Social Research Glossary

 

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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-17, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International, http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/socialresearch/

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2017.

 

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Case study


core definition

A case study is an intensive investigation of one particular individual, group, organisation, community, or setting.


explanatory context

Case studies provide data of a richness and detail that are difficult to obtain from broader surveys but at the cost of lack of generalisability.

 

A case study cannot provide reliable information aboutthe broader clss to which it belongs but it is often useful in the preliminary stages of an investigation. Case studies are used in circumstances where there is a shortage of resources or there is difficulty in gaining access to research subjects.

 

Many case study approaches use more than a single case in order to get some idea of the range of variability in the population under consideration. Cases are selected on the basis of theory or prior knowledge to represent contrasting examples. In some situations an extreme or critical case is selected to test a hypothesis.


analytical review

Colorado State University (1993–2013) provides a useful guide that examines case studies. It starts with the following definition and then outlines different types of case studies, paraphrased below:

Case study refers to the collection and presentation of detailed information about a particular participant or small group, frequently including the accounts of subjects themselves. A form of qualitative descriptive research, the case study looks intensely at an individual or small participant pool, drawing conclusions only about that participant or group and only in that specific context. Researchers do not focus on the discovery of a universal, generalizable truth, nor do they typically look for cause-effect relationships; instead, emphasis is placed on exploration and description....

Illustrative Case Studies... are primarily descriptive studies.. [which] serve primarily to make the unfamiliar familiar and to give readers a common language about the topic in question.

Exploratory (or pilot) Case Studies... are condensed case studies performed before implementing a large scale investigation.

Cumulative Case Studies... serve to aggregate information from several sites collected at different times. The idea behind these studies is the collection of past studies will allow for greater generalization without additional cost or time being expended on new, possibly repetitive studies.

Critical Instance Case Studies... examine one or more sites for either the purpose of examining a situation of unique interest with little to no interest in generalizability, or to call into question or challenge a highly generalized or universal assertion...


Psychology Glossary (undated) focuses on the individual:

A case study is one type of observational data collection technique in which one individual is studied in-depth in order to identify behavioral, emotional, and/or cognitive qualities that are universally true, on average, of others. Case studies often include face-to-face interviews, paper and pencil tests, and more.


associated issues

 


related areas

See also

critical case analysis

ethnography


Sources

Colorado State University, 1993–2013, Case Studies available at http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=60, accessed 1 February 2013, still available 14 December 2016.

Psychology Glossary, undated, 'Case study' available at http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Case%20Study, accessed 1 February 2013, still available 14 December 2016.


copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2017


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