Strengths and Weaknesses of Case Studies
There is no doubt that case studies are a valuable and important form of research for all of the industries and fields that use them. However, along with all their advantages, they also have some disadvantages. In this article we are going to look at both.
Advantages of Case Studies
Case study method is responsible for intensive study of a unit. It is the investigation and exploration of an event thoroughly and deeply. You get a very detailed and in-depth study of a person or event. This is especially the case with subjects that cannot be physically or ethically recreated.
This is one of the biggest advantages of the Genie case. You cannot lock up a child for 13 years and deprive them of everything. That would be morally and ethically wrong in every single way. So when the opportunity presented itself, researchers could not look away. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about feral children.
Genie was a feral child. She was raised in completed isolation, with little human contact. Because of the abuse she withstood, she was unable to develop cognitively. From infancy she was strapped to a potty chair, and therefore never acquired the physicality needed for walking, running and jumping.
If Genie made a noise, her father beat her. Therefore, she learned to not make a noise. Once she was found, researchers studied her language skills, and attempted to find ways to get her to communicate. They were successful. While she never gained the ability to speak, she did develop other ways to communicate. However, the public soon lost interest in her case, and with that, the funds to conduct the study.
However, her case was extremely important to child development psychology and linguistic theory. Because of her, we know that mental stimulation is needed for proper development. We also now know that there is a "critical period" for the learning of language.
Developing New Research
Case studies are one of the best ways to stimulate new research. A case study can be completed, and if the findings are valuable, they can lead to new and advanced research in the field. There has been a great deal of research done that wouldn't have been possible without case studies.
An example of this is the sociological study Nickel and Dimed. Nickel and Dimed is a book and study done by Barbara Ehrenreich. She wanted to study poverty in America, and did so by living and working as a person living on minimum wage.
Through her experiment, she discovered that poverty was almost inescapable. As soon as she saved a little money, she was hit with a crisis. She might get sick, or her car might break down, all occurrences that can be destructive when a person doesn't have a safety net to fall back on.
It didn't matter where she lived or what she did. Working a minimum wage job gave her no chances for advancement or improvement whatsoever. And she did the experiment as a woman with no children to support.
This study opened a lot of eyes to the problem of the working poor in America. By living and working as the experiment, Ehrenreich was able to show first-hand data regarding the issues surrounding poverty. The book didn't end with any solutions, just suggestions for the reader and points for them to think about.
Using this case study information, new studies could be organized to learn better ways to help people who are fighting poverty, or better ways to help the working poor.
Contradicting Established Ideas or Theories
Oftentimes there are theories that may be questioned with case studies. For example, in the John/John case study, it was believed that gender and sexual identity were a construct of nurture, not nature.
John-John focused on a set of twin boys, both of whom were circumcised at the age of 6 months. One of the twin's circumcisions failed, causing irreparable damage to the penis. His parents were concerned about the sexual health of their son, so they contacted Dr. John Money for a solution.
Dr. Money believed that sexuality came from nurture, not nature, and that the injured baby, Bruce, could be raised as a girl. His penis was removed and he was sexually reassigned to become a girl. Bruce's name was changed to Brenda, and his parents decided to raise him as a girl.
In this case, Dr. Money was dishonest. He believed that gender could be changed, which has since been proven false. Brenda's parents were also dishonest, stating that the surgery was a success, when in fact that wasn't the case.
As Brenda grew up, she always acted masculine and was teased for it at school. She did not socialize as a girl, and did not identify as a female. When Brenda was 13 she learned the truth, and was incredibly relieved. She changed her name to David, and lived the rest of her life as a male.
This case proved that the general theory was wrong, and is still valuable, even though the study author was dishonest.
Giving New Insight
Case studies have the ability to give insight into phenomena that cannot be learned in any other way. An example of this is the case study about Sidney Bradford. Bradford was blind from the age of 10 months old, and regained his sight at the age of 52 from a corneal transplant.
This unique situation allowed researchers to better learn how perception and motion changes when suddenly given sight. They were able to better understand how colors and dimensions affect the human process. For what it is worth, Bradford continued to live and work with his eyes closed, as he found sight too stimulating.
Another famous study was the sociological study of Milgram.
Stanley Milgram did a study from 1960 to 1974 in which he studied the effects of social pressure. The study was set up as an independent laboratory. A random person would walk in, and agree to be a part of the study. He was told to act as a teacher, and ask questions to another volunteer, who was the learner.
The teacher would ask the learner questions, and whenever he answered incorrectly, the teacher was instructed to give the learner an electric shock. Each time the learner was wrong, the shock would be increased by 15 volts. What the teacher didn't know was that the learner was a part of the experiment, and that no shocks were being given. However, the learner did act as if they were being shocked.
If the teachers tried to quit, they were strongly pushed to continue. The goal of the experiment was to see whether or not any of the teachers would go up to the highest voltage. As it turned out, 65% of the teachers did.
This study opened eyes when it comes to social pressure. If someone tells you it is okay to hurt someone, at what point will the person back off and say "this is not ok!" And in this study, the results were the same, regardless of income, race, gender or ethnicity.
This study opened up the sociological world of understanding the divide between social pressure and morality.
Disadvantages of Case Studies
Inability to Replicate
As demonstrated with the Genie case study, many studies cannot be replicated, and therefore, cannot be corroborated. Because the studies cannot be replicated, it means the data and results are only valid for that one person. Now, one could infer that that results of the Genie study would be the same with other feral children, without additional studies we can never be 100% certain.
Also, Genie was a white, American female. We do not know whether someone with a different gender, race or ethnicity would have a different result.
Key Term! Hawthorne Effect
The effect in which people change their behavior when they are aware they are being observed.
When conducting a case study, it is very possible for the author to form a bias. This bias can be for the subject; the form of data collection, or the way the data is interpreted. This is very common, since it is normal for humans to be subjective. It is well known that Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, was often biased in his case histories and interpretations.
The researcher can become close to a study participant, or may learn to identify with the subject. When this happens the researcher loses their perspective as an outsider.
Any classification is not possible due to studying a small unit. This generalization of results is limited, since the study is only focusing on one small group. However, this isn't always a problem, especially if generalization is not one of the study's goals.
Case studies can be very time consuming. The data collection process can be very intensive and long, and this is something new researchers are not familiar with. It takes a long period of time to develop a case study, and develop a detailed analysis.
Many studies also require the authors to immerse themselves in the case. For example, in the Genie case, the lead researchers spent an abnormal amount of time with Genie, since so few people knew how to handle her. David Rigler, one of the lead researchers, actually had Genie live with him and his family for years. Because of this attachment, many questioned the veracity of the study data.
Possibility of Errors
Case study method may have errors of memory or judgment. Since reconstructing case history is based on memory, this can lead to errors. Also, how one person perceived the past could be different for another person, and this can and does lead to errors.
When considering various aspects of their lives, people tend to focus on issues that they find most important. This allows them to form a prejudice and can make them unaware of other possible options.
With small studies, there is always the question of ethics. At what point does a study become unethical? The Genie case was riddled with accusations of being unethical, and people still debate about it today.
Was it ethical to study Genie as deeply as she was studied?
Did Genie deserve to live out her life unbothered by researchers and academics trying to use her case to potentially further their careers?
At what point does the pursuit of scientific knowledge outweigh the right to a life free from research?
Also, because the researchers became so invested in the study, people questioned whether a researcher would report unethical behavior if they witnessed it.
Advantages and Disadvantages in Real-Life Studies
Two of these case studies are the Tylenol Scandal and the Genie language study.
Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of these two studies.
Genie – Advantages
Uniqueness of study – Being able to study a feral child is a rare occurrence.
Genie – Disadvantages
Ethics - The lead researcher David Rigler provided a home for Genie, and was paid for being a foster parent. This is often seen as unethical, since Rigler had a financial interest in Genie and her case.
Tylenol – Advantages
Uniqueness of study – What happened to Tylenol was very unique and rare. While companies face crisis all the time, a public health crisis of this magnitude is very unique.
Tylenol – Disadvantages
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Case Study Research Method in Psychology
Saul Mcleod, PhD
BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester
Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education.
Learn about our Editorial Process
Associate Editor for Simply Psychology
BSc (Hons), Psychology, MSc, Psychology of Education
Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.
Case studies are in-depth investigations of a single person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources and by using several different methods (e.g., observations & interviews ).
What are Case Studies?
The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient’s personal history). In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual.
The information is mainly biographical and relates to events in the individual’s past (i.e., retrospective), as well as to significant events which are currently occurring in his or her everyday life.
The case study is not itself a research method, but researchers select methods of data collection and analysis that will generate material suitable for case studies.
Case studies are widely used in psychology, and amongst the best known were the ones carried out by Sigmund Freud, including Anna O and Little Hans .
Freud (1909a, 1909b) conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses. Even today, case histories are one of the main methods of investigation in abnormal psychology and psychiatry.
This makes it clear that the case study is a method that should only be used by a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, i.e., someone with a professional qualification.
There is an ethical issue of competence. Only someone qualified to diagnose and treat a person can conduct a formal case study relating to atypical (i.e., abnormal) behavior or atypical development.
The procedure used in a case study means that the researcher provides a description of the behavior. This comes from interviews and other sources, such as observation.
The client also reports detail of events from his or her point of view. The researcher then writes up the information from both sources above as the case study and interprets the information.
The research may also continue for an extended period of time, so processes and developments can be studied as they happen.
Amongst the sources of data the psychologist is likely to turn to when carrying out a case study are observations of a person’s daily routine, unstructured interviews with the participant herself (and with people who know her), diaries, personal notes (e.g., letters, photographs, notes) or official document (e.g., case notes, clinical notes, appraisal reports).
The case study method often involves simply observing what happens to or reconstructing ‘the case history’ of a single participant or group of individuals (such as a school class or a specific social group), i.e., the idiographic approach .
The interview is also an extremely effective procedure for obtaining information about an individual, and it may be used to collect comments from the person’s friends, parents, employer, workmates, and others who have a good knowledge of the person, as well as to obtain facts from the person him or herself.
Most of this information is likely to be qualitative (i.e., verbal description rather than measurement), but the psychologist might collect numerical data as well.
The data collected can be analyzed using different theories (e.g., grounded theory, interpretative phenomenological analysis, text interpretation, e.g., thematic coding).
All the approaches mentioned here use preconceived categories in the analysis, and they are ideographic in their approach, i.e., they focus on the individual case without reference to a comparison group.
Interpreting the information means the researcher decides what to include or leave out. A good case study should always clarify which information is the factual description and which is an inference or the researcher’s opinion.
- Provides detailed (rich qualitative) information.
- Provides insight for further research.
- Permitting investigation of otherwise impractical (or unethical) situations.
Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants (nomothetic approach) with the aim of ‘averaging’.
Because of their in-depth, multi-sided approach, case studies often shed light on aspects of human thinking and behavior that would be unethical or impractical to study in other ways.
Research that only looks into the measurable aspects of human behavior is not likely to give us insights into the subjective dimension of experience, which is important to psychoanalytic and humanistic psychologists.
Case studies are often used in exploratory research. They can help us generate new ideas (that might be tested by other methods). They are an important way of illustrating theories and can help show how different aspects of a person’s life are related to each other.
The method is, therefore, important for psychologists who adopt a holistic point of view (i.e., humanistic psychologists ).
- Lacking scientific rigor and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population.
- Researchers’ own subjective feelings may influence the case study (researcher bias).
- Difficult to replicate.
- Time-consuming and expensive.
- The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources.
Because a case study deals with only one person/event/group, we can never be sure if the case study investigated is representative of the wider body of “similar” instances. This means the conclusions drawn from a particular case may not be transferable to other settings.
Because case studies are based on the analysis of qualitative (i.e., descriptive) data, a lot depends on the psychologist’s interpretation of the information she has acquired.
This means that there is a lot of scope for observer bias, and it could be that the subjective opinions of the psychologist intrude in the assessment of what the data means.
For example, Freud has been criticized for producing case studies in which the information was sometimes distorted to fit particular behavioral theories (e.g., Little Hans ).
This is also true of Money’s interpretation of the Bruce/Brenda case study (Diamond, 1997) when he ignored evidence that went against his theory.
How to reference this article:
McLeod, S. A. (2019, August 03). Case study method . Simply Psychology. simplypsychology.org/case-study.html
Diamond, M., & Sigmundson, K. (1997). Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-term Review and Clinical Implications. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , 151(3), 298-304
Freud, S. (1909a). Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306
Freud, S. (1909b). Bemerkungen über einen Fall von Zwangsneurose (Der “Rattenmann”). Jb. psychoanal. psychopathol. Forsch ., I, p. 357-421; GW, VII, p. 379-463; Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis, SE , 10: 151-318.
Case Study Approach Case Study Method
Enhancing the Quality of Case Studies in Health Services Research
“We do things together” A case study of “couplehood” in dementia
Using mixed methods for evaluating an integrative approach to cancer care: a case study
Freud’s Case Studies
Little Hans – Freudian Case Study
H.M. Case Study
Anna O – Freudian Case Study
Genie Case Study – Curtiss (1977)
How To Write a Psychology Case Study in 8 Steps (Plus Tips)
Updated January 26, 2023
Published August 4, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Research psychology is an important aspect of identifying unwanted mental health behaviors and developing effective treatments to mitigate them. Psychologists often review psychology case studies and other published reports to gather relative information regarding a patient's symptoms. Knowing the relevance of psychology case studies in the medical field can help you understand the need for them in the future. In this article, we address what a psychology case study is, why it's important to conduct these studies, types of case studies and how to write a psychology case study, with helpful tips.
What is a psychology case study?
A psychology case study is a thorough study of a single person, community or event that relies on observations, facts and experiments to gather information. Psychologists collect information for a case study through psychometric testing, observation, interviews, experiments and case study archives. These studies typically explore psychological processes and behaviors to provide information for future research on a condition or behavior. Sometimes, a case study may observe all parts of an individual's life and behaviors.
Why are psychology case studies important?
Psychology case studies are important because they can help support psychological theories and assist with developing treatments or confirming diagnoses. They can also allow future psychologists to have additional in-depth empirical research to review in order to expand their own case study research. Having prior case studies to compare information can also help research development processes in the future.
Types of psychology case studies
Here are six types of case studies a research psychologist may decide to conduct:
Collective case studies: A psychologist studies a group of people or community in specific conditions.
Descriptive case studies: This involves observing and studying an individual using descriptive theory and comparing research data to existing theories.
Explanatory case studies: A researcher investigates specific conditions or occurrences to identify an explanation for a phenomenon.
Exploratory case studies: The psychologist gathers large-scale research information to provide in-depth knowledge on a subject prior to designing a research hypothesis and methodologies. These studies are useful while trying to prove that investigating prior to developing methods is essential to a case study.
Instrumental case studies: This involves studying the relationship between variables to understand or gain insight into a phenomenon.
Intrinsic case studies: The researcher studies a single personal subject and how their experiences may influence their mental health and behaviors.
Benefits of psychology case studies
Here are some common benefits of a psychology case study:
It allows researchers to analyze behaviors and conditions that may be difficult to replicate in laboratory settings.
Studies provide additional insight on a phenomenon for a researcher to gain a better understanding.
It can allow researchers to gather and document information about rare conditions or cases.
It may provide new evidence to support relevant psychological theories.
It can help researchers develop a hypothesis that may be useful to other psychology research studies in the future.
How to write a psychology case study
When thinking of writing your own case study, consider these eight steps to help get you started:
1. Gather information to create a profile for a subject
It's important to understand as much as you can about the research subject prior to developing research methods and a hypothesis. You can use previous case studies for supplemental data that may help you conduct and understand theories or information to enhance your research for the case study. After collecting information from previous studies, gather information on the subject from these four areas:
Official or government records: This includes employment history, academic history and medical records.
Personal items: This includes a subject's diary, photographs, personal notes to themselves and official clinical notes or reports.
Interviews: This includes speaking to the subject directly and also their friends, family, coworkers, professors, neighbors and employers.
Observations: This includes observing the subject as they perform daily routines.
2. Choose a case study method
There are two methods to choose from while developing a psychology case study: the prospective method and the retrospective method. Consider what the case study explores and what research you're hoping to discover in order to select the correct method. A prospective case study involves observing an individual or group to determine and understand psychological outcomes. Retrospective case studies use historical information, such as a subject's diagnosis, to determine what factors throughout their life may affect the subject's psychological health and previous behaviors.
3. Collect information regarding the subject's background
The first section of a case study includes the subject's history or background. In this section, a research psychologist collects the following information:
Family health history
Drug and alcohol history
Challenges in life
4. Describe the subject's symptoms or problems
Include any emotional, physical or sensory symptoms a subject may experience in order to develop a proper treatment. Thoughts, feelings or concerns that relate to the symptoms the subject is experiencing are also valuable to document in your study. If the subject undergoes any testing, describe all scores and assessments relevant to the case study.
5. Analyze the data and establish a diagnosis
This step involves using the data from your research to analyze and select the appropriate diagnosis for the subject. To provide evidence to support your diagnosis, explain each step of your research methods and include the subject's symptoms. Symptoms can also provide support and show how the subject meets the diagnostic criteria for a specific disorder.
6. Choose a treatment approach
The next step in writing a psychology case study is to choose a treatment approach once you reach a diagnosis. Here are four treatment approaches you may decide to use:
Cognitive-behavioral approach: This approach allows a psychologist to offer treatment using therapy sessions and allowing a subject to develop cognitive-behavioral coping mechanisms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals adjust their ways of thinking and create healthier thinking patterns to improve their mental health.
Humanistic approach: This approach describes treatments that relate to a subject's behavior, feelings and self-esteem. A psychologist may use a humanistic treatment to help a subject realize their potential and improve their overall well-being.
Psychoanalytic approach: Psychoanalytic treatments use talk therapy to understand aspects of the unconscious mind and how it may affect behavior. This approach can help identify any repressed experiences or memories that may provoke symptoms of mental illness.
Pharmacological approach: Psychiatrists who use this approach typically prescribe medication to treat symptoms of mental illness rather than talk therapy. Since this treatment primarily uses medication, it's vital to document each medication treatment and its effectiveness.
7. Describe treatment goals and processes
After identifying a treatment approach, define the goals of using this treatment, how you intend to use the treatment and any outcomes you expect to occur after treatment. Some goals may include eliminating symptoms entirely or using the treatment to reduce some symptoms and implement coping strategies so the subject can return to a functional life. It's important to document your treatment methods and monitor how the subject responds to the treatment to provide further information on the diagnosis for future research.
8. Write a discussion section
The last section in a psychology case study is the discussion section. In this section, you describe all processes, findings and factors of the case study, including any limitations and how the study supports previous research. This section also includes any psychological findings or ideas that may require further research. The discussion section gives you an opportunity to review all aspects of your study and determine its accuracy, the benefits it may provide to future research studies and approaches for treatment a psychologist may use with a different subject who has a similar history and symptoms.
Tips for writing a psychology case study
Here are four tips to consider while writing a psychology case study:
Remember to use the rules of APA formatting.
Use fictitious names instead of referring to the patient as a client.
Refer to previous case studies to understand how to format and stylize your study.
Proofread and revise your report before submitting it.
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- 39 Comments
Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Studies
Reading different blogs it has come to my attention that case studies are getting quite a bad reputation. They are being deemed non-scientific and of questionable usefulness. In this blog I will look at both sides of the argument for case studies and see whether as a design it is still useful for the field of psychology.
- Case studies allow a lot of detail to be collected that would not normally be easily obtained by other research designs. The data collected is normally a lot richer and of greater depth than can be found through other experimental designs.
- Case studies tend to be conducted on rare cases where large samples of similar participants are not available. An example of this is the study of Phineas Gage by Harlow, J.M. This example also connects with the point above with the depth of data obtained. Cases of brain damage are quite minimal and it is extremely rare to find people with the exact same parts of the brain affected. To be able to gain knowledge of brain functions the damage between people have to be exact to ensure you are testing the right thing, this can generally only be done through case studies.
- Within the case study, scientific experiments can be conducted.
- Case studies can help experimenters adapt ideas and produce novel hypotheses which can be used for later testing.
- Knowledge! Again to Phineas Gage, his contributions to neuropsychology and the workings of the brain are invaluable.
- One of the main criticisms is that the data collected cannot necessarily be generalised to the wider population. This leads to data being collected over longitudinal case studies not always being relevant or particularly useful.
- Some case studies are not scientific. Freud used case studies for many of his theories or studies. Such examples are that of Anna O and Little Hans. Both of these are not scientific nor are they able to be generalised. This can be attributed to them being case studies, but also Freudian theory in general.
- Case studies are generally on one person, but there also tends to only be one experimenter collecting the data. This can lead to bias in data collection, which can influence results more than in different designs.
- It is also very difficult to draw a definite cause/effect from case studies.
Case studies also tend to collect mainly qualitative data. I have put this as neither an advantage or disadvantage of case studies, as this depends on your stance on qualitative data. If you look back a few blogs I have summarised my view of qualitative data. Mainly positive!
Overall, I think that case studies are an important and useful method of data collection, especially in cases of rare phenomena. It would be extremely unethical to go taking parts of peoples brains out just to make a larger sample size to use a different experimental design method. However, as data is collected on new cases I think it is important to always refer back to previous data in order to build on existing knowledge and ensure findings are as applicable to real life as possible.
39 responses to “advantages and disadvantages of case studies”.
i like the insight into case studies you have given but i picked up that you missed out one vital problem with them which is attrition. People are more likely to leave studies if longlitudinal (which case studies usually are), which leaves the study incomplete and can be frustrating for the researcher.
You also mentioned on qualitative data, which i agree is rich and indepth however hard to operationalise which can affect the validity of the study. Another problem with qualitative data is that like in Little Han’s experiment, Freud wrote it up from memory after the sessions which can mean vital parts are left out but also its his own interpretation resulting in experimenter bias and once again affecting reliability and validity. On the other hand though, cause studies allow a relationship to build between participant and researcher, which can result in the participant being more honest and opening up- increasing validity of results.
In conclusion I do not think case studies are bad, as i feel they have given us an insight into some of the most complicated people/illnesses/cases. For example Thigpen and Cleckly’s, (1954) who studied a 25year old woman with Multiple Personality disorder. “They used self report with the patient and her family, hypnosis, observation, EEG tests and a number of psychometric and projective tests including, memory tests, ink blot tests and intelligence tests” which resulted in both qualitative and quantitative data. However like many studies, they are reterospective aspects where the participant is asked to recall past events which may result into the participant leaving parts out or forgetting things affecting reliability of study.
An important point relating to case studies I think is important to mention is that they apply a range of different research methods within the research procedure. For example; observations, interviews and questionnaires are all used as was seen in the case of David Reimer into gender development (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972)*. This range of different research methods can be seen as a strength as this particular case study, using methods such as detailed descriptions, observations and interviews longitudinally strongly contradicted the idea of gender being shaped by the environment which in turn led to an increase in psychological knowledge about gender. However, each method hosts its own advantages and disadvantages. Observations are subjective and are flawed by demand characteristics if the participant knows they are being watched (covert observation). Demand characteristics and in particular social desirability bias are severe limitations in self-report measures and interviews as participants wish to look good in front of the experimenter.
However, there are also many more limitations specific to the case study method. Case studies simply describe the behaviours observed in the cases but fail to explain the underlying mechanisms of behaviours. Usually, researchers list detailed information about the participant such as age, gender and background but offer little or in most case no explanation of these variables.
When applying this particular research procedure it is extremely important for the researcher’s to consider the well fair of the individual being studied and therefore case studies are regulated by ethical guidelines. Participants are very likely to experience negative feelings of upset and anxiety when discussing and reflecting upon sensitive aspects of their life in an interview procedure. Similarly, psychological distress may arise from self-report measures such as questionnaires and reflective journals and diary entries. In order to protect participants against psychological harm researchers need to adopt a sensitive manner when dealing with participants. Researchers also need to abide by the other ethical principles of confidentiality, anonymity and debriefing. If the researchers remain sensitive and professional throughout the case by offering debriefing and psychological help throughout then ethics should not cause too much of an issue.
i think one of the main disadvantages of case studies which you haven’t mentioned is that they’re all retrospective and rely on the word of the patient. for example, if someone suffers a brain injury which results in them losing a certain ability (maybe a change in personality), you have to rely on them (or people close to them) to tell you what their personality was like before the injury. This isn’t very scientific and possibly unreliable (if they were a horrible person, are they likely to say that, or is their family likely to say that about them?). This puts researchers in a very uncertain situation, before they have even started to study the individual. however, if the case is novel and unheard of, it can be a really good starting point for further research – like the case of phineas gage, who was possibly the first to show a personality change after a brain injury. Still, this case is in no way better than any others, but it gave researchers the idea to study this in more detail, in better controlled environments which then leads to the progress of research in a a particular area.
I think that case studies are a great way into developing a research question for future research that could then be generalised. For example, say you are a clinical psychologist and one of your patients displays interesting symptoms- this could then be further explored through a case study and then from this further research with others could be conducted and with this being a scientific and include a large sample of participant could then have much higher generalisablilty.
yeah i agree with you…nice one
I think we spend far to much time looking at Case studies when we are being taught psychology. Even though case studies do have their advantages particularly in Neuro-psychology where we study people with lesions on their brain, Psychology should always focus on having a large group of participants as possible to make sure your results are as reliable as possible. Case studies can be used to draw up research questions, however if psychology insist on calling itself a science it should be as scientific as possible in its methodology.
I agree that Case studies do indeed have their place within Pscyhological research. They provdie a great deal of information about the participant or the area in which the psychologist was interested in dealing with.
However one point, that seems to be a recurring comment, that you breifly mentioned is the fact that case studies are greatly opened to interpretation/observer bias. Psychologists who are exploring the effects trying to prove their theories are correct, are unfortunately more likely to interpret results so that they prove their theories are correct. Especially when its easy to interpret things one way and many others would interpret it another.
So in conclusion to this brief comment; case studies are important and provide excellant detail, howerver their main flaw which makes them undesirable to many researchers is the potential bias from the researchers as you covered in your blog.
Nice blog, well summarised with giving both sides to an obviously popular subject. I would say I definatly believe case studies are essential to creating theory and crossing new boundries. They are predominatly qualitative but can lead on to quantative studies once a hypothesis has been formed, these sorts of hybrid studies are the future in my opinion. But of course some case studies are very rare and hard to generalise, but lets not forget how ground breaking they can be aswell. Think of Broca’s patient Leborgne (Tan) if it werent for his very rare lession we would probably wouldnt have the vast array of information on speech production we have today, it would be safe to say we might still be some years behind on what we are now. So yes in some cases case studies are hard to generalise but others open up new insight. I enjoyed the way you managed to put your own opinion on the matter in aswell:) good work!
Another downside of case studies is that there will only ever be one datapoint which makes statistical analysis basically impossible. Since case studies are generally used on a single specific behaviour, they are not repeatable and as such are not reliable.
You have pointed out lots of advantages and disadvantages of case studies, there are also ethical issues, observations and interviews are typically used in case study research to gather data, so the ethical issues are broadly the same (e.g. privacy, consent, risk of harm, etc). In addition, the researcher needs to take care that the level of intrusion that may occur when carrying out detailed research on a single individual or small group does not render the study unethical.
Beside the above point, I would also like to state that sometimes several case studies are studies which may referred as multiple case studies. Freud, for example, created his theory of the unconscious in the basis of studying multiple cases of patients he labelled as ‘hysterical’. Each case study is selected on the basis of what it might contribute to a developing pool of data, so that patterns may emerge over time.
Case study are a good study.
It was a good finding to speak, and applicable to knowledge
i totally agree with u…bigtime…
am in love with a case study
My P.O. think im in the house
Hv’ realy liked this page coz t is simplified
Actualy we dont need 2 waste our time going 4 lectures esp’ wn dea’ teaching on case studie coz u hv’ provided the needed information. contact me by sending an e-mail to [email protected]
luv dem case studies……………..
case studies do very well when mixed methods of data collection are used. Triangulation of data from mixed methods enhance the validity of case studies. Their major blow is that they are beset by researcher bias.
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wel writen n vry aplicable in ma assignment thnx a bunch
Thank you! This helped me a lot.
yes it does but i need help
Thank you so much. It was very helpful indeed.
Reference is is needed as to make easy citation program
Where you able to find anything on that? Writing a paper on case studies for a class-if not, any good websites I could visit?
Tank u for such a rich blog. Well explained and simplified in a comprehensive manner. I also feel that doing observation for case studies, the researcher at times tend to risk their integrity and personalities.
Who is the author of this article?
love dem case studies
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Home » Pros and Cons » 12 Case Study Method Advantages and Disadvantages
12 Case Study Method Advantages and Disadvantages
A case study is an investigation into an individual circumstance. The investigation may be of a single person, business, event, or group. The investigation involves collecting in-depth data about the individual entity through the use of several collection methods. Interviews and observation are two of the most common forms of data collection used.
The case study method was originally developed in the field of clinical medicine. It has expanded since to other industries to examine key results, either positive or negative, that were received through a specific set of decisions. This allows for the topic to be researched with great detail, allowing others to glean knowledge from the information presented.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using the case study method.
List of the Advantages of the Case Study Method
1. it turns client observations into useable data..
Case studies offer verifiable data from direct observations of the individual entity involved. These observations provide information about input processes. It can show the path taken which led to specific results being generated. Those observations make it possible for others, in similar circumstances, to potentially replicate the results discovered by the case study method.
2. It turns opinion into fact.
Case studies provide facts to study because you’re looking at data which was generated in real-time. It is a way for researchers to turn their opinions into information that can be verified as fact because there is a proven path of positive or negative development. Singling out a specific incident also provides in-depth details about the path of development, which gives it extra credibility to the outside observer.
3. It is relevant to all parties involved.
Case studies that are chosen well will be relevant to everyone who is participating in the process. Because there is such a high level of relevance involved, researchers are able to stay actively engaged in the data collection process. Participants are able to further their knowledge growth because there is interest in the outcome of the case study. Most importantly, the case study method essentially forces people to make a decision about the question being studied, then defend their position through the use of facts.
4. It uses a number of different research methodologies.
The case study method involves more than just interviews and direct observation. Case histories from a records database can be used with this method. Questionnaires can be distributed to participants in the entity being studies. Individuals who have kept diaries and journals about the entity being studied can be included. Even certain experimental tasks, such as a memory test, can be part of this research process.
5. It can be done remotely.
Researchers do not need to be present at a specific location or facility to utilize the case study method. Research can be obtained over the phone, through email, and other forms of remote communication. Even interviews can be conducted over the phone. That means this method is good for formative research that is exploratory in nature, even if it must be completed from a remote location.
6. It is inexpensive.
Compared to other methods of research, the case study method is rather inexpensive. The costs associated with this method involve accessing data, which can often be done for free. Even when there are in-person interviews or other on-site duties involved, the costs of reviewing the data are minimal.
7. It is very accessible to readers.
The case study method puts data into a usable format for those who read the data and note its outcome. Although there may be perspectives of the researcher included in the outcome, the goal of this method is to help the reader be able to identify specific concepts to which they also relate. That allows them to discover unusual features within the data, examine outliers that may be present, or draw conclusions from their own experiences.
List of the Disadvantages of the Case Study Method
1. it can have influence factors within the data..
Every person has their own unconscious bias. Although the case study method is designed to limit the influence of this bias by collecting fact-based data, it is the collector of the data who gets to define what is a “fact” and what is not. That means the real-time data being collected may be based on the results the researcher wants to see from the entity instead. By controlling how facts are collected, a research can control the results this method generates.
2. It takes longer to analyze the data.
The information collection process through the case study method takes much longer to collect than other research options. That is because there is an enormous amount of data which must be sifted through. It’s not just the researchers who can influence the outcome in this type of research method. Participants can also influence outcomes by given inaccurate or incomplete answers to questions they are asked. Researchers must verify the information presented to ensure its accuracy, and that takes time to complete.
3. It can be an inefficient process.
Case study methods require the participation of the individuals or entities involved for it to be a successful process. That means the skills of the researcher will help to determine the quality of information that is being received. Some participants may be quiet, unwilling to answer even basic questions about what is being studied. Others may be overly talkative, exploring tangents which have nothing to do with the case study at all. If researchers are unsure of how to manage this process, then incomplete data is often collected.
4. It requires a small sample size to be effective.
The case study method requires a small sample size for it to yield an effective amount of data to be analyzed. If there are different demographics involved with the entity, or there are different needs which must be examined, then the case study method becomes very inefficient.
5. It is a labor-intensive method of data collection.
The case study method requires researchers to have a high level of language skills to be successful with data collection. Researchers must be personally involved in every aspect of collecting the data as well. From reviewing files or entries personally to conducting personal interviews, the concepts and themes of this process are heavily reliant on the amount of work each researcher is willing to put into things.
These case study method advantages and disadvantages offer a look at the effectiveness of this research option. With the right skill set, it can be used as an effective tool to gather rich, detailed information about specific entities. Without the right skill set, the case study method becomes inefficient and inaccurate.
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Case studies are very detailed investigations of an individual or small group of people, usually regarding an unusual phenomenon or biographical event of interest to a research field. Due to a small sample, the case study can conduct an in-depth analysis of the individual/group.
Evaluation of case studies:
- Case studies create opportunities for a rich yield of data, and the depth of analysis can in turn bring high levels of validity (i.e. providing an accurate and exhaustive measure of what the study is hoping to measure).
- Studying abnormal psychology can give insight into how something works when it is functioning correctly, such as brain damage on memory (e.g. the case study of patient KF, whose short-term memory was impaired following a motorcycle accident but left his long-term memory intact, suggesting there might be separate physical stores in the brain for short and long-term memory).
- The detail collected on a single case may lead to interesting findings that conflict with current theories, and stimulate new paths for research.
- There is little control over a number of variables involved in a case study, so it is difficult to confidently establish any causal relationships between variables.
- Case studies are unusual by nature, so will have poor reliability as replicating them exactly will be unlikely.
- Due to the small sample size, it is unlikely that findings from a case study alone can be generalised to a whole population.
- The case study’s researcher may become so involved with the study that they exhibit bias in their interpretation and presentation of the data, making it challenging to distinguish what is truly objective/factual.
- Case Studies
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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Study Research
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7 Pros and Cons of Case Studies
Many researchers have faith on case studies as they often base their findings on the data that they gather. However, not all people find this procedure quite effective and reliable as some consider this as a bias method that should only provide insinuated findings. To learn more about the significance of case studies, here are some of the pros and cons that you can use to determine if this is indeed useless or otherwise.
List of Pros of Case Studies
1. Shows Client Observations The essence of case studies is that it can fully show the experience of the observer in the program. This can also show the input processes and results. For this reason, it can support the theory that surrounds the thought which requires the importance of case studies.
2. Influential Way to Portray Something If a researcher wants to prove something to any person, it is his or her initiative to influence outsiders to believe. By presenting case studies, it will give an idea to a certain audience that the experiment or observation being done is indeed reliable and true. Most of the time, when a case study has been presented, it sends out a message to the reader that it is already of great importance and reliability.
3. Makes Practical Improvements The creation or gathering of data to come up with a conclusion should be a way of making practical improvements. If a person would want to support his or her belief or understanding of something, reliable findings must be presented. Hence, it is necessary to release a case study in order to increase the understanding of people who are unfamiliar with a particular notion.
List of Cons of Case Studies
1. Lack the Essential Insights Oftentimes, case studies lack the insights regarding what was happening in the company being the subject. In contrast, those that are written from the outer part of the company looking in should be considered unbiased. Meanwhile, those written from an inner point of view may have already been thoroughly sanitized by its legal department, communications group and public relations firms.
2. Unrealistic as a Definitive Roadmap Case studies can sometimes be used either way when doing things. Despite being so tempting to apply clear definition, doing so can force you to disregard the almost infinite count of unique inputs and circumstances surrounding any given situation.
3. Encourage to Imitate than Inspire When relying much on case studies, there is a tendency to imitate rather than to inspire which is a dangerous situation to be. So, presenting a case without formal study might just be the inspiration that people require to apply their own ideas and observations compared to relying on the analysis of other people. Thus, it will lead to inspire other people to write case studies one day.
4. Doesn’t Apply to Similar Cases At some point, people would think that similar case studies have the same findings and results. In contrast, this does not guarantee that the findings presented would be applicable to others with similar cases.
Case studies are one of the best ways to stimulate new research. A case study can be completed, and if the findings are valuable, they can lead to new and
Limitations of Case Studies · Lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population. · Researchers' own
Benefits of psychology case studies · It allows researchers to analyze behaviors and conditions that may be difficult to replicate in laboratory
Case studies allow a lot of detail to be collected that would not normally be easily obtained by other research designs. The data collected is
List of the Advantages of the Case Study Method · 1. It turns client observations into useable data. · 2. It turns opinion into fact. · 3. It is
Advantages of Case Study · Ability to see a relationship between phenomena, context, and people. · Flexibility to collect data through various
Advantages and Disadvantages · Case studies are very prone to researcher bias, given their subjective nature. · They lack scientific precision. · The results do
- Case studies create opportunities for a rich yield of data, and the depth of analysis can in turn bring high levels of validity (i.e.
One of the biggest disadvantages to using the case study method has to do with external vs. internal validity. ... What the case study gains in
The essence of case studies is that it can fully show the experience of the observer in the program. This can also show the input processes and