Case studies

How to Do a Case Study

A case study is an inquiry into an event by either an individual or an organization. It is produced through systematic research, analysis and reporting. Case studies cite professional or scientific sources and they are often used in developing new procedures in marketing, medicine and technology. They are designed to ask the questions "how" and "why" of an event, procedure or phenomena. If you are about to begin a case study, it is important that you devote plenty of time to accurate data gathering and analysis. Case studies can take place over a few weeks to a few years. Read more to find out how to do a case study.

Develop your research question

This may be given to you in advance by a professor or employer, or you may develop it on your own. Make sure the question is specific and can be analyzed by scientific or modern research methods.

  • Do not choose a question that is inherently subjective. For example, instead of a question like "What is the favorite social media website for people aged 18 to 20?" you may want to use "What is the most visited social media website for people aged 18 to 20."
  • Case studies are classified into different categories. An instrumental case study will seek to find a deeper understanding into a question. A collective case study analyzes cases in order to find understanding about a phenomenon. An intrinsic case study looks more deeply into an already established case.

Map out the protocol, strategy or structure for the case study

This will allow you to create an outline for how you will start at your question and end with a well-thought-out paper. The following are sample steps in a case study strategy.

  • Develop a purpose and rationale for the case study. Create 4 or 5 bullet points that you intend to answer, if possible, in the study. Consider perspectives on approaching the question and these bullet points.
  • Decide how you will collect data. Depending upon the question, you may want to consider 1 or more of the following data collection processes: report collection, Internet research, library research, interviewing scientists or research subjects, other fieldwork and mapping concepts or typologies. Using more than 1 data collection process will add authority and accuracy to your case study.
  • Describe the entire case and then analyze it systematically. This will require time and a word processing program. You should become familiar with citing sources. The process should include a step that confirms interviews or findings before it is published.

Create your interview or research questions

They should each aim to work through a portion of your question. This is especially important if you plan to interview experts and/or research subjects.

  • Make sure that each question you ask is a question that cannot be answered with a yes or no answer, unless you are confirming identity or participation. For example, "What changes have been made to improve this process?" rather than "Did you make changes to improve the process?"
  • These questions can also be in statement format, such as "Please explain how the current procedure was developed."