Types of Case Studies

Types of Case Studies

Pam Epler (Youngstown State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9429-1.ch002


This chapter is designed to inform and educate the researcher about various types of case study designs. For each design there is a description about the type and an explanation of its purpose. There is also a sample description as well as how to collect data for each case study type. Disadvantages to each design is discussed as well as the essential components to include when writing up the final report. Finally, a table comparing all the case study types is incorporated.
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Illustrative Case Studies


Illustrative case studies are descriptive studies that depict one or more circumstances of an event to explain the situation. According to Hayes, Kyer, and Weber (2015), this type of case study is used to “describe a situation or a phenomenon, what is happening with it, and why it is happening” (p. 8). It is used to familiarize students with a topic and introduce them to the common language found in the case study. Illustrative case studies are particularly useful when the targeted audience knows little if anything about the topic because these case studies describe every aspect of the case—for example, what the participants did and their involvement in the case, where the case occurred, and the like—in great detail (Davey, 1991). Illustrative case studies tend to be in-depth and rich in context, and they must provide every aspect of the case in language that is conducive to comprehension. Because these case studies are written using the exact details of the case (or cases), if they are not written in a manner that the reader can understand, they will not maintain audience interest (Hayes et al., 2015). The intent is to provide the reader with visually descriptive details about the environment, how the participants involved acted and reacted during the study, and any other information that is important to support the research. The goal of an illustrative case study is to paint a picture about the topic for the reader (Hayes et al., 2015). When writing an illustrative case study, the researcher should use clear language but avoid oversimplifying the verbiage because the rich description could be lost. For this reason, only a small number of cases, one or two at a time, should be used (Davey, 1991).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Illustrative Case Study: A descriptive study that depicts one or more circumstances of an event to explain the situation.

Exploratory Case Study: A study that involve researching a specific topic to the point where thorough, detailed, and complete understanding occurs.

Narrative Case Study: A qualitative study in which the researcher collects data from an individual or individuals about a specific life event or events that occurred in order to share and retell the story.

Critical Instance Case Study: A study that typically involves investigating one or more phenomena in an attempt to decipher and focus on a single occurrence instead of making a generalization about the situation.

Case Survey Method: A method used in cumulative case studies to quickly and creatively analyze the data collected from multiple cases.

Prospective Case Study: A study that involves the researcher observing a group of participants who have commonalities in an attempt to look for outcomes over a lengthy time period and relate them to other factors.

Program Implementation Case Study: A longitudinal study that involves a large sample size that allows the researcher to make a generalization about the participants in the study. This type of case study can be used to evaluate the implementation of a specific program.

Program Effects Case Study: A study that looks specifically at programs to determine the reasons for their successes and/or failures.

Embedded Case Study: A type of study that uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods, includes a main case study comprised of smaller sub-case studies, and is appropriate if the study needs to describe phenomena in detail.

Cumulative Case Study: A study in which the researcher collects and aggregates information from numerous data sources in order to make a generalization about the phenomena.

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