Case Studies: Case Study Definition and Steps

Design of Experiments > Case Studies

What are Case Studies?

case studies

Case studies are in-depth studies of a phenomenon, like a person, group, or situation. The phenomenon is studied in detail, cases are analyzed and solutions or interpretations are presented. It can provide a deeper understanding of a complex topic or assist a person in gaining experience about a certain historical situation. Although case studies are used across a wide variety of disciplines, they are more frequently found in the social sciences.

Case studies are a type of qualitative research. This method does not involve statistical hypothesis testing. It has been criticized as being unreliable, too general, and open to bias. To avoid some of these problems, studies should be carefully planned and implemented. The University of Texas suggests the following six steps for case studies to ensure the best possible outcome:

  1. Determine the research question and carefully define it. The research question for case studies generally starts with a “How” or “Why.”
  2. Choose the cases and state how data is to be gathered and which techniques for analysis you’ll be using. Well designed studies consider all available options for cases and for ways to analyze those cases. Multiple sources and data analysis methods are recommended.
  3. Prepare to collect the data. Consider how you will deal with large sets of data in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed once the study is underway. You should formulate good questions and anticipate how you will interpret answers. Multiple collection methods will strengthen the study.
  4. Collect the data in the field (or, less frequently, in the lab). Collect and organize the data, keep good field notes and maintain an organized database.
  5. Analyze the data.
  6. Prepare your report.

Text books are including more real-life studies to veer away from the “clean” data sets that are found in traditional books. These data sets do little to prepare students for applying statistical concepts to their ultimate careers in industry or the social sciences.


Dodge, Y. (2008). The Concise Encyclopedia of Statistics. Springer.
UTexas. Retrieved Dec 8, 2020 from:
Vogt, W.P. (2005). Dictionary of Statistics & Methodology: A Nontechnical Guide for the Social Sciences. SAGE.

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