Case Study

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Case Study The term case study is not used in a standard way; at face value, its usage can be misleading because there is a sense in which all research investigates cases. Nevertheless, we can identify a core meaning of the term, as referring to research that studies a small number of cases, possibly even just one, in considerable depth; although various other features are also often implied. Case study is usually contrasted with two other influential kinds of research design: the social survey and the experiment. The contrast with the survey relates to dimensions already mentioned: the number of cases investigated and the amount of detailed information the researcher collects about each case. Other things being equal, the less cases studied, the more information can be collected about each of them. Social surveys study a large number of cases but usually gather only a relatively small amount of data about each one, focusing on specific features of it (cases here are usually, though not always, individual respondents). By contrast, in case study, large amounts of information are collected about one or a few cases, across a wide range of features. Here the case may be an individual (as in life history work), an event, an institution, or even a whole national society or geographical region. A complication here is that when each case studied is large, social survey techniques may be used to collect data within it. Case study can also be contrasted with experimental research. Although the latter also usually involves investigation of a small number of cases compared to survey work, what distinguishes it from case study is the fact that it involves direct control of variables. In experiments, the researcher creates the case(s) studied, whereas case study researchers identify cases out of naturally occurring social phenomena. This, too, is a dimension, not a

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