Case Study Research: A Primer
Mark Widdowson, TSTA (P)
University of Leicester
Workshop Outline
 Why case study research?
Why are case studies important?
 We work with ‘cases’.
 The case represents the most fundamental,
basic unit of analysis
 Case studies provide rich, contextualised,
practice-relevant information
 Captures complexity (multiple methods)
 Tells a story, shows process unfolding over
Why is case study research so
important to TA?
 Case study research represents perhaps the
single most promising and accessible
research method open to the TA community
 As an approach it draws upon skills we
already have
 The accounting for context and unique
features are congruent with TA philosophy
 The methodological philosophy is congruent
with TA philosophy, theory and practice
More reasons…
 Case study research is efficient
 Ease of replication
 Sensitive to individual differences
 Can be compared to other cases
 Can be used to investigate both process and
outcome- even within the same study
What can we discover from case
study research?
What are your thoughts?
Aims of Case Study Research
(McLeod, 2010)
 Outcome questions: How effective has therapy been in
this case?
 Theory-building questions: How can the process of
therapy in this case be understood in theoretical terms?
How can the data in this case be used to test and refine
 Pragmatic questions: What strategies did the therapist
use in this case, that contributed to the eventual
outcome? What are the principles of good practice that
can be derived from this case?
 Experiential or narrative questions: What was it like to
be the client or therapist in this case? What is the story of
what happened, from the client or therapist point of
Pragmatism- A philosophy for case
study research
 Pragmatism synthesises positivism and
 Sees both quantitative & qualitative
approaches as having something to offer
 Truth is seen as an evolving process of ‘what
is most true at this time’
 Statements evaluated on their usefulness and
Methodological Issues:
 Good research enables us to generalise the
findings to other cases
 The contextual information contained in the
case study enable very specific
generalisations to be made:
 ‘‘What treatment, by whom, is most effective
for this individual, with that specific problem,
and under which set of circumstances?’’ (Paul,
1967: 111)
Generalisability II
 By combining multiple cases, each replication
builds up an incremental degree of
confidence in the approach tested and also
highlights exceptions to its effectiveness,
thus enhancing generalisability
Methodological Issues:
Focus of Case Study Research
 ‘case study research is usually interested in a
specific phenomenon and wishes to
understand it completely, not by controlling
variables but rather by observing all of the
variables and their interacting relationships’
(Dooley, 2002: 336)
 Generally has high external validity but low
internal validity
Methodological Issues: validity
 ‘Trustworthiness’:
 credibility (parallel to internal validity- related
to internal consistency);
 Transferability (parallel to external validity/
 Dependability (parallel to reliabilityconsistency of analysis method);
 Confirmability (parallel to objectivity- do the
findings represent the phenomena?).
Pragmatic perspective on validity:
 Pragmatism holds that an understanding of
the context of knowledge is essential to
making sense of, and using that knowledgewhat is ‘true’ in one context does not
necessarily mean it is ‘true’ in all.
 Truth is considered to be the explanation or
theory that is most true at this present time,
as opposed to being a fixed truth
 Scientific statements are evaluated on their
usefulness and applicability
Transferability and legitimation
 Legitimation : combination of validity and
quality checking using criteria from both
quantitative and qualitative approaches
 Legitimation: is the theory which emerges
practical and transferable?
 Specific aspects which can be transferred are
named and identified as within a particular
 Onwuegbuzie and Johnson (2006)
Ethics in case study research
 Three main issues:
 Confidentiality
 Informed consent
 Avoidance of harm or exploitation/ client
Types of Case Study Research
 Outcome/ Efficacy Case Studies (e.g. HSCED)
 Pragmatic Case Studies
 Qualitative Case Studies
 Theory-Building Case Studies
 Narrative Case Studies
Hermeneutic Single-Case Efficacy
 A Quasi-Legal method of case study analysis
 Rich case record compiled
 Case analysed and ‘affirmative’ and ‘sceptic’
arguments are developed
 The rich case record and affirmative and
sceptic arguments are sent to independent
judges for adjudication
What data should I collect?
 Quantitative Minimum of:
 2 outcome measures (e.g. CORE, BDI-II,
PHQ-9, GAD-7)
 1 process measure (e.g. HAT, SEQ, WAI, SRS)
 Qualitative data:
 For example client interview, client openended feedback forms
Guidelines for enhancing Case Study
 Why this case? What is significant about it?
 Compile a detailed case record. Tell the story.
Provide the context
 Use multiple tools
 Use a team-based data analysis approach
 Make a ‘good-faith’ attempt to examine
alternative explanations
 Use a member checking procedure- ask the
client to comment
What are the theoretical and practice
implications of the case? How does the case
link to existing theory/ research
How have the ethical aspects of the case
study been addressed?
Researcher reflexivity
Account for the limitations of the case

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