The concept of using a case study was first practiced in medical science, but these days, it is an integral part of psychology, law, education and business. But what is a case study sample? Why are they so commonly used in business studies? Are there different kinds of case study samples? And how on earth would you write a case study analysis?!

Part 1: What Is A Case Study?

What Is A Case Study?

Simply put, a case study is a detailed investigation that is focused on a community, group, person or specific event. Usually, the researchers will put together as much information as possible, from as many different sources as they can, in order to get a well-rounded view of the subject at hand. The case study method is based on observation (or, if observation is not possible, reconstructing a case history based on the available facts). The case study method is not about making assumptions or guessing motives, it is purely a record of what has occurred or what individuals involved have reported.

Why Would You Use A Case Study?

The benefit of using the case study method is that it allows researchers today to delve deeper into their focus topic. For instance, if a doctor started researching every single known case of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, they won’t be able to handle much more than the bare facts of each case; if, however, the doctor selected a focus patient, they would be able to start delving deeper into all the applicable facets of their patients life, such as family medical history, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, etc.

Case study examples are also an excellent teaching method for students studying any given profession. After all, the best way to help a legal student understand how a certain law applies is to show them a case study example where that particular law was put into practice.

The benefits of using the case study method are now widely accepted, and this is why they are now employed by so many different professions.

Different Types of Case Studies

Because case studies are used by many professions to examine many different subjects, it stands to reason that several different types of case studies would have evolved with time. There are currently four main different types of case studies that researchers can employ:

  • Illustrative

An illustrative case study is as it sounds – visual. They are designed to help familiarize the uninitiated with the topic at hand, and as such, are very descriptive in detail. This makes them ideal for field based research, where observations are recorded, interviews are conducted and reactions are perceived. This wealth of detail makes the outcome of the study more believable to critics and is often used to illustrate variations between what actually occurred and what should have occurred.

  • Exploratory

An exploratory case study is used to garner initial information to see whether a further, more in depth case study would be useful or beneficial. Researchers will use an exploratory case study to determine what questions really need answering and what the best way is to proceed with additional research. A cautionary tale about this type of case study is the need to be restrained – preliminary findings are generally not conclusive evidence, but some researchers have made the mistake of jumping the gun and releasing exploratory findings as definitive.

  • Cumulative

Cumulative case studies focus on the accumulation and assimilation of information gleaned from past case studies. After all, why conduct repetitive research if nothing new is going to be discovered? This type of case study is particularly effective in well researched fields, when time and budget constraints prevent a more hands-on approach to research, such as an illustrative case study. In order to be really effective, a cumulative case study will usually try and gather data from an assortment of different studies and locations, conducted at different times.

  • Critical Instance

Critical instance case studies are primarily used to examine, answer or challenge cause-and-effect questions or suppositions. Their purpose is to either overturn or endorse the general assumptions held about a particular event or topic. They do this by examining in detail a unique event relating to the topic; they do not use generalizations or seek a variety of sources.

Part 2: Analyzing Case Studies

What Is Case Study Analysis?

Case study analysis is a form of learning adopted by many business schools around the world. It is described as an interactive form of learning, because typically a teacher will introduce an existing case study and then ask the students to discuss. This gives students an opportunity to scrutinize past examples, searching for the relevant application in their own field of learning. The analysis of case studies is a much more effective method of teaching than a professor giving a lecture. Ideally, a case study analysis conducted in class will be directed by the teacher, who will ask probing questions about how the case study being considered could be of benefit.

How Do I Write A Case Study Analysis?

There may come a time during your studies that you will be asked to complete a written case study analysis. Don’t panic! It is not as intimidating as it sounds. Start off by reading through the case study thoroughly, and taking notes so that you have a good understanding of the material. Then, start to evaluate the case in more detail: What question is the case attempting to resolve? What evidence is included? What conclusion is drawn by the author of the case study? You will then need to provide recommendations based on your analysis. For example, how could this information be used to improve the company/industry it applies to? The key is to be analytical and thorough.

Well-Known Case Study Examples

  • Little Hans and a Phobia of Horses (1909)

    A pioneer in the field of psychoanalysis, in 1909 Sigmund Freud conducted a well-known case study on a 5-year-old boy. Little Hans had a phobia of horses and Freud’s case study was designed to primarily determine: What led to this phobia? How could it be cured? After observations and interviews with the boy in question and his family, Freud’s case study analysis concluded that Hans had a latent fear of his father, and the horses were symbolic representatives of his father. His recommended treatment (involving reassurances from the father) led to the phobia being cured.

  • Malden Mills PR Study (1995)

    A popular case study with business schools, the Malden Mills fire, just two weeks before Christmas, left 3,000 people jobless. The company CEO continued full wages for all employees for three months and staff benefits for a full six months. Once rebuilt, the company experienced an increase in production of 40%, credited to the hard work of grateful employees. But the company later went bankrupt as a result. Case studies relating to Malden Mills typically examine questions such as: Did moral principles cloud business judgement? Was the initial PR exposure worth the eventual company downfall? This case study example is now considered a textbook sample of excellence theory.

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