Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Case Study Approach

Case Study

The case study approach is a research tool that involves analysis of real-life scenarios in their actual context. The method allows the researcher to obtain more information by seeking answers on who is involved, the reasons for involvement among other questions. However, the technique is limited by its inability to provide generalization. Nonetheless, the technique is advantageous in sourcing enough information and actual events that do not need manipulation of the environment. The sources of data can be qualitative and quantitative. Mostly, data are obtained from interviews, focus groups among others. The following study defines the case study research method, its limitations, and advantages, sources of case study data, and the value of using it in research.

Defining Case Study

A case study is a non-experimental research methodology since it does not involve manipulation of variables, and assignment of research participants to orders of conditions or conditions (Crawford, 2017). Case study Research methodology is used to obtain detailed information on a single event in its natural context hence the term naturalistic design. The researcher cannot manipulate variables or participants; it involves determination of the cause of an effect rather than progressing from cause to effect. It is commonly applied in social science, under circumstances that the researcher has little or no control of the events. It serves to answer the questions “why?’ and “how?” (Yin, 2017, ppp.1). The case study can also be viewed as a type of qualitative research. Besides being a research tool, case studies have been applied for other purposes such as teaching and record keeping in law, hospitals and so on. The major difference between this cases as used in research and other uses is that case studies for research purposes are rigorous requiring meticulous rendition of empirical data that is not common in other cases.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Case Study Approach

When undertaking a study, researchers are presented with diverse options and approaches to select. Some of the research techniques include conduction of surveys, experiments, historical analysis, or analysis of archives (Yin, 2017, pp. 1). The choice of the techniques will depend on the researcher’s control of the experiment. Upon the choice of the case study as a methodology, one is likely to face the following advantages and disadvantages


The benefits of using case studies are indispensable. First, the researcher is presented with an opportunity of studying an actual event and determining who and why participated in an event. This presents a far more immense opportunity to find more intrinsic details and build a strong case for his argument. The researcher can determine the causal effects involved in the research (American Psychological Association, 2002, pp.11). Moreover, when conducting a case study, the researcher can contextualize the research as opposed to methodologies like statistical analysis collected some time back and in which the research has no privilege of understanding the context. Finally, case study research has been productive in the field of psychology by generating general principles and newer research questions (Crawford, 2017).


I would say the use of the case study as a research tool is crippled by its inability to generalize its findings. This problem manifests itself more so when the research involves one scenario and a given environment. It is difficult to generalize the results of a single case study to an entire population living under different environmental factors. The only possible way that a generalization can be made is through the application of the findings in analytical generalization but not a statistical generalization (Naumes & Naumes, 2014, pp. 64).

Replication of results obtained from a case study is practically difficult or impossible since the factors are outside the researcher’s power to control them because of the lack of variable and participants to manipulate (Crawford, 2017). This makes the case study unreliable to generalization. Given the researcher’s freedom to use information obtained in the early stages of the research, the researcher may be biased to follow one lead. Therefore, the method is subjective to the researcher who can choose what to or not report and investigate. Finally, the case study approach generates many data that may be impossible to analyze due to period allocated for the research and funds (Crowe et al., 2011, pp. 7). This results in bias or neglect of useful information in case the researcher has to detriment what information to hold and which ones to assume.

Reasons for Using a Case Study Approach

The use of case study methodology over other methodologies can be attributed to several factors discussed hereafter. First, the case study approach allows the researcher to obtain a great wealth of information that is not possible with methodologies such as historical review and practical (Crowe et al., 2011, pp. 1). In practical research, the researcher deals with and is limited to obtaining results to prove the hypothesis. In the case study, the researcher has no control to the limits that he could go with the study. However, for the sake of time and multitude of information, he may be compelled to stop further inquiries. Secondly, case studies allow the researcher to probe for information in the natural context as opposed to practical scenarios where the environment is controlled (Croweet al., 2011, pp. 1). Even though the results obtained from a case study cannot be generalized, its naturalistic approach allows it to make more sense of its practicability.

Acquiring Information/Data for a Case Study

According to American Psychological Association (2002), case study research involves the conduction of detailed research in the actual environmental setting. A researcher needs to consider several factors before settling on a case (pp. 11). First, the researcher must determine what type of case study researcher is going to use. One can choose from the intrinsic, instrumental, and collective approach. If the researcher selects on intrinsic method, he will have to select a case because of its merit and uniqueness (Crowe et al., 2011, pp. 1, pp. 5). This can be seen in cases of marginalized groups. The researcher will require typical or deviant sources in the case study approach. The researcher conducts investigations on a sample representing the issue that he or she seeks to analyze. For example, one may select to work on a nurse to understand the doctor. Finally, the collective case study will require a collection of information from typical sources fo generalization (Crowe et al., 2011, pp. 1, pp. 6). Upon determining the correct type of subjects to be addressed, the researcher can choose to collect qualitative or quantitative data. Qualitative data can be obtained through questionnaires, interviews, observations, or focus groups. Moreover, the researcher can collect data from journals, questionnaires and recorded data.


The case study approach is an effective method in studying social sciences, which do not require practical to prove the theory. It provides enough data and allows real-life studies, which are easy to associate with. The researcher has multiple sources to select from depending on the type of case study approach he is using. One can decide on doing a collective, intrinsic or an instrumental case study. Despite its vast information and context, it is difficult to generalize with this methodology.


American Psychological Association. (2002).  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Manitoba Education and Training

Crawford, R. (2017). Introduction to research: Less Fright, More Insight. Publications Manual of the American psychological association.

Crowe, S., Cresswell, K., Robertson, A., Huby, G., Avery, A., & Sheikh, A. (2011). The case study approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 11(1), 100.

Naumes, W., & Naumes, M. J. (2014). The art and craft of case writing. Routledge.

Yin, R. K. (2017). Case Study research and applications: design and methods. Sage Publications.

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