Case Study


Case study uses a focus on a single person, incident, or phenomenon to examine a theoretical issue in-depth, offering a holistic analysis which may employ diverse methods of data collection and analysis. This entry discusses some of the arguments which have been posed for and against case study inquiry, in particular looking at the issue of generalisation. The construction of the case study is also discussed, with a principal distinction being drawn between two parts of the case study: (1) the subject of the study, which is the case itself, and (2) the object, which is the analytical frame or theory which the subject illuminates and explicates. Beyond this distinction, the case study is presented as classifiable by its purposes and the approaches adopted. Distinctions are also drawn among various operational structures that concern comparative versus noncomparative versions of the form and the ways that the study may employ time. An iconic case study is deconstructed using the typology drawn up on the basis of this analysis, and the wholly distinctive insights offered by the case study vis-à-vis reductionist methods of social science inquiry are discussed.

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