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Case Study
Originally prepared by Professor Denis Hayes.
Now led by Mike Murphy.
© D Hayes, Faculty of Education, University of Plymouth, 2006 CONTENTS
* A.    INTRODUCTION
* Part One:    What is Case Study?
* Glossary of terms
* Part Two:    Case Study Close-Up
* B.    THE VALUE OF CASE STUDY
* Part One:    Its Usefulness
* Part Two:    Its Limitations
* Part Three:    A Summary
* C.    DESIGNING A CASE STUDY
* Part One:    Outline Plans
* Part Two:     Observing People at Work
* Part Three:    Observer Effect
* Part Four:    Examples
* D.    SCENARIOS
* E.    ANALYSIS
* Part One:     The Place of Theory
* Part Two:     Interpretation in Context
* F.     TASKS
* G.     FURTHER READING
 

A.     INTRODUCTION
Welcome to the module component on Case Study.   I hope that you find the information contained in the following pages useful. Let’s begin by asking a fundamental question: What is meant by a ‘case’? * You may have heard the term being used by detectives trying to solve a crime or by psychologists when referring to a client, but what is your perception of a case study? Back to CONTENTS list

Part I: WHAT IS CASE STUDY?
KEY REFERENCES: Golby (1993); Yin (2003)
The term CASE STUDY is used in a variety of ways:
1. As an alternative to experimental (scientific) and quantitative (positivist) methods. 2. As an intensive investigation of single situations which serve to identify and describe basic phenomena. 3. Focusing on individuals' perceptions of given educational phenomena, carried out largely by means of interviews. 4. As a study which is almost entirely qualitative in methodology and presentation. 5. As a type of ethnographic research (see below) incorporating participant observation, qualitative observation and field study. KEY TERM: Ethnographic

Ethnographic studies are those that take place within a definable cultural setting, such as a school or office or place of employment. In fact, anywhere in which groups of people are found to be sharing the same environment. The researcher is known as the ‘ethnographer’. There is general agreement that case studies are characterised by the following... a. Data are qualitative rather than quantitative. This does not mean that numbers are unimportant but that they are relatively insignificant. b. Data are not manipulated (the truth is told plainly). This raises the issue of what ‘truth’ means. c. Studies tend to focus on single cases (rather than multiple ones). d. Ambiguity in observation and report is tolerated (rather than absolute outcomes). This means that there may not be clinical, clearly defined solutions. e. Multiple perspectives are solicited. This means that the opinions and perceptions of many people may be sought. f. Holism (the sum of the parts is greater than the whole) is advocated. This means that the greater the range of data, the better. g. A search for understanding (for example, by reference to context or history) rather than mere explanation. h. Non-technical language is used (however, meanings have to be defined; this is not an excuse for casual use of language). KEY REFERENCE: Kenny & Groteleuschen (1984)

A case study is often used in one of two ways:
1. To identify key research questions that can later be used in a questionnaire survey. 2. To follow up significant issues that have emerged from a questionnaire survey. So in situation 1, the case study opens up a number of issues that lead to research questions that are answered through questionnaires. CASE STUDY » RESEARCH QUESTIONS » QUESTIONNAIRE

In situation 2, the reverse is true. Significant issues revealed through an analysis of a questionnaire survey assist the development of the case study. QUESTIONNAIRE »SIGNIFICANT ISSUES » CASE STUDY

Case studies do not have to be linked to a questionnaire survey. A single case may provide useful insights that...
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