If you’re new to case studies or aren’t sure about what they are or how or when to use them, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to discuss what a case study is as well as explain the different types of case studies out there and why and when to use them in an effective manner.
A case study is something researchers either develop themselves or use as a way of examining a certain topic or subject in a detailed, thorough way. They’re in-depth investigations designed to identify relationships, trends, patterns or relationships based on cause and effect. They’re used in many different capacities, including academia, businesses, marketing and non-profit organisations, to name a few.
You might not know that there are actually more than one type of case study out there. You might think that one case study is the same as another, but that’s not the case. A case study comes in a variety of forms and each one can be used in a different capacity, depending on what it is you need the case study for. So in summary, here are the different types of case study available:
As the name would suggest, a person case study focuses on just one individual as opposed to many. The subject of the case study will often have an extraordinary story, a rare characteristic or a unique experience to share.
Unlike a person case study, a group case study focuses on a group of people, whether it be coworkers, friendship groups, mum groups or even families. It involves any case where two or more people share an experience, a story or a characteristic that can be shared universally, usually in the form of a case study. It can even revolve around an entire community of people.
This type of case study focuses on a business, an institution or a charity organisation. It can look into the processes they follow, their goals or even a particular incident or situation that occurred, or was experienced, there.
These case studies focus on a specific location, looking into population changes or environmental alterations in the area, such as air pollution or land condition. The results mean that people will have more of an understanding about what it’s like to live there or how the residents use the land or resources available to them in the local area.
These are used to cover anything from political scandals to natural disasters. They’re generally conducted retrospectively, so it’s more of an investigation into a past event rather than reporting on it in real time, which is something that occurs in journalism, for example.
As the name suggests, this type of case study explains why or how something happened or occurred. This type of case study is used, generally, in an academic environment as it can be a way to study particular topics or subjects as well as give answers to questions that need to be answered. These case studies can be used if you’re looking into air crashes or power outages, for example, because you need to know and understand how they happened in the first place.
Also known as illustrative case studies, these shed light on unfamiliar topics and subjects. Researchers use descriptive case studies as a way of making their readers understand a topic or to give them something to relate to. These are often referred to as real world examples.
Otherwise known as a pilot case study, exploratory case studies are often the first step in carrying out a larger research project. It can also be used to narrow their focus if an audience is looking into a large-scale study to make it quicker and easier for them to understand and come up with the answers needed.
An intrinsic case study allows the audience to gain a far deeper understanding of its subject, going far beyond that of surface-level research. This type of case study disregards basic or generalised conclusions, instead challenging assumptions or comparing and/or contrasting them. An intrinsic case study is focused entirely on the subject itself and the deeper, intrinsic meaning of it.
This is the direct opposite of an intrinsic case study in the sense that it’s not necessarily interested in understanding the deeper meaning, but instead focuses on the immediate subject as a whole. A larger question is posed through individual cases, or one case in particular. For example, there could be a case study that explores the relationship between happiness and social media, but the connection goes no further than surface-level understanding.
This takes evidence, stories and information from several case studies that have been carried out in the past to develop an entirely new case study. Taking multiple accounts works well to develop a brand new case study as there’s plenty of real-world information that can be used. It’s a more cost-effective and timely way of carrying our and also doing some research on one or more topics.
There are many different case studies out there that can be used in several scenarios, whether it be in business, at university or for a non-profit organisation. But after all of that, you might still be thinking what use a case study has. Content is still valuable without the inclusion of a case study, so why would you need to use one?
Sometimes, a case study is an excellent way to inject some reality into your content. It can also offer a different perspective and give the reader something to relate to. For example, you could have written an article about how a non-profit organisation has helped someone in the community, but it would really bring the article to life if you included a case study in some way, even if it’s an interview with the person involved. No matter the case study you choose to add to your article, it can bring your topic to life.
Sourcing case studies is an essential skill to have. Often, people learn this skill at school or at university, but if you haven’t, then researching case studies to go alongside your articles is beneficial for a variety of different reasons, including:
By displaying a range of different case studies on your website pages or on another form of content, such as email marketing, then it can help to instil trust in your customers, especially if you use case studies as reviews or as a way to verify a customer’s experience. This can enable a customer to decide whether or not to choose you for your goods and/or services or to go with one of your competitors.
You might now be wondering what place a case study has in the world of marketing? If that’s what you’re thinking, then I’ve outlined a few ways in which case studies can be used in the field. From email marketing to placement on website pages, here’s when you should use a case study in marketing:
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As an experienced Copywriter, Lorna enjoys creating varied content for an abundance of different industries and sectors. From detailed, informative articles to creative infographics, she's always looking to inject originality into the work she produces. When she isn't working, Lorna runs her own lifestyle blog, plays the guitar and loves to take part in charity runs.