Case study: characteristics, objectives and methodology

In any of the existing research disciplines, especially if these are related in any way to people or to physical and psychological health, a range of research methods or techniques are needed to develop theories on which each of these topics is based.

One of these techniques is the case study. A qualitative research method that we will talk about throughout this article. As well as its characteristics, its objectives and how to achieve it correctly and efficiently.

    What is a case study?

    The case study consists of a research method or technique commonly used in the health and social sciences, Which is characterized by the need for a process of research and investigation, as well as by the systematic analysis of one or more cases.

    To be more precise, by case we mean all those unique circumstances, situations or phenomena for which more information is needed or deserves some interest in the world of research.

    Depending on the area of ​​research in which it is conducted, the case study can focus on a wide variety of topics or issues. In the field of psychology, this is generally related to the investigation of illnesses, disorders or mental disorders through the study of the people who suffer from them.

    Unlike other types of empirical research, this methodology is considered a qualitative research technique, Since the development of this focuses on the exhaustive study of a phenomenon. And not in the statistical analysis of existing data.

    As a rule, the case study is carried out with the intention of developing a series of hypotheses or theories on a specific subject or subject in order, as a result of these theories to conduct more expensive and elaborate studies with a bigger.

    However, the case study can be carried out both with a single person as the object of research and with several subjects possessing certain characteristics. To do this, the person (s) carrying out the case study they use techniques such as observation or administration of questionnaires or psychological tests. However, these procedures will vary depending on the discipline to which the research belongs.

    What characteristics distinguish it?

    In 1994, the educator and researcher Glòria Pérez Serrano drew up a list with the main characteristics that define the case studies. These are:

    Its particularists

    This means that they only cover a certain reality or a certain subject, which it constitutes them in very effective techniques to analyze unique and concrete situations.

    they are descriptive

    At the end of a case study, we will get a comprehensive and qualitative description of a specific situation or condition.

    they are heuristic

    The heuristic concept means to find or discover something. In the case study we can discover new aspects of a specific topic or confirm what we already know.

    they are inductive

    Based on inductive reasoning, we can make assumptions and find new relationships from one or more specific cases.

    What are the objectives?

    Like any research technique, case studies are guided by specific objectives. These are:

    • Develop one or more hypotheses or theories through the study of a given reality or situation.
    • Confirm existing hypotheses or theories.
    • Description and account of the facts or the circumstances of the case.
    • Check or compare similar phenomena or situations.

    Methodology: how is it done?

    Traditionally, the development of a case study has been divided into five well-defined phases. These phases are as follows.

    1. Case selection

    Before starting any kind of research, we need to know what we want to study and then select an appropriate and relevant case. We have established the area that this study can be useful for, the people that may be of interest as case studies and, how not to define the problem and the objectives of the case study.

    2. Preparation of questions

    Once the study subject has been identified and the case (s) to be investigated selected, it will be necessary to establish a set of questions that determine what you want to know after you finish the study.

    Sometimes it helps to establish a broad question that serves as a guide for this, and then to identify more specific and varied questions. This way we can make the most of the situation to be investigated.

    3. Location of sources and data collection

    Through observation techniques, interviews with subjects or through the administration of psychological tests and trials we will obtain most of the information necessary to develop the theories and hypotheses that give meaning to the research.

      4. Analysis and interpretation of information and results

      Once all the data has been collected, the next step is to compare it with the assumptions made at the start of the case study. Once the comparison step is complete, the researcher (s) can draw a series of conclusions and decide whether the information or result obtained can be applied to more similar situations or cases.

      5. Preparation of the report

      Finally, a report is drawn up which, chronologically, detail each of the data in the case studies. It will be necessary to specify what steps were taken, how the information was obtained and the reason for the conclusions drawn.

      All this in clear and understandable language that allows the reader to understand each of the points.

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