What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.

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11+ Student Case Study Examples [ High School, Assignment, Classroom ]

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Student Case Study

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Case Study Definition

Benefits and limitations of case studies, example of case study.

  • Subject Focus : The case study can center on a single person, a small group of individuals, an organization, a particular event, or a broader societal issue. The choice of subject depends on the research question or the goals of the study.
  • In-Depth Exploration: Case studies involve detailed data collection and analysis. Researchers collect various types of information, such as interviews, surveys, documents, observations, and other relevant sources, to build a comprehensive picture of the subject.
  • Contextual Analysis: A significant aspect of a case study is the consideration of the context in which the subject operates. Understanding the background and environment is essential to interpret the findings accurately.
  • Qualitative Research : Case studies often use qualitative research methods to gather and analyze data. This includes open-ended interviews, content analysis, and thematic coding.
  • Rich Description: The case study report provides a rich and detailed description of the subject. It includes narratives, quotes, and empirical evidence to support the analysis.
  • Analysis and Interpretation: Researchers analyze the collected data to identify patterns, themes, or trends. They may use various theoretical frameworks to interpret the information and draw conclusions.
  • Real-World Application: Case studies are often used to address practical problems or real-world situations. They can be used to inform decision-making, offer solutions, or provide insights into specific issues.
  • Ethical Considerations: Researchers must consider ethical principles when conducting case studies, ensuring the protection of participants’ rights and privacy.
  • Findings and Recommendations: A well-structured case study typically concludes with findings, implications, and recommendations based on the analysis.

1. Choose an Interesting and Relevant Topic:

2. conduct thorough research:, 3. identify the problem or research question:, 4. introduce the case:, 5. describe the methods used:, 6. present the findings:, 7. analytical interpretation:, 8. discuss limitations:, 9. propose solutions or recommendations:, 10. write a conclusion:, 11. cite your sources:, 12. edit and proofread:, 13. format your case study:.

  • Apple Inc.’s Marketing Strategy: An analysis of Apple’s marketing approach, including product design, branding, and customer loyalty.
  • McDonald’s Global Expansion: A study on how McDonald’s adapted its business model for success in different international markets.
  • The Case of “Little Albert”: A classic case study in psychology that examined the conditioning of fear in a young child.
  • Stanford Prison Experiment: An investigation into the psychological effects of role-playing in a simulated prison environment.
  • Inclusive Education in a Primary School: A case study exploring the challenges and benefits of implementing inclusive education for students with disabilities.
  • Online Learning and Student Engagement: An analysis of the impact of online learning on student engagement and academic performance.
  • The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: A well-known case study on the ethical issues surrounding a long-term study of untreated syphilis in African American men.
  • Patient X: A Rare Medical Condition: An examination of a patient with a rare medical condition to understand its diagnosis and treatment.
  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A case study of the environmental and economic impacts of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest: An analysis of the causes, consequences, and possible solutions to deforestation in the Amazon.
  • Child Welfare Services: A case study examining the challenges and interventions involved in a child welfare case.
  • Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation: An analysis of the recovery journey of an individual with a substance use disorder.
  • Sustainable Urban Development: A case study of a city’s efforts to promote sustainable practices in urban planning, transportation, and architecture.
  • Historical Preservation of Landmarks: An exploration of the restoration and preservation of historic buildings or landmarks.
  • Landmark Supreme Court Cases: In-depth analyses of important legal cases that have had a significant impact on the legal system and society.
  • Intellectual Property Disputes: Case studies on legal battles involving intellectual property rights, such as patents and copyrights.
  • SpaceX’s Reusable Rockets: A study of SpaceX’s development and use of reusable rocket technology.
  • Failure Analysis of Bridge Structures: An investigation into the causes of structural failures in bridges and their implications.
  • Enron Scandal: An examination of the accounting fraud and corporate governance issues that led to the downfall of the Enron Corporation.
  • Microfinance and Poverty Alleviation: A case study on the impact of microfinance institutions on poverty reduction in developing countries.
  • To deepen students’ understanding of a particular concept, theory, or topic within their field of study.
  • To provide real-world context and practical applications for theoretical knowledge.
  • To enhance students’ critical thinking and problem-solving abilities by analyzing complex issues or scenarios.
  • To encourage students to apply their knowledge to real-life situations and develop solutions.
  • To develop research skills, including data collection, data analysis , and the ability to draw meaningful conclusions from information.
  • To improve analytical skills in interpreting data and making evidence-based decisions.
  • To improve written and oral communication skills by requiring students to present their findings in a clear, organized, and coherent manner.
  • To enhance the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively to both academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To prepare students for future careers by exposing them to real-world situations and challenges they may encounter in their chosen profession.
  • To develop professional skills, such as teamwork, time management, and project management.
  • To prompt students to reflect on their learning and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in research and analysis.
  • To foster self-assessment and a commitment to ongoing improvement.
  • To inspire creativity and innovation in finding solutions to complex problems or challenges.
  • To encourage students to think outside the box and explore new approaches.

More Design

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The Center for Global Studies

Sample case studies, page table of contents, case study #1.

Sophia A. McClennen

Cultural Connections for Younger Students: A Party for a Japanese Refugee

On Friday, March 11, 2011 an earthquake hit Japan and caused a series of Tsunami waves. It was the largest earthquake in the history of Japan and it caused a lot of damage.  Homes were lost, people were hurt, and many had to find other places to stay since the places where they lived were no longer safe. Some Japanese families even had to move to other countries, at least temporarily.  Your teacher has just told you that a little girl from Japan will be coming soon to join your class at your school.  Her name is Bachiko, which means “happy child” in Japanese.  She is moving to State College with her parents and younger brother.

Your teacher tells you that the first day she will be in class will be May 5. In Japan May 5 is children’s day and the whole country celebrates children and their mothers. But for Bachiko May 5 is even more special since it is also her birthday. Since she will be here the class thinks that you should all plan a celebration for her. She won’t know anyone here yet.  She won’t have any friends yet. And, even though she speaks some English, she is more comfortable speaking Japanese.  You want to help her celebrate Children’s Day and her birthday and you also want to help her feel welcome since she will probably be missing her home very much. You want to make sure that the party includes some of the sorts of things that kids do in Japan. How can you plan the party? How can you help her celebrate her special day?

Global Knowledge/Global Empathy:

Asking the right questions:.

Begin by asking questions that help your students connect with Bachiko’s story. Ask them to think of holidays they celebrate that they would miss if they had to go to a different country during that time of year.

Ask them to think of how they would feel if they had to be far from home for their birthday. What sorts of things would they miss? What sorts of things would they be able to do in a new place?

Adjusting the conversation based on the maturity of the class, talk about the challenges to Bachiko of having to move to a new place. Ask them about what they think of moving and what sorts of challenges moving brings—compare moving to another place in the country where you currently live to moving to a new country.

Talk about natural disasters. Ask them if there are times when they feel scared of them and discuss ways for them to reduce their fears. Talk about how they happen all over the globe. Make sure not to let them think that they only happen in places like Japan.

Gathering information:

Brainstorm with the class the sort of information they need in order to plan the party (solve the problem). Create a list of things that the class needs to learn to be able to do this.

Create a list of things that the kids need to learn about Japanese culture.  Ask the kids to think of any Japanese culture that they already know of (sushi, animation, pokemon, origami, etc.). Ask them to consider whether their experience of these cultural items might be different from how Bachiko and her friends experience them.

Depending on the class—consider teaching more about earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Use this as a chance to balance learning about sciences with learning compassion for those that are affected by these events. Consider talking about Katrina or other US natural disasters (tornadoes) so that they don’t think these things only happen to others.

Imagining a way to address the problem:

Once you have begun to gather materials and information that can help the class imagine the party that they would like to throw, have them begin to describe what they want to do for the party. Do they need to make origami, kites, etc? What foods?   Music? What other activities? Help them imagine all of these things.

Then ask them to imagine the party and think of how they would like to tell a story about it. Asking them to be the storytellers of this will help encourage their imagination and empathy. (While possibly throwing the party would be a fun idea—it might not be the best learning activity and could be difficult to do).  Do they want to write a story about Bachiko and the party? Do they want to create a cartoon/animated version? Do they want to make a series of pictures? Consider whether you want them to work in groups or individually or in some combination. Group work is generally helpful for these types of projects. Maybe you make a few groups and let each one decide between a story, pictures, an origami play, etc… There are lots of options.

When the students have their projects complete have them present them to the class. Then have the whole class talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. What do they think Bachiko would have liked most? What might have been hard for her? What parts were fun for them to plan? What parts were hard? The idea here is to make it clear that they have done good work, that they imagined a way to help someone else, but that it would not be possible to “fix” the situation. Bachiko would surely be a bit sad—but their party would also surely really help. And the more the party made her feel welcome, the more of a success it would be.

Next ask the class to engage in some sort of fundraising or other project to help the kids in Japan. Now, when they do this, they will feel much more connected to the communities they are trying to help.


There should always be some assessment with these projects.  It is possible to determine how well students gathered information, whether they asked good questions, and whether they could appreciate the limits to their work as well as its strengths.

Asks students to imagine a direct connection with a young Japanese earthquake victim—which creates a greater link.  Makes the crisis in Japan more real.

Asks them to imagine themselves in a similar situation—this will deter othering (the idea that this situation would only happen to others).

Gives them an opportunity to learn more about Japan through their own interest in solving a problem.

Risks making them feel sorry for Bachiko in a way that might make her seem helpless. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency.

Risks developing a negative stereotype of Japan—since it could seem like a country that suffers disasters and needs our help. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency by not allowing them to describe Japan in negative terms.


This case study could be adjusted to describe a child from almost any other nation that had to suddenly move to your school district. The possibilities are limitless.

Web resources:

  • Teaching Kids About Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Japan Through Online Resources
  • Talking to kids about the Earthquake
  • The Science of Earthquakes (for kids)
  • Kids web Japan
  • Japan for kids

Case Study #2

Environmental connections for middle school age students: global sustainability and the brazilian amazon.

Your name is Jorge, you are 13, and you are from Brazil. You live in the Amazon in a community of Seringueiros— Seringueiro   is the Portuguese word for “rubber tapper.” Rubber tapping has been a traditional way of life for many people living in the Amazon forest since the start of the century.  A cut is made in the side of a rubber tree then the rubber is harvested. Later the tree heals and the rubber tapper sells the rubber to buy things they need. Life as a  seringueiro   is not easy. It is difficult to make money selling the rubber and many in these communities struggle to make a good life. Lately, though, it has gotten worse.

Jorge’s family and his community have just learned that a logging company plans to cut down the trees that they use to get rubber. Jorge’s parents are tired of fighting the logging company and they are thinking of moving to the city. But Jorge has heard stories that life in the city would be even harder for them and he doesn’t want to leave the forest. Instead, he wants to think of a way to protect the trees that his family needs for rubber. He wants to work to find a way to allow his community to continue living in harmony with nature. He thinks that he will hate living in the city and he wants to continue living in the ways that his community has for decades.

Jorge realizes that saving the trees for rubber tappers probably won’t convince the Brazilian government to protect them.  Native Americans throughout the hemisphere have seen their lands taken away and their way of life threatened for centuries—and very few people have come to their defense. But he thinks that maybe he can get attention to saving his community’s trees if he reminds the public of the importance of the plant life in the Amazon. He also thinks that he has a greater chance of getting attention to his community’s problem if he links with other kids his age from other parts of the world.

He thinks that if they work together they can make a difference. He thinks that if kids from various places draw attention to this problem, and if he gets help from environmentalists, he can convince the Brazilian government to protect the lands.

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s greatest natural resources. Its many plants recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen, and some call it “Lungs of our Planet” since 20% of earth oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest. Even though environmentalists and government policies forced the world to give more attention to the rain forest, deforestation continues to be a major problem. Predications show that if nothing is done to stop the destruction of rainforest that half our remaining rain forests will be gone by the year 2025 and by 2060 there will be no rain forests remaining.

Not only does the Amazon provide oxygen, it is the home to a great variety of plant life that holds the potential to help solve many medical problems. Protecting this biodiversity is also of great importance. The plants in the Amazon could help us discover the next cure for cancer or for other diseases. The oxygen produced in the Amazon helps people all over the world to breathe.

Put yourself in the place of Jorge and imagine how he might solve this problem. How can he get help protecting the trees his family needs? Should he start an environmental activism campaign? How could

he do that? He will need to connect with others outside his community. Could you imagine ways that your own school might help him?  Design a strategy to help Jorge protect the rainforest.

Begin by asking questions that help your students connect with Jorge’s story. Ask them to think of what they would do if a company was taking over the lands they lived on.

Ask them to think about the value of protecting traditional ways of life. Does their family have traditions that sometimes seem threatened based on the way that society has changed? And how are their experiences related to those of Jorge, whose community has a very traditional way of living? Does Jorge have a right to have that way of life protected? Do we have an obligation to help protect it?

Ask them to think about how hard it will be for Jorge to get attention to his cause. What are the challenges he faces? How can Jorge connect his cause to the lives of people living outside the rain forest? The rainforest is important to everyone’s heath—but few people know that or care. How can that change?

Talk about environmental issues. Ask them about what they do to help conserve the planet’s resources. Ask them to think about how environmental issues link people across the globe.   Ask them to think about the sorts of communities that tend to be most threatened by things like deforestation.  Are their problems exacerbated by having a less publicly recognized voice? Also ask them to think about how hard it is to get people to change the way that they live—even when they know that some of their habits are bad for the planet.

Talk about sustainability. Jorge’s community as a sustainable connection to the land. It does not take in a way that causes damage or limits regeneration. What are some ways that our students can live a sustainable life? How can we learn from communities like Jorge’s? What gets lost if those communities cease to exist?

Brainstorm with the class the sort of information they need in order to help Jorge. They need to learn about rubber tapping, the Amazon, deforestation, environmental activism, sustainability. Create a list of things that the class needs to learn to be able to do this.

Create a list of things that the kids need to learn about Brazilian Native American culture.  Ask them to think of things that they know about Native Americans in the United States and then ask them to think of way that these communities face similar challenges across the Americas.

Ask them to think about how the crisis in the Amazon links to environmental crises in the United States. Do they know about the Marellus Shale story? How might that story be similar to that of Jorge’s?

Once you have begun to gather materials and information that can help the class imagine  Jorge’s situation, have them begin to describe a plan for Jorge.  How can Jorge gain support? He can’t do it alone—so who would be good to help him?  What sorts of information does he need to present to get supporters for this? How can he best connect with people outside of his community? Help them imagine all of these things.

Next have them implement a campaign to save the rainforest where Jorge lives. Consider whether you want them to work in groups or individually or in some combination. Group work is generally helpful for these types of projects. Do they want to do posters, hold events, make a movie, write a book, get articles in newspapers, host a website, etc….? How can they best get attention for the cause? There are lots of options.

When the students have their project concepts complete have them present them to the class. They do not need to actually make the posters, websites, etc…they just need to describe them and create an example. Then have the whole class talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. What parts of Jorge’s action plan were fun for them to work on? What parts were hard? The idea here is to make it clear that they have done good work, that they imagined          a way to help someone else, but that it would not be possible to “fix” the situation.

The class should then discuss the merits of each of the ideas that the teams came up with –and they could follow through on creating some resources that exemplified some of the approaches the class thought worked best.

Next ask the class to engage in some sort of project to raise awareness for an environmental issue—especially one linked to protecting forests. Ask them to consider a project to advance sustainable living.

Asks students to imagine a direct connection with a Brazilian Native American—which creates a greater link.   Makes the social and environmental crisis more real.

Asks them to imagine themselves in a similar situation—this will deter othering.

Gives them an opportunity to learn more about the Amazon and Brazilians through their own interest in solving a problem.

Risks making them feel sorry for Jorge in a way that might make him seem helpless. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency.

Risks developing a negative stereotype of Brazil—since it could seem like the Brazilian government doesn’t care about the Amazon or the rubber tappers. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency by not allowing them to describe Brazil in negative terms and by reminding them of how this problem has global examples.

This case study could be adjusted to describe an environmental conflict from another region. The possibilities are limitless.

  • Amazon rubber tappers news
  • Amazon rainforest

Case Study #3

The impact of war on children for high school age students: landmines in angola.

Mia is 16 years old and she is from Angola. Last week her brother, Nelson, was playing soccer with friends when he chased after the ball and went on lands that they are warned never to step on. He was too busy chasing the ball to pay attention to the rule. As he crossed over into the dangerous territory he heard a click, then an explosion. He had stepped on a land mine. He was rushed to a hospital where Mia and her family went to see him.  Once they arrived they learned that Nelson had lost both legs in the explosion. Nelson is now one of the more than 100,000 Angolans who have lost a limb to landmines.

Angola suffered a civil war that ended in 1994, but, even though the war ended that year, the effects of it are still in place. There are estimates of between 10 and 20 landmines in Angola which is equal to approximately 1-2 landmines per inhabitant. As mentioned, over 100,000 Angolans have lost a limb due to a landmine and 120 Angolans die from a landmine explosion every month. But the negative effects of landmines on the population go beyond injuries: the threat of landmines restricts the ability of people to move about their country, to farm, to find clean water, to go to school, and –as in Nelson’s case—to play games like soccer. Women and children are most threatened by landmines and children represent 49% of the landmine injuries in Angola. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s the Soviets used landmines that looked to children like toys. Many were killed trying to pick them up. Even though the UN passed a moratorium on landmines in 1993, there is still no international consensus on banning the use of landmines. Currently there are 20 mines laid for each one removed.

Landmines only cost about $3 to make, but they cost about $1,000 each to remove. Mia has watched her community suffer life with landmines for too long. She wants to work to change this problem, but she realizes that the cost of removing landmines is very high. She knows that anti-landmine groups help to de-mine areas, but she doesn’t want to wait for help from others, she thinks her community needs to learn more about how to de-mine. She has another problem, too, she has learned that landmines continue to be used and she wants to work to stop the use of landmines in other countries. There are over 110 million landmines (and millions of other explosive devices) in 68 nations today. She wants to work to stop the future placement of more mines.

Put yourself in the place of Mia and imagine how she might solve this problem. How can she get help de-mining her community? Should she attempt to get de-miners to her area or she should work to see if some of the members of her community could learn de-mining techniques?  How could she do that? She also wants to raise awareness about landmines globally so that this practice can stop. Can you imagine a project with your school that could help her in that goal? Design a strategy to help Mia stop landmine damage.

Begin by asking questions that help students connect with Mia’s story. Ask them to think of what they would do if a sibling or cousin or friend was hurt in this way.

Ask them to think about the impact of war on children. The case of landmines is a clear example of how current military techniques often target civilian populations and they do so through devices that can be left and that do not require military personnel to maintain. How has that changed the nature of war?  Should there be a ban on landmines? What would be some good ways to advance this cause?  It might be useful to review the Geneva Conventions with students since they are war guidelines that create protections for civilians.

A further issue is the way that the landmines cause Mia’s community to depend on others. De- mining is complex work and it takes a lot of training. Most of the time de-mining crews will come to a community, work, then leave. What are the challenges to changing that process and giving more local communities these skills and the equipment needed to perform them safely? Similarly some believe that the 12 nations that participated in Angola’s Civil War by providing the mines should also be responsible for getting rid of them. Who should get rid of the mines? What are some ways that the community can be an active part of this process?

Ask students to think about how hard it will be for Mia to get attention to her cause. What are the challenges she faces? How can Mia connect her cause to the lives of people living outside of Angola or Africa? What would it take to get people living in the United States to care about Mia’s situation? The US is home to more than 15 landmine producers. Should efforts be made to shut down their operations?

Ask them to think about the long term effects of war on communities.  A number of nations in the world have been engaged in long term conflicts, with children that have lived their whole lives during military conflict. How does that influence the lives of children?  How does that affect a community’s ability to prosper? What will happen to kids like Nelson as they grow up?

Brainstorm with the class the sort of information they need in order to help Mia. They need to learn about landmines, the politics of de-mining, the current efforts to ban landmines, and the human rights of children in a time of war. Create a list of things that the class needs to learn to be able to do this.

Create a list of things that the students need to learn about Angolan society and history.  In order to appreciate Mia’s situation it is important that students empathize with her without seeing her as a helpless victim. What happened during the Civil War? Why did the United States and the Soviet Union get involved?  How was their involvement a result of Cold War dynamics? Teach students about the idea of proxy wars and ask them to think about the political implications such wars have on the nations where the wars are waged.

Ask them to think about how the landmine crisis is a geopolitical problem that is not just limited to Angola. Have the class learn about the use of landmines in other countries and ask them to think about how landmines play a role in contemporary military conflicts.

Once you have begun to gather materials and information that can help the class imagine Mia’s situation, have them begin to describe a plan for Mia. How can Mia gain support?  How can Mia

help her community and get help? She can’t do it alone—so who would be good to help her? What sorts of information does she need to present to get supporters for her cause? How can she best connect with people outside of her community? Help them imagine all of these things.

Next have them implement a campaign to get resources to de-mine the area where Mia lives and/or to assist the international anti-landmine project. Consider whether you want them to work in groups or individually or in some combination. Group work is generally helpful for these types of projects. Do they want to do posters, hold events, make a movie, write a book, get articles in newspapers, host a website, etc….?  How can they best get attention for the cause?

There are lots of options.

When the students have their project concepts complete have them present them to the class. They do not need to actually make the posters, websites, etc…they just need to describe them, include examples, and possibly write up a report. The amount of actual materials they provide can be adjusted based on time and resources.

Then have the whole class talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. What parts of Mia’s action plan were easier to solve? What parts were harder? The idea here is to make it clear that they have done good work, that they imagined a way to help someone else, but that it would not be possible to “fix” the situation. Nelson won’t get his legs back, but possibly this project could save another boy.

The class should then discuss the merits of each of the ideas that the teams came up with –and they could follow through on creating some resources that exemplified some of the approaches the class thought worked best.  Having open conversations with the class about the pros and cons of each project teaches students to appreciate that complex problems require complex solutions.

Next ask the class to engage in some sort of project to raise awareness of the damages caused by landmines. Ask them to consider a project to advance efforts to ban landmines and/or to support de-mining in Angola.

Asks students to imagine a direct connection with an Angolan—which creates a greater link.  Makes the social and political crisis more real.

Gives them an opportunity to learn more about landmines, the effects of war on children, and Angola through their own interest in solving a problem.

Teaches them to appreciate the complexity of these types of problems and the fact that they do not have easy solutions. Teaches them that it is important to work to solve problems even when these can’t be easily fixed.

Risks making them feel sorry for Mia and Nelson in a way that might make them seem helpless. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency.

Risks developing a negative stereotype of Angola—since the history of the prolonged Civil War could make it seem like Angola is not capable of peaceful rule. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency by not allowing them to describe Angola in negative terms and by reminding them of how the Civil War was not simply fought by Angolans: it was indicative of Cold War struggles and the legacy of Angola’s history as a colony of Portugal.

This case study could be adjusted to describe a military conflict from another region—the key is to focus on the effects to children of war, since that link is likely to draw more empathy. There are many possibilities.

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  • Landmines a deadly inheritance
  • BBC: Angola’s Landmine legacy
  • International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • Effects on Children of Landmines
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What Is a Case Study?

An in-depth study of one person, group, or event

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

research case studies for students

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

research case studies for students

Verywell / Colleen Tighe

Benefits and Limitations

Types of case studies, how to write a case study.

A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior. Case studies can be used in various fields, including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.

The purpose of a case study is to learn as much as possible about an individual or group so that the information can be generalized to many others. Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective, and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.

While case studies focus on a single individual or group, they follow a format similar to other types of psychology writing. If you are writing a case study, it is important to follow the rules of APA format .  

A case study can have both strengths and weaknesses. Researchers must consider these pros and cons before deciding if this type of study is appropriate for their needs.

One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult to impossible to replicate in a lab. Some other benefits of a case study:

  • Allows researchers to collect a great deal of information
  • Give researchers the chance to collect information on rare or unusual cases
  • Permits researchers to develop hypotheses that can be explored in experimental research

On the negative side, a case study:

  • Cannot necessarily be generalized to the larger population
  • Cannot demonstrate cause and effect
  • May not be scientifically rigorous
  • Can lead to bias

Researchers may choose to perform a case study if they are interested in exploring a unique or recently discovered phenomenon. The insights gained from such research can help the researchers develop additional ideas and study questions that might be explored in future studies.

However, it is important to remember that the insights gained from case studies cannot be used to determine cause and effect relationships between variables. However, case studies may be used to develop hypotheses that can then be addressed in experimental research.

Case Study Examples

There have been a number of notable case studies in the history of psychology. Much of  Freud's work and theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include:

  • Anna O : Anna O. was a pseudonym of a woman named Bertha Pappenheim, a patient of a physician named Josef Breuer. While she was never a patient of Freud's, Freud and Breuer discussed her case extensively. The woman was experiencing symptoms of a condition that was then known as hysteria and found that talking about her problems helped relieve her symptoms. Her case played an important part in the development of talk therapy as an approach to mental health treatment.
  • Phineas Gage : Phineas Gage was a railroad employee who experienced a terrible accident in which an explosion sent a metal rod through his skull, damaging important portions of his brain. Gage recovered from his accident but was left with serious changes in both personality and behavior.
  • Genie : Genie was a young girl subjected to horrific abuse and isolation. The case study of Genie allowed researchers to study whether language could be taught even after critical periods for language development had been missed. Her case also served as an example of how scientific research may interfere with treatment and lead to further abuse of vulnerable individuals.

Such cases demonstrate how case research can be used to study things that researchers could not replicate in experimental settings. In Genie's case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity to learn language at critical points in her development.

This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to study phenomena that are otherwise impossible to reproduce.

There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists and other researchers might utilize:

  • Collective case studies : These involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community. For example, psychologists might explore how access to resources in a community has affected the collective mental well-being of those living there.
  • Descriptive case studies : These involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed, and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory.
  • Explanatory case studies : These   are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have caused certain things to occur.
  • Exploratory case studies : These are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses .
  • Instrumental case studies : These occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.
  • Intrinsic case studies : This type of case study is when the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget's observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic cast study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.

The three main case study types often used are intrinsic, instrumental, and collective. Intrinsic case studies are useful for learning about unique cases. Instrumental case studies help look at an individual to learn more about a broader issue. A collective case study can be useful for looking at several cases simultaneously.

The type of case study that psychology researchers utilize depends on the unique characteristics of the situation as well as the case itself.

There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study, including prospective and retrospective case study methods.

Prospective case study methods are those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to observe the progression of a particular disease.

Retrospective case study methods involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to look at information about the individual's life to determine risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of the illness.

Where to Find Data

There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. Six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:

  • Archival records : Census records, survey records, and name lists are examples of archival records.
  • Direct observation : This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting . While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
  • Documents : Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc., are the types of documents often used as sources.
  • Interviews : Interviews are one of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involve structured survey questions or more open-ended questions.
  • Participant observation : When the researcher serves as a participant in events and observes the actions and outcomes, it is called participant observation.
  • Physical artifacts : Tools, objects, instruments, and other artifacts are often observed during a direct observation of the subject.

Section 1: A Case History

This section will have the following structure and content:

Background information : The first section of your paper will present your client's background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.

Description of the presenting problem : In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with.

Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.

Your diagnosis : Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the client's symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.

Section 2: Treatment Plan

This portion of the paper will address the chosen treatment for the condition. This might also include the theoretical basis for the chosen treatment or any other evidence that might exist to support why this approach was chosen.

  • Cognitive behavioral approach : Explain how a cognitive behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
  • Humanistic approach : Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy . Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client's reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
  • Psychoanalytic approach : Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client's problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
  • Pharmacological approach : If treatment primarily involves the use of medications, explain which medications were used and why. Provide background on the effectiveness of these medications and how monotherapy may compare with an approach that combines medications with therapy or other treatments.

This section of a case study should also include information about the treatment goals, process, and outcomes.

When you are writing a case study, you should also include a section where you discuss the case study itself, including the strengths and limitiations of the study. You should note how the findings of your case study might support previous research. 

In your discussion section, you should also describe some of the implications of your case study. What ideas or findings might require further exploration? How might researchers go about exploring some of these questions in additional studies?

Here are a few additional pointers to keep in mind when formatting your case study:

  • Never refer to the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, their name or a pseudonym.
  • Read examples of case studies to gain an idea about the style and format.
  • Remember to use APA format when citing references .

A Word From Verywell

Case studies can be a useful research tool, but they need to be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They are helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a great deal of information about a specific individual or group of people.

If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to follow. If you are writing your case study for professional publication, be sure to check with the publisher for their specific guidelines for submitting a case study.

Simply Psychology. Case Study Method .

Crowe S, Cresswell K, Robertson A, Huby G, Avery A, Sheikh A. The case study approach . BMC Med Res Methodol . 2011 Jun 27;11:100. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100

Gagnon, Yves-Chantal.  The Case Study as Research Method: A Practical Handbook . Canada, Chicago Review Press Incorporated DBA Independent Pub Group, 2010.

Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . United States, SAGE Publications, 2017.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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What is case study research?

Last updated

8 February 2023

Reviewed by

Cathy Heath

Suppose a company receives a spike in the number of customer complaints, or medical experts discover an outbreak of illness affecting children but are not quite sure of the reason. In both cases, carrying out a case study could be the best way to get answers.


Case studies can be carried out across different disciplines, including education, medicine, sociology, and business.

Most case studies employ qualitative methods, but quantitative methods can also be used. Researchers can then describe, compare, evaluate, and identify patterns or cause-and-effect relationships between the various variables under study. They can then use this knowledge to decide what action to take. 

Another thing to note is that case studies are generally singular in their focus. This means they narrow focus to a particular area, making them highly subjective. You cannot always generalize the results of a case study and apply them to a larger population. However, they are valuable tools to illustrate a principle or develop a thesis.

Analyze case study research

Dovetail streamlines case study research to help you uncover and share actionable insights

  • What are the different types of case study designs?

Researchers can choose from a variety of case study designs. The design they choose is dependent on what questions they need to answer, the context of the research environment, how much data they already have, and what resources are available.

Here are the common types of case study design:


An explanatory case study is an initial explanation of the how or why that is behind something. This design is commonly used when studying a real-life phenomenon or event. Once the organization understands the reasons behind a phenomenon, it can then make changes to enhance or eliminate the variables causing it. 

Here is an example: How is co-teaching implemented in elementary schools? The title for a case study of this subject could be “Case Study of the Implementation of Co-Teaching in Elementary Schools.”


An illustrative or descriptive case study helps researchers shed light on an unfamiliar object or subject after a period of time. The case study provides an in-depth review of the issue at hand and adds real-world examples in the area the researcher wants the audience to understand. 

The researcher makes no inferences or causal statements about the object or subject under review. This type of design is often used to understand cultural shifts.

Here is an example: How did people cope with the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami? This case study could be titled "A Case Study of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and its Effect on the Indonesian Population."


Exploratory research is also called a pilot case study. It is usually the first step within a larger research project, often relying on questionnaires and surveys . Researchers use exploratory research to help narrow down their focus, define parameters, draft a specific research question , and/or identify variables in a larger study. This research design usually covers a wider area than others, and focuses on the ‘what’ and ‘who’ of a topic.

Here is an example: How do nutrition and socialization in early childhood affect learning in children? The title of the exploratory study may be “Case Study of the Effects of Nutrition and Socialization on Learning in Early Childhood.”

An intrinsic case study is specifically designed to look at a unique and special phenomenon. At the start of the study, the researcher defines the phenomenon and the uniqueness that differentiates it from others. 

In this case, researchers do not attempt to generalize, compare, or challenge the existing assumptions. Instead, they explore the unique variables to enhance understanding. Here is an example: “Case Study of Volcanic Lightning.”

This design can also be identified as a cumulative case study. It uses information from past studies or observations of groups of people in certain settings as the foundation of the new study. Given that it takes multiple areas into account, it allows for greater generalization than a single case study. 

The researchers also get an in-depth look at a particular subject from different viewpoints.  Here is an example: “Case Study of how PTSD affected Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Differently Due to Advances in Military Technology.”

Critical instance

A critical case study incorporates both explanatory and intrinsic study designs. It does not have predetermined purposes beyond an investigation of the said subject. It can be used for a deeper explanation of the cause-and-effect relationship. It can also be used to question a common assumption or myth. 

The findings can then be used further to generalize whether they would also apply in a different environment.  Here is an example: “What Effect Does Prolonged Use of Social Media Have on the Mind of American Youth?”


Instrumental research attempts to achieve goals beyond understanding the object at hand. Researchers explore a larger subject through different, separate studies and use the findings to understand its relationship to another subject. This type of design also provides insight into an issue or helps refine a theory. 

For example, you may want to determine if violent behavior in children predisposes them to crime later in life. The focus is on the relationship between children and violent behavior, and why certain children do become violent. Here is an example: “Violence Breeds Violence: Childhood Exposure and Participation in Adult Crime.”

Evaluation case study design is employed to research the effects of a program, policy, or intervention, and assess its effectiveness and impact on future decision-making. 

For example, you might want to see whether children learn times tables quicker through an educational game on their iPad versus a more teacher-led intervention. Here is an example: “An Investigation of the Impact of an iPad Multiplication Game for Primary School Children.” 

  • When do you use case studies?

Case studies are ideal when you want to gain a contextual, concrete, or in-depth understanding of a particular subject. It helps you understand the characteristics, implications, and meanings of the subject.

They are also an excellent choice for those writing a thesis or dissertation, as they help keep the project focused on a particular area when resources or time may be too limited to cover a wider one. You may have to conduct several case studies to explore different aspects of the subject in question and understand the problem.

  • What are the steps to follow when conducting a case study?

1. Select a case

Once you identify the problem at hand and come up with questions, identify the case you will focus on. The study can provide insights into the subject at hand, challenge existing assumptions, propose a course of action, and/or open up new areas for further research.

2. Create a theoretical framework

While you will be focusing on a specific detail, the case study design you choose should be linked to existing knowledge on the topic. This prevents it from becoming an isolated description and allows for enhancing the existing information. 

It may expand the current theory by bringing up new ideas or concepts, challenge established assumptions, or exemplify a theory by exploring how it answers the problem at hand. A theoretical framework starts with a literature review of the sources relevant to the topic in focus. This helps in identifying key concepts to guide analysis and interpretation.

3. Collect the data

Case studies are frequently supplemented with qualitative data such as observations, interviews, and a review of both primary and secondary sources such as official records, news articles, and photographs. There may also be quantitative data —this data assists in understanding the case thoroughly.

4. Analyze your case

The results of the research depend on the research design. Most case studies are structured with chapters or topic headings for easy explanation and presentation. Others may be written as narratives to allow researchers to explore various angles of the topic and analyze its meanings and implications.

In all areas, always give a detailed contextual understanding of the case and connect it to the existing theory and literature before discussing how it fits into your problem area.

  • What are some case study examples?

What are the best approaches for introducing our product into the Kenyan market?

How does the change in marketing strategy aid in increasing the sales volumes of product Y?

How can teachers enhance student participation in classrooms?

How does poverty affect literacy levels in children?

Case study topics

Case study of product marketing strategies in the Kenyan market

Case study of the effects of a marketing strategy change on product Y sales volumes

Case study of X school teachers that encourage active student participation in the classroom

Case study of the effects of poverty on literacy levels in children

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Case Study At-A-Glance

A case study is a way to let students interact with material in an open-ended manner. the goal is not to find solutions, but to explore possibilities and options of a real-life scenario..

Want examples of a Case-Study?  Check out the ABLConnect Activity Database Want to read research supporting the Case-Study method? Click here

Why should you facilitate a Case Study?

Want to facilitate a case-study in your class .

How-To Run a Case-Study

  • Before class pick the case study topic/scenario. You can either generate a fictional situation or can use a real-world example.
  • Clearly let students know how they should prepare. Will the information be given to them in class or do they need to do readings/research before coming to class?
  • Have a list of questions prepared to help guide discussion (see below)
  • Sessions work best when the group size is between 5-20 people so that everyone has an opportunity to participate. You may choose to have one large whole-class discussion or break into sub-groups and have smaller discussions. If you break into groups, make sure to leave extra time at the end to bring the whole class back together to discuss the key points from each group and to highlight any differences.
  • What is the problem?
  • What is the cause of the problem?
  • Who are the key players in the situation? What is their position?
  • What are the relevant data?
  • What are possible solutions – both short-term and long-term?
  • What are alternate solutions? – Play (or have the students play) Devil’s Advocate and consider alternate view points
  • What are potential outcomes of each solution?
  • What other information do you want to see?
  • What can we learn from the scenario?
  • Be flexible. While you may have a set of questions prepared, don’t be afraid to go where the discussion naturally takes you. However, be conscious of time and re-focus the group if key points are being missed
  • Role-playing can be an effective strategy to showcase alternate viewpoints and resolve any conflicts
  • Involve as many students as possible. Teamwork and communication are key aspects of this exercise. If needed, call on students who haven’t spoken yet or instigate another rule to encourage participation.
  • Write out key facts on the board for reference. It is also helpful to write out possible solutions and list the pros/cons discussed.
  • Having the information written out makes it easier for students to reference during the discussion and helps maintain everyone on the same page.
  • Keep an eye on the clock and make sure students are moving through the scenario at a reasonable pace. If needed, prompt students with guided questions to help them move faster.  
  • Either give or have the students give a concluding statement that highlights the goals and key points from the discussion. Make sure to compare and contrast alternate viewpoints that came up during the discussion and emphasize the take-home messages that can be applied to future situations.
  • Inform students (either individually or the group) how they did during the case study. What worked? What didn’t work? Did everyone participate equally?
  • Taking time to reflect on the process is just as important to emphasize and help students learn the importance of teamwork and communication.


Other Sources:

Harvard Business School: Teaching By the Case-Study Method

Written by Catherine Weiner

  • Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning
  • Instructional Guide

Case Studies

Case studies can be used to help students understand simple and complex issues. They typically are presented to the students as a situation or scenario which is guided by questions such as “What would you do in this situation?” or “How would you solve this problem?” Successful case studies focus on problem situations relevant to course content and which are relevant “both to the interests and experience level of learners” (Illinois Online Network, 2007).

Case studies can be simple problems where students “work out” a solution to more complex scenarios which require role playing and elaborate planning. Case studies typically involve teams although cases can be undertaken individually. Because case studies often are proposed to not have “one right answer” (Kowalski, Weaver, Henson, 1998, p. 4), some students may be challenged to think alternatively than their peers. However, when properly planned, case studies can effectively engage students in problem solving and deriving creative solutions.

The Penn State University’s Teaching and Learning with Technology unit suggests the following elements when planning case studies for use in the classroom.

Case studies actively involve students as they work on issues found in “real-life” situations and, with careful planning, can be used in all academic disciplines.
  • Real-World Scenario. Cases are generally based on real world situations, although some facts may be changed to simplify the scenario or “protect the innocent.”
  • Supporting Data and Documents. Effective case assignments typically provide real world situations for student to analyze. These can be simple data tables, links to URLs, quoted statements or testimony, supporting documents, images, video, audio, or any appropriate material.
  • Open-Ended Problem. Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions. Requirements can range from a one-paragraph answer to a fully developed team action plan, proposal or decision. (Penn State University, 2006, para. 2).
Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions.

Instructor Tasks

To help you get started using case studies in the classroom, a number of tasks should be considered. Following this list are tasks to help you prepare students as they participate in the case study.

  • Identify a topic that is based on real-world situations
  • Develop the case that will challenge students’ current knowledge of the topic
  • Link the case to one (or more) of the course goals or objectives
  • Provide students with case study basic information before asking them to work on the case
  • Prepare necessary data, information, that will help students come up with a solution
  • Discuss how this case would relate to real life and career situations
  • Place students in teams in which participants have differing views and opinions to better challenge them in discussing possible solutions to the case
  • Review team dynamics with the students (prepare an outline of team rules and roles)
  • Inform students that they are to find a solution to the case based on their personal experiences, the knowledge gained in class, and challenge one another to solve the problem

Student Tasks

  • Determine team member roles and identify a strategic plan to solve the case
  • Brainstorm and prepare questions to further explore the case
  • Read and critically analyze any data provided by the instructor, discuss the facts related to the case, identify and discuss the relationship of further problems within the case
  • Listen to and be open to viewpoints expressed by each member of the team
  • Assess, refine, and condense solutions that are presented
  • Prepare findings as required by the instructor

Case studies provide students with scenarios in which they can begin to think about their understanding and solutions to problems found in real-world situations. When carefully planned, case studies will challenge students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills in a safe and open learning environment. Case studies can help students analyze and find solutions to complex problems with foresight and confidence.

Illinois Online Network (2007). ION research: Case studies. https://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/casestudies/

Kowalski, T. J., Weaver, R. A., & Henson, K. T. (1998). Case studies of beginning teachers. New York, NY: Longman.

Penn State University (2006). Office of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Using cases in teaching. http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/cases/casewhat.html

Selected Resources

Study Guides and Strategies (2007). Case studies. https://www.studygs.net/casestudy.htm

Creative Commons License

Suggested citation

Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Case studies. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide

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Writing a case study

What is a case study.

A case study requires you to analyse a specific situation and discuss how its different elements relate to theory. The case can refer to a real-life or hypothetical event, organisation, individual or group of people and/or issue. Depending upon your assignment, you will be asked to develop solutions to problems or recommendations for future action.

Generally, a case study is either formatted as an essay or a report. If it is the latter, your assignment is often divided into sections with headings and subheadings to ensure easy access to key points of interest.

There are different approaches to case studies, so always check the specific instructions you have been given. There are two main types of case studies: descriptive and problem-solving .

Case study types accordion

Descriptive case studies.

  • ask you to explore a specific event or issue to identify the key facts, what happened and who was/is involved.
  • can be used to compare two instances of an event to illustrate how one is similar to the other.
  • generally does not include solutions or recommendations as its main purpose is to help the reader or stakeholder to gain greater insight into the different dimensions of the event, etc. and/or to make an informed decision about the event, etc.

For example:

  • In Nursing, you could be asked to select a medical clinic or hospital as your case study and then apply what you have studied in class about wound care approaches. You would then identify and apply the relevant theories of wound care management discussed in class to your case.

Problem-solving case studies

  • ask you to critically examine an issue related to a specific individual or group, and then recommend and justify solutions to the issue, integrating theory and practice.
  • In Business and Economics, you could be asked to describe a critical incident in the workplace. Your role as the manager is to apply your knowledge and skills of key intercultural communication concepts and theories in management to determine the causes of the conflict and propose relevant communication strategies to avoid and/or resolve it.

Tips for undertaking a problem-based case study View

Writing to your audience.

Your language expression should be persuasive and user-centred communication. To do this, you need to carefully research your audience, or your stakeholders . Your stakeholders are not only those people who will read your writing, but also people who will be impacted by any decisions or recommendations you choose to include. In other words, your audience may be varied with different needs and perspectives. This applies to both your case study as an assessment task and a report in your workplace.

Understanding your audience will help you to edit how you express your information, including tailoring your language expression, tone and style to meet the expectations of your stakeholders. For example, if your case study is written for the Minister of Health, then your tone will need to be formal, ensuring that any technical terms are clearly and concisely explained with concrete examples.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Who will read my case study and why?
  • What are the stakeholders’ needs, preferences, expectations and goals?
  • How can I write clearly and concisely for this particular audience?
  • How will the stakeholders use my case study in their work?
  • What are the relevant technical terms and have I explained them in clear and concise language?

Writing up your case study

If your case study is in the form of a report, you can divide it into 8 main sections, as outlined below. However, these vary depending on discipline-specific requirements and assessment criteria.

1. Executive Summary/Synopsis

  • Introduce the topic area of the report.
  • Outline the purpose of the case study.
  • Outline the key issue(s) and finding(s) without the specific details.
  • Identify the theory used.
  • Summarise recommendations.

2. Introduction

  • Summarise the your task
  • Briefly outline the case to identify its significance.
  • State the report's aim(s).
  • Provide the organisation of the main ideas in the report.
  • Briefly describe the key problem and its significance (You usually do not need to provide details of findings or recommendations. However, it is best to first check your assessment task instructions.)

3. Findings

  • presenting the central issue(s) under analysis,
  • providing your reasoning for your choices such as supporting your findings with facts given in the case, the relevant theory and course concepts
  • highlighting any underlying problems.
  • Identify and justify your methodology and analytical tools.This might not be applicable to your assessment, so you will need to check your assessment instructions.

This section is often divided into sub-sections. Your headings and subheadings need to be ​​informative and concise as they act as a guide for the reader to the contents of that section.

4. Discussion

  • Summarise the major problem(s).
  • Identify alternative solutions to these major problem(s).
  • Briefly outline each alternative solution where necessary and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages.
  • Depending on your assessment criteria, you might need to refer to theory or professional practice here.

Note that as a case study is based on a specific situation, it is difficult to generalise your findings to other situations. Make sure that your discussion focuses on your case and what can be learnt from your specific case analysis for your stakeholders.

5. Conclusion

  • Restate the purpose of the report
  • Sum up the main points from the findings, discussion and recommendations.
  • Restate the limitations if required.

6. Recommendations

  • Choose which of the alternative solutions should be adopted.
  • Briefly justify your choice, explaining how it will solve the major problem/s.
  • Remember to integrate theory and practice as discussed in your unit with respect to the case.
  • If needed, suggest an action plan, including who should take action, when and what steps, and how to assess the action taken.
  • If appropriate include a rough estimate of costs (both financial and time).

This section is sometimes divided into Recommendations and Implementation with details of the action plan placed in the Implementation section.

Recommendations should be written in a persuasive, audience-centred style that communicates your suggestions clearly, concisely and precisely .

7. References

  • List in alphabetical order all the references cited in the report.
  • Make sure to accurately format your references according to the specified referencing style for your unit.

8. Appendices (if any)

  • Attach any original data that relates to your analysis and the case but which would have interrupted the flow of the main body.

Reference list

Ivančević-Otanjac, M., & Milojević, I. (2015). Writing a case report in English. Srpski arhiv za celokupno lekarstvo , 143 (1-2), 116-118.

Take it further

Buseco: report writing.

This resource is designed to assist you in completing a business report. It provides a guide to approaching and structuring your report and includes annotated examples with written feedback.

Engineering: Lab report

This resource expands on the general report structure and provides useful tips and examples on how to turn practical work and lab experiments into a written lab report.

Engineering: Technical report

This resource expands on the general report structure and provides useful tips and examples on how to write a report for key stakeholders, using experimental and practical data.

This resource provides information about what reports look like in IT, and how you might consider structuring your IT report. It includes student samples for each possible section of an IT report, along with video and written feedback.

MNHS: Health sciences case report

This resource provides a guide to approaching and structuring a patient-based case report. It includes an annotated example with written feedback.

MNHS: Comparative report

This resource is designed to assist you in completing your Comparative Report [CR] for Integrating Science and Practice [iSAP] assessment tasks. It provides a guide to approaching and structuring your report and includes an annotated example with written feedback.

MNHS: Psychology case report

This resource provides detailed guidance on the structure and content of the psychology case report, with numerous examples from the recommended reading.

Science: Lab report

Your feedback matters.

We want to hear from you! Let us know what you found most useful or share your suggestions for improving this resource.

Using Case Studies to Teach

research case studies for students

Why Use Cases?

Many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles. The use of case studies can therefore be a very effective classroom technique.

Case studies are have long been used in business schools, law schools, medical schools and the social sciences, but they can be used in any discipline when instructors want students to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. Cases come in many formats, from a simple “What would you do in this situation?” question to a detailed description of a situation with accompanying data to analyze. Whether to use a simple scenario-type case or a complex detailed one depends on your course objectives.

Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions. Requirements can range from a one-paragraph answer to a fully developed group action plan, proposal or decision.

Common Case Elements

Most “full-blown” cases have these common elements:

  • A decision-maker who is grappling with some question or problem that needs to be solved.
  • A description of the problem’s context (a law, an industry, a family).
  • Supporting data, which can range from data tables to links to URLs, quoted statements or testimony, supporting documents, images, video, or audio.

Case assignments can be done individually or in teams so that the students can brainstorm solutions and share the work load.

The following discussion of this topic incorporates material presented by Robb Dixon of the School of Management and Rob Schadt of the School of Public Health at CEIT workshops. Professor Dixon also provided some written comments that the discussion incorporates.

Advantages to the use of case studies in class

A major advantage of teaching with case studies is that the students are actively engaged in figuring out the principles by abstracting from the examples. This develops their skills in:

  • Problem solving
  • Analytical tools, quantitative and/or qualitative, depending on the case
  • Decision making in complex situations
  • Coping with ambiguities

Guidelines for using case studies in class

In the most straightforward application, the presentation of the case study establishes a framework for analysis. It is helpful if the statement of the case provides enough information for the students to figure out solutions and then to identify how to apply those solutions in other similar situations. Instructors may choose to use several cases so that students can identify both the similarities and differences among the cases.

Depending on the course objectives, the instructor may encourage students to follow a systematic approach to their analysis.  For example:

  • What is the issue?
  • What is the goal of the analysis?
  • What is the context of the problem?
  • What key facts should be considered?
  • What alternatives are available to the decision-maker?
  • What would you recommend — and why?

An innovative approach to case analysis might be to have students  role-play the part of the people involved in the case. This not only actively engages students, but forces them to really understand the perspectives of the case characters. Videos or even field trips showing the venue in which the case is situated can help students to visualize the situation that they need to analyze.

Accompanying Readings

Case studies can be especially effective if they are paired with a reading assignment that introduces or explains a concept or analytical method that applies to the case. The amount of emphasis placed on the use of the reading during the case discussion depends on the complexity of the concept or method. If it is straightforward, the focus of the discussion can be placed on the use of the analytical results. If the method is more complex, the instructor may need to walk students through its application and the interpretation of the results.

Leading the Case Discussion and Evaluating Performance

Decision cases are more interesting than descriptive ones. In order to start the discussion in class, the instructor can start with an easy, noncontroversial question that all the students should be able to answer readily. However, some of the best case discussions start by forcing the students to take a stand. Some instructors will ask a student to do a formal “open” of the case, outlining his or her entire analysis.  Others may choose to guide discussion with questions that move students from problem identification to solutions.  A skilled instructor steers questions and discussion to keep the class on track and moving at a reasonable pace.

In order to motivate the students to complete the assignment before class as well as to stimulate attentiveness during the class, the instructor should grade the participation—quantity and especially quality—during the discussion of the case. This might be a simple check, check-plus, check-minus or zero. The instructor should involve as many students as possible. In order to engage all the students, the instructor can divide them into groups, give each group several minutes to discuss how to answer a question related to the case, and then ask a randomly selected person in each group to present the group’s answer and reasoning. Random selection can be accomplished through rolling of dice, shuffled index cards, each with one student’s name, a spinning wheel, etc.

Tips on the Penn State U. website: http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/cases/

If you are interested in using this technique in a science course, there is a good website on use of case studies in the sciences at the University of Buffalo.

Dunne, D. and Brooks, K. (2004) Teaching with Cases (Halifax, NS: Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education), ISBN 0-7703-8924-4 (Can be ordered at http://www.bookstore.uwo.ca/ at a cost of $15.00)

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University of Reading

open research case studies

In these case studies, researchers at the University of Reading explain how they have used open practices to carry out and communicate their research, and explore the benefits and challenges of being open.

If you are a researcher or research student at the University and would like us to publish your Open Research case study, find out more here .

Shelving containing boxes and folders within an archive


Dr Joseph O’Mahoney has piloted a tool that enables access from articles to digital versions of archival sources.

Windspeed and rainfall monitors graphs

Urban Climate Modelling

A verger's dream: Saints Cosmas and Damian performing a miraculous cure by transplantation of a leg, attributed to he Master of Los Balbases in 1495

Surgery and Selfhood

Depiction of the Solar System showing the course of solar winds

Modelling the Sun’s winds

Aerial view of a cloudscape

Data for the transition to clean energy

Reproducibilitea logo

ReproducibiliTea Reading

microbiology test samples

Designing a robot for microbiological imaging

network of connecting points

PhD research impact and visibility

Postdoctoral researcher in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University, highlights how early engagement with open practices during his PhD improved the quality of his research and supported his professional development.

A satellite image from the open global flood forecasting software developed at NCAS and Reading.

worldwide flood forecasting

A coronal mass ejection on the sun

watching storms in space

A man and a woman in conversation

testing philosophy

Experimental psychologists teamed up with a philosophy academic to explore how people talk about knowledge in everyday language. They used the methods and tools of open reproducible research to test and qualify findings from a published study.

An abstract image of a brain with colourful paint strands

open culture in brain imaging

Computer imagery of oceans

environmental software for all

Villagers gather to discuss TAMSAT ALERT

predicting crop loss risk for african farmers

Subjects a-b.

  • Agriculture
  • Archaeology
  • Building and Surveying

Subjects C-E

  • Construction Management
  • Consumer Behaviour and Marketing

Subjects H-M

  • International Foundation Programme (IFP)
  • International Relations
  • Museum Studies

Subjects N-T

  • Politics and International Relations
  • Surveying and Construction

Subjects A-C

Subjects d-g.

  • English Language and Applied Linguistics

Subjects H-P

  • Linguistics
  • Ancient History
  • Anthropology
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Bioveterinary Sciences
  • Business and Management
  • Classics and Classical Studies
  • Climate Science
  • Computer Science
  • Creative Writing
  • Criminology
  • Engineering
  • English Literature
  • Environment

Subjects F-G

  • Film & Television
  • Foundation programmes
  • Graphic Communication and Design
  • International Development
  • Languages and Cultures
  • Mathematics
  • Medical Sciences
  • Meteorology and Climate
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physician Associate Studies
  • Real Estate and Planning
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Theatre & Performance

Subjects U-Z

  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Business (Post-Experience)
  • Business and Management (Pre-Experience)
  • Classics and Ancient History
  • Construction Management and Engineering
  • Consumer Behaviour
  • Creative Enterprise
  • Data Science
  • Energy and Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Film, Theatre and Television
  • Food and Nutritional Sciences
  • Geography and Environmental Science
  • Graphic Design
  • Information Management and Digital Business
  • Information Technology
  • International Development and Applied Economics
  • Physician Associate
  • Project Management
  • Public Policy

Subjects Q-Z

  • Social Policy
  • Strategic Studies
  • Teacher training
  • Typography and Graphic Communication
  • War and Peace Studies


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