What is a Case Study?

Case Studies are in-depth investigations of an individual or event. Clinicians use interviews, participant observations, and archival information (e.g., medical information) to develop robust portraits of others and the circumstances that led individuals to act.

Some Case Study researchers assume the method produces positivistic knowledge whereas others argue it produces postpositivistic knowledge.

The design of your case study is determined by your purpose.

Writers conduct case studies for many reasons. Researchers may conduct interviews to achieve multiple purposes:

  1. Oral histories
    • interview people who can tell stories about life in the past.
  2. Expert testimonies
    • interview experts, such as famous inventors, entrepreneurs, political leaders, or trend-setters
  3. Slice-of-life profiles
    • interview “man/woman on the street,” profiling the life of “ordinary people”
  4. Memorable quotes
    • perhaps someone said something in a clever way that supports your work

Some researchers argue that their interviews of individuals can be used to generalize to broader populations. For example, an urban sociologist might interview gang members and then try to generalize to other gangs, other cities. In contrast, some researchers argue that interviews can only generate knowledge about individuals, that researchers who use interviews are simply telling stories

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