Getting to Grips with the Case Study Definition

Possibly the best way to explain the case study definition is to say it is a reference to an analysis technique and a particular research method for examining a given problem. These two methods are employed in virtually every circumstance to draw generalizations from populations. A piece of research work that is based on a case study looks in detail at a particular person, phenomenon, event, place, or some other subject that is worthy of analysis. The aim is to identify common themes and uncover results. The latter can then be used to forecast future patterns, reveal any issues that were not previously clear so that these can be applied in practice, and to provide a vehicle that helps clarify or better understand a significant research issue or problem. Cases can be studied using qualitative or quantitative research, or a combination of both types.

To demonstrate how to write a case study, the writers at Great-Writings.com have outlined the organizational structure of this type of paper below:

How to Write an Exclusive Case Study Research Paper – The Structure

Introductory Section

While knowing how to cite a case study is vitally important in this type of assignment, the introductory section is also extremely important. Not only should this section set out the research problem and explain its importance but it should also say in concise terms why you are using this case and how it is relevant for addressing the research problem. There should be a link between both these elements. So, given these factors, an effective introduction should answer the following four important questions:

The format of a case study is such that the writer should briefly address each one of the above questions - in a few succinct paragraphs and no more.

Review of Literature

If you examine any existing example of case study writing, you will probably note that the literature review section for a case study differs from those for a standard college research paper in one very important way. For example, the review in a case study provides background or historical information to enable the subject under analysis to be interepreted in a way that is relevant to the issue the case study is addressing. This involves synthesizing existing studies where these: 

  1. Put any works that are relevant to the case currently being investigated within the context in which they contribute to better understanding it.
  2. Describe how the different works relate to each other and how they demonstrate the applicability of your chosen case.
  3. Show how you are using the case study to find news ways of interpreting previous research on the topic.
  4. Attempt to resolve any conflicts that exist in earlier studies where these appear contradictory.
  5. Point to areas where any additional or future research may be needed.
  6. Draw attention to areas where the case study could help fill any gaps that are evident in existing literature.
  7. Explain where your research work fits in with any existing studies or any literature that currently exists on the subject matter. (This element is extremely important.)

Methodology

When addressing various case study questions, it is very important to say why you chose to study the subject you have chosen. It is also essential to explain the strategies you employed to identify a suitable case to address the research question or problem your paper is addressing.

In the event you are analyzing an event or incident, these are often bound to a time and/or place – at least in the behavioural and social sciences. This means they have a clearly defined start and end time and possibly an identifiable positon or location relative to the event or incident’s surroundings.   

If you examine any case study samples, you will see that if you choose to analyze a person, you will need to say why you chose to study this individual. Describe any experience this person has that will help provide new insight into or understanding of the problem you are addressing. Any background information that is releant to the person should be mentioned but only if it helps readers to understand, why such experience is sufficiently worthy to merit involving the individual in a study.   

If you have decided to analyze a place, this implies the place is in some way special or unique. Therefore, these traits may be used to improve knowledge or develop a better understanding of the problem.  

If the subject matter of your analysis is some phenomenon, this suggests an occurrence, situation, or fact that may be observed or studied but with, perhaps, a question mark over the cause or reason for the phenomenon. Therefore, your may choose any phenomenon that is believed to exist or is observable but not entirely understood.   

The Discussion Chapter

The primary elements of a discussion chapter are interpreting information and arriving at conclusions according to the most important findings or results from the case study. The following are the main aims of this section:  

  1. Restate the research question or problem and set out the key results/findings

Reiterate the research question or problem in brief terms and remind readers why the particular subject under analysis and upon which your case study is designed was chosen.

  1. Explain what your findings mean and why these are important

Explain in a systematic manner what the findings or results from your case mean and say why you think these are significant.

  1. Link your findings or results to similar type studies

It is important to do this because, if you compare and contrast your findings or results with those from other studies, it will help to show how important your findings are. Additionally, it will draw attention to how and the manner in which the design of your case study and the subject under analysis differs from any previous research that has been done on that particular topic.

  1. Look for different ways to explain your findings

It is important you give careful thought to every possible explanation of your results in the discussion chapter and not just the results that fit with your initial hypothesis or any previous biases or assumptions you held.

  1. Mention any limitations that apply to your study

In this important part, you should mention any questions that have been left unanswered or any issues that could not be addressed in your study.

  1. Mention any areas where further or future research may be required

Make sure you link any recommendations you make about further or future research to the main research question or problem. Support the validity of your recommendations by putting them in other relevant contexts and according to the initial assumptions.

The Concluding Chapter

An examination of any case study paper template will demonstrate how this chapter provides a summary of the conclusion(s) you came to in simple and clear language. It is also necessary to highlight how and why your case study findings support or differ from previous research. In this chapter, you should synthesize all main findings from your paper to demonstrate to your readers how these combine to properly address the initial research question or problem. If the discussion chapter has not already listed any limitations in your study, make sure you document these here in the concluding chapter.    

The primary functions of the concluding chapter in a research paper are to:

  1. allow you to say clearly what the background and context to your study are and why it was necessary to investigate the research question or problem using the case study you chose because of a gap, controversy, or issue found in your review of existing literature;
  2. allow you to reiterate the primary argument from your paper using the results you derived from analyzing your chosen case to support it;
  3. allow you to succinctly and convincingly restate why the research problem you investigated is significant, in view of the fact your reader now has detailed information about your chosen topic.