What is a case study?
A case study is a research approach that provides an in-depth examination of a particular phenomenon, event, organization, or individual. It involves analyzing and interpreting data to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject under investigation.
Case studies can be used in various disciplines, including business, social sciences, medicine (clinical case report), engineering, and education. The aim of a case study is to provide an in-depth exploration of a specific subject, often with the goal of generating new insights into the phenomena being studied.
When to write a case study
Case studies are often written to present the findings of an empirical investigation or to illustrate a particular point or theory. They are useful when researchers want to gain an in-depth understanding of a specific phenomenon or when they are interested in exploring new areas of inquiry.
Case studies are also useful when the subject of the research is rare or when the research question is complex and requires an in-depth examination. A case study can be a good fit for a thesis or dissertation as well.
Case study examples
Below are some examples of case studies with their research questions:
|Research question||Case study title|
|How do small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries manage risks?||Risk management practices in SMEs in Ghana|
|What factors contribute to successful organizational change?||A case study of a successful organizational change at Company X|
|How do teachers use technology to enhance student learning in the classroom?||The impact of technology integration on student learning in a primary school in the United States|
|How do companies adapt to changing consumer preferences?||Coca-Cola’s strategy to address the declining demand for sugary drinks|
|What are the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry?||The impact of COVID-19 on the hotel industry in Europe|
|How do organizations use social media for branding and marketing?||The role of Instagram in fashion brand promotion|
|How do businesses address ethical issues in their operations?||A case study of Nike’s supply chain labor practices|
These examples demonstrate the diversity of research questions and case studies that can be explored. From studying small businesses in Ghana to the ethical issues in supply chains, case studies can be used to explore a wide range of phenomena.
Outlying cases vs. representative cases
An outlying case study refers to a case that is unusual or deviates significantly from the norm. An example of an outlying case study could be a small, family-run bed and breakfast that was able to survive and even thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, while other larger hotels struggled to stay afloat.
On the other hand, a representative case study refers to a case that is typical of the phenomenon being studied. An example of a representative case study could be a hotel chain that operates in multiple locations that faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as reduced demand for hotel rooms, increased safety and health protocols, and supply chain disruptions. The hotel chain case could be representative of the broader hospitality industry during the pandemic, and thus provides an insight into the typical challenges that businesses in the industry faced.
Steps for Writing a Case Study
As with any academic paper, writing a case study requires careful preparation and research before a single word of the document is ever written. Follow these basic steps to ensure that you don’t miss any crucial details when composing your case study.
Step 1: Select a case to analyze
After you have developed your statement of the problem and research question, the first step in writing a case study is to select a case that is representative of the phenomenon being investigated or that provides an outlier. For example, if a researcher wants to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, they could select a representative case, such as a hotel chain that operates in multiple locations, or an outlying case, such as a small bed and breakfast that was able to pivot their business model to survive during the pandemic. Selecting the appropriate case is critical in ensuring the research question is adequately explored.
Step 2: Create a theoretical framework
Theoretical frameworks are used to guide the analysis and interpretation of data in a case study. The framework should provide a clear explanation of the key concepts, variables, and relationships that are relevant to the research question. The theoretical framework can be drawn from existing literature, or the researcher can develop their own framework based on the data collected. The theoretical framework should be developed early in the research process to guide the data collection and analysis.
To give your case analysis a strong theoretical grounding, be sure to include a literature review of references and sources relating to your topic and develop a clear theoretical framework. Your case study does not simply stand on its own but interacts with other studies related to your topic. Your case study can do one of the following:
- Demonstrate a theory by showing how it explains the case being investigated
- Broaden a theory by identifying additional concepts and ideas that can be incorporated to strengthen it
- Confront a theory via an outlier case that does not conform to established conclusions or assumptions
Step 3: Collect data for your case study
Data collection can involve a variety of research methods, including interviews, surveys, observations, and document analyses, and it can include both primary and secondary sources. It is essential to ensure that the data collected is relevant to the research question and that it is collected in a systematic and ethical manner. Data collection methods should be chosen based on the research question and the availability of data. It is essential to plan data collection carefully to ensure that the data collected is of high quality
Step 4: Describe the case and analyze the details
The final step is to describe the case in detail and analyze the data collected. This involves identifying patterns and themes that emerge from the data and drawing conclusions that are relevant to the research question. It is essential to ensure that the analysis is supported by the data and that any limitations or alternative explanations are acknowledged.
The manner in which you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard academic paper, with separate sections or chapters for the methods section, results section, and discussion section, while others are structured more like a standalone literature review.
Regardless of the topic you choose to pursue, writing a case study requires a systematic and rigorous approach to data collection and analysis. By following the steps outlined above and using examples from existing literature, researchers can create a comprehensive and insightful case study that contributes to the understanding of a particular phenomenon.
Preparing Your Case Study for Publication
After completing the draft of your case study, be sure to revise and edit your work for any mistakes, including grammatical errors, punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, and awkward sentence structure. Ensure that your case study is well-structured and that your arguments are well-supported with language that follows the conventions of academic writing.
To ensure your work is polished for style and free of errors, get English editing services from Wordvice, including our paper editing services and manuscript editing services. Let our academic subject experts enhance the style and flow of your academic work so you can submit your case study with confidence.