descriptive case study method

The Ultimate Guide to Qualitative Research - Part 1: The Basics

descriptive case study method

  • Introduction and overview
  • What is qualitative research?
  • What is qualitative data?
  • Examples of qualitative data
  • Qualitative vs. quantitative research
  • Mixed methods
  • Qualitative research preparation
  • Theoretical perspective
  • Theoretical framework
  • Literature reviews

Research question

  • Conceptual framework
  • Conceptual vs. theoretical framework

Data collection

  • Qualitative research methods
  • Focus groups
  • Observational research

What is a case study?

Applications for case study research, what is a good case study, process of case study design, benefits and limitations of case studies.

  • Ethnographical research
  • Ethical considerations
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Power dynamics
  • Reflexivity

Case studies

Case studies are essential to qualitative research , offering a lens through which researchers can investigate complex phenomena within their real-life contexts. This chapter explores the concept, purpose, applications, examples, and types of case studies and provides guidance on how to conduct case study research effectively.

descriptive case study method

Whereas quantitative methods look at phenomena at scale, case study research looks at a concept or phenomenon in considerable detail. While analyzing a single case can help understand one perspective regarding the object of research inquiry, analyzing multiple cases can help obtain a more holistic sense of the topic or issue. Let's provide a basic definition of a case study, then explore its characteristics and role in the qualitative research process.

Definition of a case study

A case study in qualitative research is a strategy of inquiry that involves an in-depth investigation of a phenomenon within its real-world context. It provides researchers with the opportunity to acquire an in-depth understanding of intricate details that might not be as apparent or accessible through other methods of research. The specific case or cases being studied can be a single person, group, or organization – demarcating what constitutes a relevant case worth studying depends on the researcher and their research question .

Among qualitative research methods , a case study relies on multiple sources of evidence, such as documents, artifacts, interviews , or observations , to present a complete and nuanced understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. The objective is to illuminate the readers' understanding of the phenomenon beyond its abstract statistical or theoretical explanations.

Characteristics of case studies

Case studies typically possess a number of distinct characteristics that set them apart from other research methods. These characteristics include a focus on holistic description and explanation, flexibility in the design and data collection methods, reliance on multiple sources of evidence, and emphasis on the context in which the phenomenon occurs.

Furthermore, case studies can often involve a longitudinal examination of the case, meaning they study the case over a period of time. These characteristics allow case studies to yield comprehensive, in-depth, and richly contextualized insights about the phenomenon of interest.

The role of case studies in research

Case studies hold a unique position in the broader landscape of research methods aimed at theory development. They are instrumental when the primary research interest is to gain an intensive, detailed understanding of a phenomenon in its real-life context.

In addition, case studies can serve different purposes within research - they can be used for exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory purposes, depending on the research question and objectives. This flexibility and depth make case studies a valuable tool in the toolkit of qualitative researchers.

Remember, a well-conducted case study can offer a rich, insightful contribution to both academic and practical knowledge through theory development or theory verification, thus enhancing our understanding of complex phenomena in their real-world contexts.

What is the purpose of a case study?

Case study research aims for a more comprehensive understanding of phenomena, requiring various research methods to gather information for qualitative analysis . Ultimately, a case study can allow the researcher to gain insight into a particular object of inquiry and develop a theoretical framework relevant to the research inquiry.

Why use case studies in qualitative research?

Using case studies as a research strategy depends mainly on the nature of the research question and the researcher's access to the data.

Conducting case study research provides a level of detail and contextual richness that other research methods might not offer. They are beneficial when there's a need to understand complex social phenomena within their natural contexts.

The explanatory, exploratory, and descriptive roles of case studies

Case studies can take on various roles depending on the research objectives. They can be exploratory when the research aims to discover new phenomena or define new research questions; they are descriptive when the objective is to depict a phenomenon within its context in a detailed manner; and they can be explanatory if the goal is to understand specific relationships within the studied context. Thus, the versatility of case studies allows researchers to approach their topic from different angles, offering multiple ways to uncover and interpret the data .

The impact of case studies on knowledge development

Case studies play a significant role in knowledge development across various disciplines. Analysis of cases provides an avenue for researchers to explore phenomena within their context based on the collected data.

descriptive case study method

This can result in the production of rich, practical insights that can be instrumental in both theory-building and practice. Case studies allow researchers to delve into the intricacies and complexities of real-life situations, uncovering insights that might otherwise remain hidden.

Types of case studies

In qualitative research , a case study is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on the nature of the research question and the specific objectives of the study, researchers might choose to use different types of case studies. These types differ in their focus, methodology, and the level of detail they provide about the phenomenon under investigation.

Understanding these types is crucial for selecting the most appropriate approach for your research project and effectively achieving your research goals. Let's briefly look at the main types of case studies.

Exploratory case studies

Exploratory case studies are typically conducted to develop a theory or framework around an understudied phenomenon. They can also serve as a precursor to a larger-scale research project. Exploratory case studies are useful when a researcher wants to identify the key issues or questions which can spur more extensive study or be used to develop propositions for further research. These case studies are characterized by flexibility, allowing researchers to explore various aspects of a phenomenon as they emerge, which can also form the foundation for subsequent studies.

Descriptive case studies

Descriptive case studies aim to provide a complete and accurate representation of a phenomenon or event within its context. These case studies are often based on an established theoretical framework, which guides how data is collected and analyzed. The researcher is concerned with describing the phenomenon in detail, as it occurs naturally, without trying to influence or manipulate it.

Explanatory case studies

Explanatory case studies are focused on explanation - they seek to clarify how or why certain phenomena occur. Often used in complex, real-life situations, they can be particularly valuable in clarifying causal relationships among concepts and understanding the interplay between different factors within a specific context.

descriptive case study method

Intrinsic, instrumental, and collective case studies

These three categories of case studies focus on the nature and purpose of the study. An intrinsic case study is conducted when a researcher has an inherent interest in the case itself. Instrumental case studies are employed when the case is used to provide insight into a particular issue or phenomenon. A collective case study, on the other hand, involves studying multiple cases simultaneously to investigate some general phenomena.

Each type of case study serves a different purpose and has its own strengths and challenges. The selection of the type should be guided by the research question and objectives, as well as the context and constraints of the research.

The flexibility, depth, and contextual richness offered by case studies make this approach an excellent research method for various fields of study. They enable researchers to investigate real-world phenomena within their specific contexts, capturing nuances that other research methods might miss. Across numerous fields, case studies provide valuable insights into complex issues.

Critical information systems research

Case studies provide a detailed understanding of the role and impact of information systems in different contexts. They offer a platform to explore how information systems are designed, implemented, and used and how they interact with various social, economic, and political factors. Case studies in this field often focus on examining the intricate relationship between technology, organizational processes, and user behavior, helping to uncover insights that can inform better system design and implementation.

Health research

Health research is another field where case studies are highly valuable. They offer a way to explore patient experiences, healthcare delivery processes, and the impact of various interventions in a real-world context.

descriptive case study method

Case studies can provide a deep understanding of a patient's journey, giving insights into the intricacies of disease progression, treatment effects, and the psychosocial aspects of health and illness.

Asthma research studies

Specifically within medical research, studies on asthma often employ case studies to explore the individual and environmental factors that influence asthma development, management, and outcomes. A case study can provide rich, detailed data about individual patients' experiences, from the triggers and symptoms they experience to the effectiveness of various management strategies. This can be crucial for developing patient-centered asthma care approaches.

Other fields

Apart from the fields mentioned, case studies are also extensively used in business and management research, education research, and political sciences, among many others. They provide an opportunity to delve into the intricacies of real-world situations, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of various phenomena.

Case studies, with their depth and contextual focus, offer unique insights across these varied fields. They allow researchers to illuminate the complexities of real-life situations, contributing to both theory and practice.

descriptive case study method

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Understanding the key elements of case study design is crucial for conducting rigorous and impactful case study research. A well-structured design guides the researcher through the process, ensuring that the study is methodologically sound and its findings are reliable and valid. The main elements of case study design include the research question , propositions, units of analysis, and the logic linking the data to the propositions.

The research question is the foundation of any research study. A good research question guides the direction of the study and informs the selection of the case, the methods of collecting data, and the analysis techniques. A well-formulated research question in case study research is typically clear, focused, and complex enough to merit further detailed examination of the relevant case(s).

Propositions

Propositions, though not necessary in every case study, provide a direction by stating what we might expect to find in the data collected. They guide how data is collected and analyzed by helping researchers focus on specific aspects of the case. They are particularly important in explanatory case studies, which seek to understand the relationships among concepts within the studied phenomenon.

Units of analysis

The unit of analysis refers to the case, or the main entity or entities that are being analyzed in the study. In case study research, the unit of analysis can be an individual, a group, an organization, a decision, an event, or even a time period. It's crucial to clearly define the unit of analysis, as it shapes the qualitative data analysis process by allowing the researcher to analyze a particular case and synthesize analysis across multiple case studies to draw conclusions.

Argumentation

This refers to the inferential model that allows researchers to draw conclusions from the data. The researcher needs to ensure that there is a clear link between the data, the propositions (if any), and the conclusions drawn. This argumentation is what enables the researcher to make valid and credible inferences about the phenomenon under study.

Understanding and carefully considering these elements in the design phase of a case study can significantly enhance the quality of the research. It can help ensure that the study is methodologically sound and its findings contribute meaningful insights about the case.

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Conducting a case study involves several steps, from defining the research question and selecting the case to collecting and analyzing data . This section outlines these key stages, providing a practical guide on how to conduct case study research.

Defining the research question

The first step in case study research is defining a clear, focused research question. This question should guide the entire research process, from case selection to analysis. It's crucial to ensure that the research question is suitable for a case study approach. Typically, such questions are exploratory or descriptive in nature and focus on understanding a phenomenon within its real-life context.

Selecting and defining the case

The selection of the case should be based on the research question and the objectives of the study. It involves choosing a unique example or a set of examples that provide rich, in-depth data about the phenomenon under investigation. After selecting the case, it's crucial to define it clearly, setting the boundaries of the case, including the time period and the specific context.

Previous research can help guide the case study design. When considering a case study, an example of a case could be taken from previous case study research and used to define cases in a new research inquiry. Considering recently published examples can help understand how to select and define cases effectively.

Developing a detailed case study protocol

A case study protocol outlines the procedures and general rules to be followed during the case study. This includes the data collection methods to be used, the sources of data, and the procedures for analysis. Having a detailed case study protocol ensures consistency and reliability in the study.

The protocol should also consider how to work with the people involved in the research context to grant the research team access to collecting data. As mentioned in previous sections of this guide, establishing rapport is an essential component of qualitative research as it shapes the overall potential for collecting and analyzing data.

Collecting data

Gathering data in case study research often involves multiple sources of evidence, including documents, archival records, interviews, observations, and physical artifacts. This allows for a comprehensive understanding of the case. The process for gathering data should be systematic and carefully documented to ensure the reliability and validity of the study.

Analyzing and interpreting data

The next step is analyzing the data. This involves organizing the data , categorizing it into themes or patterns , and interpreting these patterns to answer the research question. The analysis might also involve comparing the findings with prior research or theoretical propositions.

Writing the case study report

The final step is writing the case study report . This should provide a detailed description of the case, the data, the analysis process, and the findings. The report should be clear, organized, and carefully written to ensure that the reader can understand the case and the conclusions drawn from it.

Each of these steps is crucial in ensuring that the case study research is rigorous, reliable, and provides valuable insights about the case.

The type, depth, and quality of data in your study can significantly influence the validity and utility of the study. In case study research, data is usually collected from multiple sources to provide a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the case. This section will outline the various methods of collecting data used in case study research and discuss considerations for ensuring the quality of the data.

Interviews are a common method of gathering data in case study research. They can provide rich, in-depth data about the perspectives, experiences, and interpretations of the individuals involved in the case. Interviews can be structured , semi-structured , or unstructured , depending on the research question and the degree of flexibility needed.

Observations

Observations involve the researcher observing the case in its natural setting, providing first-hand information about the case and its context. Observations can provide data that might not be revealed in interviews or documents, such as non-verbal cues or contextual information.

Documents and artifacts

Documents and archival records provide a valuable source of data in case study research. They can include reports, letters, memos, meeting minutes, email correspondence, and various public and private documents related to the case.

descriptive case study method

These records can provide historical context, corroborate evidence from other sources, and offer insights into the case that might not be apparent from interviews or observations.

Physical artifacts refer to any physical evidence related to the case, such as tools, products, or physical environments. These artifacts can provide tangible insights into the case, complementing the data gathered from other sources.

Ensuring the quality of data collection

Determining the quality of data in case study research requires careful planning and execution. It's crucial to ensure that the data is reliable, accurate, and relevant to the research question. This involves selecting appropriate methods of collecting data, properly training interviewers or observers, and systematically recording and storing the data. It also includes considering ethical issues related to collecting and handling data, such as obtaining informed consent and ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of the participants.

Data analysis

Analyzing case study research involves making sense of the rich, detailed data to answer the research question. This process can be challenging due to the volume and complexity of case study data. However, a systematic and rigorous approach to analysis can ensure that the findings are credible and meaningful. This section outlines the main steps and considerations in analyzing data in case study research.

Organizing the data

The first step in the analysis is organizing the data. This involves sorting the data into manageable sections, often according to the data source or the theme. This step can also involve transcribing interviews, digitizing physical artifacts, or organizing observational data.

Categorizing and coding the data

Once the data is organized, the next step is to categorize or code the data. This involves identifying common themes, patterns, or concepts in the data and assigning codes to relevant data segments. Coding can be done manually or with the help of software tools, and in either case, qualitative analysis software can greatly facilitate the entire coding process. Coding helps to reduce the data to a set of themes or categories that can be more easily analyzed.

Identifying patterns and themes

After coding the data, the researcher looks for patterns or themes in the coded data. This involves comparing and contrasting the codes and looking for relationships or patterns among them. The identified patterns and themes should help answer the research question.

Interpreting the data

Once patterns and themes have been identified, the next step is to interpret these findings. This involves explaining what the patterns or themes mean in the context of the research question and the case. This interpretation should be grounded in the data, but it can also involve drawing on theoretical concepts or prior research.

Verification of the data

The last step in the analysis is verification. This involves checking the accuracy and consistency of the analysis process and confirming that the findings are supported by the data. This can involve re-checking the original data, checking the consistency of codes, or seeking feedback from research participants or peers.

Like any research method , case study research has its strengths and limitations. Researchers must be aware of these, as they can influence the design, conduct, and interpretation of the study.

Understanding the strengths and limitations of case study research can also guide researchers in deciding whether this approach is suitable for their research question . This section outlines some of the key strengths and limitations of case study research.

Benefits include the following:

  • Rich, detailed data: One of the main strengths of case study research is that it can generate rich, detailed data about the case. This can provide a deep understanding of the case and its context, which can be valuable in exploring complex phenomena.
  • Flexibility: Case study research is flexible in terms of design , data collection , and analysis . A sufficient degree of flexibility allows the researcher to adapt the study according to the case and the emerging findings.
  • Real-world context: Case study research involves studying the case in its real-world context, which can provide valuable insights into the interplay between the case and its context.
  • Multiple sources of evidence: Case study research often involves collecting data from multiple sources , which can enhance the robustness and validity of the findings.

On the other hand, researchers should consider the following limitations:

  • Generalizability: A common criticism of case study research is that its findings might not be generalizable to other cases due to the specificity and uniqueness of each case.
  • Time and resource intensive: Case study research can be time and resource intensive due to the depth of the investigation and the amount of collected data.
  • Complexity of analysis: The rich, detailed data generated in case study research can make analyzing the data challenging.
  • Subjectivity: Given the nature of case study research, there may be a higher degree of subjectivity in interpreting the data , so researchers need to reflect on this and transparently convey to audiences how the research was conducted.

Being aware of these strengths and limitations can help researchers design and conduct case study research effectively and interpret and report the findings appropriately.

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  • Descriptive Research Design | Definition, Methods & Examples

Descriptive Research Design | Definition, Methods & Examples

Published on 5 May 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022.

Descriptive research aims to accurately and systematically describe a population, situation or phenomenon. It can answer what , where , when , and how   questions , but not why questions.

A descriptive research design can use a wide variety of research methods  to investigate one or more variables . Unlike in experimental research , the researcher does not control or manipulate any of the variables, but only observes and measures them.

Table of contents

When to use a descriptive research design, descriptive research methods.

Descriptive research is an appropriate choice when the research aim is to identify characteristics, frequencies, trends, and categories.

It is useful when not much is known yet about the topic or problem. Before you can research why something happens, you need to understand how, when, and where it happens.

  • How has the London housing market changed over the past 20 years?
  • Do customers of company X prefer product Y or product Z?
  • What are the main genetic, behavioural, and morphological differences between European wildcats and domestic cats?
  • What are the most popular online news sources among under-18s?
  • How prevalent is disease A in population B?

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Descriptive research is usually defined as a type of quantitative research , though qualitative research can also be used for descriptive purposes. The research design should be carefully developed to ensure that the results are valid and reliable .

Survey research allows you to gather large volumes of data that can be analysed for frequencies, averages, and patterns. Common uses of surveys include:

  • Describing the demographics of a country or region
  • Gauging public opinion on political and social topics
  • Evaluating satisfaction with a company’s products or an organisation’s services

Observations

Observations allow you to gather data on behaviours and phenomena without having to rely on the honesty and accuracy of respondents. This method is often used by psychological, social, and market researchers to understand how people act in real-life situations.

Observation of physical entities and phenomena is also an important part of research in the natural sciences. Before you can develop testable hypotheses , models, or theories, it’s necessary to observe and systematically describe the subject under investigation.

Case studies

A case study can be used to describe the characteristics of a specific subject (such as a person, group, event, or organisation). Instead of gathering a large volume of data to identify patterns across time or location, case studies gather detailed data to identify the characteristics of a narrowly defined subject.

Rather than aiming to describe generalisable facts, case studies often focus on unusual or interesting cases that challenge assumptions, add complexity, or reveal something new about a research problem .

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Case Study Research Method in Psychology

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

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Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources using several methods (e.g., observations & interviews).

The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient’s personal history). In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual.

The information is mainly biographical and relates to events in the individual’s past (i.e., retrospective), as well as to significant events that are currently occurring in his or her everyday life.

The case study is not a research method, but researchers select methods of data collection and analysis that will generate material suitable for case studies.

Freud (1909a, 1909b) conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses.

This makes it clear that the case study is a method that should only be used by a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, i.e., someone with a professional qualification.

There is an ethical issue of competence. Only someone qualified to diagnose and treat a person can conduct a formal case study relating to atypical (i.e., abnormal) behavior or atypical development.

case study

 Famous Case Studies

  • Anna O – One of the most famous case studies, documenting psychoanalyst Josef Breuer’s treatment of “Anna O” (real name Bertha Pappenheim) for hysteria in the late 1800s using early psychoanalytic theory.
  • Little Hans – A child psychoanalysis case study published by Sigmund Freud in 1909 analyzing his five-year-old patient Herbert Graf’s house phobia as related to the Oedipus complex.
  • Bruce/Brenda – Gender identity case of the boy (Bruce) whose botched circumcision led psychologist John Money to advise gender reassignment and raise him as a girl (Brenda) in the 1960s.
  • Genie Wiley – Linguistics/psychological development case of the victim of extreme isolation abuse who was studied in 1970s California for effects of early language deprivation on acquiring speech later in life.
  • Phineas Gage – One of the most famous neuropsychology case studies analyzes personality changes in railroad worker Phineas Gage after an 1848 brain injury involving a tamping iron piercing his skull.

Clinical Case Studies

  • Studying the effectiveness of psychotherapy approaches with an individual patient
  • Assessing and treating mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD
  • Neuropsychological cases investigating brain injuries or disorders

Child Psychology Case Studies

  • Studying psychological development from birth through adolescence
  • Cases of learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, ADHD
  • Effects of trauma, abuse, deprivation on development

Types of Case Studies

  • Explanatory case studies : Used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles. Helpful for doing qualitative analysis to explain presumed causal links.
  • Exploratory case studies : Used to explore situations where an intervention being evaluated has no clear set of outcomes. It helps define questions and hypotheses for future research.
  • Descriptive case studies : Describe an intervention or phenomenon and the real-life context in which it occurred. It is helpful for illustrating certain topics within an evaluation.
  • Multiple-case studies : Used to explore differences between cases and replicate findings across cases. Helpful for comparing and contrasting specific cases.
  • Intrinsic : Used to gain a better understanding of a particular case. Helpful for capturing the complexity of a single case.
  • Collective : Used to explore a general phenomenon using multiple case studies. Helpful for jointly studying a group of cases in order to inquire into the phenomenon.

Where Do You Find Data for a Case Study?

There are several places to find data for a case study. The key is to gather data from multiple sources to get a complete picture of the case and corroborate facts or findings through triangulation of evidence. Most of this information is likely qualitative (i.e., verbal description rather than measurement), but the psychologist might also collect numerical data.

1. Primary sources

  • Interviews – Interviewing key people related to the case to get their perspectives and insights. The interview is an extremely effective procedure for obtaining information about an individual, and it may be used to collect comments from the person’s friends, parents, employer, workmates, and others who have a good knowledge of the person, as well as to obtain facts from the person him or herself.
  • Observations – Observing behaviors, interactions, processes, etc., related to the case as they unfold in real-time.
  • Documents & Records – Reviewing private documents, diaries, public records, correspondence, meeting minutes, etc., relevant to the case.

2. Secondary sources

  • News/Media – News coverage of events related to the case study.
  • Academic articles – Journal articles, dissertations etc. that discuss the case.
  • Government reports – Official data and records related to the case context.
  • Books/films – Books, documentaries or films discussing the case.

3. Archival records

Searching historical archives, museum collections and databases to find relevant documents, visual/audio records related to the case history and context.

Public archives like newspapers, organizational records, photographic collections could all include potentially relevant pieces of information to shed light on attitudes, cultural perspectives, common practices and historical contexts related to psychology.

4. Organizational records

Organizational records offer the advantage of often having large datasets collected over time that can reveal or confirm psychological insights.

Of course, privacy and ethical concerns regarding confidential data must be navigated carefully.

However, with proper protocols, organizational records can provide invaluable context and empirical depth to qualitative case studies exploring the intersection of psychology and organizations.

  • Organizational/industrial psychology research : Organizational records like employee surveys, turnover/retention data, policies, incident reports etc. may provide insight into topics like job satisfaction, workplace culture and dynamics, leadership issues, employee behaviors etc.
  • Clinical psychology : Therapists/hospitals may grant access to anonymized medical records to study aspects like assessments, diagnoses, treatment plans etc. This could shed light on clinical practices.
  • School psychology : Studies could utilize anonymized student records like test scores, grades, disciplinary issues, and counseling referrals to study child development, learning barriers, effectiveness of support programs, and more.

How do I Write a Case Study in Psychology?

Follow specified case study guidelines provided by a journal or your psychology tutor. General components of clinical case studies include: background, symptoms, assessments, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Interpreting the information means the researcher decides what to include or leave out. A good case study should always clarify which information is the factual description and which is an inference or the researcher’s opinion.

1. Introduction

  • Provide background on the case context and why it is of interest, presenting background information like demographics, relevant history, and presenting problem.
  • Compare briefly to similar published cases if applicable. Clearly state the focus/importance of the case.

2. Case Presentation

  • Describe the presenting problem in detail, including symptoms, duration,and impact on daily life.
  • Include client demographics like age and gender, information about social relationships, and mental health history.
  • Describe all physical, emotional, and/or sensory symptoms reported by the client.
  • Use patient quotes to describe the initial complaint verbatim. Follow with full-sentence summaries of relevant history details gathered, including key components that led to a working diagnosis.
  • Summarize clinical exam results, namely orthopedic/neurological tests, imaging, lab tests, etc. Note actual results rather than subjective conclusions. Provide images if clearly reproducible/anonymized.
  • Clearly state the working diagnosis or clinical impression before transitioning to management.

3. Management and Outcome

  • Indicate the total duration of care and number of treatments given over what timeframe. Use specific names/descriptions for any therapies/interventions applied.
  • Present the results of the intervention,including any quantitative or qualitative data collected.
  • For outcomes, utilize visual analog scales for pain, medication usage logs, etc., if possible. Include patient self-reports of improvement/worsening of symptoms. Note the reason for discharge/end of care.

4. Discussion

  • Analyze the case, exploring contributing factors, limitations of the study, and connections to existing research.
  • Analyze the effectiveness of the intervention,considering factors like participant adherence, limitations of the study, and potential alternative explanations for the results.
  • Identify any questions raised in the case analysis and relate insights to established theories and current research if applicable. Avoid definitive claims about physiological explanations.
  • Offer clinical implications, and suggest future research directions.

5. Additional Items

  • Thank specific assistants for writing support only. No patient acknowledgments.
  • References should directly support any key claims or quotes included.
  • Use tables/figures/images only if substantially informative. Include permissions and legends/explanatory notes.
  • Provides detailed (rich qualitative) information.
  • Provides insight for further research.
  • Permitting investigation of otherwise impractical (or unethical) situations.

Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants (nomothetic approach) with the aim of ‘averaging’.

Because of their in-depth, multi-sided approach, case studies often shed light on aspects of human thinking and behavior that would be unethical or impractical to study in other ways.

Research that only looks into the measurable aspects of human behavior is not likely to give us insights into the subjective dimension of experience, which is important to psychoanalytic and humanistic psychologists.

Case studies are often used in exploratory research. They can help us generate new ideas (that might be tested by other methods). They are an important way of illustrating theories and can help show how different aspects of a person’s life are related to each other.

The method is, therefore, important for psychologists who adopt a holistic point of view (i.e., humanistic psychologists ).

Limitations

  • Lacking scientific rigor and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population.
  • Researchers’ own subjective feelings may influence the case study (researcher bias).
  • Difficult to replicate.
  • Time-consuming and expensive.
  • The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources.

Because a case study deals with only one person/event/group, we can never be sure if the case study investigated is representative of the wider body of “similar” instances. This means the conclusions drawn from a particular case may not be transferable to other settings.

Because case studies are based on the analysis of qualitative (i.e., descriptive) data , a lot depends on the psychologist’s interpretation of the information she has acquired.

This means that there is a lot of scope for Anna O , and it could be that the subjective opinions of the psychologist intrude in the assessment of what the data means.

For example, Freud has been criticized for producing case studies in which the information was sometimes distorted to fit particular behavioral theories (e.g., Little Hans ).

This is also true of Money’s interpretation of the Bruce/Brenda case study (Diamond, 1997) when he ignored evidence that went against his theory.

Breuer, J., & Freud, S. (1895).  Studies on hysteria . Standard Edition 2: London.

Curtiss, S. (1981). Genie: The case of a modern wild child .

Diamond, M., & Sigmundson, K. (1997). Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-term Review and Clinical Implications. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , 151(3), 298-304

Freud, S. (1909a). Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306

Freud, S. (1909b). Bemerkungen über einen Fall von Zwangsneurose (Der “Rattenmann”). Jb. psychoanal. psychopathol. Forsch ., I, p. 357-421; GW, VII, p. 379-463; Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis, SE , 10: 151-318.

Harlow J. M. (1848). Passage of an iron rod through the head.  Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 39 , 389–393.

Harlow, J. M. (1868).  Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar through the Head .  Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society. 2  (3), 327-347.

Money, J., & Ehrhardt, A. A. (1972).  Man & Woman, Boy & Girl : The Differentiation and Dimorphism of Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Money, J., & Tucker, P. (1975). Sexual signatures: On being a man or a woman.

Further Information

  • Case Study Approach
  • Case Study Method
  • Enhancing the Quality of Case Studies in Health Services Research
  • “We do things together” A case study of “couplehood” in dementia
  • Using mixed methods for evaluating an integrative approach to cancer care: a case study

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Descriptive Research in Psychology

Sometimes you need to dig deeper than the pure statistics

John Loeppky is a freelance journalist based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, who has written about disability and health for outlets of all kinds.

descriptive case study method

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Types of Descriptive Research and the Methods Used

  • Advantages & Limitations of Descriptive Research

Best Practices for Conducting Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is one of the key tools needed in any psychology researcher’s toolbox in order to create and lead a project that is both equitable and effective. Because psychology, as a field, loves definitions, let’s start with one. The University of Minnesota’s Introduction to Psychology defines this type of research as one that is “...designed to provide a snapshot of the current state of affairs.” That's pretty broad, so what does that mean in practice? Dr. Heather Derry-Vick (PhD) , an assistant professor in psychiatry at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, helps us put it into perspective. "Descriptive research really focuses on defining, understanding, and measuring a phenomenon or an experience," she says. "Not trying to change a person's experience or outcome, or even really looking at the mechanisms for why that might be happening, but more so describing an experience or a process as it unfolds naturally.”

Within the descriptive research methodology there are multiple types, including the following.

Descriptive Survey Research

This involves going beyond a typical tool like a LIkert Scale —where you typically place your response to a prompt on a one to five scale. We already know that scales like this can be ineffective, particularly when studying pain, for example.

When that's the case, using a descriptive methodology can help dig deeper into how a person is thinking, feeling, and acting rather than simply quantifying it in a way that might be unclear or confusing.

Descriptive Observational Research

Think of observational research like an ethically-focused version of people-watching. One example would be watching the patterns of children on a playground—perhaps when looking at a concept like risky play or seeking to observe social behaviors between children of different ages.

Descriptive Case Study Research

A descriptive approach to a case study is akin to a biography of a person, honing in on the experiences of a small group to extrapolate to larger themes. We most commonly see descriptive case studies when those in the psychology field are using past clients as an example to illustrate a point.

Correlational Descriptive Research

While descriptive research is often about the here and now, this form of the methodology allows researchers to make connections between groups of people. As an example from her research, Derry-Vick says she uses this method to identify how gender might play a role in cancer scan anxiety, aka scanxiety.

Dr. Derry-Vick's research uses surveys and interviews to get a sense of how cancer patients are feeling and what they are experiencing both in the course of their treatment and in the lead-up to their next scan, which can be a significant source of stress.

David Marlon, PsyD, MBA , who works as a clinician and as CEO at Vegas Stronger, and whose research focused on leadership styles at community-based clinics, says that using descriptive research allowed him to get beyond the numbers.

In his case, that includes data points like how many unhoused people found stable housing over a certain period or how many people became drug-free—and identify the reasons for those changes.

Those [data points] are some practical, quantitative tools that are helpful. But when I question them on how safe they feel, when I question them on the depth of the bond or the therapeutic alliance, when I talk to them about their processing of traumas,  wellbeing...these are things that don't really fall on to a yes, no, or even on a Likert scale.

For the portion of his thesis that was focused on descriptive research, Marlon used semi-structured interviews to look at the how and the why of transformational leadership and its impact on clinics’ clients and staff.

Advantages & Limitations of Descriptive Research

So, if the advantages of using descriptive research include that it centers the research participants, gives us a clear picture of what is happening to a person in a particular moment,  and gives us very nuanced insights into how a particular situation is being perceived by the very person affected, are there drawbacks? Yes, there are. Dr. Derry-Vick says that it’s important to keep in mind that just because descriptive research tells us something is happening doesn’t mean it necessarily leads us to the resolution of a given problem.

I think that, by design, the descriptive research might not tell you why a phenomenon is happening. So it might tell you, very well, how often it's happening, or what the levels are, or help you understand it in depth. But that may or may not always tell you information about the causes or mechanisms for why something is happening.

Another limitation she identifies is that it also can’t tell you, on its own, whether a particular treatment pathway is having the desired effect.

“Descriptive research in and of itself can't really tell you whether a specific approach is going to be helpful until you take in a different approach to actually test it.”

Marlon, who believes in a multi-disciplinary approach, says that his subfield—addictions—is one where descriptive research had its limits, but helps readers go beyond preconceived notions of what addictions treatment looks and feels like when it is effective. “If we talked to and interviewed and got descriptive information from the clinicians and the clients, a much more precise picture would be painted, showing the need for a client's specific multidisciplinary approach augmented with a variety of modalities," he says. "If you tried to look at my discipline in a pure quantitative approach , it wouldn't begin to tell the real story.”

Because you’re controlling far fewer variables than other forms of research, it’s important to identify whether those you are describing, your study participants, should be informed that they are part of a study.

For example, if you’re observing and describing who is buying what in a grocery store to identify patterns, then you might not need to identify yourself.

However, if you’re asking people about their fear of certain treatment, or how their marginalized identities impact their mental health in a particular way, there is far more of a pressure to think deeply about how you, as the researcher, are connected to the people you are researching.

Many descriptive research projects use interviews as a form of research gathering and, as a result, descriptive research that is focused on this type of data gathering also has ethical and practical concerns attached. Thankfully, there are plenty of guides from established researchers about how to best conduct these interviews and/or formulate surveys .

While descriptive research has its limits, it is commonly used by researchers to get a clear vantage point on what is happening in a given situation.

Tools like surveys, interviews, and observation are often employed to dive deeper into a given issue and really highlight the human element in psychological research. At its core, descriptive research is rooted in a collaborative style that allows deeper insights when used effectively.

University of Minnesota. Introduction to Psychology .

By John Loeppky John Loeppky is a freelance journalist based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, who has written about disability and health for outlets of all kinds.

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Research Method

Home » Descriptive Research Design – Types, Methods and Examples

Descriptive Research Design – Types, Methods and Examples

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Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive Research Design

Definition:

Descriptive research design is a type of research methodology that aims to describe or document the characteristics, behaviors, attitudes, opinions, or perceptions of a group or population being studied.

Descriptive research design does not attempt to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables or make predictions about future outcomes. Instead, it focuses on providing a detailed and accurate representation of the data collected, which can be useful for generating hypotheses, exploring trends, and identifying patterns in the data.

Types of Descriptive Research Design

Types of Descriptive Research Design are as follows:

Cross-sectional Study

This involves collecting data at a single point in time from a sample or population to describe their characteristics or behaviors. For example, a researcher may conduct a cross-sectional study to investigate the prevalence of certain health conditions among a population, or to describe the attitudes and beliefs of a particular group.

Longitudinal Study

This involves collecting data over an extended period of time, often through repeated observations or surveys of the same group or population. Longitudinal studies can be used to track changes in attitudes, behaviors, or outcomes over time, or to investigate the effects of interventions or treatments.

This involves an in-depth examination of a single individual, group, or situation to gain a detailed understanding of its characteristics or dynamics. Case studies are often used in psychology, sociology, and business to explore complex phenomena or to generate hypotheses for further research.

Survey Research

This involves collecting data from a sample or population through standardized questionnaires or interviews. Surveys can be used to describe attitudes, opinions, behaviors, or demographic characteristics of a group, and can be conducted in person, by phone, or online.

Observational Research

This involves observing and documenting the behavior or interactions of individuals or groups in a natural or controlled setting. Observational studies can be used to describe social, cultural, or environmental phenomena, or to investigate the effects of interventions or treatments.

Correlational Research

This involves examining the relationships between two or more variables to describe their patterns or associations. Correlational studies can be used to identify potential causal relationships or to explore the strength and direction of relationships between variables.

Data Analysis Methods

Descriptive research design data analysis methods depend on the type of data collected and the research question being addressed. Here are some common methods of data analysis for descriptive research:

Descriptive Statistics

This method involves analyzing data to summarize and describe the key features of a sample or population. Descriptive statistics can include measures of central tendency (e.g., mean, median, mode) and measures of variability (e.g., range, standard deviation).

Cross-tabulation

This method involves analyzing data by creating a table that shows the frequency of two or more variables together. Cross-tabulation can help identify patterns or relationships between variables.

Content Analysis

This method involves analyzing qualitative data (e.g., text, images, audio) to identify themes, patterns, or trends. Content analysis can be used to describe the characteristics of a sample or population, or to identify factors that influence attitudes or behaviors.

Qualitative Coding

This method involves analyzing qualitative data by assigning codes to segments of data based on their meaning or content. Qualitative coding can be used to identify common themes, patterns, or categories within the data.

Visualization

This method involves creating graphs or charts to represent data visually. Visualization can help identify patterns or relationships between variables and make it easier to communicate findings to others.

Comparative Analysis

This method involves comparing data across different groups or time periods to identify similarities and differences. Comparative analysis can help describe changes in attitudes or behaviors over time or differences between subgroups within a population.

Applications of Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive research design has numerous applications in various fields. Some of the common applications of descriptive research design are:

  • Market research: Descriptive research design is widely used in market research to understand consumer preferences, behavior, and attitudes. This helps companies to develop new products and services, improve marketing strategies, and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Health research: Descriptive research design is used in health research to describe the prevalence and distribution of a disease or health condition in a population. This helps healthcare providers to develop prevention and treatment strategies.
  • Educational research: Descriptive research design is used in educational research to describe the performance of students, schools, or educational programs. This helps educators to improve teaching methods and develop effective educational programs.
  • Social science research: Descriptive research design is used in social science research to describe social phenomena such as cultural norms, values, and beliefs. This helps researchers to understand social behavior and develop effective policies.
  • Public opinion research: Descriptive research design is used in public opinion research to understand the opinions and attitudes of the general public on various issues. This helps policymakers to develop effective policies that are aligned with public opinion.
  • Environmental research: Descriptive research design is used in environmental research to describe the environmental conditions of a particular region or ecosystem. This helps policymakers and environmentalists to develop effective conservation and preservation strategies.

Descriptive Research Design Examples

Here are some real-time examples of descriptive research designs:

  • A restaurant chain wants to understand the demographics and attitudes of its customers. They conduct a survey asking customers about their age, gender, income, frequency of visits, favorite menu items, and overall satisfaction. The survey data is analyzed using descriptive statistics and cross-tabulation to describe the characteristics of their customer base.
  • A medical researcher wants to describe the prevalence and risk factors of a particular disease in a population. They conduct a cross-sectional study in which they collect data from a sample of individuals using a standardized questionnaire. The data is analyzed using descriptive statistics and cross-tabulation to identify patterns in the prevalence and risk factors of the disease.
  • An education researcher wants to describe the learning outcomes of students in a particular school district. They collect test scores from a representative sample of students in the district and use descriptive statistics to calculate the mean, median, and standard deviation of the scores. They also create visualizations such as histograms and box plots to show the distribution of scores.
  • A marketing team wants to understand the attitudes and behaviors of consumers towards a new product. They conduct a series of focus groups and use qualitative coding to identify common themes and patterns in the data. They also create visualizations such as word clouds to show the most frequently mentioned topics.
  • An environmental scientist wants to describe the biodiversity of a particular ecosystem. They conduct an observational study in which they collect data on the species and abundance of plants and animals in the ecosystem. The data is analyzed using descriptive statistics to describe the diversity and richness of the ecosystem.

How to Conduct Descriptive Research Design

To conduct a descriptive research design, you can follow these general steps:

  • Define your research question: Clearly define the research question or problem that you want to address. Your research question should be specific and focused to guide your data collection and analysis.
  • Choose your research method: Select the most appropriate research method for your research question. As discussed earlier, common research methods for descriptive research include surveys, case studies, observational studies, cross-sectional studies, and longitudinal studies.
  • Design your study: Plan the details of your study, including the sampling strategy, data collection methods, and data analysis plan. Determine the sample size and sampling method, decide on the data collection tools (such as questionnaires, interviews, or observations), and outline your data analysis plan.
  • Collect data: Collect data from your sample or population using the data collection tools you have chosen. Ensure that you follow ethical guidelines for research and obtain informed consent from participants.
  • Analyze data: Use appropriate statistical or qualitative analysis methods to analyze your data. As discussed earlier, common data analysis methods for descriptive research include descriptive statistics, cross-tabulation, content analysis, qualitative coding, visualization, and comparative analysis.
  • I nterpret results: Interpret your findings in light of your research question and objectives. Identify patterns, trends, and relationships in the data, and describe the characteristics of your sample or population.
  • Draw conclusions and report results: Draw conclusions based on your analysis and interpretation of the data. Report your results in a clear and concise manner, using appropriate tables, graphs, or figures to present your findings. Ensure that your report follows accepted research standards and guidelines.

When to Use Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive research design is used in situations where the researcher wants to describe a population or phenomenon in detail. It is used to gather information about the current status or condition of a group or phenomenon without making any causal inferences. Descriptive research design is useful in the following situations:

  • Exploratory research: Descriptive research design is often used in exploratory research to gain an initial understanding of a phenomenon or population.
  • Identifying trends: Descriptive research design can be used to identify trends or patterns in a population, such as changes in consumer behavior or attitudes over time.
  • Market research: Descriptive research design is commonly used in market research to understand consumer preferences, behavior, and attitudes.
  • Health research: Descriptive research design is useful in health research to describe the prevalence and distribution of a disease or health condition in a population.
  • Social science research: Descriptive research design is used in social science research to describe social phenomena such as cultural norms, values, and beliefs.
  • Educational research: Descriptive research design is used in educational research to describe the performance of students, schools, or educational programs.

Purpose of Descriptive Research Design

The main purpose of descriptive research design is to describe and measure the characteristics of a population or phenomenon in a systematic and objective manner. It involves collecting data that describe the current status or condition of the population or phenomenon of interest, without manipulating or altering any variables.

The purpose of descriptive research design can be summarized as follows:

  • To provide an accurate description of a population or phenomenon: Descriptive research design aims to provide a comprehensive and accurate description of a population or phenomenon of interest. This can help researchers to develop a better understanding of the characteristics of the population or phenomenon.
  • To identify trends and patterns: Descriptive research design can help researchers to identify trends and patterns in the data, such as changes in behavior or attitudes over time. This can be useful for making predictions and developing strategies.
  • To generate hypotheses: Descriptive research design can be used to generate hypotheses or research questions that can be tested in future studies. For example, if a descriptive study finds a correlation between two variables, this could lead to the development of a hypothesis about the causal relationship between the variables.
  • To establish a baseline: Descriptive research design can establish a baseline or starting point for future research. This can be useful for comparing data from different time periods or populations.

Characteristics of Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive research design has several key characteristics that distinguish it from other research designs. Some of the main characteristics of descriptive research design are:

  • Objective : Descriptive research design is objective in nature, which means that it focuses on collecting factual and accurate data without any personal bias. The researcher aims to report the data objectively without any personal interpretation.
  • Non-experimental: Descriptive research design is non-experimental, which means that the researcher does not manipulate any variables. The researcher simply observes and records the behavior or characteristics of the population or phenomenon of interest.
  • Quantitative : Descriptive research design is quantitative in nature, which means that it involves collecting numerical data that can be analyzed using statistical techniques. This helps to provide a more precise and accurate description of the population or phenomenon.
  • Cross-sectional: Descriptive research design is often cross-sectional, which means that the data is collected at a single point in time. This can be useful for understanding the current state of the population or phenomenon, but it may not provide information about changes over time.
  • Large sample size: Descriptive research design typically involves a large sample size, which helps to ensure that the data is representative of the population of interest. A large sample size also helps to increase the reliability and validity of the data.
  • Systematic and structured: Descriptive research design involves a systematic and structured approach to data collection, which helps to ensure that the data is accurate and reliable. This involves using standardized procedures for data collection, such as surveys, questionnaires, or observation checklists.

Advantages of Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive research design has several advantages that make it a popular choice for researchers. Some of the main advantages of descriptive research design are:

  • Provides an accurate description: Descriptive research design is focused on accurately describing the characteristics of a population or phenomenon. This can help researchers to develop a better understanding of the subject of interest.
  • Easy to conduct: Descriptive research design is relatively easy to conduct and requires minimal resources compared to other research designs. It can be conducted quickly and efficiently, and data can be collected through surveys, questionnaires, or observations.
  • Useful for generating hypotheses: Descriptive research design can be used to generate hypotheses or research questions that can be tested in future studies. For example, if a descriptive study finds a correlation between two variables, this could lead to the development of a hypothesis about the causal relationship between the variables.
  • Large sample size : Descriptive research design typically involves a large sample size, which helps to ensure that the data is representative of the population of interest. A large sample size also helps to increase the reliability and validity of the data.
  • Can be used to monitor changes : Descriptive research design can be used to monitor changes over time in a population or phenomenon. This can be useful for identifying trends and patterns, and for making predictions about future behavior or attitudes.
  • Can be used in a variety of fields : Descriptive research design can be used in a variety of fields, including social sciences, healthcare, business, and education.

Limitation of Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive research design also has some limitations that researchers should consider before using this design. Some of the main limitations of descriptive research design are:

  • Cannot establish cause and effect: Descriptive research design cannot establish cause and effect relationships between variables. It only provides a description of the characteristics of the population or phenomenon of interest.
  • Limited generalizability: The results of a descriptive study may not be generalizable to other populations or situations. This is because descriptive research design often involves a specific sample or situation, which may not be representative of the broader population.
  • Potential for bias: Descriptive research design can be subject to bias, particularly if the researcher is not objective in their data collection or interpretation. This can lead to inaccurate or incomplete descriptions of the population or phenomenon of interest.
  • Limited depth: Descriptive research design may provide a superficial description of the population or phenomenon of interest. It does not delve into the underlying causes or mechanisms behind the observed behavior or characteristics.
  • Limited utility for theory development: Descriptive research design may not be useful for developing theories about the relationship between variables. It only provides a description of the variables themselves.
  • Relies on self-report data: Descriptive research design often relies on self-report data, such as surveys or questionnaires. This type of data may be subject to biases, such as social desirability bias or recall bias.

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Module 2: Research and Ethics in Abnormal Psychology

Descriptive research and case studies, learning objectives.

  • Explain the importance and uses of descriptive research, especially case studies, in studying abnormal behavior

Types of Research Methods

There are many research methods available to psychologists in their efforts to understand, describe, and explain behavior and the cognitive and biological processes that underlie it. Some methods rely on observational techniques. Other approaches involve interactions between the researcher and the individuals who are being studied—ranging from a series of simple questions; to extensive, in-depth interviews; to well-controlled experiments.

The three main categories of psychological research are descriptive, correlational, and experimental research. Research studies that do not test specific relationships between variables are called descriptive, or qualitative, studies . These studies are used to describe general or specific behaviors and attributes that are observed and measured. In the early stages of research, it might be difficult to form a hypothesis, especially when there is not any existing literature in the area. In these situations designing an experiment would be premature, as the question of interest is not yet clearly defined as a hypothesis. Often a researcher will begin with a non-experimental approach, such as a descriptive study, to gather more information about the topic before designing an experiment or correlational study to address a specific hypothesis. Descriptive research is distinct from correlational research , in which psychologists formally test whether a relationship exists between two or more variables. Experimental research goes a step further beyond descriptive and correlational research and randomly assigns people to different conditions, using hypothesis testing to make inferences about how these conditions affect behavior. It aims to determine if one variable directly impacts and causes another. Correlational and experimental research both typically use hypothesis testing, whereas descriptive research does not.

Each of these research methods has unique strengths and weaknesses, and each method may only be appropriate for certain types of research questions. For example, studies that rely primarily on observation produce incredible amounts of information, but the ability to apply this information to the larger population is somewhat limited because of small sample sizes. Survey research, on the other hand, allows researchers to easily collect data from relatively large samples. While surveys allow results to be generalized to the larger population more easily, the information that can be collected on any given survey is somewhat limited and subject to problems associated with any type of self-reported data. Some researchers conduct archival research by using existing records. While existing records can be a fairly inexpensive way to collect data that can provide insight into a number of research questions, researchers using this approach have no control on how or what kind of data was collected.

Correlational research can find a relationship between two variables, but the only way a researcher can claim that the relationship between the variables is cause and effect is to perform an experiment. In experimental research, which will be discussed later, there is a tremendous amount of control over variables of interest. While performing an experiment is a powerful approach, experiments are often conducted in very artificial settings, which calls into question the validity of experimental findings with regard to how they would apply in real-world settings. In addition, many of the questions that psychologists would like to answer cannot be pursued through experimental research because of ethical concerns.

The three main types of descriptive studies are case studies, naturalistic observation, and surveys.

Clinical or Case Studies

Psychologists can use a detailed description of one person or a small group based on careful observation.  Case studies  are intensive studies of individuals and have commonly been seen as a fruitful way to come up with hypotheses and generate theories. Case studies add descriptive richness. Case studies are also useful for formulating concepts, which are an important aspect of theory construction. Through fine-grained knowledge and description, case studies can fully specify the causal mechanisms in a way that may be harder in a large study.

Sigmund Freud   developed  many theories from case studies (Anna O., Little Hans, Wolf Man, Dora, etc.). F or example, he conducted a case study of a man, nicknamed “Rat Man,”  in which he claimed that this patient had been cured by psychoanalysis.  T he nickname derives from the fact that among the patient’s many compulsions, he had an obsession with nightmarish fantasies about rats. 

Today, more commonly, case studies reflect an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of an individual’s course of treatment. Case studies typically include a complete history of the subject’s background and response to treatment. From the particular client’s experience in therapy, the therapist’s goal is to provide information that may help other therapists who treat similar clients.

Case studies are generally a single-case design, but can also be a multiple-case design, where replication instead of sampling is the criterion for inclusion. Like other research methodologies within psychology, the case study must produce valid and reliable results in order to be useful for the development of future research. Distinct advantages and disadvantages are associated with the case study in psychology.

A commonly described limit of case studies is that they do not lend themselves to generalizability . The other issue is that the case study is subject to the bias of the researcher in terms of how the case is written, and that cases are chosen because they are consistent with the researcher’s preconceived notions, resulting in biased research. Another common problem in case study research is that of reconciling conflicting interpretations of the same case history.

Despite these limitations, there are advantages to using case studies. One major advantage of the case study in psychology is the potential for the development of novel hypotheses of the  cause of abnormal behavior   for later testing. Second, the case study can provide detailed descriptions of specific and rare cases and help us study unusual conditions that occur too infrequently to study with large sample sizes. The major disadvantage is that case studies cannot be used to determine causation, as is the case in experimental research, where the factors or variables hypothesized to play a causal role are manipulated or controlled by the researcher. 

Single-Case Experimental Designs

The lack of control available in the traditional case study research strategy led researchers to develop more sophisticated methods, such as single-subject research, which provides the statistical framework for making inferences from quantitative case-study data.

Pills

Figure 1 . Antipsychotics are the treatment of choice in managing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Several major trials have been conducted examining the clinical difference between typical antipsychotics and atypical antipsychotics and how the selection may affect the quality of life.

The single-case experimental design  (sometimes called  single-participant research designs ), is particularly useful for studies of treatment effectiveness.  In  single-case experimental designs ,  the same  research participant  serves as the subject in both the experimental and control conditions.  One of the most common forms of the single-case experimental design is the A-B-A-B design, or  reversal design ,  reflecting the alternation between conditions, or phases A and B. The  AB design is a two-part or phase design composed of a baseline (“A” phase) with no changes, and a treatment or intervention (“B”) phase.  If there is a change, then the treatment may be said to have had an effect. However, it is subject to many possible competing hypotheses, making strong conclusions difficult. The A-B-A-B design, or reversal design, is a variant on the AB design. It introduces ways to control for the competing hypotheses and allows for stronger conclusions. T he reversal design (ABAB) is the most powerful of the single-subject research designs because it shows a strong reversal from baseline (“A”) to treatment (“B”) and back again. In an ABAB design, researchers observe behaviors in the “A” phase, institute treatment in the “B” phase, and then repeat the process. If the variable returns to baseline measure without treatment and then resumes its effects when reapplied, the researcher can have greater confidence in the efficacy of that treatment. However, many interventions cannot be reversed for ethical reasons (e.g., involving self-injurious behavior like smoking).  It may be unethical to end an experiment on a baseline measure if the treatment is self-sustaining and highly beneficial and/or related to health. Control condition participants may also deserve the benefits of research once all data has been collected. It is a researcher’s ethical duty to maximize benefits and to ensure that all participants have access to those benefits when possible.

File:A-B-A-B Design.png

Figure 2. The investigator looks for evidence that the change in the observed behavior occurred coincident with treatment. If the problem behavior declines whenever treatment is introduced (during the first and second treatment phases) but returns (is “reversed”) to baseline levels during the reversal phase, the experimenter can be reasonably confident the treatment had the intended effect.

Link to Learning: Famous Case Studies

Some well-known case studies that related to abnormal psychology include the following:

  • Harlow— Phineas Gage
  • Breuer & Freud (1895)— Anna O.
  • Cleckley’s case studies: on psychopathy ( The Mask of Sanity ) (1941) and multiple personality disorder ( The Three Faces of Eve ) (1957)
  • Freud and  Little Hans
  • Freud and the  Rat Man
  • John Money and the  John/Joan case
  • Genie (feral child)
  • Piaget’s studies
  • Rosenthal’s book on the  murder of Kitty Genovese
  • Washoe (sign language)
  • Patient H.M.

Naturalistic Observation

If you want to understand how behavior occurs, one of the best ways to gain information is to simply observe the behavior in its natural context. However, people might change their behavior in unexpected ways if they know they are being observed. How do researchers obtain accurate information when people tend to hide their natural behavior? As an example, imagine that your professor asks everyone in your class to raise their hand if they always wash their hands after using the restroom. Chances are that almost everyone in the classroom will raise their hand, but do you think hand washing after every trip to the restroom is really that universal?

This is very similar to the phenomenon mentioned earlier in this module: many individuals do not feel comfortable answering a question honestly. But if we are committed to finding out the facts about handwashing, we have other options available to us.

Suppose we send a researcher to a school playground to observe how aggressive or socially anxious children interact with peers. Will our observer blend into the playground environment by wearing a white lab coat, sitting with a clipboard, and staring at the swings? We want our researcher to be inconspicuous and unobtrusively positioned—perhaps pretending to be a school monitor while secretly recording the relevant information. This type of observational study is called naturalistic observation : observing behavior in its natural setting. To better understand peer exclusion, Suzanne Fanger collaborated with colleagues at the University of Texas to observe the behavior of preschool children on a playground. How did the observers remain inconspicuous over the duration of the study? They equipped a few of the children with wireless microphones (which the children quickly forgot about) and observed while taking notes from a distance. Also, the children in that particular preschool (a “laboratory preschool”) were accustomed to having observers on the playground (Fanger, Frankel, & Hazen, 2012).

woman in black leather jacket sitting on concrete bench

Figure 3 . In naturalistic observation, psychologists take their research into the streets, homes, restaurants, schools, and other settings where behavior can be directly observed.

It is critical that the observer be as unobtrusive and as inconspicuous as possible: when people know they are being watched, they are less likely to behave naturally. For example, psychologists have spent weeks observing the behavior of homeless people on the streets, in train stations, and bus terminals. They try to ensure that their naturalistic observations are unobtrusive, so as to minimize interference with the behavior they observe. Nevertheless, the presence of the observer may distort the behavior that is observed, and this must be taken into consideration (Figure 1).

The greatest benefit of naturalistic observation is the validity, or accuracy, of information collected unobtrusively in a natural setting. Having individuals behave as they normally would in a given situation means that we have a higher degree of ecological validity, or realism, than we might achieve with other research approaches. Therefore, our ability to generalize the findings of the research to real-world situations is enhanced. If done correctly, we need not worry about people modifying their behavior simply because they are being observed. Sometimes, people may assume that reality programs give us a glimpse into authentic human behavior. However, the principle of inconspicuous observation is violated as reality stars are followed by camera crews and are interviewed on camera for personal confessionals. Given that environment, we must doubt how natural and realistic their behaviors are.

The major downside of naturalistic observation is that they are often difficult to set up and control. Although something as simple as observation may seem like it would be a part of all research methods, participant observation is a distinct methodology that involves the researcher embedding themselves into a group in order to study its dynamics. For example, Festinger, Riecken, and Shacter (1956) were very interested in the psychology of a particular cult. However, this cult was very secretive and wouldn’t grant interviews to outside members. So, in order to study these people, Festinger and his colleagues pretended to be cult members, allowing them access to the behavior and psychology of the cult. Despite this example, it should be noted that the people being observed in a participant observation study usually know that the researcher is there to study them. [1]

Another potential problem in observational research is observer bias . Generally, people who act as observers are closely involved in the research project and may unconsciously skew their observations to fit their research goals or expectations. To protect against this type of bias, researchers should have clear criteria established for the types of behaviors recorded and how those behaviors should be classified. In addition, researchers often compare observations of the same event by multiple observers, in order to test inter-rater reliability : a measure of reliability that assesses the consistency of observations by different observers.

Often, psychologists develop surveys as a means of gathering data. Surveys are lists of questions to be answered by research participants, and can be delivered as paper-and-pencil questionnaires, administered electronically, or conducted verbally (Figure 3). Generally, the survey itself can be completed in a short time, and the ease of administering a survey makes it easy to collect data from a large number of people.

Surveys allow researchers to gather data from larger samples than may be afforded by other research methods . A sample is a subset of individuals selected from a population , which is the overall group of individuals that the researchers are interested in. Researchers study the sample and seek to generalize their findings to the population.

A sample online survey reads, “Dear visitor, your opinion is important to us. We would like to invite you to participate in a short survey to gather your opinions and feedback on your news consumption habits. The survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes. Simply click the “Yes” button below to launch the survey. Would you like to participate?” Two buttons are labeled “yes” and “no.”

Figure 4 . Surveys can be administered in a number of ways, including electronically administered research, like the survey shown here. (credit: Robert Nyman)

There is both strength and weakness in surveys when compared to case studies. By using surveys, we can collect information from a larger sample of people. A larger sample is better able to reflect the actual diversity of the population, thus allowing better generalizability. Therefore, if our sample is sufficiently large and diverse, we can assume that the data we collect from the survey can be generalized to the larger population with more certainty than the information collected through a case study. However, given the greater number of people involved, we are not able to collect the same depth of information on each person that would be collected in a case study.

Another potential weakness of surveys is something we touched on earlier in this module: people do not always give accurate responses. They may lie, misremember, or answer questions in a way that they think makes them look good. For example, people may report drinking less alcohol than is actually the case.

Any number of research questions can be answered through the use of surveys. One real-world example is the research conducted by Jenkins, Ruppel, Kizer, Yehl, and Griffin (2012) about the backlash against the U.S. Arab-American community following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Jenkins and colleagues wanted to determine to what extent these negative attitudes toward Arab-Americans still existed nearly a decade after the attacks occurred. In one study, 140 research participants filled out a survey with 10 questions, including questions asking directly about the participant’s overt prejudicial attitudes toward people of various ethnicities. The survey also asked indirect questions about how likely the participant would be to interact with a person of a given ethnicity in a variety of settings (such as, “How likely do you think it is that you would introduce yourself to a person of Arab-American descent?”). The results of the research suggested that participants were unwilling to report prejudicial attitudes toward any ethnic group. However, there were significant differences between their pattern of responses to questions about social interaction with Arab-Americans compared to other ethnic groups: they indicated less willingness for social interaction with Arab-Americans compared to the other ethnic groups. This suggested that the participants harbored subtle forms of prejudice against Arab-Americans, despite their assertions that this was not the case (Jenkins et al., 2012).

Think iT Over

Research has shown that parental depressive symptoms are linked to a number of negative child outcomes. A classmate of yours is interested in  the associations between parental depressive symptoms and actual child behaviors in everyday life [2] because this associations remains largely unknown. After reading this section, what do you think is the best way to better understand such associations? Which method might result in the most valid data?

A-B-A-B design:  an experimental design in which the a person is given treatment, or experimental condition (B), to compare against the baseline (A), and this repeats in order to determine effectiveness

clinical or case study:  observational research study focusing on one or a few people

correlational research:  tests whether a relationship exists between two or more variables

descriptive research:  research studies that do not test specific relationships between variables; they are used to describe general or specific behaviors and attributes that are observed and measured

experimental research:  tests a hypothesis to determine cause-and-effect relationships

generalizability:  inferring that the results for a sample apply to the larger population

inter-rater reliability:  measure of agreement among observers on how they record and classify a particular event

naturalistic observation:  observation of behavior in its natural setting

observer bias:  when observations may be skewed to align with observer expectations

population:  overall group of individuals that the researchers are interested in

sample:  subset of individuals selected from the larger population

single-case experimental design:   when the same  research participant  serves as the subject in both the experimental and control conditions

survey:  list of questions to be answered by research participants—given as paper-and-pencil questionnaires, administered electronically, or conducted verbally—allowing researchers to collect data from a large number of people

  • Scollon, C. N. (2020). Research designs. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. Retrieved from http://noba.to/acxb2thy ↵
  • Slatcher, R. B., & Trentacosta, C. J. (2011). A naturalistic observation study of the links between parental depressive symptoms and preschoolers' behaviors in everyday life. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 25(3), 444–448. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023728 ↵
  • Modification and adaptation. Authored by : Sonja Ann Miller for Lumen Learning. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Approaches to Research. Authored by : OpenStax College. Located at : http://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]:iMyFZJzg@5/Approaches-to-Research . License : CC BY: Attribution . License Terms : Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]
  • Descriptive Research. Provided by : Boundless. Located at : https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/researching-psychology-2/types-of-research-studies-27/descriptive-research-124-12659/ . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Case Study. Provided by : Wikipedia. Located at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_study . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Rat man. Provided by : Wikipedia. Located at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Man#Legacy . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Case study in psychology. Provided by : Wikipedia. Located at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_study_in_psychology . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Research Designs. Authored by : Christie Napa Scollon. Provided by : Singapore Management University. Located at : https://nobaproject.com/modules/research-designs#reference-6 . Project : The Noba Project. License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Single subject design. Provided by : Wikipedia. Located at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-subject_design . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Single subject research. Provided by : Wikipedia. Located at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-subject_research#A-B-A-B . License : Public Domain: No Known Copyright
  • Pills. Authored by : qimono. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/illustrations/pill-capsule-medicine-medical-1884775/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • ABAB Design. Authored by : Doc. Yu. Provided by : Wikimedia. Located at : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A-B-A-B_Design.png . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

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Case Study vs. Descriptive Approach to Research

What's the difference.

The case study approach and the descriptive approach are two different methods used in research. The case study approach involves in-depth analysis of a specific individual, group, or situation. It aims to provide a detailed understanding of the subject matter by examining various aspects and collecting qualitative data. On the other hand, the descriptive approach focuses on describing and summarizing a larger population or phenomenon. It involves collecting quantitative data through surveys, observations, or experiments to draw general conclusions. While the case study approach provides rich and detailed information, it is limited in terms of generalizability. In contrast, the descriptive approach allows for broader generalizations but may lack the depth and context provided by case studies. Ultimately, the choice between these approaches depends on the research objectives and the nature of the research question.

Further Detail

Introduction.

Research is a fundamental aspect of any scientific inquiry, aiming to gather information and gain insights into various phenomena. When conducting research, researchers employ different approaches and methodologies to achieve their objectives. Two commonly used approaches are the case study and descriptive approach. While both approaches have their unique attributes, they differ in terms of their focus, data collection methods, and generalizability.

Case Study Approach

The case study approach is a qualitative research method that focuses on in-depth analysis of a specific individual, group, or event. It aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject under investigation by examining its context, history, and unique characteristics. Case studies often involve multiple sources of data, such as interviews, observations, and document analysis, to gather rich and detailed information.

One of the key attributes of the case study approach is its ability to explore complex and unique phenomena that may not be easily captured by other research methods. By delving deep into a specific case, researchers can uncover intricate details and gain a holistic understanding of the subject. This approach is particularly useful when studying rare or exceptional cases, as it allows researchers to examine the intricacies and nuances that may not be apparent in larger-scale studies.

Furthermore, the case study approach enables researchers to generate new hypotheses and theories by closely examining the relationships and patterns within the case. It provides an opportunity for researchers to explore and develop new ideas, which can contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular field. Additionally, case studies often involve a longitudinal design, allowing researchers to track changes and developments over time.

However, it is important to note that the case study approach has limitations. Due to its focus on a specific case, the findings may not be easily generalizable to a larger population. The small sample size and unique characteristics of the case may limit the external validity of the findings. Therefore, caution should be exercised when applying the results of a case study to broader contexts.

Descriptive Approach

The descriptive approach, also known as the survey method, aims to describe and analyze the characteristics, behaviors, and opinions of a specific population or sample. It involves collecting data through questionnaires, interviews, or observations, and analyzing the responses to draw conclusions about the population under study. The descriptive approach provides a snapshot of the current state of affairs and allows researchers to identify patterns and trends.

One of the key attributes of the descriptive approach is its ability to provide a broad overview of a population or phenomenon. By collecting data from a large sample, researchers can make generalizations about the population and draw conclusions that are applicable to a wider context. This approach is particularly useful when studying large populations or when the research objective is to describe the prevalence of certain characteristics or behaviors.

Moreover, the descriptive approach allows researchers to quantify data and analyze it statistically. By using statistical techniques, researchers can identify relationships between variables, test hypotheses, and make predictions. This quantitative aspect of the descriptive approach provides a level of objectivity and allows for comparisons across different groups or populations.

However, the descriptive approach also has limitations. It may not capture the complexity and richness of individual cases or unique phenomena. The focus on generalizability may overlook important contextual factors that influence the research topic. Additionally, the reliance on self-report measures in surveys may introduce biases and inaccuracies in the data collected.

While the case study and descriptive approaches differ in their focus and data collection methods, they both contribute to the field of research in their own ways. The case study approach provides in-depth insights into specific cases, allowing researchers to explore complex phenomena and generate new hypotheses. On the other hand, the descriptive approach provides a broader overview of populations, enabling researchers to make generalizations and identify patterns.

Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them depends on the research objectives and the nature of the phenomenon under investigation. Researchers should carefully consider the specific research question, the available resources, and the desired level of generalizability when selecting the appropriate approach.

In conclusion, the case study and descriptive approaches are two distinct research methodologies that offer different perspectives and insights. The case study approach allows for in-depth analysis of specific cases, providing rich and detailed information. On the other hand, the descriptive approach provides a broader overview of populations, allowing for generalizations and statistical analysis. Both approaches have their merits and limitations, and researchers should choose the most appropriate approach based on their research objectives and the nature of the phenomenon under investigation.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.

Research-Methodology

Case Studies

Case studies are a popular research method in business area. Case studies aim to analyze specific issues within the boundaries of a specific environment, situation or organization.

According to its design, case studies in business research can be divided into three categories: explanatory, descriptive and exploratory.

Explanatory case studies aim to answer ‘how’ or ’why’ questions with little control on behalf of researcher over occurrence of events. This type of case studies focus on phenomena within the contexts of real-life situations. Example: “An investigation into the reasons of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008 – 2010.”

Descriptive case studies aim to analyze the sequence of interpersonal events after a certain amount of time has passed. Studies in business research belonging to this category usually describe culture or sub-culture, and they attempt to discover the key phenomena. Example: “Impact of increasing levels of multiculturalism on marketing practices: A case study of McDonald’s Indonesia.”

Exploratory case studies aim to find answers to the questions of ‘what’ or ‘who’. Exploratory case study data collection method is often accompanied by additional data collection method(s) such as interviews, questionnaires, experiments etc. Example: “A study into differences of leadership practices between private and public sector organizations in Atlanta, USA.”

Advantages of case study method include data collection and analysis within the context of phenomenon, integration of qualitative and quantitative data in data analysis, and the ability to capture complexities of real-life situations so that the phenomenon can be studied in greater levels of depth. Case studies do have certain disadvantages that may include lack of rigor, challenges associated with data analysis and very little basis for generalizations of findings and conclusions.

Case Studies

John Dudovskiy

COMMENTS

  1. Case Study Methodology of Qualitative Research: Key Attributes and

    It must be noted, as highlighted by Yin , a case study is not a method of data collection, rather is a research strategy or design to study a social unit. Creswell (2014, p. 241) makes a lucid and comprehensive definition of case study strategy. ... Descriptive case studies have high similarity with ethnographic studies. Both attempt the ...

  2. Descriptive Research

    Descriptive research methods. Descriptive research is usually defined as a type of quantitative research, though qualitative research can also be used for descriptive purposes. ... Case studies. A case study can be used to describe the characteristics of a specific subject (such as a person, group, event or organization). Instead of gathering a ...

  3. Case Study

    A case study is a research method that involves an in-depth examination and analysis of a particular phenomenon or case, such as an individual, organization, community, event, or situation. ... A descriptive case study is used to describe a particular phenomenon in detail. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to provide a ...

  4. What Is a Case Study?

    A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research. A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods, but quantitative methods are sometimes also used.

  5. What is a Case Study?

    A case study protocol outlines the procedures and general rules to be followed during the case study. This includes the data collection methods to be used, the sources of data, and the procedures for analysis. Having a detailed case study protocol ensures consistency and reliability in the study.

  6. Continuing to enhance the quality of case study methodology in health

    According to Yin's 40 approach to descriptive case studies, carefully considering theory development is an important part of study design. "Theory" refers to field-relevant ... The pragmatic case study method for creating rigorous and systematic, practitioner-friendly research. Pragmat Case Stud Psych. 2013; 9 (4):403-425. [Google ...

  7. Descriptive Research Design

    Descriptive research methods. Descriptive research is usually defined as a type of quantitative research, though qualitative research can also be used for descriptive purposes. ... Case studies. A case study can be used to describe the characteristics of a specific subject (such as a person, group, event, or organisation). Instead of gathering ...

  8. Study designs: Part 2

    INTRODUCTION. In our previous article in this series, [ 1] we introduced the concept of "study designs"- as "the set of methods and procedures used to collect and analyze data on variables specified in a particular research question.". Study designs are primarily of two types - observational and interventional, with the former being ...

  9. Qualitative Descriptive Methods in Health Science Research

    Describing the Qualitative Descriptive Approach. In two seminal articles, Sandelowski promotes the mainstream use of qualitative description (Sandelowski, 2000, 2010) as a well-developed but unacknowledged method which provides a "comprehensive summary of an event in the every day terms of those events" (Sandelowski, 2000, p. 336).Such studies are characterized by lower levels of ...

  10. Case Study Research Method in Psychology

    The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient's personal history). In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual. ... Descriptive case studies: Describe an intervention or phenomenon and the real-life context in which it occurred. It is helpful for ...

  11. PDF DEFINING THE CASE STUDY

    Five elements of a research design: Identify data to be collected— define: 1. question: case studies most useful for answering how, why. 2. propositions, if any to help problematize your question (e.g., organizations collaborate because they derive mutual benefit).

  12. Descriptive Research in Psychology

    Descriptive Case Study Research . A descriptive approach to a case study is akin to a biography of a person, honing in on the experiences of a small group to extrapolate to larger themes. We most commonly see descriptive case studies when those in the psychology field are using past clients as an example to illustrate a point.

  13. Descriptive Research Design

    Case Study. This involves an in-depth examination of a single individual, group, or situation to gain a detailed understanding of its characteristics or dynamics. ... As discussed earlier, common research methods for descriptive research include surveys, case studies, observational studies, cross-sectional studies, and longitudinal studies.

  14. (PDF) Case study as a research method

    Case study method enables a researcher to closely examine the data within a specific context. In most cases, a case study method selects a small geograph ical area or a very li mited number. of ...

  15. Descriptive Research and Case Studies

    The single-case experimental design (sometimes called single-participant research designs), is particularly useful for studies of treatment effectiveness. In single-case experimental designs, the same research participant serves as the subject in both the experimental and control conditions. One of the most common forms of the single-case experimental design is the A-B-A-B design, or reversal ...

  16. Case Study vs. Descriptive Approach to Research

    The case study approach and the descriptive approach are two different methods used in research. The case study approach involves in-depth analysis of a specific individual, group, or situation. It aims to provide a detailed understanding of the subject matter by examining various aspects and collecting qualitative data.

  17. Case Studies

    Case Studies. Case studies are a popular research method in business area. Case studies aim to analyze specific issues within the boundaries of a specific environment, situation or organization. According to its design, case studies in business research can be divided into three categories: explanatory, descriptive and exploratory.

  18. Distinguishing case study as a research method from case reports as a

    Single-institution descriptive reports of library activities are often labeled by their authors as "case studies." By contrast, in health care, single patient retrospective descriptions are published as "case reports." ... For Yin, case study is a method of empirical inquiry appropriate to determining the "how and why" of phenomena ...

  19. (PDF) Case Study Research

    The case study method is a research strategy that aims to gain an in-depth understanding of a specific phenomenon by collecting and analyzing specific data within its true context (Rebolj, 2013 ...