The Substance of a Case Study

Almost everything we know about anything has proceeded from case study research. Certainly all the disciplines currently studied at academic institutions are based on knowledge that has been garnered from case study research, notably history, the classics, the entire range of sciences, from medical to political, and most popular, nowadays, business case studies. But what is a case study, exactly?

What is a Case Study?

A case study is basically the intricate analysis of an individual, group, or event or other object, focusing on how it has developed, within a defined context. What a case study might be, as a broad example, is one on the movie star Marilyn Monroe during the time she was known as Norma Rae. A narrower example would be a case study of Marilyn Monroe’s success as an actress during the time she was known as Norma Rae. In this narrower case, rather than presenting a general run up from the star’s childhood up to the time of her success, under the name Marilyn Monroe, the writer would trace and analyze the star’s career milestones. This case study in turn, could form a part of a larger case study on the development of successful acting careers by stars in the same era.

While the broader case study may be descriptive, the narrower one would be more explanatory, seeking to bring out the underlying principles, if any of a star’s success at that time. Case studies can also be prospective or retrospective, in which case the writer sets out what he is trying to prove through researched cases that are in progress, or else taken from historical record.

What is a Case Study template?

Case studies tend not to use any set formula or template, because of the number of areas it may touch upon and examine, in order to arrive at and therefore prove its targeted findings. What they do have in common is a progressive approach, which is natural, because the case study is a study of development. They will begin at the beginning of the event, and progress logically and systematically, covering the developmental period, to a point of conclusion. This trait is also the case study’s strength, as anyone who picks one up may read it and follow the author’s argument. The data collected and analyzed at each point in the timeline of development can be easily be assimilated. A good example where this would be useful is in a case study on a past cult, from its beginnings to its tragic end.

What is a Case Study supposed to do?

What is a case study’s purpose is to allow the writer and his followers to gain a deeper understanding of a particular event. Indeed, understanding why it happened may achieve a better understanding of similar events in the future; whether they are likely to happen again, and how to predict them if and when they do, possible solutions on how to prevent or encourage them, etc. They further allow writer and reader to evolve hypotheses, as well as to test them.

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