the researchers to establish clear protocols and procedures early enough before the fieldwork kicks off. They also conduct a pilot study well in advance to remove barriers and problems in the field. Once the training is done, the last step is to select a pilot site where each data gathering method is put to the test to uncover problem areas and correct them early.

The researcher must ensure that the evidence and the issue under investigation are have maintained their relationship. It is possible for the researcher to enter data into a database and physically store it. However, he has to document, classify, and cross-reference all evidence for it to be efficiently recalled for examination and sorting as the study continues.

Data collection in the field

The researcher must collect and store data comprehensively and systematically. This should be done in formats that are easy to reference and sort to enable him in identifying possible lines of inquiry. Successful case studies utilize field notes and databases in categorizing and referencing data, so that is it readily available for interpretation. Field notes take records of feelings, intuitive hunches; pose questions, document work in progress. Stories, testimonies, and illustrations are useful in later reports. Some techniques require the researcher to place information into arrays, matrices of categories, flow charts or other displays as well as tabulations of event frequency. If there is conflicting evidence, the researcher must probe the differences deeper and identify the source of conflict. The researcher must provide answers to the “how” and “why” research questions.

Data evaluation and analysis

The researcher has to examine raw data using different interpretations. This enables him to draw linkages between the outcomes and the research object bearing in mind the research questions. The researcher must have an open mind during the data evaluation and analysis process. The researcher can strengthen the research findings and conclusion thanks to the multiple data collection methods and analysis techniques he had applied.

The kind of tactics used by the researcher during the analysis compels him to go beyond the initial impressions to improve chances of reliable and accurate findings.

  • Preparing the report

Excellent case studies interpret data in ways that they make it easy to understand a problem hitherto complex. It allows the reader to question and examine the study and arrive at an understanding that the researcher was independence. The written report aims to convey to the reader a simplified experience of the issue that was once complex. With case studies, the reader can access the information publicly in ways that may lead him to utilize the experience in his real-life situation.

The report can be written in a manner that handles each case on its separate chapter or giving it a chronological recounting. The researchers at times use the report writing process to do a critical examination of the document to identify ways through which the report might be incomplete. The researcher can use the representative audience to carry out a review and present comments on the same. The comments are the premise upon which the revisions of the documents are made. Sometimes it is recommended to have a journalist in the review audience whereas others argue that the participants should review the document. Those are the steps used in a case study research.

With case studies, the researcher will get a more concrete and unbiased understanding of a given complex situation. This is achieved using a range of search tools. With a real-life view, the research can give leeway for the recommendation of practical solutions to challenges. Case studies are important, and the challenges involved can be surmounted planning, background research and an informed selection of all the participants. If the case study approach works for you, utilize it.