What is a case study? A case study is basically an in- depth, descriptive examination of an actual instance in-person or online of a specific case in a real world context. For instance, case studies on medicine can focus on a person suffering from a specific disease or illness; case studies on business can focus on the business aspect of running a company and keeping it on track. Even an Internet case study can focus on how certain sites are ranked in search engines or marketing your business on the Internet.
Case studies provide you with unique advantages over other types of research. First, they are more descriptive. By telling the story of the problem, you are able to answer questions that otherwise would not be asked. Second, you get a more immediate answer to a question than if you were merely researching the same old information. Third, by answering the research problem through the voice of the subject, you are providing the new ways for getting the answers that you need to gain new knowledge and insight.
There are many case study research papers out there written by academics in the social sciences. I’m sure that some of them have done great work, but it seems like a lot of them leave the reader hanging when the case study closes. One of the best ways I’ve seen to end a case study is by displaying the reader with the original data set or findings, along with their conclusion. This way readers don’t have to take their own conclusions, but can instead immediately understand what the authors are saying.
Let’s take a look at an example of what I’m talking about. Let’s say you’re reading an article about marketing strategies and you come across a case study that looks interesting. However, upon further reading, you find out that the case study reveals that 98% of companies that use the strategy turn out to be flops. Instead of writing an article that criticizes this company, let’s instead leave it at that and move on. We all know that prior research findings are important, but sometimes they just reveal too much and we should learn to leave them out.
The problem arises when an author uses prior research findings to criticize the case study’s methods used, or the results obtained. For instance, an article that criticizes the use of surveys will mention that only 10% of survey takers actually reveal accurate feedback. While this is true, the author is wrong in his or her interpretation of the results.
Using a case study method is just like using a qualitative researcher (one who uses qualitative methods) in an unstructured interview. You ask a series of questions, get reliable answers, then evaluate the answers to see if they support your main point. This evaluation is not about proving which method is better. Rather, it’s about understanding the desired outcome from your data. You need to come up with a hypothesis based on your data, and then analyze how you came to that conclusion.
A case study researcher using structured interviews will be much more thorough, because he or she has done all of the work, i.e., collecting all of the details, interviewing all of the right people, documenting the information, and writing the articles. In a sense, he or she is writing the research. However, it’s still a problem of interpretation. As the famous case study author Robert Weiss succinctly put it, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Traditional researchers often don’t have time to do all of this work, because they must meet deadlines and perform other outside research. However, many case studies authors, especially those working for large publishing houses, use iBooks online, allowing them to focus all their attention on iBooks. iBooks are loaded with all kinds of special features, such as full-color images, comprehensive sidebars and footnotes, a plethora of accompanying documents, and detailed summaries of the major findings. In addition, most in-depth case studies and other books also include a companion website, where users can log on and access additional resources.