Research Writing

Types of Case Studies Structure finding data When to use

The cases reflect the uncertainty of the real-world management environment in that the information presented is often imprecise and ambiguous. There may be a number of viable strategies that the manager or group of managers could adopt, each with somewhat different implications for the future of the organization and each with different payoffs. In this article we will provide you the types of case studies.

The goal of the case study is not to develop a set of “correct” facts, but to learn to reason well with the available data. Although there is no “perfect” solution, there are alternatives that will lead to better overall results than others. Part of your job is to make sure that you consider as many alternatives as possible, weigh their pros and cons, and determine which alternative provides the most benefit for the least cost.

Some cases will describe a situation and leave you at the point where the protagonist of the case is contemplating some future action or event. Other cases will report some action that has occurred in the past and inform you of the results. In either case, you will need to analyze the current situation, determining what has led to the point where the case leaves you, and then consider future actions.

Types of Case Studies

There are several types of case studies that researchers can use:

Collective Case Studies

They involve the study of a group of individuals. Researchers can study a group of people in a given setting or examine an entire community of people.

Descriptive Case Studies

They involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed and the information obtained is compared with the pre-existing theory.

Explanatory Case Studies

They are often used to conduct causal research. In other words, researchers are interested in examining the factors that may have actually caused certain things to happen.

Exploratory Case Studies

They are sometimes used as a prelude to further investigation. They allow researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses.

Instrumental case studies

They occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than is initially apparent to observers.

Intrinsic Case Studies

This type of case study occurs when the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget‘s observations of his own children are a good example of how an intrinsic case study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.

The type of case study that is used depends on the unique characteristics of the situation, as well as the case itself.

You are reading the types of case studies.

Case Analysis Structure

Some case study assignments may require you to provide a brief summary of the case in your own words, especially if you have provided your own case study. This will help you put the rest of your analysis into context. The main part of the assignment will be applying the concepts and theories you have learned to the case. This means that you will need to reference research and theory to support your ideas. A case study may also require you to provide examples of what you would say to a client or another person in the case, and what they might say. These instances are called literals.

Most case studies should be structured in the same way as a thesis, with an introduction, a series of body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Unlike dissertations, however, case studies often have titles based on information in the assignment description or grading criteria.

When developing your position, place yourself at the moment of the case with the dilemma or challenge as the organization was facing at the time. When you have the benefit of hindsight, hindsight, or added research, you need to recognize it. According to Schweitzer (2012), the content of your analysis should be organized as follows:

Problem Statement

The analysis of the case should begin with a brief description of the background and the main actors on the scene. This description provides a context for the problem. In the remaining paragraphs, you should describe the problem, trying to be as succinct as possible. Your description should include the consequences/potentials of the problem and a statement to convince the reader why this problem is important, especially from the organization’s perspective.

In addition to identifying the main problem in the case, you should also identify the main issues that are exacerbating the problem. These questions often reflect the complicating factors that hinder an easy solution to the core problem, and provide the focus for the analysis that follows.

Build a theoretical framework

Although case studies focus more on concrete details than on general theories, they should normally have some connection to field theory. In this way, the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge on the subject. Your goal may be:

Exemplify a theory showing how it explains the investigated case

Extend a theory by discovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated

Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier that does not fit established assumptions.

To ensure that your case analysis has a solid academic foundation, you should conduct a literature review of related sources and develop a theoretical framework. This means identifying the key concepts and theories that will guide your analysis and interpretation.

collect the data

There are many research methods you can use to collect data on your topic. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews, observations, and analysis of primary and secondary sources (eg, newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study also collects quantitative data.

In the case of a case study on the development of a wind farm in a rural area, one could collect quantitative data on employment rates and company revenues, collect qualitative data on the perceptions and experiences of the local population and analyze local and national media coverage of development.

The goal is to understand as deeply as possible the case and its context.

Problem analysis

In this section, use the information presented in the case and previous concepts, theories, and/or empirical research that appears in the management and organizational behavior literature to understand why the problems and issues have developed and why they are important. . The analysis of each question must be developed to provide the necessary background to define one or more reasonable alternative solutions to the problem.

Where to find data

There are several different sources and methods that researchers can use to collect information about an individual or group. Researchers have identified six main sources:

archive records

Census records, survey records, and name lists are examples of archival records.

Direct observation

This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting. Although an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to use a group of observers.


Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc., are the types of documents that are often used as sources.


Interviews are one of the most important methods of gathering information in case studies. An interview may include structured survey questions or more open questions.

Participant observation

When the researcher participates in the events and observes the actions and outcomes, it is called participant observation.

physical artifacts

Tools, objects, instruments, and other artifacts are often observed during a direct observation of the subject.

Writing Style

Case studies require you to write in the third person (names of people, he/she/they, the counselor, the client, etc.) when discussing the theories or research of the authors, or the client, professional, or organization of the case. A case study may require you to use the first person (“I”, “my”, etc.) to provide your own thoughts about the case, its personal impact on you, or how you would apply the theories and skills to the case.

When to use the Case Study

Considering the strengths and weaknesses of case studies, I will now discuss when it is most appropriate to use the case study as a qualitative research method in education. Let us remember that the most defining characteristic of a case study is its limits. It follows that a researcher should use the case study as a research method when it is feasible and advantageous to set clear boundaries around the investigation of it.

The case study is a method that suits many beginning researchers because the scale is small and the context is focused. However, case studies should not be overly simplistic or merely a description of what is happening; like any research in education, they should be a valuable addition to the current literature (Rowley, 2002). This requires the researcher to be aware of what is currently in the literature on the topic and where stronger evidence is needed or knowledge gaps exist.

The research question should not be modified to suit the chosen research method, rather a research method such as case study should be based on the research question. Case studies are especially useful as preliminary research that provides a new perspective and lays the foundation for future related research. However, case studies can stand alone in rigorously describing and explaining a phenomenon. Case studies answer the research questions ‘how’ and ‘why’ in a high degree of detail.

More specifically, case studies are appropriate when a how or why question is posed about a set of contemporary events over which the researcher has little or no control.


Case studies are a valuable way of looking at the world, because they allow the researcher to set boundaries and focus on a unit of study. Although case studies are susceptible to the usual criticisms of qualitative research methods, such as small sample sizes, the richness of detail they provide helps make them a learning tool that produces insights that are transferable to other contexts.

Carrying out a cross-case analysis would increase the ability to generalize, since it seeks to find patterns in multiple cases. The case study should be selected for research questions that are appropriately scoped and delimited and seek to answer the “how” and “why” questions. The fact that case studies are suitable for beginning researchers does not diminish the importance of rigor or its value in educational research. Case studies are a useful research method in many fields, especially education, because a holistic view within a narrow context provides a wealth of detail, enhancing both the researcher’s and the reader’s understanding.

We hope that you have learned about the types of case studies.

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