Single case study
A single case study is a research method used in management to investigate a particular phenomenon in depth by focusing on a single example, often a person, organization, event, or action. It involves in-depth analysis of a single case to explore the underlying concepts and causes of the phenomenon being studied. It enables researchers to explore the unique context of a particular situation and to collect detailed, in-depth data on the topic of interest. By understanding the context of a single case, researchers can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon being studied.
Example of single case study
- A single case study of a particular patient could examine their physical, mental, and emotional health over the course of their treatment. This could involve tracking the patient's progress through various stages of treatment, such as initial diagnosis, treatment plan, and follow-up care. This type of study could provide a better understanding of the individual's experience with their condition and the effectiveness of the treatment plan.
- A single case study of a particular organization could focus on the organization's management practices and culture. This type of study could look at the organization's structure, decision-making processes, and communication strategies to understand how it operates. It could also explore the organization's internal and external environment and the ways in which it interacts with different stakeholders.
- A single case study of a particular event could examine the circumstances surrounding the event and the strategies used to respond to it. This type of study could provide an in-depth analysis of the event and the factors that contributed to its success or failure. It could also examine the impact of the event on different groups of people and the lessons learned from it.
When to use single case study
Single case studies are useful when researchers are interested in exploring a phenomenon in depth, particularly when the context of the phenomenon is unique or complex. They can be used to:
- Examine the causal relationship between variables in a single case and explore the underlying concepts and causes of the phenomenon;
- Investigate a particular problem or issue in detail, such as a new technology, a new way of working, or a new policy;
- Understand the impact of an event, organization, or action on individuals, groups, or organizations;
- Study rare or unusual phenomena;
- Develop an in-depth understanding of a particular context or situation;
- Test the generalizability of existing theories and models.
Types of single case study
A single case study can take many forms depending on the research objectives. Below are some of the types of single case study:
- Exploratory case study: This type of case study is used to explore a particular topic or phenomenon. It is used as an initial step to gain an understanding of the topic and to identify possible further research.
- Descriptive case study: This type of case study focuses on describing the phenomenon being studied. It uses detailed data on the case to provide a comprehensive description of the phenomenon.
- Explanatory case study: This type of case study is used to explain a particular phenomenon or behavior. It seeks to identify the factors that are influencing the phenomenon and to explain why it is occurring.
- Intensive case study: This type of case study focuses on a single case or individual. It seeks to understand the context of the case or individual in order to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon being studied.
- Comparative case study: This type of case study compares two or more cases to understand similarities and differences between them. It seeks to identify the factors that are influencing the similarities and differences between the cases.
Steps of single case study
A single case study is a powerful research method used to investigate a particular phenomenon in depth by focusing on a single example. The following steps are required to effectively conduct a single case study:
- Define the research question: The first step in a single case study is to define the research question that is to be studied. This should be done in a way that is relevant to the context of the case study and should be clear and concise.
- Select the case: The second step is to select a single case that is suitable for the research question. This should be done carefully, taking into account the particular context of the case and the research question.
- Collect data: After selecting the case, data must be collected in order to answer the research question. This can include surveys, interviews, documents, and observation.
- Analyze the data: Once the data has been collected, it must be analyzed in order to draw conclusions about the research question. This may involve using qualitative or quantitative methods to analyze the data.
- Report the findings: The final step is to report the findings of the case study. This should include a thorough discussion of the results and a clear explanation of the implications of the findings.
Advantages of single case study
Single case studies have a number of advantages for research. They allow for an in-depth examination of a phenomenon that is not possible with other types of research. Specifically, single case studies can provide:
- Rich and detailed data, as the researcher can gather in-depth information from the single case.
- The opportunity to explore issues and phenomena in a unique context, as the researcher can gain insights into the particular situation and its context.
- The ability to identify patterns and relationships that may be missed in other types of research.
- The ability to gain a more holistic understanding of a phenomenon by taking into account a range of factors, such as culture, history, and context.
- The ability to identify cause-and-effect relationships, as the researcher can observe changes in the case over time.
- The ability to uncover unexpected findings, as the researcher can explore the complexities of the case.
Limitations of single case study
One of the major limitations of single case study is its limited generalizability. Since the study focuses on a single case, the results cannot be applied to other contexts or settings. Additionally, it can be difficult to identify the cause-and-effect relationships between variables, as the case study may only provide a snapshot of the current situation rather than an in-depth analysis of the underlying factors. Furthermore, the case study may be biased due to the researcher’s pre-existing expectations or biases. Finally, the case study requires a great deal of time and resources to conduct in-depth research, which can be costly and may limit its applicability to complex research questions.
A single case study is a research method used in management to investigate a particular phenomenon in depth by focusing on a single example, often a person, organization, event, or action. Other approaches related to single case study include:
- Comparative case studies, which involve comparing multiple cases to identify patterns, similarities, and differences.
- Qualitative case studies, which involve collecting and analyzing qualitative data from participants to understand the subjective experience of the phenomenon being studied.
- Ethnography, which involves observing and recording the behavior of participants in their natural environment.
- Action research, which involves engaging participants in the research process to identify opportunities for improvement.
Overall, single case studies provide an in-depth look at a particular phenomenon, while other approaches such as comparative case studies, qualitative case studies, ethnography, and action research provide different perspectives that help to shed light on the phenomenon in question.
|Single case study — recommended articles|
|Multiple case study — Case study methodology — Case study research — Exploratory case study — Field research — Case study analysis — Qualitative research techniques — Case study approach — Social network analysis|
- Gustafsson, J. (2017). Single case studies vs. multiple case studies: A comparative study.
- Mariotto, F. L., Zanni, P. P., & Moraes, G. H. S. (2014). What is the use of a single-case study in management research?. Revista de Administração de Empresas, 54, 358-369.