Case Study Research

A case study is a research approach that involves investigating a phenomenon within its context. The researcher conducting a case study explores an event, individual, group, place, etc., to determine the reasons behind the issue. It is an in-depth data gathering process that evaluates all the details that can significantly impact the issue.  Although it is primarily qualitative in nature, quantitative methods are also used depending on the subject. Robert K. Yin defines case study research as follows:

“A case study is an empirical enquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon in depth, and within its real-life context, especially boundaries between the phenomenon and context are not clearly evident.”

As seen from the second part of that definition, a case study can be beneficial if there is little to no evidence on why and how specific phenomena occurs. Case studies are mainly used in sociology, education, psychology, social work, business.  

When should a researcher use a case study research approach? According to Yin (2003), it is used:

  1. When the study tries to find answers to “how” and “why” questions
  2. When it isn’t possible to influence participant behavior in the study
  3. When the researcher considers the context to be an essential factor in studying the phenomenon
  4. When there is no clear relation between the context and phenomenon

Case study types

Here are some types of case studies used for different purposes.

  1. Explanatory case studies

An explanatory case study explains how and why certain phenomena happen by examining the data.

  1. Exploratory case studies

As the name suggests, an exploratory case study explores the data on a surface level and is usually followed by more extensive research on the subject.

  1. Descriptive case studies

The main aim of a descriptive case study is to describe the data as they occur.

  1. Multiple-case studies

It involves examining two or more cases to find similarities or differences between them. Similar cases should be taken into consideration so that the results are as accurate as possible.


Case study advantages

  • It is helpful in getting a thorough insight into the issue.
  • It helps in setting up subsequent research on the phenomenon by providing valuable first impressions.
  • A case study provides an opportunity to get information on rare issues and can’t be researched by other research methods.


Case study disadvantages

  • As in some other researcher methods in which the researchers are able to influence the research process, a case study may also contain researcher bias.
  • The results and solutions can’t always be generalized because most of the cases are rare. Similarly, it can also be impossible to find a case in order to answer the questions.