Case Study

A case study is a detailed study of an individual or small group of people.

Some studies which adopt the case study method include:

  • Thigpen and Cleckley
  • Savage-Rumbaugh
  • Freud

Strengths of the Case Study Method

+ Useful for investigating the origins of abnormal behaviour. In fact some forms of psychotherapy rely on building up a long and detailed case history as an aid to understanding and helping the client.

+ Provides an in-depth  rich data giving the researcher more of a holistic view of the phenomenon under investigation.

+ As case studies is often conducted on small sample sizes over a long period of time, the researcher and participant(s) are able to develop a close bond and, as a result, the participant(s) are more likely to behave in a natural way, increasing the validity of findings.


Weaknesses of the Case Study Method

– Case studies only relate to one individual (or a small group of people) and we therefore have to be careful when generalising the results due to individual differences.

– If the study is retrospective (if the individual is asked to look back over his/her life) then memory may not be accurate and indeed, people may deliberately mislead the researcher. The data may therefore be unreliable.

– It is difficult to control variables and the close relationship between researcher and participant may introduce bias. As a result findings may lack validity.

– We can not usually make cause and effect statements and of course case studies are time consuming and therefore expensive.

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