Case studies are a key skill for academics and students alike, especially when writing a dissertation. This article will show you how to write a case study, and will explore specifically case study designs and essential case study methods.
The most important goal of a case study is to identify a unique individual or group of people. This means researching extensively to determine whether the case has been documented before or not. If the case has been documented, highlight any details of the original case you feel you would change or differ from, to avoid plagiarism. If the case has not been documented, continue your research and find similar case studies to your own to use as a comparison.
A case study is only useful if it is presented in context. For example, a psychological case study on a unique kind of behaviour cannot be understood completely unless the case is applied to the environment in which it is most relevant. Removed from context, any information you give is irrelevant, as it could be interpreted in any number of ways.
Every detail of the individual or group of people you are researching has to be presented as part of the case study. Not only is it important to provide a detailed profile of the individual,but any conclusions you draw may be nullified by future research if you neglect to identify one factor which is subsequently shown to have an influence on the behaviour.
The same must be said for a detailed case history – note down everything that the case was subject to before your study began. This may be family history, medical history, academic or employment history as well as social history. Any of these factors could be extremely important for explaining the case’s unique behaviour.
The identify of the individual must remain anonymous – this is a key ethical consideration when writing a case study, and unless these considerations are met, your case study will not be published.
It may seem obvious, but you must outline what makes your case study worth reading. Highlight what your case study aims to show that has not been proven or recorded before, and relate it to any other key research in the same topic to give your work validity. For example, when writing about a child who suffers from what you believe to be a unique psychological condition, highlight why you believe it is unique and show other research into similar behaviours or conditions. Conclude your case study by showing what your research aims to prove and whether any conclusions can be drawn as to why this case is unique.