The case study method
• Research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e. the patient’s personal history (idiographic method)
• Description of the symptoms, the diagnosis, the treatment and eventual outcome (descriptive method) but also in newer research explanatory case studies
• Uses the person’s own memories, the memories of friends and relatives, or records of various types such as diaries, photographs etc.
• Often combines interviews and observations.
• In-depth investigation of experiences that allow to identify interactions and influences on psychological processes
• Opens up and explore aspects of human experience that can be investigated using other types of research methods (qualitative study/inductive research)
The case study method often involves simply observing what happens to, or reconstructing ‘the case history’ of a single participant or group of individuals (such as a school class or a specific social group), i.e. the idiographic approach. Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants (nomothetic approach) with the aim of ‘averaging’.
The case study is not itself a research method, but researchers select methods of data collection and analysis that will generate material suitable for case studies such as qualitative techniques (semi-structured interviews, participant observation, diaries), personal notes (e.g. letters, photographs, notes) or official document (e.g. case notes, clinical notes, appraisal reports). The data collected can be analysed using different theories (e.g. grounded theory, interpretative phenomenological analysis, text interpretation (e.g. thematic coding) etc. All the approaches mentioned here use preconceived categories in the analysis and they are ideographic in their approach, i.e. they focus on the individual case without reference to a comparison group....