How to write a case study
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Case studies are an important form of descriptive research in medicine that outline an interesting disease trajectory, or patient case. Case-based methods are used often in medicine by clinicians when they want to share their observations of a rare disease course or an unusual or unique presentation of an injury or syndrome. Yin defines the case study method as a form of empirical inquiry that investigates and analyzes medical phenomena in its "real-life context". Case studies are also central to problem-based learning methods in medicine.
Authors of case studies can take descriptive or explanatory approaches, but typically their decisions, policies, institutions or other aspects in the case are closely inventoried and analyzed. The case study method also provides an analytical frame within which an issue or clinical intervention can be examined. Some examples of the case study in medicine include the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases or, in psychiatry, the treatment of a mental illness. In medical education, case studies can be used to discuss practically any educational intervention from course design to problem-based learning.
The case study can be a valuable method of research, with distinctive characteristics that make it ideal for many types of investigations; it can also be used in combination with other research methods. Its reliability should make it more widely used if its features are well-understood and applied accordingly by researchers.
What are case studies?
Types of case studies
Case study methods
Sources of information used in case studies
Different sources of information and methods can be used by researchers to gather evidence about the subject of the case. Yin and State have identified at least six major sources of information used for data collection to write the case study:
Describe a library service, project or initiative
Case studies are flexible in that they can be presented in a number of ways. That said, any evaluation of results should include the methods used in the study and all supporting information (i.e., copies of instruments and guides used). Case studies may stand alone or be included as part of larger projects.
Pros / cons
The primary advantage of the case study is that it provides a more detailed view of a specifc disease, patient or intervention than might otherwise be the case through other methods. Case studies allow researchers to present data from multiple methods (i.e., surveys, interviews, document review and observation), which is a form of triangulation. In some evaluation and research fields, case studies are seen to be less rigorous than surveys or other methods. One reason for this is the fact that qualitative research is perceived as unscientific by many, and case study research is not as systematic in its data collection. Finally, due to its perceived lack of rigour, the case study is not generalizable or unbiased in its findings or conclusions.