How to Write a Case Study

Writing guide
Posted on July 8, 2022

If you have never written case studies to study groups of participants or individuals, then this guide will be helpful for you. Typically, research is conducted through such means as observations, interviews, tests, protocols, examination of records, or collections of written samples. From this text, you will learn what case studies are, and then the applications and methods used in this type of writing, as well as data collection and diagnosis. It will be useful to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the case study and, last but not least, the rules for reporting.

Term Definition

You will be writing a case study to collect and present sub-group information about a selected individual or group of people. A case study is part of a qualitative descriptive study, at the end of which conclusions are drawn about a specific object of work in a specific context. Usually, the one who writes such work does not pursue the goal of arriving at a generalized truth, and they have no interest in showing a causal relationship. Rather, they emphasize research and description of the objects of their work.


All variables that are involved in the case study will be explored to make the overall situation understandable and the events justified. To reach this level of understanding, you must describe in detail the object you are evaluating, the circumstances in which it happened, the characteristics of the people involved in the process, and the characteristics of the object itself in a particular society. You can include demographics such as norms, mores, social values, motives, and public opinion in your detailed description.

A survey is a so-called quantitative research method that focuses more on “who”, “where”, and “how much”. This happens by placing a person in a certain context. At the same time, the case study strategy is preferable because it asks questions about “how” and “why”. Also, in cases where the executive researcher has the ability to control events in real-time, the case study may also be preferred.

Note! A case study is a less focused experiment, so it requires solving problems that will be aimed at a general understanding of a particular object or event. During the process, adapt to the use of inductive logic, which means parsing terms from specific to more general.

If you’re in academia, it’s likely that case studies will be used as a naturalistic or qualitative type. Case studies are otherwise known as ethnography replacement, participant observation, or field research. The difference between this type of work and statistics-based research, which aims to collect quantitative data, is that all the information collected for summary is used for further research.

Problems of Case Study Design and Its Types

You can use several methods and approaches in your work to conduct case studies. Since there are quite a lot of them, several divisions were created, which are divided depending on what tasks you set for yourself as you research.

design case study

In addition to the general guidelines and rules, you can see what experts advise when writing a case study:

How to Write a Case Study in Film and Theatre Studies
How to Write a Case Study in Classic English Literature: No More Pain And Struggle
How to Write a Case Study in Family and Consumer Science

Illustrative Case Studies

In general, it can be said that such studies are descriptive in themselves. In their case, two examples of a specific event are usually used in order to be able to compare. You will write an illustrative case study in order to introduce readers to the unfamiliar and to show the general characteristics of the topic that you have covered.

Exploratory (or Pilot) Case Studies

Such investigations are usually the previous phase of some major investigation. You will be writing this type of work to determine questions for future core research and to choose what types of measurements you will use. The main mistake that research participants make is usually that the results obtained after the first attempt seem very convincing and reliable, that they are taken as the conclusions of the final work.

Cumulative Case Studies

You will use this type of research to collect and combine information from different sources that have been published at different times. Using this technique allows you to make a conclusion faster on the basis of existing data, without creating new studies that may be repeated.

Development of a Case Study

Once you have become familiar with the different types of case studies and know what the theoretical point of view of this type of work is, then you can start developing your research. Research design is understood as a logical chain that provides a link between the data collected and the conclusions drawn for the original study. With the help of a case study, you can solve at least 4 problems, including:

  • What method to study questions;
  • What data is relevant;
  • What data needs to be collected;
  • How to analyze this data.

It will probably be difficult or impossible for you to come up with some kind of universal or rigorous plan to conduct case studies because they can be on a wide variety of topics, ranging from Anglo-Saxon literature to AIDS prevention. But among experts, there are opinions that it is possible to formulate a roughly universal plan. Here is Robert K. Yin’s 5-component structure for your case study:

  • Questions posed to the research;
  • Suggestions on how this research can be carried out;
  • Units of analysis;
  • A logical chain that will link all the data;
  • The criteria by which you interpret the results.

You can think of a research plan as a whole journey from beginning to end, where the beginning is a set of questions that you have chosen to find answers to them, and the end is a set of conclusions to these questions.

You should pay attention to how clearly you formulate your theoretical point of view and define the goals of your research. Not least, you need to be able to choose the right research objects and suitable data collection methods. In the end, you need to properly report your work done so as not to devalue all the results.
Robert K. Yin

Conducting Case Studies

Initially, it is important to get a complete understanding of the subject of the case study, so you can use various methods and approaches related to the research questions, which you can see below.

conducting the case study

Data Analysis

The main purpose of collecting information is to get some conclusions from your data. As practice shows, researchers choose one of two ways of analysis: holistically or through coding. The first means holding your data together in order to draw a general conclusion – they are usually not broken into parts and individual characteristics.

Most often, you will use the second method, which means collecting data through a systematic search to identify or classify specific characteristics or activities. These variables will be coded and are key elements in the study. Expert Sharan Merriam developed 7 analytical frameworks to represent data and charts for the organization:

  • Historical;
  • Thematic:
  • Resources;
  • The role of the participants;
  • Symbolism and ritual;
  • Network analysis of informal and formal exchanges between groups;
  • Critical incidents that reinforce fundamental beliefs and challenge researchers.

Sharan Merriam has two main goals for his schemas: to look for patterns that give meaning to the case study and those that are found among the data. This means that, despite the fact that the main goal of researchers is to finish their case studies with certain conclusions, some of them appear already at the stage of data collection and become key in the entire study.

Pro tip

You can use typical variables as pauses that are made when writing text or language units (for example, verbs and nouns). You can also code in text and writing processes (eg, editing, planning, drafting, and proofreading). In one study, students were asked to code for the use of connectives, average sentence length, non-registered words, discourse indicator words, or ratios of certain words.

Encoding is subjective and more than one encoder is usually used in a process. In the same study described above, there were 3 speakers who were hired to code students’ texts into non-registered phrases. In that project, an agreement was established between the coders, even before it was concluded that the student used an insufficient number of non-registered words in the course of the graduate program.

Writing a Case Study Report

The report can be made in several forms since the case study is a very heterogeneous type of work and can be a story or a detailed analysis of real events. A case study can have a plot and exposition, characters, and even, sometimes, dialogues. Case study reports are mostly descriptive, and authors usually face the problem of how to combine analysis and description when writing. As a general rule, you should address each of your steps in the case study process and try to provide readers with as much content as possible related to the decisions and conclusions you made while solving the research question.

Note! In the report part of your research, you should include an explanation of your theoretical positions with a detailed description. So is the consequence of these theories and the origin of your case study idea.

An example is Emig’s research, which she completed with the topic of consequences, on the basis of which further research can be done. It shows readers several ways that they can use to improve the research, as well as conclusions that might be of interest as ideas for someone else’s work. She has included implications for educators in her essay, detailing the results of a study for high school teachers who teach writing programs.

Commentary on Case Studies

You will often come across during the study of writing case study contradictions between the opinions of researchers on the topic of certain methods. Like many topics, a case study has its advantages and disadvantages. You can check them out below.

Those who can write case studies effectively insist that they are much more informative and specific than those written as a result of statistical analysis. Also, fans of this type of work believe that statistical analysis is well suited when it comes to homogeneous and routine situations, but case studies are still needed for those innovative, creative cases. Benefits of this type of work include:

  • As a method of research work, the case study has a certain high flexibility. When you design your project, it seems to you that you are focusing specifically on research, and not on predicting or prescribing conclusions. But at the same time, you will be surprised how much easier it will be for you to detect a problem as it occurs and fixes it during the experiment. You get a looser format when writing a case study because you start with more general questions and then gradually narrow their focus as you experiment. You don’t try to predict what the results will be before you even start working.
  • When writing a case study, you will focus on context. In the course of writing, you will collect as much information as possible about a particular object or a whole group. This type of work specializes in the study of deep data or a generalized description that is taken from certain contexts. They can also give the results of your research a more appropriate look. The emphasis on context is the bridge between abstract research and applied practice. You, as a researcher, can immediately compare first-hand data with quantitative results that you have obtained using other methods.

Those who do not support case studies say that it is difficult to draw conclusions from a case study because of the difficulty in generalizing the results. They are subjective because they are based on data that can only be used in departments. Among the weaknesses of the case study are noted:

  • This format of work is considered highly subjective and was for some time called the “weak brother of other scientific research studies” because it was perceived as pseudoscience. Some of them often dealt with topics that deviate from their core disciplines and include things that are not precise and do not include. Opponents of the case study say that the implementation cannot be included without subjectivity, as well as the demonstration of the assessment that the author gives to the results obtained. It is believed that even the approach used is based on the personal interpretations of the authors and their conclusions. Some results obtained cannot be generalized and are usually difficult to test for, which rarely becomes a clear problem. In other words, if you in your case study believe that this is one or more subjects as a mechanism for your cognitive extrapolation, then most likely you run the risk of drawing too many conclusions.
  • Usually, a case study is a voluminous work that involves the study of many subjects because of the great interest in their perception of themselves, their emotional background, education, close environment, and likable and similar to the sensations. Since the case study focuses on the study of buildings, this means that large-scale projects require large investments. When it comes to tens of thousands of subjects, it is worth considering which method to apply. From a performance evaluation point of view, it would be better to use the same profit when studying 200 subjects than 400.
  • When you have done what is necessary for the research, be sure to review the ethical questions you may need. There is an opinion that most of the research on a case study is observed with people’s finances, which have power over the studied or researchers indirectly or bystanders. The credibility of the study can, unfortunately, be compromised by this conflict of interest. It is also important for you to realize that each of the participants in the process has feelings, and you need to pay attention to sensitivity, honesty, and the need for prejudice. The consequences of any intrusion on the privacy of the participants may seem to affect ongoing research where alternative methods may be involved. You will need to change the questions and polls about the participants.

A case study is a type of research where you can change the direction of the process, forgetting what the original goal was. Or vice versa, realize in the process that the first idea was not adequate or not relevant and take another way to solve the issue, revising your goals. This can leave gaps and open questions in the whole case study as a result, which means that researchers should communicate preliminary results to sponsors in order to fix the point where they will move.

To inspire you to write your case study and learn how to choose the most interesting topic for your research, then look at the work of other writers and check them through:

Case Study Topics for Students to Cover Important Issues
Health Case Studies: 10 Facts to Imbue the Assignment With
Health Case Studies: 20 Topic Ideas to Dedicate Your Work To

Reliability and Versatility Case Study

Expert Merriam notes that it is common for society to attack researchers and criticize their work, to question the data they have collected. To combat this and correct the situation, there are a couple of suggestions:

  • While still studying the case study, make more attempts to collect the necessary data. You will be able to improve the accuracy of your results, as well as provide your future readers with more detailed and specific information. It can then be formulated into an interpretation.
  • Learn what the triangulation process is and use it. This means that you can use multiple sources to collect data, instead of trusting and relying on just one. Experts McClintock, Maynard, and Brannon believe that the so-called grouping that happens is a good test of the data. This means that you need to randomly select a single unit in each case under study, and then these data are processed in a quantitative way. For example, if you are studying the performance of one student in a group, you can use the grouping method. You study this subject in detail, taking into account all possible details, making specific surveys, and analyzing individual student results. Then, after studying the remaining group of students, you compare the results with each other. In this way, you can identify the unique aspects of the subject and other parties involved.
  • Do checks on those involved in the process from time to time. You must support their active participation by initiating interactions between you and the subjects who will provide you with data. Simply put, you should have as much communication as possible between the participants.
  • Gather additional background information. Supplement materials from the main source, but do not forget about the existence of other documents and studies. Experts often use the literature of other researchers, as well as data from examples of their theoretical studies that have been carried out in relation to the creative process.
  • If you are working on a business project (or any other), then most likely you will have colleagues. It is very important that you have contact and a good relationship with them because communication between you is a key success factor. Before creating the final version of the report, you should definitely consult with colleagues, as in all other stages of your work. With their help, it will be easier for you to establish the validity of the conclusions of the case study, based on a single judgment.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to correct the fact that case studies have a generalization of their conclusions because the opinions of readers will always differ. In addition, as mentioned earlier, this type of work is quite subjective. Most likely this problem will not be solved, but you can change your mind and join the idea that high-quality case studies earn the confidence and should be highly appreciated. They confirm at some level aspects of the study and may well be reliable and valid. Fan experts believe that instead of weighing and comparing which method is better – quantitative, statistical, or case studies and judging what is bad and what is accurate, one can develop an understanding of generalization because it meets the basic characteristics of qualitative research.

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