Like a kid in the candy store, researchers in social science remain uncertain in choosing an apt method to address their research question. This comprises of an array of qualitative research methods ranging from narratives to in-depth case studies. Approaches like narrative, including sone-two samples, provide information about individual experiences and sequence. On the other hand, the case study gives in-depth and up-close information about specific situations and therefore is regarded as the best method for collecting data in social science.
A case study, a preliminary tool used in the preliminary or exploratory stage of research, is an in-depth documented study of particular real-world situations or investigation of event, place, individual, etc. This approach is typically used when the researchers want to gain insights into conceptual, concrete, and deep knowledge about a specific topic. Besides these, a case study can also be used to test the scientific models and theories in the real-world.
Some of the characteristics of the case study are:
- One or more than one social unit for the study can be considered
- The chosen unit can be studied intensively
- Details about mutual inter-relationship of causal factors can be determined
- The behavioral pattern of the chosen unit can be studied directly
Generally, a case study is divided into 3 types: exploratory, descriptive and explanatory case studies.
Explanatory case study
This type of case study answers questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ with little control by the researcher
Descriptive case study
Here, the sequence of interpersonal events are analyzed after a certain timespan
Exploratory case study
This case study aims to answer questions such as ‘who’, ‘what’, etc.
How to perform a case study?
Performing a case study involves considering the uniformity of human behavior irrespective of the fact that human nature varies accordingly.
The steps involved in performing a case study are:
1. Selecting a case:- On developing research questions and problem statements, the next process is to select a specific case you wish to focus on. A good case study should provide new insights into the subject, challenge existing theories and assumptions, give scope for further study, and propose new solutions to solve the research problem. A good case study does not demand a representative or random sample. Rather, it focuses on neglected, unusual, and outlying cases. But if required, a common cause to exemplify a specific phenomenon can be selected.
2. Developing a theoretical framework:- Although case studies focus on concrete details, it is mandatory to establish a connection with a theory in the field of study. This makes the case study an isolated description with integration into existing knowledge. Such a study explains the case under examination, uncovers new concepts to be incorporated and determines outliers that do not’ hold good with assumptions. To build the theoretical framework, identify key concepts and review the literature sources associated with the topic of study.
3. Data collection:- In the third step, collect the required data. The data can be primary & secondary such as newspapers, official records or data collected through interviews, observations, etc. If your study demands, you can also employ quantitative data collection methods to gather the necessary information.
4. Analyze the case:- Group all aspects and analyze the outcomes of the case study. Format the data into manageable form and develop a narrative. Use examples to support the result, present numerical data, connect the result to the theory or the literature review and describe how the result fits into a wider pattern.
Some of the advantages of employing a case study in your research method areas mentioned-below
- By using a case study, a researcher can obtain an enlightened and real record of personal experiences, motivation, and a specific pattern of behavior.
- It allows the researcher to trace the natural history of social units and social factors involved in the environment.
- It formulates hypothesis along with the gathered data.
- Data collected using case study can be used to develop an exceptional questionnaire
- Using the case study, one can study the changes in social behavior, understand past social units, and other information which can add sense to the decision-making.
Despite the advantages offered by case studies, this research method approach is not very much used by the researchers owing to the restrictions like time, cost, the danger of false generalization, and use of limited sphere.