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How to do your Case Study

How to do your Case Study
A Guide for Students and Researchers

248 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Case Study is one of the most widely applied methods of research and instruction in use today. Cases are used to frame research, aid teaching and help learning the world over. Yet, despite being so widely used, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what constitutes case study research and how case studies should be designed and carried out.

In this lucid, accessible and often witty new text, Gary Thomas introduces students and researchers to the basics of case study research. Using a wide range of real-life examples, this  book sets how best to design and carry out case studies in the social sciences and humanities for those new to the method. How to do your case study: a guide for students and researchers deals with the core issues and methods that anyone new to case study will need to understand:

  • What is a case study?
  • When and why should case study methods be used?
  • How are case studies designed?
  • What methods can be used?
  • How do we analyze and make sense of our data?
  • How do we write up and write about our case?

How to do your Case Study will be essential reading for any student or researcher in the Social Sciences, Health Sciences, in Business Studies, in Education and the Humanities.

What Is a Case Study?
Case Study and Research Design
Models of the Whole
Ensuring Quality in Your Case Study: What's Important?
Kinds of Case Studies: Finding Your Case
Your Purpose
Your Approach
Your Process
Out in the Field: Some Ways to Collect Data and Evidence
A Toolkit for Analyzing and Thinking
Writing Your Study
The Fancy Stuff: Generalization, Induction, Abduction, Phronesis and Theory

A very well written text, clear, detailed, just the 'right' level of explanation and guidance for students about to undertake research using a case study approach

Mr Andrew Holmes
Centre for Educational Studies, Hull Univ.
July 11, 2014

A good text.

Mr Ross Thompson
Northampton Business School, Northampton University
April 2, 2014

Fully comprehensive and engaging text that is a welcome addition to the course

Miss Rebecca Biggins
Business Management, York St John University College
September 5, 2013

An essential guide if considering utilizing case study approach to research

Ms Louise Lawson
Dept of Nursing & Midwifery, Hertfordshire University
March 25, 2013

How to do your case study: A guide for students and researchers offers clear guidance about what to consider when undertaking case studies and includes illustrations and examples of how case studies have been applied in real world settings. The book was written for students and researchers within applied social sciences and humanities, but the methods and techniques within this book are also applicable to other fields of research. The text includes 12 chapters which are separated into three parts.

Part one contains four chapters with chapter one introducing the reader to different descriptions and definitions of a case study and situates the case study historically in relation to how it has been used within academic and non academic settings, as well as, providing a framework for deciding the applicability of the case study to different types of research contexts. Chapter two discusses issues related to the research design of case studies in connection with the main purpose of the inquiry, the development of the research question(s), reviewing of the available literature about the topic and the decision to adopt a case study approach. Chapter three introduces the reader to the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of different ontology, which affect the design and approach of research in relation to how they interact with a case study. Chapter four covers how to introduce quality into case studies with regards to the importance of population selection and sampling in terms of representativeness, the issue of reliability and validity criteria available in the literature and its applicability and relevance to case study research, as well as, questions about research ethics when undertaking case studies.

Part two consists of four chapters with chapter five outlining the different kinds of case studies and how they can be categorised. In this chapter the writer points out the danger of selecting a research design before having carefully considered the research question(s) first, and which research approach and techniques would be best suited to answer the research question(s). In chapter six the author considers the purpose of a case study in terms of its objective being for: intrinsic or extrinsic interest or to explore, evaluate, or explain something or if the case study will include elements of all these approaches. Chapter seven examines different research approaches which can be included in case study research such as: to test a theory, build a theory, draw a picture, or use experimental methods or interpretative techniques. Chapter eight covers what to consider when structuring the case study in reference to the process selected as part of the design route in terms of whether the case study is a single case study (retrospective, snapshot or diachronic) or multiple case studies (nested, parallel or sequential).

Part three consists of four chapters with chapter nine reviewing different methods in which data can be collected and used as evidence. Some of the methods presented and discussed in this chapter are: Interview, accounts, diaries, group interview, focus groups, reviewing documents, questionnaires, observations, image-based methods and more. Chapter 10 provides useful frameworks from which data collected can be analysed with the emphasis being on interpretative methods and techniques. Chapter 11 offers a breakdown of a typical academic report. The chapter provides useful guidance about what should typically be included in each section of an academic report which includes: The introduction, literature review, methods section, research findings, analysis and discussion, and the main conclusion(s). Chapter 12 concludes by outlining the main ethos of the text and provides additional information about generalisation of research findings, abduction, phronesis and theory, as well as the author’s final thoughts.

Reading level of this text is suitable for students and researchers of all levels and experience. This book is essential reading for anyone undertaking research which will involve case study research as it tackles the main issues involved in case study research, as well as providing useful frameworks and guidelines to aid the researcher throughout case study research projects.

Mr Gary McKenna
School of Computing, University of the West of Scotland
January 31, 2013

An interesting book but does not quite cover the aspects of writing a
case study in health. It does however, provide some good generic information.

Mrs Sharon Fairhurst
Chinese and Complementary Medicine, Glyndwr University
November 1, 2012

This is one of the best books on case studies availiable. An advantage is although comprehensive the book is easy to read and this makes it accessible to the needs of students.

Mr Brian Melaugh
Department of Applied Social Studies, NUI MAynooth
July 31, 2012

One of the best books on case studies that I have read. I now recommend this text to all my Masters and Doctoral students doing case studies. I recommend this above Stake and even Yin.

Mrs Barbara Sen
Information School, The University of Sheffiedl
July 25, 2012

We are using a more basic book to introduce doctoral students to the case study method. However, we are going to recommend the book as a reference students should purchase if they decide to use the case study method in their doctoral research projects.

Dr LaVerne Ludden
Graduate Studies in Leadership, Indiana Wesleyan University
July 25, 2012

An excellent account and practical consideration of case study as a means of data collection and analysis.

Dr Liesl Conradie
Department of Social Work (Luton), Bedfordshire University
June 28, 2012

Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas is an emeritus professor of education at the University of Birmingham. His teaching and research have focused on inclusion, special education, and research methodology in education, with a particular focus on case study. He has conducted research funded by the AHRC, the ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the Department for Education, Barnardos, local authorities, and a range of other organisations. He has coedited the British Educational Research Journal and is currently an executive editor of Educational Review. He is author of many books, most recently Education: A Very Short Introduction published by Oxford... More About Author