Pros and Cons of Using a Case Study in Research

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Introduction
Case Study
Case study research is an investigation of a “bounded system” or a case or multiple cases over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information (e.g., observations, audio-visual materials, reports, etc.) (Creswell, 1998). During data collection, Yin (1989) recommended six types of data collection for case studies: 1) documentation; 2) archival records; 3) interviews; 4) direct observations; 5) participant observations; and 6) physical artifacts. Case studies are bounded as they are reflective of a particular program, event, individual, or activity being studied at a particular place and time. Thus, Merriam (1988) described a case study as “an examination of a specific phenomena such as a program, an event, a person, a process, an institution, or social group” (p. 9).

Over the years, case study research has evolved from its anthropological and sociological origins (Hamel, 1993). Case studies today have embraced a variety of approaches upon which to conduct case study research. According to Yin (1989) quantitative and qualitative inquiry are approaches to conducting case study research. Yet, Merriam (1988) promotes a more general approach to qualitative case studies. When conducting case studies, the type of case must be chosen. Depending on the situation, intrinsic case study-this may be used because of its uniqueness; an instrumental case study- which illustrates a particular issue; or a collective study-which more than one case is considered for exploration (Stake, 1995). Within case studies, purposeful sampling is commonly used as it allows the inquirer to select cases that expose multiple perspectives on the problem, event, individual, or issue they want to present (Creswell, 1998). In presenting the fruits of ethnographic inquiry, the inquirer narrates the story in chronological order of major events followed by a more detailed perspective of other events. In case studies, the exploration of multiple cases is embraced. However, when multiple cases are chosen, according to Creswell (1998) the inquirer must provide a within-case analysis-which details each case within the study; and a cross-case analysis-which is a thematic analysis across all cases within the study. Advantages

There are several advantages to utilizing case study methodology as a form of research. One overarching benefit to this way of researching involves imagination and creativity. There are no set ways to go about assessing an individual, a group, or set of individuals or groups. Case study research can involve a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures and it can involve multiple data sources. Typically, case study research uses observations, interviews, and supporting documents to help fully understand and answer a question.

In many instances, case study research may be the most effective research tool, depending on the topic area. Yin (1994) points out that case studies are the preferred strategy when “how” and “why” questions are posed. As the researcher begins to address a question, case study can often supply them with much more descriptive data. While surveys give a more summative figure of influence (for example, 200 surveys responses), case study research allows for the depth of a question to be explored and more fully understood.

Case studies are an effective way of looking at the world around us. People and how they react in certain situations with dynamic and changing variables, and the role of outside factors in the understanding of complex systems and organizations, are better understood by utilizing methods such as case study. In a complex world where events cannot be fully understood with other research methods, case study research is useful to understand contemporary issues when the relevant behavior cannot be manipulated.

Disadvantages

One of the disadvantages of a case study is the difficulty in applying the findings...
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