How to Do Case Study Research

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University of Massachusetts - Amherst

ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst
School of Nursing Faculty Publication Series School of Nursing

2009

How to Do Case Study Research
Donna M. Zucker
University of Massachusetts - Amherst, donna@acad.umass.edu

Zucker, Donna M., "How to Do Case Study Research" (2009). School of Nursing Faculty Publication Series. Paper 2. http://scholarworks.umass.edu/nursing_faculty_pubs/2

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CHAPTER 14 Teaching Research Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences How to do Case Study Research Donna M. Zucker Introduction There are multiple definitions and understandings of the case study. According to Bromley (1990), it is a “systematic inquiry into an event or a set of related events which aims to describe and explain the phenomenon of interest” (p. 302). The unit of analysis can vary from an individual to a corporation. While there is utility in applying this method retrospectively, it is most often used prospectively. Data come largely from documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observation and physical artifacts (Yin, 1994). The terms “case study”, “case review” and “case report” are used loosely in the scientific and professional literature. The key features of a “case study” are its scientific credentials and its evidence base for professional applications. A “case review” might emphasize a critical reappraisal of a case. A “case report” might refer to a summary of a case or to the document reporting a case, as in case law or medicine. Case studies of individuals in health care research (to take one example) often involve in-depth interviews with participants and key informants, review of the medical records, observation, and excerpts from patients’ personal writings and diaries. Case studies in nursing, for example, have a practical function in that they can be immediately applicable to the participant’s diagnosis or treatment. Case study as a research method is often indexed in most undergraduate research textbooks as neither quantitative nor qualitative. Little attention is paid to the usefulness of this method, with an average of two pages devoted to this research approach (Burns & Grove, 1999). This chapter will provide a step-by-step guide to this research method. The goal of this chapter is to translate this step-wise approach into a “curriculum” for teaching case study method. In Preparation Case study method is indexed in many introductory research textbooks and is often taught in qualitative research methods courses that discuss a variety of

methods. These may include grounded theory, phenomenology, discourse analysis and case study, for example. Reasonable goals for the learner would be to explore and understand the philosophical and aesthetic paradigms that are foundational to qualitative research methods, compare and contrast the distinctions among selected methods, evaluate traditional and emerging qualitative designs within their disciplinary area, and to apply methods and techniques. Using a step-wise approach students will learn how to design studies, generate data, analyze and interpret the data and disseminate findings. The teacher creates a teaching and learning environment to meet those outcomes. Pedagogical approaches commonly blend learning and doing: these include seminar participation wherein students are responsible for researching and presenting a didactic lesson, discussing and critiquing qualitative research reports, engaging in field work activities, presenting findings to their class and writing a report. In most cases generating a proposal for the review of human subjects and obtaining university...
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