Using Case Studies
This blog will explain how to do case study research and provide examples of how to write the case study chapter.
The research methodology chapter will show that you understand academic research and have selected and justified your choice. Using Case Studies is a perfectly acceptable method for your research. It is a myth that you must collect primary data, and that primary data dissertations obtain higher marks. Case study research is perfectly acceptable.
Ethics is still important with case study research. The research methodology chapter should show that you understand ethical issues in research. Also that you have complied with your institutions ethical procedures.
How to Find Case Studies
It is unlikely that books will contain case studies. One of the issues is that books will be several years old when published, and the case study will quickly age.
Use the library (online) to search for recent journals and conference proceedings. Ask the librarians for the index of journals that you can search. Find the journals for your selected industry/topic, and search on you particular research area.
Remember, that you can search a Project Management journal for ‘automotive’, and also an Automotive journal for ‘Project management’. Adapt this example for your own topics.
Once you have found a relevant article, ‘mine’ the references to find similar articles. Identify the frequently published authors in your topic area. You can then search for other articles that they have published.
For some students, you may want to find the case study before the title is set. It is a waste of time to set a perfect title and objectives, only to find it impossible to find an suitable case study.
How Many Case Studies?
A single case study could be a .pdf document downloaded from a journal, or a collection of information from many sources.
However, one case study gives you nothing to compare with. Does this case study show a good or bad application of the theories? Are the results from this case study the best?
Using two or three case studies allows you to ‘compare and contrast’ in the discussion chapter. More than four case studies is probably inappropriate – select three of the most relevant studies.
What is a Good Case Study?
A good case study is modern, and recent. It will perhaps highlight something unusual to the normal process or methods used. It will be an important insight into the application of the theories covered in the Literature Review. A good case study will challenge prevailing assumptions.
The case study will come from a ‘peer reviewed’ source, and thus be supported by other experts (as well as the authors).
The Case Study Chapter
The case studies will normally be written up in chapter 4 of the dissertation.
Chapter 4.1. Introduce the chapter, mentioning the sources for the case studies. State clearly that the case studies are not your own work. This will help avoid referencing everything later in the chapter.
Chapter 4.2. Provide some background to your case study. If your case study is about a particular company, include some background information (cited) such as:
- Countries and Locations
These references can come from the web or a variety of book sources.
Chapter 4.3. Precis the case study in your own words, indicating that the full document is in an appendix.
Repeat sections 4.2 and 4.3 for the other case studies.
Remember, in this chapter state, but do not analyse or discuss the situation, save that for later chapters.
The Analysis or Comparison Chapter
However, if you have several case studies a Comparison Chapter might be more relevant. In this chapter you can re-order information in the case studies to select and highlight important information. This may be in a tabular format. In this chapter reorganise the case study information to suit your research questions, objectives, or literature review topics. Again, limit this chapter to a reorganisation of data, and keep all discussion and evaluation for the discussion chapter.
I recently recorded a video of this information regarding case studies.
Case Studies are an acceptable method for your research.