A case study is essentially a detailed investigation which goes on for a certain extended period of time which focuses on one subject. It is however not exclusive to one person – it may be an organization, a family, etc. They involve a ‘longitudinal research’ which often used in therapies, includes a non-constricted time-limit meaning it can go on for months and in some cases even years, which then develops the study based on that particular subject which is being used to study a particular behaviour. It is however not solely used for therapeutic purposes.
The data gathered is detailed and in-depth which may be via different techniques such as questionnares, observations and interviews. Case studies are particularly useful for looking into rarities and anomalies where a detailed description is necessary which can thus track for eg. The disorder of a child, improvement and decline and his/her progress.
In a case study by Saavedra and Silverman which was the case study of a child with button phobia (koumpounophobia) who associated disgust and fear with buttons. Thus was a clinical study where a Hispanic boy aged 9 was being treated for a period of 12 months with a 6 month checked up (informed consent). During this period of time the child was asked to construct a hierarchy of fear based on 8 point scale of fear (quantitative data but subjective). His results however were not representative and thus not generalizable.
|Advantages of Case Studies ||Disadvantages of Case Studies |
- Situations where it is logistically difficult or impossible to have a large participant sample – case studies are ideal In those situations that allow behaviours to be studied in detail.
- Longitudinal study results in the collection of both quantitaive data and qualitative data (rich and detailed), which may measure and quantify developing behaviours.
- Sample may be self-selecting so this frees the researcher up from ethical considerations such as informed consent, privacy and confidentiality.
- Ecological validity is usually quite high, as the behaviour that is being studied is a part of everyday life.
- Case studies very rarely produce quantitative data sufficent enough for statistical analyisis – which brings in the argument of this being a mere collection of anecdotal evidence (evidence that is collected without strict controls or support, in a casual manner which is reliant heavily on personal testimony.)
- These often require a quite intense and intimate relationship between the particpant and the researcher and thus the problem of objectivity arises. They may develop opinions that directly influence results gathered as they might be emotionally involved.
- Conclusive decisions cannot be made as it only include very few or one participant. Non-generalizable.
- Because the participant is unique, this might make researchers proceed with invalid procedures and may draw false conclusions, making assumptions on lackluster grounds of evidence.