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Step by Step Guidelines For Conducting A Case Study
A case study tells a story about something special, interesting or unique. It can be about an individual, an organisation or an event. You can also use it to highlight a project's success or to bring your reader's attention to a particular challenge or difficulty in that project. The case study methodology is about how to conduct research while working on a specific case. This section describes the process of selecting a case, gathering credible data from a wide variety of sources, analysing and interpreting them. There are four primary stages included in the case study research methodology. The authenticity of your case study depends on how perfectly you master all the stages as discussed below.
What are the four main stages in case study research methodology?
Case study methodology encourages an intensive investigation of a particular unit (an organization, an event or even an individual) under considerations. Had it not been for methodologies, it would have been difficult to demonstrate ideas in a case study due to conflicting epistemological presuppositions and other complexities involved in this task. So, let’s check out the basic stages in the methodology of a case study.
Stage 1: Defining the case
Defining the research problem t clearly is the first step of your case-study methodology. You can also consider this as the ‘planning’ phase since it lets you identify research questions or other rationales for writing the case study. You have to formulate the research question, add existing literature and appreciate the theoretical issues related to your topic while defining the case.
What else to remember while defining the case?
- Each case should consist of a pre-defined boundary, thereby clarifying the time period and nature of your case study.
- Highlight the social group, geographical area or organisation that your case studies addresses.
- Note down the different types of evidence you want to collect and the priorities for data collection and analysis.
For instance, consider the case study topic ‘Introduction of electronic health records in urban hospitals.’ You can define the case based on the use of technology where your focus would be on how technology is implemented in hospitals. You can also define the case based on social and organisational dimensions of technology in hospitals. In that case, you have to talk about the impact of technology on healthcare professionals.
Stage 2: Pick the right type of case study
You need to reflect on the type of information sources you have used to pick the right type of case study. There are three main types of case study methodology you can choose from such as:
- Intrinsic case study
In an intrinsic case study, the case itself is of primary interest to the readers. You can pick this genre of case study if your topic is unique as compared to the other similar work. For example, you can analyse the marginalisation of minority people with asthma or study an elderly couple living with dementia.
- Instrumental case study
This type of case study lets you investigate an idea, an issue or a phenomenon. Let’s assume you are writing about doctor’s responses to certain health policy initiatives. So, you can use an instrumental case study for interviewing clinicians to generate theory and hypothesis related to this topic.
- Collective or multiple case studies
Collective case studies help you compare across several cases so that you can come to a valid conclusion at the end of your case study. Let's say you decide to write a case study about a particular theory. Thus, you need to compare two or three case studies if the theory is straightforward. However, you must use five or more cases for comparison if the theory is subtle.
Picking the right type of case study will help you proceed with the next stages of methodology hassle-free. Whether you need to interview someone or conduct a SWOT analysis, all of that depends on the type of your case study.
Stage 3: Collect relevant and authentic data
To develop a thorough understanding of your case, you must gather valuable data from multiple sources. You can use qualitative techniques such as interviews, observations or focus groups or quantitative techniques like questionnaires or audits. The more sources you use, the more valid your case study will be. Speaking of collecting data, the two most common resources are:
- Library and internet research
Note down everything that has been written related to your topic. Read relevant articles, magazines, journals, etc. that can give you more information about your case.
You may find that there are existing problems that need solving while going through online sources. For example, let’s say you are writing a case study on a national park and its endangered ecosystem due to an increased number of visitors. In that case, your research question would be ‘how to solve the park’s ecosystem without affecting tourists?’
Now, what if you find that the place doesn't have a lot of tourists? In that case, your research question would be ‘how to encourage more tourists to come without affecting the park?‘
- Careful interviews
Conduct interviews to gather more practical knowledge about the case you are working on. Get hold of knowledgeable people whose opinion can contribute to the internal validity of your case study. Make sure you get the person to tell you whatever it is that he/she knows and thinks.
Considering the national park example, here the questions to ask in an interview:
- What is your impression of the site? Is it an excavation of historical interest?
- How do you feel about the situation?
- What do you think should be different here?
- What usually happens here on a typical day?
- May I have a copy of the statistics recorded in this park?
The research phase is very important as it sets the direction for the rest of the sections in a case study. You can also use secondary information sources such as organisational archives, previously unpublished data, internal reports, memoranda, etc.
Stage four- Analyse the information
If you look at case study methodology examples, you will understand that the writers use only the most significant details throughout the study. You may have gathered a wide plethora of information for the case study. But, you have to complete the project within a specified word count. Thus, evaluate all the sources and use only the most significant information in your paper.
Here’s how to analyse your data:
- Take out the excess
You can’t include all kinds of information in your case study. Sort out the information, take out the excess and arrange the information in such a way that your case study is understandable to your readers.
- Break down the case problem
Break down the case problem into different parts. Each part is a piece of the puzzle that your reader should understand while reading your case. Ensure that you have enough research findings for each part of your case study question.
- Figure out what is really important
Your readers should understand the situation you are trying to portray in the case study. Thus, include the information that really enhances the validity of your work and research.
Let’s assume the following:
The heritage site that you are talking about doesn’t have many visitors. But, people would like to visit if the heritage site has facilities.
- Unemployment exists around the site.
- The town can accommodate more visitors.
- There aren’t enough places to eat or sleep nearby the site.
Now ask yourself ‘how much information do I need to include so that my readers can discuss the questions mentioned above?’ You can take a look at research methodology samples if you are still confused about how to analyse the data collected.
The quality of your case study depends on the precision of your case study research methods. Get all the stages of your methodology right, and you will be able to craft a perfect case study in no time. The methodology section is also very time-consuming. It is better that you check out online qualitative research methodology examples to attend to each stage carefully. Consult with your professors if you are unable to find research material relevant to your case study question.
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