Reading different blogs it has come to my attention that case studies are getting quite a bad reputation. They are being deemed non-scientific and of questionable usefulness. In this blog I will look at both sides of the argument for case studies and see whether as a design it is still useful for the field of psychology.
- Case studies allow a lot of detail to be collected that would not normally be easily obtained by other research designs. The data collected is normally a lot richer and of greater depth than can be found through other experimental designs.
- Case studies tend to be conducted on rare cases where large samples of similar participants are not available. An example of this is the study of Phineas Gage by Harlow, J.M. This example also connects with the point above with the depth of data obtained. Cases of brain damage are quite minimal and it is extremely rare to find people with the exact same parts of the brain affected. To be able to gain knowledge of brain functions the damage between people have to be exact to ensure you are testing the right thing, this can generally only be done through case studies.
- Within the case study, scientific experiments can be conducted.
- Case studies can help experimenters adapt ideas and produce novel hypotheses which can be used for later testing.
- Knowledge! Again to Phineas Gage, his contributions to neuropsychology and the workings of the brain are invaluable.
- One of the main criticisms is that the data collected cannot necessarily be generalised to the wider population. This leads to data being collected over longitudinal case studies not always being relevant or particularly useful.
- Some case studies are not scientific. Freud used case studies for many of his theories or studies. Such examples are that of Anna O and Little Hans. Both of these are not scientific nor are they able to be generalised. This can be attributed to them being case studies, but also Freudian theory in general.
- Case studies are generally on one person, but there also tends to only be one experimenter collecting the data. This can lead to bias in data collection, which can influence results more than in different designs.
- It is also very difficult to draw a definite cause/effect from case studies.
Case studies also tend to collect mainly qualitative data. I have put this as neither an advantage or disadvantage of case studies, as this depends on your stance on qualitative data. If you look back a few blogs I have summarised my view of qualitative data. Mainly positive!
Overall, I think that case studies are an important and useful method of data collection, especially in cases of rare phenomena. It would be extremely unethical to go taking parts of peoples brains out just to make a larger sample size to use a different experimental design method. However, as data is collected on new cases I think it is important to always refer back to previous data in order to build on existing knowledge and ensure findings are as applicable to real life as possible.
Advantages of Case Study Method of Data Collection
Following are the advantage of case study Method
- Intensive Study. Case study method is responsible for intensive study of a unit. It is the investigation and exploration of an event thoroughly and deeply.
- No Sampling. It studies a social unit in its entire perspectives. It means there is no sampling in case study method.
- Continuous Analysis. It is valuable in analyzing continuously the life of a social unit to dig out the facts.
- Hypothesis Formulation. This method is useful for formulation of hypothesis for further study.
- Comparisons. It compares different type of facts about the study of a unity.
- Increase in Knowledge. It gives the analytical power of a person to increase knowledge about a social phenomena.
- Generalization of Data. Case study method provides grounds for generalization of data for illustrating statistical findings.
- Comprehensive. It is a comprehensive method of data collection in social research.
- Locate Deviant Cases. The deviant cases are these units which behave against the proposed hypothesis. So, it locate these deviant cases. The tendency is to ignore them but are important for scientific study.
- Farming Questionnaire or Schedule. Through case study method we can formulate and develop a questionnaire and schedule.
Disadvantage of Case Study Methodof Data Collection
Case study method has the following disadvantages
- Limited Representatives. Due to as narrow focuses a case study has limited representatives and generalization is impossible.
- No Classification. Any classification is not possible due to studying a small unit.
- Possibility of Errors. Case study method may have the errors of memory and judgment.
- Subjective Method. It is a subjective method rather than objective.
- No Easy and Simple. This method is very difficult and no layman can conduct this method.
- Bias Can Occur. Due to narrow study the discrimination & bias can occurs in the investigation of a social unit.
- No Fixed Limits. This method is depend on situation and have no fixed limits of investigation of the researcher.
- Costly and Time Consuming. This method is more costly and time consuming as compare to other methods of data collection.