Case Study

Leader: Dr. Mansureh Kebritchi 


Case study is a form of qualitative research that focuses on discovering meaning, investigating processes, or gaining deep understanding of an individual, group, or situation. The use of a case study design can be determined by four major factors of the nature of the research questions, the extent of the researchers’ control over research variables, the expected end product of the research, and existence of a bounded system as the focus of the research (Merriam, 1998). The research questions that focus on “how” and “why” are the appropriate questions for a case study as the design helps researchers gain what can be learned from a single case. In many research settings, lack of researchers’ control over the research settings and variables necessitate adoption of a holistic approach to investigate the reality of the situation and deep understanding of the meaning of what is occurring. Case study design is appropriate for such situations as it is built upon tacit knowledge and provides a thick description about the case under investigation. The end product of a case study can be the case itself but often it is used as instrumental way to investigate a broader phenomenon (Stake, 1995). The most critical element of a case study design is identification of the case itself which leads to identification of a bounded system with certain features within boundary of the case and other features outside of the case. To determine whether there is a bounded system, researchers may investigate whether there is a limited number of people involved in the case who could be interviewed or a finite amount of time for observation. If there is no limit to the number of people who could be interviewed or observations that could be conducted, then the phenomenon is not bounded enough to be a case (Merriam, 1998, p.27-28).   

Unit of analysis

May include studying an event, a program, an activity, more than one individual

Data collection

To thoroughly examine and understand the cases, multiple sources of data are used such as interviews, observations, documents, surveys, and artifacts.  

Data analysis

Data are analyzed through description of case and themes of the case as well as cross-case themes. 

Written results

 A thick description of detailed analysis of one or more cases should be provided.


Bromley, D. B. (1986). The case-study method in psychology and related disciplines. New York:
Gomm, R., Foster, P., & Hammersley, M. (Eds.). (2000). Case study method: Key issues, key
texts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
A comprehensive guide to case study research. Text is particularly useful in demonstrating the wide range of case study applications, contexts, and purposes.
Hill, C. E., Thompson, B. J., & Williams, E. N. (1997). A guide to conducting consensual
qualitative research. Counseling Psychologist, 25(4), 517-572.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (rev.
ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Naumes, W., & Naumes, M. J. (1999). The art and craft of case writing. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Scholz, R. W., & Tietje, O. (2001). Embedded case study methods: Integrating quantitative and
qualitative knowledge. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Stake, R. E. (1994). Case studies. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook
of qualitative research (pp. 236-247).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Travers, M. (2001). Qualitative research through case-studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
An introductory and thought-provoking text on interpreting qualitative data from case studies. The author explores the theory and praxis of interpretation by introducing a wide range of traditions, including symbolic interactionalism, ethnomethodological ethnography, grounded theory, dramaturgical analysis, conversational analysis, and feminist critical analysis.
Yin, R. K. (1993). Applications of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Extensive examination of applying case study research to education and management for both descriptive and intervention purposes.
Yin, R. K. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Qualitative Research Methods 15
Yin, R. K. (2002). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:
A straightforward and informative text on the theory and practice of case study methods, including an extensive discussion of triangulation and many examples of case studies.
Yin, R. K. (2002). Applications of case study research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Please post your questions and comments regarding Case Study design in this discussion thread