A case study is a paper that highlights specific aspects of individuals or circumstances from which conclusions for an entire population can be made. There are two main approaches that can be followed – the first one focuses on one phenomenon while the second compares two aspects of it. Case studies are often used in social sciences because they provide the means of conducting thorough research on a particular issue.
Works in fields such as psychology, political science and education are often written in the form of a case study due to the nature and scope of the examination that distinguishes this approach. The origins of this method date back to 1829, when it is believed that Frederic Le Play was the first person to apply case study design (Brooke 45). The primary objective is to gather data, either from interviews or observations, and produce a paper based on this information. Through this process it can be argued that case studies offer a detailed explanation of an event, as they provide the possibility for an in-depth investigation of a phenomenon.
How to Do a Case Study
- Step 1. Firstly, it is essential to choose an appropriate topic that reflects the main idea of the case study. While the process is similar to that of any other paper type, it is important to remember that the topic in a case study should imply a thorough analysis and investigation due to the particular features of this approach. Before gathering the data and writing the article, it is necessary to think about points that will be discussed in the next steps. This will help structure the work more efficiently and ensure that all the key components of the issue are addressed.
- Step 2. Identify whether the analysis aligns with other works in the subject or whether it requires additional work. This helps determine if the problem in question would benefit from a different perspective to help find new solutions. For instance, when discussing student research and analytical skills, it is possible to focus on a particular subject. Thus, such a paper would explain whether political science students benefit from in-depth investigations of problems during their studies using an example of a specific group. This approach can also outline new components that were not discussed by other researchers.
- Step 3. Develop a hypothesis that can guide the paper and data collection. This involves looking through previous research that has already been done on the subject to highlight common trends and the scope of an investigation. This information can help formulate a hypothesis that would be the center of the case study. For instance, in the previously discussed paper, the primary objective would be to illustrate students’ analytical skills before introducing assignments that require research. Through an in-depth examination the results to skill assessments conducted after the intervention could then be compared and a description of the process and results of such an intervention could be provided.
- Step 4. Next, it is crucial to determine whether the research in question would bring value to the subject. For instance, if a lot of articles had been written discussing student research and analytical skills, another paper describing the same topic may not seem as important to a prospective reader. Therefore, it may be necessary to review the literature again and return to Step 3 to rethink the hypothesis.
- Step 5. Once the value of the issue has been established, the author of the case study should now turn to determining the resolution to the problem presented in the paper. The design of case studies implies a necessity to illustrate a particular issue and a possible solution. Thus, an objective for the research that guides the process is required. In the case of student research, the problem that needs attention is the insufficient level of analytical skills. As such, this step would focus on describing a particular situation in which students benefited from the task and improved their cognitive skills significantly.
- Step 6. Consider whether the work presents implications for future research. This is vital because, as previously mentioned, case studies should offer a possible resolution of an issue. Highlighting aspects that can be studied by others presents a valuable contribution to the matter by providing additional analysis of possible causes and solutions. It is necessary to consider further studies that could be done on the topic and ensure that the paper can help future researchers.
Case Study Structure
While in general developing a case study paper does not differ from writing any other essay, some factors distinguish it from other works. Largely, this is due to the fact that the purpose of such assignments is to reveal new knowledge and offer different perspectives on existing issues. Alternatively, they can also present an investigation of approaches that are common in a particular discipline. Scheme 1 offers a visual representation of the structure of a case study:
As with other essay types or articles, an introduction is vital to explain the purpose and scope of the analysis to readers. When writing this section of the paper, it is helpful to imagine that a person looking through the text will decide whether to proceed with reading the full text or not based on the introduction. The process can be compared to someone looking through a summary prior to reading a book. However, no particular components of the analysis, which will be revealed in the main body of the text, should be included here. The introduction is used to explain the importance of the issue and the contribution of the case study to finding a proper resolution.
- Overview of Literature
This section should be dedicated to presenting previous research and background information on the chosen topic. The aim is to familiarize the reader with the history of the issue and other views that have already been presented. After reading the literature review, an individual should be aware of the various aspects of the problem. Some subjects will have a large number of works that discuss them, so prioritizing by relevance to the new study is crucial. It is advisable to choose the most recent papers and books, for example those that have been published in the last five years. However, some older articles may have a fundamental impact on the subject, especially if many scholars cite them. Those should also be included in the literature review.
It is necessary to explicitly state how the current work contributes to the existing literature. This can be shown by presenting the connection between the contexts of the articles discussed in the review and distinguishing aspects that are specific to the proposed case study. Furthermore, it is acceptable to provide a new interpretation of existing work by considering the general theme of the case study in question. Finally, the section can highlight knowledge gaps that previous researchers did not discuss if those will be examined further in the essay.
This section should be dedicated to approaches applied for designing the case study and analyzing the data that was gathered by the researcher. It can be helpful to provide a detailed explanation of why a particular method was chosen to ensure the reader understands the purpose and possible limitations of the research. Based on the type of study required, a number of different approaches can be followed:
In this case, the paper will describe the setting in which something happened, including components such as date, time, and place. Additionally, the process of evaluating actions should be included. The information from the case should provide the data to aid a resolution to a problem.
This aspect focuses on behaviors and is often used in papers on psychology or social subjects. The study design should focus on relationships and details of background that contribute to certain events that occur to an individual. Additionally, when writing a case study that is centered on individuals, it is necessary to explain the rationale for choosing a particular person and how the choice helps the analysis.
When focusing on a particular site, it is necessary to describe the different aspects of it thoroughly, as well as the thought process that helped choose it as the subject of analysis. Thus, a brief comparison with other places can help enhance an understanding of the matter. For instance, in the case where the effect of libraries on the development of analytical skills of students is chosen as a subject, the comparison to home or classroom can be provided.
This approach implies a clarification of perceived or existing circumstances that affect people. Thus, an explanation that guides the hypothesis for events is required. In general, this means that a particular system, for example social or political, is examined using a case study design. The objective of these types of case studies is to identify causes of phenomenon and the impact they have on the environment.
This section offers an interpretation of results by reexamining the findings from the literature review and the actual case study. Therefore, it is necessary to explain the issue in question again. Then, the conclusions should be interpreted by considering the connection to previous research, and alternative ways of understanding the results should be described in detail. A crucial component that should be included in this section is the acknowledgment of the limitations of the paper.
Writing a conclusion for a case study does not differ from summarizing any other type of paper. Make sure to introduce nothing new in this section. A proper conclusion has to restate the ideas and findings developed in the paper.
Overall, case studies and essays have a similar structure and purpose. However, when writing a case study, it is necessary to narrow the focus of the paper to particular events or people. In addition, a literature review providing background information is essential. Another crucial component of a case study is the research design that explains the methods used to evaluate the issue. Finally, the paper should offer a discussion of the topic that has been explored.
Brooke, Michael. Le Play: Engineer and Social Scientist. Routledge, 2017.