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  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

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. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

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Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

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In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

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

case studies analysis is mainly

  • 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.

case studies analysis is mainly

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.

case studies analysis is mainly

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.

case studies analysis is mainly

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.

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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.

case studies analysis is mainly

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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, 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.


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 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.

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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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What the Case Study Method Really Teaches

  • Nitin Nohria

case studies analysis is mainly

Seven meta-skills that stick even if the cases fade from memory.

It’s been 100 years since Harvard Business School began using the case study method. Beyond teaching specific subject matter, the case study method excels in instilling meta-skills in students. This article explains the importance of seven such skills: preparation, discernment, bias recognition, judgement, collaboration, curiosity, and self-confidence.

During my decade as dean of Harvard Business School, I spent hundreds of hours talking with our alumni. To enliven these conversations, I relied on a favorite question: “What was the most important thing you learned from your time in our MBA program?”

  • Nitin Nohria is the George F. Baker Jr. Professor at Harvard Business School and the former dean of HBS.

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  • Roberta Heale 1 ,
  • Alison Twycross 2
  • 1 School of Nursing , Laurentian University , Sudbury , Ontario , Canada
  • 2 School of Health and Social Care , London South Bank University , London , UK
  • Correspondence to Dr Roberta Heale, School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON P3E2C6, Canada; rheale{at}laurentian.ca


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What is it?

Case study is a research methodology, typically seen in social and life sciences. There is no one definition of case study research. 1 However, very simply… ‘a case study can be defined as an intensive study about a person, a group of people or a unit, which is aimed to generalize over several units’. 1 A case study has also been described as an intensive, systematic investigation of a single individual, group, community or some other unit in which the researcher examines in-depth data relating to several variables. 2

Often there are several similar cases to consider such as educational or social service programmes that are delivered from a number of locations. Although similar, they are complex and have unique features. In these circumstances, the evaluation of several, similar cases will provide a better answer to a research question than if only one case is examined, hence the multiple-case study. Stake asserts that the cases are grouped and viewed as one entity, called the quintain . 6  ‘We study what is similar and different about the cases to understand the quintain better’. 6

The steps when using case study methodology are the same as for other types of research. 6 The first step is defining the single case or identifying a group of similar cases that can then be incorporated into a multiple-case study. A search to determine what is known about the case(s) is typically conducted. This may include a review of the literature, grey literature, media, reports and more, which serves to establish a basic understanding of the cases and informs the development of research questions. Data in case studies are often, but not exclusively, qualitative in nature. In multiple-case studies, analysis within cases and across cases is conducted. Themes arise from the analyses and assertions about the cases as a whole, or the quintain, emerge. 6

Benefits and limitations of case studies

If a researcher wants to study a specific phenomenon arising from a particular entity, then a single-case study is warranted and will allow for a in-depth understanding of the single phenomenon and, as discussed above, would involve collecting several different types of data. This is illustrated in example 1 below.

Using a multiple-case research study allows for a more in-depth understanding of the cases as a unit, through comparison of similarities and differences of the individual cases embedded within the quintain. Evidence arising from multiple-case studies is often stronger and more reliable than from single-case research. Multiple-case studies allow for more comprehensive exploration of research questions and theory development. 6

Despite the advantages of case studies, there are limitations. The sheer volume of data is difficult to organise and data analysis and integration strategies need to be carefully thought through. There is also sometimes a temptation to veer away from the research focus. 2 Reporting of findings from multiple-case research studies is also challenging at times, 1 particularly in relation to the word limits for some journal papers.

Examples of case studies

Example 1: nurses’ paediatric pain management practices.

One of the authors of this paper (AT) has used a case study approach to explore nurses’ paediatric pain management practices. This involved collecting several datasets:

Observational data to gain a picture about actual pain management practices.

Questionnaire data about nurses’ knowledge about paediatric pain management practices and how well they felt they managed pain in children.

Questionnaire data about how critical nurses perceived pain management tasks to be.

These datasets were analysed separately and then compared 7–9 and demonstrated that nurses’ level of theoretical did not impact on the quality of their pain management practices. 7 Nor did individual nurse’s perceptions of how critical a task was effect the likelihood of them carrying out this task in practice. 8 There was also a difference in self-reported and observed practices 9 ; actual (observed) practices did not confirm to best practice guidelines, whereas self-reported practices tended to.

Example 2: quality of care for complex patients at Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics (NPLCs)

The other author of this paper (RH) has conducted a multiple-case study to determine the quality of care for patients with complex clinical presentations in NPLCs in Ontario, Canada. 10 Five NPLCs served as individual cases that, together, represented the quatrain. Three types of data were collected including:

Review of documentation related to the NPLC model (media, annual reports, research articles, grey literature and regulatory legislation).

Interviews with nurse practitioners (NPs) practising at the five NPLCs to determine their perceptions of the impact of the NPLC model on the quality of care provided to patients with multimorbidity.

Chart audits conducted at the five NPLCs to determine the extent to which evidence-based guidelines were followed for patients with diabetes and at least one other chronic condition.

The three sources of data collected from the five NPLCs were analysed and themes arose related to the quality of care for complex patients at NPLCs. The multiple-case study confirmed that nurse practitioners are the primary care providers at the NPLCs, and this positively impacts the quality of care for patients with multimorbidity. Healthcare policy, such as lack of an increase in salary for NPs for 10 years, has resulted in issues in recruitment and retention of NPs at NPLCs. This, along with insufficient resources in the communities where NPLCs are located and high patient vulnerability at NPLCs, have a negative impact on the quality of care. 10

These examples illustrate how collecting data about a single case or multiple cases helps us to better understand the phenomenon in question. Case study methodology serves to provide a framework for evaluation and analysis of complex issues. It shines a light on the holistic nature of nursing practice and offers a perspective that informs improved patient care.

  • Gustafsson J
  • Calanzaro M
  • Sandelowski M

Competing interests None declared.

Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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  • Acknowledgments

A case study research paper examines a person, place, event, condition, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis in order to extrapolate  key themes and results that help predict future trends, illuminate previously hidden issues that can be applied to practice, and/or provide a means for understanding an important research problem with greater clarity. A case study research paper usually examines a single subject of analysis, but case study papers can also be designed as a comparative investigation that shows relationships between two or more subjects. The methods used to study a case can rest within a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method investigative paradigm.

Case Studies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010 ; “What is a Case Study?” In Swanborn, Peter G. Case Study Research: What, Why and How? London: SAGE, 2010.

How to Approach Writing a Case Study Research Paper

General information about how to choose a topic to investigate can be found under the " Choosing a Research Problem " tab in the Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper writing guide. Review this page because it may help you identify a subject of analysis that can be investigated using a case study design.

However, identifying a case to investigate involves more than choosing the research problem . A case study encompasses a problem contextualized around the application of in-depth analysis, interpretation, and discussion, often resulting in specific recommendations for action or for improving existing conditions. As Seawright and Gerring note, practical considerations such as time and access to information can influence case selection, but these issues should not be the sole factors used in describing the methodological justification for identifying a particular case to study. Given this, selecting a case includes considering the following:

  • The case represents an unusual or atypical example of a research problem that requires more in-depth analysis? Cases often represent a topic that rests on the fringes of prior investigations because the case may provide new ways of understanding the research problem. For example, if the research problem is to identify strategies to improve policies that support girl's access to secondary education in predominantly Muslim nations, you could consider using Azerbaijan as a case study rather than selecting a more obvious nation in the Middle East. Doing so may reveal important new insights into recommending how governments in other predominantly Muslim nations can formulate policies that support improved access to education for girls.
  • The case provides important insight or illuminate a previously hidden problem? In-depth analysis of a case can be based on the hypothesis that the case study will reveal trends or issues that have not been exposed in prior research or will reveal new and important implications for practice. For example, anecdotal evidence may suggest drug use among homeless veterans is related to their patterns of travel throughout the day. Assuming prior studies have not looked at individual travel choices as a way to study access to illicit drug use, a case study that observes a homeless veteran could reveal how issues of personal mobility choices facilitate regular access to illicit drugs. Note that it is important to conduct a thorough literature review to ensure that your assumption about the need to reveal new insights or previously hidden problems is valid and evidence-based.
  • The case challenges and offers a counter-point to prevailing assumptions? Over time, research on any given topic can fall into a trap of developing assumptions based on outdated studies that are still applied to new or changing conditions or the idea that something should simply be accepted as "common sense," even though the issue has not been thoroughly tested in current practice. A case study analysis may offer an opportunity to gather evidence that challenges prevailing assumptions about a research problem and provide a new set of recommendations applied to practice that have not been tested previously. For example, perhaps there has been a long practice among scholars to apply a particular theory in explaining the relationship between two subjects of analysis. Your case could challenge this assumption by applying an innovative theoretical framework [perhaps borrowed from another discipline] to explore whether this approach offers new ways of understanding the research problem. Taking a contrarian stance is one of the most important ways that new knowledge and understanding develops from existing literature.
  • The case provides an opportunity to pursue action leading to the resolution of a problem? Another way to think about choosing a case to study is to consider how the results from investigating a particular case may result in findings that reveal ways in which to resolve an existing or emerging problem. For example, studying the case of an unforeseen incident, such as a fatal accident at a railroad crossing, can reveal hidden issues that could be applied to preventative measures that contribute to reducing the chance of accidents in the future. In this example, a case study investigating the accident could lead to a better understanding of where to strategically locate additional signals at other railroad crossings so as to better warn drivers of an approaching train, particularly when visibility is hindered by heavy rain, fog, or at night.
  • The case offers a new direction in future research? A case study can be used as a tool for an exploratory investigation that highlights the need for further research about the problem. A case can be used when there are few studies that help predict an outcome or that establish a clear understanding about how best to proceed in addressing a problem. For example, after conducting a thorough literature review [very important!], you discover that little research exists showing the ways in which women contribute to promoting water conservation in rural communities of east central Africa. A case study of how women contribute to saving water in a rural village of Uganda can lay the foundation for understanding the need for more thorough research that documents how women in their roles as cooks and family caregivers think about water as a valuable resource within their community. This example of a case study could also point to the need for scholars to build new theoretical frameworks around the topic [e.g., applying feminist theories of work and family to the issue of water conservation].

Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. “Building Theories from Case Study Research.” Academy of Management Review 14 (October 1989): 532-550; Emmel, Nick. Sampling and Choosing Cases in Qualitative Research: A Realist Approach . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2013; Gerring, John. “What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good for?” American Political Science Review 98 (May 2004): 341-354; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Seawright, Jason and John Gerring. "Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research." Political Research Quarterly 61 (June 2008): 294-308.

Structure and Writing Style

The purpose of a paper in the social sciences designed around a case study is to thoroughly investigate a subject of analysis in order to reveal a new understanding about the research problem and, in so doing, contributing new knowledge to what is already known from previous studies. In applied social sciences disciplines [e.g., education, social work, public administration, etc.], case studies may also be used to reveal best practices, highlight key programs, or investigate interesting aspects of professional work.

In general, the structure of a case study research paper is not all that different from a standard college-level research paper. However, there are subtle differences you should be aware of. Here are the key elements to organizing and writing a case study research paper.

I.  Introduction

As with any research paper, your introduction should serve as a roadmap for your readers to ascertain the scope and purpose of your study . The introduction to a case study research paper, however, should not only describe the research problem and its significance, but you should also succinctly describe why the case is being used and how it relates to addressing the problem. The two elements should be linked. With this in mind, a good introduction answers these four questions:

  • What is being studied? Describe the research problem and describe the subject of analysis [the case] you have chosen to address the problem. Explain how they are linked and what elements of the case will help to expand knowledge and understanding about the problem.
  • Why is this topic important to investigate? Describe the significance of the research problem and state why a case study design and the subject of analysis that the paper is designed around is appropriate in addressing the problem.
  • What did we know about this topic before I did this study? Provide background that helps lead the reader into the more in-depth literature review to follow. If applicable, summarize prior case study research applied to the research problem and why it fails to adequately address the problem. Describe why your case will be useful. If no prior case studies have been used to address the research problem, explain why you have selected this subject of analysis.
  • How will this study advance new knowledge or new ways of understanding? Explain why your case study will be suitable in helping to expand knowledge and understanding about the research problem.

Each of these questions should be addressed in no more than a few paragraphs. Exceptions to this can be when you are addressing a complex research problem or subject of analysis that requires more in-depth background information.

II.  Literature Review

The literature review for a case study research paper is generally structured the same as it is for any college-level research paper. The difference, however, is that the literature review is focused on providing background information and  enabling historical interpretation of the subject of analysis in relation to the research problem the case is intended to address . This includes synthesizing studies that help to:

  • Place relevant works in the context of their contribution to understanding the case study being investigated . This would involve summarizing studies that have used a similar subject of analysis to investigate the research problem. If there is literature using the same or a very similar case to study, you need to explain why duplicating past research is important [e.g., conditions have changed; prior studies were conducted long ago, etc.].
  • Describe the relationship each work has to the others under consideration that informs the reader why this case is applicable . Your literature review should include a description of any works that support using the case to investigate the research problem and the underlying research questions.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research using the case study . If applicable, review any research that has examined the research problem using a different research design. Explain how your use of a case study design may reveal new knowledge or a new perspective or that can redirect research in an important new direction.
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies . This refers to synthesizing any literature that points to unresolved issues of concern about the research problem and describing how the subject of analysis that forms the case study can help resolve these existing contradictions.
  • Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research . Your review should examine any literature that lays a foundation for understanding why your case study design and the subject of analysis around which you have designed your study may reveal a new way of approaching the research problem or offer a perspective that points to the need for additional research.
  • Expose any gaps that exist in the literature that the case study could help to fill . Summarize any literature that not only shows how your subject of analysis contributes to understanding the research problem, but how your case contributes to a new way of understanding the problem that prior research has failed to do.
  • Locate your own research within the context of existing literature [very important!] . Collectively, your literature review should always place your case study within the larger domain of prior research about the problem. The overarching purpose of reviewing pertinent literature in a case study paper is to demonstrate that you have thoroughly identified and synthesized prior studies in relation to explaining the relevance of the case in addressing the research problem.

III.  Method

In this section, you explain why you selected a particular case [i.e., subject of analysis] and the strategy you used to identify and ultimately decide that your case was appropriate in addressing the research problem. The way you describe the methods used varies depending on the type of subject of analysis that constitutes your case study.

If your subject of analysis is an incident or event . In the social and behavioral sciences, the event or incident that represents the case to be studied is usually bounded by time and place, with a clear beginning and end and with an identifiable location or position relative to its surroundings. The subject of analysis can be a rare or critical event or it can focus on a typical or regular event. The purpose of studying a rare event is to illuminate new ways of thinking about the broader research problem or to test a hypothesis. Critical incident case studies must describe the method by which you identified the event and explain the process by which you determined the validity of this case to inform broader perspectives about the research problem or to reveal new findings. However, the event does not have to be a rare or uniquely significant to support new thinking about the research problem or to challenge an existing hypothesis. For example, Walo, Bull, and Breen conducted a case study to identify and evaluate the direct and indirect economic benefits and costs of a local sports event in the City of Lismore, New South Wales, Australia. The purpose of their study was to provide new insights from measuring the impact of a typical local sports event that prior studies could not measure well because they focused on large "mega-events." Whether the event is rare or not, the methods section should include an explanation of the following characteristics of the event: a) when did it take place; b) what were the underlying circumstances leading to the event; and, c) what were the consequences of the event in relation to the research problem.

If your subject of analysis is a person. Explain why you selected this particular individual to be studied and describe what experiences they have had that provide an opportunity to advance new understandings about the research problem. Mention any background about this person which might help the reader understand the significance of their experiences that make them worthy of study. This includes describing the relationships this person has had with other people, institutions, and/or events that support using them as the subject for a case study research paper. It is particularly important to differentiate the person as the subject of analysis from others and to succinctly explain how the person relates to examining the research problem [e.g., why is one politician in a particular local election used to show an increase in voter turnout from any other candidate running in the election]. Note that these issues apply to a specific group of people used as a case study unit of analysis [e.g., a classroom of students].

If your subject of analysis is a place. In general, a case study that investigates a place suggests a subject of analysis that is unique or special in some way and that this uniqueness can be used to build new understanding or knowledge about the research problem. A case study of a place must not only describe its various attributes relevant to the research problem [e.g., physical, social, historical, cultural, economic, political], but you must state the method by which you determined that this place will illuminate new understandings about the research problem. It is also important to articulate why a particular place as the case for study is being used if similar places also exist [i.e., if you are studying patterns of homeless encampments of veterans in open spaces, explain why you are studying Echo Park in Los Angeles rather than Griffith Park?]. If applicable, describe what type of human activity involving this place makes it a good choice to study [e.g., prior research suggests Echo Park has more homeless veterans].

If your subject of analysis is a phenomenon. A phenomenon refers to a fact, occurrence, or circumstance that can be studied or observed but with the cause or explanation to be in question. In this sense, a phenomenon that forms your subject of analysis can encompass anything that can be observed or presumed to exist but is not fully understood. In the social and behavioral sciences, the case usually focuses on human interaction within a complex physical, social, economic, cultural, or political system. For example, the phenomenon could be the observation that many vehicles used by ISIS fighters are small trucks with English language advertisements on them. The research problem could be that ISIS fighters are difficult to combat because they are highly mobile. The research questions could be how and by what means are these vehicles used by ISIS being supplied to the militants and how might supply lines to these vehicles be cut off? How might knowing the suppliers of these trucks reveal larger networks of collaborators and financial support? A case study of a phenomenon most often encompasses an in-depth analysis of a cause and effect that is grounded in an interactive relationship between people and their environment in some way.

NOTE:   The choice of the case or set of cases to study cannot appear random. Evidence that supports the method by which you identified and chose your subject of analysis should clearly support investigation of the research problem and linked to key findings from your literature review. Be sure to cite any studies that helped you determine that the case you chose was appropriate for examining the problem.

IV.  Discussion

The main elements of your discussion section are generally the same as any research paper, but centered around interpreting and drawing conclusions about the key findings from your analysis of the case study. Note that a general social sciences research paper may contain a separate section to report findings. However, in a paper designed around a case study, it is common to combine a description of the results with the discussion about their implications. The objectives of your discussion section should include the following:

Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings Briefly reiterate the research problem you are investigating and explain why the subject of analysis around which you designed the case study were used. You should then describe the findings revealed from your study of the case using direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results. Highlight any findings that were unexpected or especially profound.

Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important Systematically explain the meaning of your case study findings and why you believe they are important. Begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most important or surprising finding first, then systematically review each finding. Be sure to thoroughly extrapolate what your analysis of the case can tell the reader about situations or conditions beyond the actual case that was studied while, at the same time, being careful not to misconstrue or conflate a finding that undermines the external validity of your conclusions.

Relate the Findings to Similar Studies No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your case study results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for choosing your subject of analysis. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your case study design and the subject of analysis differs from prior research about the topic.

Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings Remember that the purpose of social science research is to discover and not to prove. When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations revealed by the case study results, rather than just those that fit your hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. Be alert to what the in-depth analysis of the case may reveal about the research problem, including offering a contrarian perspective to what scholars have stated in prior research if that is how the findings can be interpreted from your case.

Acknowledge the Study's Limitations You can state the study's limitations in the conclusion section of your paper but describing the limitations of your subject of analysis in the discussion section provides an opportunity to identify the limitations and explain why they are not significant. This part of the discussion section should also note any unanswered questions or issues your case study could not address. More detailed information about how to document any limitations to your research can be found here .

Suggest Areas for Further Research Although your case study may offer important insights about the research problem, there are likely additional questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or findings that unexpectedly revealed themselves as a result of your in-depth analysis of the case. Be sure that the recommendations for further research are linked to the research problem and that you explain why your recommendations are valid in other contexts and based on the original assumptions of your study.

V.  Conclusion

As with any research paper, you should summarize your conclusion in clear, simple language; emphasize how the findings from your case study differs from or supports prior research and why. Do not simply reiterate the discussion section. Provide a synthesis of key findings presented in the paper to show how these converge to address the research problem. If you haven't already done so in the discussion section, be sure to document the limitations of your case study and any need for further research.

The function of your paper's conclusion is to: 1) reiterate the main argument supported by the findings from your case study; 2) state clearly the context, background, and necessity of pursuing the research problem using a case study design in relation to an issue, controversy, or a gap found from reviewing the literature; and, 3) provide a place to persuasively and succinctly restate the significance of your research problem, given that the reader has now been presented with in-depth information about the topic.

Consider the following points to help ensure your conclusion is appropriate:

  • If the argument or purpose of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize these points for your reader.
  • If prior to your conclusion, you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the conclusion of your paper to describe your main points and explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration of the case study's findings that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction or within a new context that emerges from your case study findings.

Note that, depending on the discipline you are writing in or the preferences of your professor, the concluding paragraph may contain your final reflections on the evidence presented as it applies to practice or on the essay's central research problem. However, the nature of being introspective about the subject of analysis you have investigated will depend on whether you are explicitly asked to express your observations in this way.

Problems to Avoid

Overgeneralization One of the goals of a case study is to lay a foundation for understanding broader trends and issues applied to similar circumstances. However, be careful when drawing conclusions from your case study. They must be evidence-based and grounded in the results of the study; otherwise, it is merely speculation. Looking at a prior example, it would be incorrect to state that a factor in improving girls access to education in Azerbaijan and the policy implications this may have for improving access in other Muslim nations is due to girls access to social media if there is no documentary evidence from your case study to indicate this. There may be anecdotal evidence that retention rates were better for girls who were engaged with social media, but this observation would only point to the need for further research and would not be a definitive finding if this was not a part of your original research agenda.

Failure to Document Limitations No case is going to reveal all that needs to be understood about a research problem. Therefore, just as you have to clearly state the limitations of a general research study , you must describe the specific limitations inherent in the subject of analysis. For example, the case of studying how women conceptualize the need for water conservation in a village in Uganda could have limited application in other cultural contexts or in areas where fresh water from rivers or lakes is plentiful and, therefore, conservation is understood more in terms of managing access rather than preserving access to a scarce resource.

Failure to Extrapolate All Possible Implications Just as you don't want to over-generalize from your case study findings, you also have to be thorough in the consideration of all possible outcomes or recommendations derived from your findings. If you do not, your reader may question the validity of your analysis, particularly if you failed to document an obvious outcome from your case study research. For example, in the case of studying the accident at the railroad crossing to evaluate where and what types of warning signals should be located, you failed to take into consideration speed limit signage as well as warning signals. When designing your case study, be sure you have thoroughly addressed all aspects of the problem and do not leave gaps in your analysis that leave the reader questioning the results.

Case Studies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Gerring, John. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education . Rev. ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1998; Miller, Lisa L. “The Use of Case Studies in Law and Social Science Research.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 14 (2018): TBD; Mills, Albert J., Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Putney, LeAnn Grogan. "Case Study." In Encyclopedia of Research Design , Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010), pp. 116-120; Simons, Helen. Case Study Research in Practice . London: SAGE Publications, 2009;  Kratochwill,  Thomas R. and Joel R. Levin, editors. Single-Case Research Design and Analysis: New Development for Psychology and Education .  Hilldsale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992; Swanborn, Peter G. Case Study Research: What, Why and How? London : SAGE, 2010; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Los Angeles, CA, SAGE Publications, 2014; Walo, Maree, Adrian Bull, and Helen Breen. “Achieving Economic Benefits at Local Events: A Case Study of a Local Sports Event.” Festival Management and Event Tourism 4 (1996): 95-106.

Writing Tip

At Least Five Misconceptions about Case Study Research

Social science case studies are often perceived as limited in their ability to create new knowledge because they are not randomly selected and findings cannot be generalized to larger populations. Flyvbjerg examines five misunderstandings about case study research and systematically "corrects" each one. To quote, these are:

Misunderstanding 1 :  General, theoretical [context-independent] knowledge is more valuable than concrete, practical [context-dependent] knowledge. Misunderstanding 2 :  One cannot generalize on the basis of an individual case; therefore, the case study cannot contribute to scientific development. Misunderstanding 3 :  The case study is most useful for generating hypotheses; that is, in the first stage of a total research process, whereas other methods are more suitable for hypotheses testing and theory building. Misunderstanding 4 :  The case study contains a bias toward verification, that is, a tendency to confirm the researcher’s preconceived notions. Misunderstanding 5 :  It is often difficult to summarize and develop general propositions and theories on the basis of specific case studies [p. 221].

While writing your paper, think introspectively about how you addressed these misconceptions because to do so can help you strengthen the validity and reliability of your research by clarifying issues of case selection, the testing and challenging of existing assumptions, the interpretation of key findings, and the summation of case outcomes. Think of a case study research paper as a complete, in-depth narrative about the specific properties and key characteristics of your subject of analysis applied to the research problem.

Flyvbjerg, Bent. “Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 12 (April 2006): 219-245.

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Doing Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy

Student resources, carrying out a systematic case study.

The key messages of this chapter are:

  • case study analysis makes a distinctive contribution to the evidence base for counselling and psychotherapy
  • case studies are ethically sensitive, so need to be carried out with care and sensitivity
  • it is important to be aware of how different types of research question require different case study approaches.

The following sources are intended to help you to explore issues covered in the chapter in more depth.

Methodological issues and challenges associated with case study research

Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research . Qualitative Inquiry, 12 , 219 – 245. 

Essential reading – a highly influential paper that clarifies the value of case study methods

Fishman, D. B. (2005). Editor's Introduction to PCSP--From single case to database: a new method for enhancing psychotherapy practice.  Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 1(1), 1 – 50.

The rationale for the pragmatic case study approach

Foster, L.H. (2010). A best kept secret: single-subject research design in counseling.  Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation,  1, 30 – 39

An accessible and informative introduction to n=1 single subject case study methodology  

McLeod, J. (2013). Increasing the rigor of case study evidence in therapy research.  Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 9 , 382 – 402

Explores further possibilities around the development of case study methodology

Different types of therapy case study

Bloch-Elkouby, S., Eubanks, C. F., Knopf, L., Gorman, B. S., & Muran, J. C. (2019). The difficult task of assessing and interpreting treatment deterioration: an evidence-based case study.  Frontiers in Psychology , 10, 1180. 

Systematic case study that combines qualitative and quantitative information to explore a theoretically-significant case of apparent client deterioration. Case was drawn from dataset of a larger study

Brezinka, V., Mailänder, V., & Walitza, S. (2020). Obsessive compulsive disorder in very young children–a case series from a specialized outpatient clinic.  BMC Psychiatry , 20(1), 1 – 8. 

Example of how a series of n=1 case studies can be used

Faber, J., & Lee, E. (2020). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for a refugee mother with depression and anxiety.  Clinical Case Studies , 19(4), 239 – 257.

A hybrid theory-building/pragmatic case study that seeks to develop new understanding of therapy in situations of client-therapist cultural difference. Clinical Case Studies is a major source of case study evidence – this study is a typical example of the kind of work that it publishes  

Gray, M.A. & Stiles, W.B. (2011). Employing a case study in building an Assimilation Theory account of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and its treatment with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy , 7(4), 529 – 557

An example of a theory-building case study focused on the development of the assimilation model of change 

Kramer, U. (2009).  Between manualized treatments and principle-guided psychotherapy: illustration in the case of Caroline.  Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy , 5(2), 45 – 51

A pragmatic case study that also seeks to address important theoretical issues associated with the use of exposure techniques in CBT

McLeod, J. (2013). Transactional Analysis psychotherapy with a woman suffering from Multiple Sclerosis: a systematic case study.  Transactional Analysis Journal,  43 , 212 – 223.

A hybrid case study – mainly aims to develop a theory of therapy in long-term health conditions, but also includes elements of pragmatic, narrative and HSCED approaches. Good example of the use of the Client Change Interview in case study research

Powell, M.L. and Newgent, R.A. (2010) Improving the empirical credibility of cinematherapy: a single-subject interrupted time-series design.  Counseling Outcome Research  
 and Evaluation , 1, 40 – 49. 

Example of a series of n=1 case studies

Stige, S. H., & Halvorsen, M. S. (2018). From cumulative strain to available resources: a narrative case study of the potential effects of new trauma exposure on recovery.  Illness, Crisis & Loss , 26(4), 270 – 292. 

A narrative case study based on client interviews

Kellett, S., & Stockton, D. (2021). Treatment of obsessive morbid jealousy with cognitive analytic therapy: a mixed-methods quasi-experimental case study.  British Journal of Guidance & Counselling , 1 – 19. 

Example of an n=1 case study of a single case. Useful demonstration of how this approach can be used to study non-behavioural therapy

Wendt, D. C., & Gone, J. P. (2016). Integrating professional and indigenous therapies: An urban American Indian narrative clinical case study.  The Counseling Psychologist , 44(5), 695 – 729. 

A narrative case study based on client interviews 

Werbart, A., Annevall, A., & Hillblom, J. (2019). Successful and less successful psychotherapies compared: three therapists and their six contrasting cases. Frontiers in Psychology . DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00816.                  

Combined narrative, theory-building and cross-case analysis, based on interviews with client and therapist dyads

Widdowson, M. (2012). TA treatment of depression: A hermeneutic single-case efficacy design study-case three: 'Tom'.  International Journal of Transactional Analysis Research , 3(2), 15 – 27. 

Example of an HSCED study that also includes elements of theory-building. Supplementary information on journal website includes full details of the Change Interview and judges’ case analyses. This open access journal has also published many other richly-described HSCED studies

Issues and possibilities associated with quasi-judicial methodology

Bohart, A.C., Tallman, K.L., Byock, G.and Mackrill, T. (2011). The “Research Jury” Method: The application of the jury trial model to evaluating the validity of descriptive and causal statements about psychotherapy process and outcome.  Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 7 (1) ,101 – 144. 

Miller, R.B. (2011). Real Clinical Trials (RCT) – Panels of Psychological Inquiry for Transforming anecdotal data into clinical facts and validated judgments: introduction to a pilot test with the Case of “Anna”.  Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 7(1), 6 – 36. 

Stephen, S. and Elliott, R. (2011). Developing the Adjudicated Case Study Method.  Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 7(1), 230 – 224.

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

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

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 ).


  • 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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Writing A Case Study

Types Of Case Study

Barbara P

Understand the Types of Case Study Here

Published on: Jun 22, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 29, 2023

Types of Case Study

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Case studies are effective research methods that focus on one specific case over time. This gives a detailed view that's great for learning.

Writing a case study is a very useful form of study in the educational process. With real-life examples, students can learn more effectively. 

A case study also has different types and forms. As a rule of thumb, all of them require a detailed and convincing answer based on a thorough analysis.

In this blog, we are going to discuss the different types of case study research methods in detail.

So, let’s dive right in!

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Understanding Case Studies

Case studies are a type of research methodology. Case study research designs examine subjects, projects, or organizations to provide an analysis based on the evidence.

It allows you to get insight into what causes any subject’s decisions and actions. This makes case studies a great way for students to develop their research skills.

A case study focuses on a single project for an extended period, which allows students to explore the topic in depth.

What are the Types of Case Study?

Multiple case studies are used for different purposes. The main purpose of case studies is to analyze problems within the boundaries of a specific organization, environment, or situation. 

Many aspects of a case study such as data collection and analysis, qualitative research questions, etc. are dependent on the researcher and what the study is looking to address. 

Case studies can be divided into the following categories:

Illustrative Case Study

Exploratory case study, cumulative case study, critical instance case study, descriptive case study, intrinsic case study, instrumental case study.

Let’s take a look at the detailed description of each type of case study with examples. 

An illustrative case study is used to examine a familiar case to help others understand it. It is one of the main types of case studies in research methodology and is primarily descriptive. 

In this type of case study, usually, one or two instances are used to explain what a situation is like. 

Here is an example to help you understand it better:

Illustrative Case Study Example

An exploratory case study is usually done before a larger-scale research. These types of case studies are very popular in the social sciences like political science and primarily focus on real-life contexts and situations.

This method is useful in identifying research questions and methods for a large and complex study. 

Let’s take a look at this example to help you have a better understanding:

Exploratory Case Study Example

A cumulative case study is one of the main types of case studies in qualitative research. It is used to collect information from different sources at different times.

This case study aims to summarize the past studies without spending additional cost and time on new investigations. 

Let’s take a look at the example below:

Cumulative Case Study Example

Critical instances case studies are used to determine the cause and consequence of an event. 

The main reason for this type of case study is to investigate one or more sources with unique interests and sometimes with no interest in general. 

Take a look at this example below:

Critical Instance Case Study Example

When you have a hypothesis, you can design a descriptive study. It aims to find connections between the subject being studied and a theory.

After making these connections, the study can be concluded. The results of the descriptive case study will usually suggest how to develop a theory further.

This example can help you understand the concept better:

Descriptive Case Study Example

Intrinsic studies are more commonly used in psychology, healthcare, or social work. So, if you were looking for types of case studies in sociology, or types of case studies in social research, this is it.

The focus of intrinsic studies is on the individual. The aim of such studies is not only to understand the subject better but also their history and how they interact with their environment.

Here is an example to help you understand;

Intrinsic Case Study Example

This type of case study is mostly used in qualitative research. In an instrumental case study, the specific case is selected to provide information about the research question.

It offers a lens through which researchers can explore complex concepts, theories, or generalizations.

Take a look at the example below to have a better understanding of the concepts:

Instrumental Case Study Example

Review some case study examples to help you understand how a specific case study is conducted.

Types of Subjects of Case Study 

In general, there are 5 types of subjects that case studies address. Every case study fits into the following subject categories. 

  • Person: This type of study focuses on one subject or individual and can use several research methods to determine the outcome. 
  • Group: This type of study takes into account a group of individuals. This could be a group of friends, coworkers, or family. 
  • Location: The main focus of this type of study is the place. It also takes into account how and why people use the place. 
  • Organization: This study focuses on an organization or company. This could also include the company employees or people who work in an event at the organization. 
  • Event: This type of study focuses on a specific event. It could be societal or cultural and examines how it affects the surroundings. 

Benefits of Case Study for Students

Here's a closer look at the multitude of benefits students can have with case studies:

Real-world Application

Case studies serve as a crucial link between theory and practice. By immersing themselves in real-world scenarios, students can apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations.

Critical Thinking Skills

Analyzing case studies demands critical thinking and informed decision-making. Students cultivate the ability to evaluate information, identify key factors, and develop well-reasoned solutions – essential skills in both academic and professional contexts.

Enhanced Problem-solving Abilities

Case studies often present complex problems that require creative and strategic solutions. Engaging with these challenges refines students' problem-solving skills, encouraging them to think innovatively and develop effective approaches.

Holistic Understanding

Going beyond theoretical concepts, case studies provide a holistic view of a subject. Students gain insights into the multifaceted aspects of a situation, helping them connect the dots and understand the broader context.

Exposure to Diverse Perspectives

Case studies often encompass a variety of industries, cultures, and situations. This exposure broadens students' perspectives, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the world and the challenges faced by different entities.

So there you have it!

We have explored different types of case studies and their examples. Case studies act as the tools to understand and deal with the many challenges and opportunities around us.

Case studies are being used more and more in colleges and universities to help students understand how a hypothetical event can influence a person, group, or organization in real life. 

Not everyone can handle the case study writing assignment easily. It is even scary to think that your time and work could be wasted if you don't do the case study paper right. 

Our professional paper writing service is here to make your academic journey easier. 

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Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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Do Your Students Know How to Analyze a Case—Really?

Explore more.

  • Case Teaching
  • Student Engagement

J ust as actors, athletes, and musicians spend thousands of hours practicing their craft, business students benefit from practicing their critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Students, however, often have limited exposure to real-world problem-solving scenarios; they need more opportunities to practice tackling tough business problems and deciding on—and executing—the best solutions.

To ensure students have ample opportunity to develop these critical-thinking and decision-making skills, we believe business faculty should shift from teaching mostly principles and ideas to mostly applications and practices. And in doing so, they should emphasize the case method, which simulates real-world management challenges and opportunities for students.

To help educators facilitate this shift and help students get the most out of case-based learning, we have developed a framework for analyzing cases. We call it PACADI (Problem, Alternatives, Criteria, Analysis, Decision, Implementation); it can improve learning outcomes by helping students better solve and analyze business problems, make decisions, and develop and implement strategy. Here, we’ll explain why we developed this framework, how it works, and what makes it an effective learning tool.

The Case for Cases: Helping Students Think Critically

Business students must develop critical-thinking and analytical skills, which are essential to their ability to make good decisions in functional areas such as marketing, finance, operations, and information technology, as well as to understand the relationships among these functions. For example, the decisions a marketing manager must make include strategic planning (segments, products, and channels); execution (digital messaging, media, branding, budgets, and pricing); and operations (integrated communications and technologies), as well as how to implement decisions across functional areas.

Faculty can use many types of cases to help students develop these skills. These include the prototypical “paper cases”; live cases , which feature guest lecturers such as entrepreneurs or corporate leaders and on-site visits; and multimedia cases , which immerse students into real situations. Most cases feature an explicit or implicit decision that a protagonist—whether it is an individual, a group, or an organization—must make.

For students new to learning by the case method—and even for those with case experience—some common issues can emerge; these issues can sometimes be a barrier for educators looking to ensure the best possible outcomes in their case classrooms. Unsure of how to dig into case analysis on their own, students may turn to the internet or rely on former students for “answers” to assigned cases. Or, when assigned to provide answers to assignment questions in teams, students might take a divide-and-conquer approach but not take the time to regroup and provide answers that are consistent with one other.

To help address these issues, which we commonly experienced in our classes, we wanted to provide our students with a more structured approach for how they analyze cases—and to really think about making decisions from the protagonists’ point of view. We developed the PACADI framework to address this need.

PACADI: A Six-Step Decision-Making Approach

The PACADI framework is a six-step decision-making approach that can be used in lieu of traditional end-of-case questions. It offers a structured, integrated, and iterative process that requires students to analyze case information, apply business concepts to derive valuable insights, and develop recommendations based on these insights.

Prior to beginning a PACADI assessment, which we’ll outline here, students should first prepare a two-paragraph summary—a situation analysis—that highlights the key case facts. Then, we task students with providing a five-page PACADI case analysis (excluding appendices) based on the following six steps.

Step 1: Problem definition. What is the major challenge, problem, opportunity, or decision that has to be made? If there is more than one problem, choose the most important one. Often when solving the key problem, other issues will surface and be addressed. The problem statement may be framed as a question; for example, How can brand X improve market share among millennials in Canada? Usually the problem statement has to be re-written several times during the analysis of a case as students peel back the layers of symptoms or causation.

Step 2: Alternatives. Identify in detail the strategic alternatives to address the problem; three to five options generally work best. Alternatives should be mutually exclusive, realistic, creative, and feasible given the constraints of the situation. Doing nothing or delaying the decision to a later date are not considered acceptable alternatives.

Step 3: Criteria. What are the key decision criteria that will guide decision-making? In a marketing course, for example, these may include relevant marketing criteria such as segmentation, positioning, advertising and sales, distribution, and pricing. Financial criteria useful in evaluating the alternatives should be included—for example, income statement variables, customer lifetime value, payback, etc. Students must discuss their rationale for selecting the decision criteria and the weights and importance for each factor.

Step 4: Analysis. Provide an in-depth analysis of each alternative based on the criteria chosen in step three. Decision tables using criteria as columns and alternatives as rows can be helpful. The pros and cons of the various choices as well as the short- and long-term implications of each may be evaluated. Best, worst, and most likely scenarios can also be insightful.

Step 5: Decision. Students propose their solution to the problem. This decision is justified based on an in-depth analysis. Explain why the recommendation made is the best fit for the criteria.

Step 6: Implementation plan. Sound business decisions may fail due to poor execution. To enhance the likeliness of a successful project outcome, students describe the key steps (activities) to implement the recommendation, timetable, projected costs, expected competitive reaction, success metrics, and risks in the plan.

“Students note that using the PACADI framework yields ‘aha moments’—they learned something surprising in the case that led them to think differently about the problem and their proposed solution.”

PACADI’s Benefits: Meaningfully and Thoughtfully Applying Business Concepts

The PACADI framework covers all of the major elements of business decision-making, including implementation, which is often overlooked. By stepping through the whole framework, students apply relevant business concepts and solve management problems via a systematic, comprehensive approach; they’re far less likely to surface piecemeal responses.

As students explore each part of the framework, they may realize that they need to make changes to a previous step. For instance, when working on implementation, students may realize that the alternative they selected cannot be executed or will not be profitable, and thus need to rethink their decision. Or, they may discover that the criteria need to be revised since the list of decision factors they identified is incomplete (for example, the factors may explain key marketing concerns but fail to address relevant financial considerations) or is unrealistic (for example, they suggest a 25 percent increase in revenues without proposing an increased promotional budget).

In addition, the PACADI framework can be used alongside quantitative assignments, in-class exercises, and business and management simulations. The structured, multi-step decision framework encourages careful and sequential analysis to solve business problems. Incorporating PACADI as an overarching decision-making method across different projects will ultimately help students achieve desired learning outcomes. As a practical “beyond-the-classroom” tool, the PACADI framework is not a contrived course assignment; it reflects the decision-making approach that managers, executives, and entrepreneurs exercise daily. Case analysis introduces students to the real-world process of making business decisions quickly and correctly, often with limited information. This framework supplies an organized and disciplined process that students can readily defend in writing and in class discussions.

PACADI in Action: An Example

Here’s an example of how students used the PACADI framework for a recent case analysis on CVS, a large North American drugstore chain.

The CVS Prescription for Customer Value*


Summary Response

How should CVS Health evolve from the “drugstore of your neighborhood” to the “drugstore of your future”?


A1. Kaizen (continuous improvement)

A2. Product development

A3. Market development

A4. Personalization (micro-targeting)

Criteria (include weights)

C1. Customer value: service, quality, image, and price (40%)

C2. Customer obsession (20%)

C3. Growth through related businesses (20%)

C4. Customer retention and customer lifetime value (20%)

Each alternative was analyzed by each criterion using a Customer Value Assessment Tool

Alternative 4 (A4): Personalization was selected. This is operationalized via: segmentation—move toward segment-of-1 marketing; geodemographics and lifestyle emphasis; predictive data analysis; relationship marketing; people, principles, and supply chain management; and exceptional customer service.


Partner with leading medical school

Curbside pick-up

Pet pharmacy

E-newsletter for customers and employees

Employee incentive program

CVS beauty days

Expand to Latin America and Caribbean

Healthier/happier corner

Holiday toy drives/community outreach

*Source: A. Weinstein, Y. Rodriguez, K. Sims, R. Vergara, “The CVS Prescription for Superior Customer Value—A Case Study,” Back to the Future: Revisiting the Foundations of Marketing from Society for Marketing Advances, West Palm Beach, FL (November 2, 2018).

Results of Using the PACADI Framework

When faculty members at our respective institutions at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and the University of North Carolina Wilmington have used the PACADI framework, our classes have been more structured and engaging. Students vigorously debate each element of their decision and note that this framework yields an “aha moment”—they learned something surprising in the case that led them to think differently about the problem and their proposed solution.

These lively discussions enhance individual and collective learning. As one external metric of this improvement, we have observed a 2.5 percent increase in student case grade performance at NSU since this framework was introduced.

Tips to Get Started

The PACADI approach works well in in-person, online, and hybrid courses. This is particularly important as more universities have moved to remote learning options. Because students have varied educational and cultural backgrounds, work experience, and familiarity with case analysis, we recommend that faculty members have students work on their first case using this new framework in small teams (two or three students). Additional analyses should then be solo efforts.

To use PACADI effectively in your classroom, we suggest the following:

Advise your students that your course will stress critical thinking and decision-making skills, not just course concepts and theory.

Use a varied mix of case studies. As marketing professors, we often address consumer and business markets; goods, services, and digital commerce; domestic and global business; and small and large companies in a single MBA course.

As a starting point, provide a short explanation (about 20 to 30 minutes) of the PACADI framework with a focus on the conceptual elements. You can deliver this face to face or through videoconferencing.

Give students an opportunity to practice the case analysis methodology via an ungraded sample case study. Designate groups of five to seven students to discuss the case and the six steps in breakout sessions (in class or via Zoom).

Ensure case analyses are weighted heavily as a grading component. We suggest 30–50 percent of the overall course grade.

Once cases are graded, debrief with the class on what they did right and areas needing improvement (30- to 40-minute in-person or Zoom session).

Encourage faculty teams that teach common courses to build appropriate instructional materials, grading rubrics, videos, sample cases, and teaching notes.

When selecting case studies, we have found that the best ones for PACADI analyses are about 15 pages long and revolve around a focal management decision. This length provides adequate depth yet is not protracted. Some of our tested and favorite marketing cases include Brand W , Hubspot , Kraft Foods Canada , TRSB(A) , and Whiskey & Cheddar .

Art Weinstein

Art Weinstein , Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has published more than 80 scholarly articles and papers and eight books on customer-focused marketing strategy. His latest book is Superior Customer Value—Finding and Keeping Customers in the Now Economy . Dr. Weinstein has consulted for many leading technology and service companies.

Herbert V. Brotspies

Herbert V. Brotspies , D.B.A., is an adjunct professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He has over 30 years’ experience as a vice president in marketing, strategic planning, and acquisitions for Fortune 50 consumer products companies working in the United States and internationally. His research interests include return on marketing investment, consumer behavior, business-to-business strategy, and strategic planning.

John T. Gironda

John T. Gironda , Ph.D., is an assistant professor of marketing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research has been published in Industrial Marketing Management, Psychology & Marketing , and Journal of Marketing Management . He has also presented at major marketing conferences including the American Marketing Association, Academy of Marketing Science, and Society for Marketing Advances.

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Research Design in Business and Management pp 171–186 Cite as

Multiple Case Research Design

  • Stefan Hunziker 3 &
  • Michael Blankenagel 3  
  • First Online: 10 November 2021

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This chapter addresses the peculiarities, characteristics, and major fallacies of multiple case research designs. The major advantage of multiple case research lies in cross-case analysis. A multiple case research design shifts the focus from understanding a single case to the differences and similarities between cases. Thus, it is not just conducting more (second, third, etc.) case studies. Rather, it is the next step in developing a theory about factors driving differences and similarities. Also, researchers find relevant information on how to write a multiple case research design paper and learn about typical methodologies used for this research design. The chapter closes with referring to overlapping and adjacent research designs.

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Learning analytics in higher education: an analysis of case studies

Asian Association of Open Universities Journal

ISSN : 2414-6994

Article publication date: 2 May 2017

The purpose of this paper is to present a systematic review of the mounting research work on learning analytics.


This study collects and summarizes information on the use of learning analytics. It identifies how learning analytics has been used in the higher education sector, and the expected benefits for higher education institutions. Empirical research and case studies on learning analytics were collected, and the details of the studies were categorized, including their objectives, approaches, and major outcomes.

The results show the benefits of learning analytics, which help institutions to utilize available data effectively in decision making. Learning analytics can facilitate evaluation of the effectiveness of pedagogies and instructional designs for improvement, and help to monitor closely students’ learning and persistence, predict students’ performance, detect undesirable learning behaviours and emotional states, and identify students at risk, for taking prompt follow-up action and providing proper assistance to students. It can also provide students with insightful data about their learning characteristics and patterns, which can make their learning experiences more personal and engaging, and promote their reflection and improvement.


Despite being increasingly adopted in higher education, the existing literature on learning analytics has focussed mainly on conventional face-to-face institutions, and has yet to adequately address the context of open and distance education. The findings of this study enable educational organizations and academics, especially those in open and distance institutions, to keep abreast of this emerging field and have a foundation for further exploration of this area.

  • Higher education
  • Learning analytics
  • Open and distance education

Wong, B.T.M. (2017), "Learning analytics in higher education: an analysis of case studies", Asian Association of Open Universities Journal , Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 21-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAOUJ-01-2017-0009

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Billy Tak Ming Wong

Published in the Asian Association of Open Universities Journal . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


Learning analytics (LA) refers to the process of collecting, evaluating, analysing, and reporting organizational data for decision making ( Campbell and Oblinger, 2007 ). It involves the use of big data analysis for understanding and improving the performance of educational institutions in educational delivery. Open and distance learning (ODL) institutions present an ideal context for the use of LA as, with their large student numbers and the increasing use of the internet and mobile technologies, they already have a very substantial amount of data available for analysis with analytics.

Despite LA being increasingly applied in a wide range of educational organizations, the literature in this area has usually focussed on conventional face-to-face institutions. In the ODL setting, there is yet to be a systematic review summarizing existing work on the potential benefits of LA to open and distance institutions ( Firat and Yuzer, 2016 ; Prinsloo and Slade, 2014 ), and relevant research findings potentially applicable to these institutions ( Rienties et al. , 2016 ).

This paper gives a systematic review of the mounting research work on LA that has been published in recent years to provide an overview of this emerging field and serves as a foundation for further exploration. It addresses the potential problems of ODL institutions that could be solved by using LA, and the benefits that could be obtained according to the existing case studies. It also presents a meta-analysis of relevant empirical studies which shows the effect of intervention for at-risk students based on the use of LA.

Related studies

LA involves the use of a broad range of data and techniques for analysis – covering, for example, statistical tests, explanatory and predictive models, and data visualization ( Arroway et al. , 2016 ). Various stakeholders, such as administrators, teaching staff, and students, can then act on the data-driven analysis. Without a standardized methodology, LA has been implemented using diverse approaches for various objectives. Gašević et al. (2016) summarized three major themes in LA implementation, namely, the development of predicators and indicators for various factors (e.g. academic performance, student engagement, and self-regulated learning skills); the use of visualizations to explore and interpret data and to prompt remedial actions; and the derivation of interventions to shape the learning environment. The diversity in LA implementation poses a challenge for education institutions which plan to be involved in it, leading to a commonly voiced question – “How do we start the process for the adoption of institutional learning analytics?” ( Gašević et al. , 2016 , p. 4).

As an emerging field of study, an increasing number of case studies relevant to the implementation of LA in higher education have been published. However, only a small number of reviews summarize these individual case studies. Among them, Dyckhoff (2011) reviewed the research questions and methods of these studies. The findings showed that existing studies have focussed on six types of research questions: qualitative evaluation; quantitative measures of use and attendance; differentiation between groups of students; differentiation between learning offerings; data consolidation; and effectiveness. The research methods used include online surveys, log files, observations, group interviews, students’ class attendance, eye tracking, and the analysis of examination grades. Based on the results, suggestions were given on LA indicators for improving teaching.

Papamitsiou and Economides (2014) focussed on the impacts of LA and educational data mining on adaptive learning. They reviewed the experimental case studies between 2008 and 2013, and identified four distinct categories, namely, pedagogy-oriented issues, contextualization of learning, networked learning, and the handling of educational resources.

Also, Nunn et al. (2016) discussed LA’s methods, benefits, and challenges. It was found that the methods used included visual data analysis, social network analysis, semantic analysis, and educational data mining. The benefits of LA were seen to revolve around targeted course offerings; curriculum development; student learning outcomes; behaviours and processes; personalized learning; improvements in instructor performance; post-educational employment opportunities; and enhancement of educational research. The challenges included the tracking, collection, evaluation and analysis of data, as well as a lack of connection to learning science, the need for learning environment optimization, and issues concerning ethics and privacy.

Focussing on computer science courses, Ihantola et al. (2015) surveyed LA case studies in terms of their goals, approaches, contexts, subjects, tasks, data and collection, and methods of analysis. The goals were related to students, programming, and the learning environment. The approaches included case studies, constructive research, experimental studies, and survey research. They also found that most of the research work was undertaken in a course context, with the number of subjects ranging from 10 to 265,000, with 64 per cent of the studies having 500 or fewer subjects. In most of the studies, students were required to complete multiple programming tasks. Over 60 per cent of the studies used automated data collection that logged students’ actions, and a variety of data analysis methods such as descriptive and inferential statistics.

The existing reviews of LA case studies provide a basic descriptive summary. However, as a new area in education, there remain many uncertainties for ODL institutions about involving themselves in it. To make an informed decision on whether or not to implement LA, a key question is: “What are the expected benefits for the institution?” This paper addresses this issue by surveying the outcomes of LA implementation for institutions.


the study reported one or more empirical cases of the use of LA in a higher education institution;

the institution in question was accredited by the government or government-related bodies;

the institution had 1,000 or more students; and

the source information contained the aims of using LA, a description of the analytics, its implementation and the outcomes.

An initial search returned 1,492 results. After screening, a total of 43 cases which fulfilled the criteria for inclusion were selected for further analysis. They were analysed in terms of their objectives, approaches, and major outcomes.

A meta-analysis was also conducted to synthesize the empirical findings reported in the case studies. Studies which included relevant quantitative data analysis were chosen, resulting in six studies on student support and analysis of learning behaviours, with the effect of LA intervention validated and reported.

Benefits for institutions, staff, and students

A summary of the objectives and approaches of the use of LA in the institutions chosen is presented in Table AI . The benefits of LA for the institutions, staff and students revolve around the following aspects.

Improving student retention

Table I presents the use of LA which improved student retention. By closely monitoring students’ learning and persistence, undesirable learning behaviours and emotional states can be detected, and students who are at risk can be identified early. Factors leading to student dropout or retention can be identified and prediction models developed. Staff can take prompt follow-up action and provide proper assistance to students who need extra support, such as counselling, suggesting learning resources, and formulating individual learning plans. Students’ level of achievement, as well as their retention, can be enhanced.

Supporting informed decision making

Table II shows the use of LA which supported informed decision making. Institutions are provided with information and analyses generated from a massive amount of data for informed decision making. For example, planning can be carried out on course development and resources allocation on the basis of information about the popularity of courses, and types and frequency of materials reviewed by students.

Increasing cost-effectiveness

Table III presents cases of LA use which increased cost-effectiveness. LA can be integrated with other platforms such as the learning management system. Instructors can then access various kinds of information online for providing feedback and support to students. Analyses and feedback on students’ study progress can be delivered to staff, students, or parents in an automatic and cost-effective manner.

Understanding students’ learning behaviours

Table IV presents the use of LA for understanding students’ learning behaviours. By analysing diverse sources of data (e.g. learning management systems and social networks), institutions and academic staff can understand the relationships among students’ utilization of resources, learning behaviours and characteristics, and learning outcomes, which helps them to evaluate the effectiveness of pedagogies and instructional designs for improvement. For instance, the use of LA helps to capture the students’ behaviours in watching course videos by highlighting the patterns of their preferences and behaviours as well as showing the parts of videos which were watched most and least frequently. Curriculum and learning materials can thus be better designed to address students’ preferences and needs.

Providing personalized assistance for students

Table V illustrates the use of LA for providing students with insightful data about their learning characteristics and patterns, which can make their learning experiences more personal and engaging, and facilitate their reflections and improvements while a course is still in progress. Early alerts can be automatically generated and sent to students if their academic performance is below a certain standard. Students can also be encouraged to engage more in the personalized learning activities which are conducive to success in their studies.

Timely feedback and intervention

Table VI presents the use of LA for timely feedback and intervention. Instructors can obtain up-to-date and holistic information about students’ study progress, so that timely feedback can be given and individualized interventions made. Students develop a sense of belonging to the learner community through personalized feedback given to them. For example, the use of social network analytics allows instructors to understand the development of the learner community and identify students who are performing poorly or are isolated from the main discussion, and then provide intervention during discussion in real time. This is especially important for ODL institutions, where students may be using different study modes and social media is a major communication channel.

Meta-analysis of the effect of interventions on student success

An important function of LA is to predict at-risk students and deliver early alerts and interventions to them, in order to improve their academic attainment, and their retention and graduation rate. This section provides a meta-analysis of the various prediction models utilized in LA systems, and the effect of the intervention solutions on enhancing students’ success.

Among the case studies examined, only six which provided quantitative analysis results were selected and the results are synthesized in this section. The effect sizes for each analysis were calculated where the data required for the calculation were available, and a descriptive comparison of the effect sizes across the studies was made. Table VII presents a summary of the predictive models and intervention solutions employed in the six case studies; and Table VIII summarizes the results of quantitative analyses for the intervention solutions and the effect sizes for each study.

To summarize, a common approach utilized in the cases of intervention for student success was to collect and analyse data from students’ learning activities and employ a specific computational model to predict and prioritize those students who were at-risk of dropping out or getting poor academic results. Based on the findings of the predictive modelling, subsequent measures can be taken for intervention. A common practice was to get academic staff to contact the at-risk students and provide personalized learning support to them. Such an approach to prediction and intervention was found to effectively enhance students’ success, as measured by various indicators such as GPA, study progress, the retention rate, and the graduation rate.

According to the meta-analysis of the quantitative results, all the institutions found improvement in the students’ success in the intervention group compared to the control group, although the effect size varied across different types of indicators for success and different institutions. For instance, the intervention groups in the case of Marist College showed a 6 per cent improvement in the students’ final grades compared to the non-intervention control groups ( Sclater et al. , 2016 ), while the effect size was in the range of small to medium based on Cohen’s (1988) convention. For the retention rate examined in Mattingly et al. (2012) for the Course Signal System of Purdue University, the intervention groups showed a nearly 50 per cent performance improvement compared to the control groups. In spite of the small sample size, the meta-analysis showed an encouraging result for the benefits of LA in aiding institutions to make effective informed decisions to improve students’ learning performance and success.

Discussion and conclusion

This study shows that positive outcomes have been widely reported in relevant case studies. The results suggest great potential for ODL institutions to utilize LA for analysing existing data, which is expected to benefit their operations in areas such as quality assurance and student support. This study also reviewed various predictive models for student success which were developed and validated to identify and prioritize students who may be in need of support. The quantitative analyses confirmed that the learning performance of these students improved after they had been approached for LA-based interventions. The findings of this study thus provide various stakeholders – institutions, staff, and students – with the benefits they may gain from LA.

In particular, the results related to student learning suggest that, to change students’ behaviours, it may suffice to simply make them aware of their learning engagement through LA tools in relation to other students or indicate that they are at risk ( Jayaprakash et al. , 2014 ; Sclater and Mullan, 2017 ). Complex data visualizations or dashboards may not be necessary. What is more important, as recommended in Gašević et al. (2016) , is to help students to interpret correctly the information from visualizations or dashboards.

The meta-analysis revealed that only a few case studies related to LA implementation provided quantitative analyses data – a limitation which may be caused by the relatively new development of LA. Therefore, empirical investigations and validation of many new models and new theories in this area remain to be carried out. While an increase in the quantity of empirical and quantitative research can be expected in future, it is also important to develop and test innovative solutions supported by LA. Present LA-based interventions, as reviewed in this paper, were mostly based on the interaction and discussion between students and instructors. Although such interventions were shown to be effective in general, their effectiveness may vary among different groups of students in different contexts.

A challenge in measuring the effectiveness of LA implementation lies in the difficulty of identifying the extent to which any change after the LA implementation is attributed to the LA itself. As discussed in Sclater and Mullan (2017) , it may not be feasible to isolate the influence of LA when it is part of a wider initiative to develop data-informed approaches in an institution. The case studies published and reviewed in this paper would thus be biased to the institutions which only deployed LA without other measures in their data-informed approaches.

In the ODL context, work on LA remains at an initial stage. Features of ODL, such as open admission which allows a broad range of students to study the same course with very limited face-to-face interaction, are yet to be studied in relation to LA implementation. It is therefore suggested that future research can involve more fine-grained validation studies to identify the effect of the various factors involved the implementation of LA. In particular, investigation on those factors related to ODL institutions, staff and students, as well as the plausible constraints on their use of LA, would shed light on how they can benefit more from involvement in LA.

Use of LA which improved student retention

Use of LA which supported informed decision making

Use of LA which increased cost-effectiveness

Use of LA which helped in understanding students’ learning behaviours

Use of LA for providing personalized assistance to students

Use of LA for timely feedback and intervention

Summary of predictive model and intervention solution for selected case studies

Summary of quantitative analysis results for selected case studies

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Further reading

Pirani , J.A. and Albrecht , B. ( 2005 ), University of Phoenix: Driving decisions Through Academic Analytics , Educause Center for Applied Research , available at: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ers0508/cs/ecs0509.pdf (accessed 28 December 2016 ).


The work described in this paper was partially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (UGC/IDS16/15).

Corresponding author

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InformedHealth.org [Internet].

What types of studies are there.

Created: June 15, 2016 ; Last Update: September 8, 2016 ; Next update: 2020.

There are various types of scientific studies such as experiments and comparative analyses, observational studies, surveys, or interviews. The choice of study type will mainly depend on the research question being asked.

When making decisions, patients and doctors need reliable answers to a number of questions. Depending on the medical condition and patient's personal situation, the following questions may be asked:

  • What is the cause of the condition?
  • What is the natural course of the disease if left untreated?
  • What will change because of the treatment?
  • How many other people have the same condition?
  • How do other people cope with it?

Each of these questions can best be answered by a different type of study.

In order to get reliable results, a study has to be carefully planned right from the start. One thing that is especially important to consider is which type of study is best suited to the research question. A study protocol should be written and complete documentation of the study's process should also be done. This is vital in order for other scientists to be able to reproduce and check the results afterwards.

The main types of studies are randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohort studies, case-control studies and qualitative studies.

  • Randomized controlled trials

If you want to know how effective a treatment or diagnostic test is, randomized trials provide the most reliable answers. Because the effect of the treatment is often compared with "no treatment" (or a different treatment), they can also show what happens if you opt to not have the treatment or diagnostic test.

When planning this type of study, a research question is stipulated first. This involves deciding what exactly should be tested and in what group of people. In order to be able to reliably assess how effective the treatment is, the following things also need to be determined before the study is started:

  • How long the study should last
  • How many participants are needed
  • How the effect of the treatment should be measured

For instance, a medication used to treat menopause symptoms needs to be tested on a different group of people than a flu medicine. And a study on treatment for a stuffy nose may be much shorter than a study on a drug taken to prevent strokes.

“Randomized” means divided into groups by chance. In RCTs participants are randomly assigned to one of two or more groups. Then one group receives the new drug A, for example, while the other group receives the conventional drug B or a placebo (dummy drug). Things like the appearance and taste of the drug and the placebo should be as similar as possible. Ideally, the assignment to the various groups is done "double blinded," meaning that neither the participants nor their doctors know who is in which group.

The assignment to groups has to be random in order to make sure that only the effects of the medications are compared, and no other factors influence the results. If doctors decided themselves which patients should receive which treatment, they might – for instance – give the more promising drug to patients who have better chances of recovery. This would distort the results. Random allocation ensures that differences between the results of the two groups at the end of the study are actually due to the treatment and not something else.

Randomized controlled trials provide the best results when trying to find out if there is a cause-and-effect relationship. RCTs can answer questions such as these:

  • Is the new drug A better than the standard treatment for medical condition X?
  • Does regular physical activity speed up recovery after a slipped disk when compared to passive waiting?
  • Cohort studies

A cohort is a group of people who are observed frequently over a period of many years – for instance, to determine how often a certain disease occurs. In a cohort study, two (or more) groups that are exposed to different things are compared with each other: For example, one group might smoke while the other doesn't. Or one group may be exposed to a hazardous substance at work, while the comparison group isn't. The researchers then observe how the health of the people in both groups develops over the course of several years, whether they become ill, and how many of them pass away. Cohort studies often include people who are healthy at the start of the study. Cohort studies can have a prospective (forward-looking) design or a retrospective (backward-looking) design. In a prospective study, the result that the researchers are interested in (such as a specific illness) has not yet occurred by the time the study starts. But the outcomes that they want to measure and other possible influential factors can be precisely defined beforehand. In a retrospective study, the result (the illness) has already occurred before the study starts, and the researchers look at the patient's history to find risk factors.

Cohort studies are especially useful if you want to find out how common a medical condition is and which factors increase the risk of developing it. They can answer questions such as:

  • How does high blood pressure affect heart health?
  • Does smoking increase your risk of lung cancer?

For example, one famous long-term cohort study observed a group of 40,000 British doctors, many of whom smoked. It tracked how many doctors died over the years, and what they died of. The study showed that smoking caused a lot of deaths, and that people who smoked more were more likely to get ill and die.

  • Case-control studies

Case-control studies compare people who have a certain medical condition with people who do not have the medical condition, but who are otherwise as similar as possible, for example in terms of their sex and age. Then the two groups are interviewed, or their medical files are analyzed, to find anything that might be risk factors for the disease. So case-control studies are generally retrospective.

Case-control studies are one way to gain knowledge about rare diseases. They are also not as expensive or time-consuming as RCTs or cohort studies. But it is often difficult to tell which people are the most similar to each other and should therefore be compared with each other. Because the researchers usually ask about past events, they are dependent on the participants’ memories. But the people they interview might no longer remember whether they were, for instance, exposed to certain risk factors in the past.

Still, case-control studies can help to investigate the causes of a specific disease, and answer questions like these:

  • Do HPV infections increase the risk of cervical cancer?
  • Is the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (“cot death”) increased by parents smoking at home?

Cohort studies and case-control studies are types of "observational studies."

  • Cross-sectional studies

Many people will be familiar with this kind of study. The classic type of cross-sectional study is the survey: A representative group of people – usually a random sample – are interviewed or examined in order to find out their opinions or facts. Because this data is collected only once, cross-sectional studies are relatively quick and inexpensive. They can provide information on things like the prevalence of a particular disease (how common it is). But they can't tell us anything about the cause of a disease or what the best treatment might be.

Cross-sectional studies can answer questions such as these:

  • How tall are German men and women at age 20?
  • How many people have cancer screening?
  • Qualitative studies

This type of study helps us understand, for instance, what it is like for people to live with a certain disease. Unlike other kinds of research, qualitative research does not rely on numbers and data. Instead, it is based on information collected by talking to people who have a particular medical condition and people close to them. Written documents and observations are used too. The information that is obtained is then analyzed and interpreted using a number of methods.

Qualitative studies can answer questions such as these:

  • How do women experience a Cesarean section?
  • What aspects of treatment are especially important to men who have prostate cancer?
  • How reliable are the different types of studies?

Each type of study has its advantages and disadvantages. It is always important to find out the following: Did the researchers select a study type that will actually allow them to find the answers they are looking for? You can’t use a survey to find out what is causing a particular disease, for instance.

It is really only possible to draw reliable conclusions about cause and effect by using randomized controlled trials. Other types of studies usually only allow us to establish correlations (relationships where it isn’t clear whether one thing is causing the other). For instance, data from a cohort study may show that people who eat more red meat develop bowel cancer more often than people who don't. This might suggest that eating red meat can increase your risk of getting bowel cancer. But people who eat a lot of red meat might also smoke more, drink more alcohol, or tend to be overweight. The influence of these and other possible risk factors can only be determined by comparing two equal-sized groups made up of randomly assigned participants.

That is why randomized controlled trials are usually the only suitable way to find out how effective a treatment is. Systematic reviews, which summarize multiple RCTs, are even better. In order to be good-quality, though, all studies and systematic reviews need to be designed properly and eliminate as many potential sources of error as possible.

  • German Network for Evidence-based Medicine. Glossar: Qualitative Forschung.  Berlin: DNEbM; 2011. 
  • Greenhalgh T. Einführung in die Evidence-based Medicine: kritische Beurteilung klinischer Studien als Basis einer rationalen Medizin. Bern: Huber; 2003. 
  • Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany). General methods . Version 5.0. Cologne: IQWiG; 2017.
  • Klug SJ, Bender R, Blettner M, Lange S. Wichtige epidemiologische Studientypen. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 2007; 132:e45-e47. [ PubMed : 17530597 ]
  • Schäfer T. Kritische Bewertung von Studien zur Ätiologie. In: Kunz R, Ollenschläger G, Raspe H, Jonitz G, Donner-Banzhoff N (eds.). Lehrbuch evidenzbasierte Medizin in Klinik und Praxis. Cologne: Deutscher Ärzte-Verlag; 2007.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

  • Cite this Page InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What types of studies are there? 2016 Jun 15 [Updated 2016 Sep 8].

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Hertz CEO Kathryn Marinello with CFO Jamere Jackson and other members of the executive team in 2017

Top 40 Most Popular Case Studies of 2021

Two cases about Hertz claimed top spots in 2021's Top 40 Most Popular Case Studies

Two cases on the uses of debt and equity at Hertz claimed top spots in the CRDT’s (Case Research and Development Team) 2021 top 40 review of cases.

Hertz (A) took the top spot. The case details the financial structure of the rental car company through the end of 2019. Hertz (B), which ranked third in CRDT’s list, describes the company’s struggles during the early part of the COVID pandemic and its eventual need to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

The success of the Hertz cases was unprecedented for the top 40 list. Usually, cases take a number of years to gain popularity, but the Hertz cases claimed top spots in their first year of release. Hertz (A) also became the first ‘cooked’ case to top the annual review, as all of the other winners had been web-based ‘raw’ cases.

Besides introducing students to the complicated financing required to maintain an enormous fleet of cars, the Hertz cases also expanded the diversity of case protagonists. Kathyrn Marinello was the CEO of Hertz during this period and the CFO, Jamere Jackson is black.

Sandwiched between the two Hertz cases, Coffee 2016, a perennial best seller, finished second. “Glory, Glory, Man United!” a case about an English football team’s IPO made a surprise move to number four.  Cases on search fund boards, the future of malls,  Norway’s Sovereign Wealth fund, Prodigy Finance, the Mayo Clinic, and Cadbury rounded out the top ten.

Other year-end data for 2021 showed:

  • Online “raw” case usage remained steady as compared to 2020 with over 35K users from 170 countries and all 50 U.S. states interacting with 196 cases.
  • Fifty four percent of raw case users came from outside the U.S..
  • The Yale School of Management (SOM) case study directory pages received over 160K page views from 177 countries with approximately a third originating in India followed by the U.S. and the Philippines.
  • Twenty-six of the cases in the list are raw cases.
  • A third of the cases feature a woman protagonist.
  • Orders for Yale SOM case studies increased by almost 50% compared to 2020.
  • The top 40 cases were supervised by 19 different Yale SOM faculty members, several supervising multiple cases.

CRDT compiled the Top 40 list by combining data from its case store, Google Analytics, and other measures of interest and adoption.

All of this year’s Top 40 cases are available for purchase from the Yale Management Media store .

And the Top 40 cases studies of 2021 are:

1.   Hertz Global Holdings (A): Uses of Debt and Equity

2.   Coffee 2016

3.   Hertz Global Holdings (B): Uses of Debt and Equity 2020

4.   Glory, Glory Man United!

5.   Search Fund Company Boards: How CEOs Can Build Boards to Help Them Thrive

6.   The Future of Malls: Was Decline Inevitable?

7.   Strategy for Norway's Pension Fund Global

8.   Prodigy Finance

9.   Design at Mayo

10. Cadbury

11. City Hospital Emergency Room

13. Volkswagen

14. Marina Bay Sands

15. Shake Shack IPO

16. Mastercard

17. Netflix

18. Ant Financial

19. AXA: Creating the New CR Metrics

20. IBM Corporate Service Corps

21. Business Leadership in South Africa's 1994 Reforms

22. Alternative Meat Industry

23. Children's Premier

24. Khalil Tawil and Umi (A)

25. Palm Oil 2016

26. Teach For All: Designing a Global Network

27. What's Next? Search Fund Entrepreneurs Reflect on Life After Exit

28. Searching for a Search Fund Structure: A Student Takes a Tour of Various Options

30. Project Sammaan

31. Commonfund ESG

32. Polaroid

33. Connecticut Green Bank 2018: After the Raid

34. FieldFresh Foods

35. The Alibaba Group

36. 360 State Street: Real Options

37. Herman Miller

38. AgBiome

39. Nathan Cummings Foundation

40. Toyota 2010

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99 million people included in largest global vaccine safety study

19 February 2024

Health and medicine , Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The Global Vaccine Data Network, hosted at the University of Auckland, utilises vast data sets to detect potential vaccine safety signals

Global Vaccine Data Network co-director Dr Helen Petousis-Harris: Latest study uses vast data sets to ensure vaccine safety.

The Global Vaccine Data Network (GVDN) assessed 13 neurological, blood, and heart related medical conditions to see if there was a greater risk of them occurring after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine in the latest of eight studies in the Global COVID Vaccine Safety (GCoVS) Project.

Recently published in the journal Vaccine , this observed versus expected rates study included 99 million people (over 23 million person-years of follow-up) from 10 collaborator sites across eight countries. The study identified the pre-established safety signals for myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the thin sac covering the heart) after mRNA vaccines, and Guillain-Barré syndrome (muscle weakness and changed sensation (feeling)), and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (type of blood clot in the brain) after viral vector vaccines.

Possible safety signals for transverse myelitis (inflammation of part of the spinal cord) after viral vector vaccines and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (inflammation and swelling in the brain and spinal cord) after viral vector and mRNA vaccines were identified.

So far, these findings were further investigated by the GVDN site in Victoria, Australia. Their study and results are described in the accompanying paper. Results are available for public review on GVDN’s interactive data dashboards.

Observed versus expected analyses are used to detect potential vaccine safety signals. These studies look at all people who received a vaccine and examine if there is a greater risk for developing a medical condition in various time periods after getting a vaccine compared with a period before the vaccine became available.

Lead author Kristýna Faksová of the Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark, remarked that use of a common protocol and aggregation of the data through the GVDN makes studies like this possible. “The size of the population in this study increased the possibility of identifying rare potential vaccine safety signals,” she explains. “Single sites or regions are unlikely to have a large enough population to detect very rare signals.”

By making the data dashboards publicly available, we are able to support greater transparency, and stronger communications to the health sector and public.

Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris Co-Director, Global Vaccine Data Network hosted at University of Auckland

GVDN Co-Director Dr Steven Black said, “GVDN supports a coordinated global effort to assess vaccine safety and effectiveness so that vaccine questions can be addressed in a more rapid, efficient, and cost-effective manner. We have a number of studies underway to build upon our understanding of vaccines and how we understand vaccine safety using big data.”

GVDN Co-Director Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris said, “By making the data dashboards publicly available, we are able to support greater transparency, and stronger communications to the health sector and public.”

The GCoVS Project was made possible with support by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow the comparison of the safety of vaccines across diverse global populations.

About the Global Data Vaccine Network

Established in 2019 and with data sourced from millions of individuals across six continents, the GVDN collaborates with renowned research institutions, policy makers, and vaccine related organisations to establish a harmonised and evidence-based approach to vaccine safety and effectiveness.

The GVDN is supported by the Global Coordinating Centre based at Auckland UniServices Ltd, a not-for-profit, stand-alone company that provides support to researchers and is wholly owned by the University of Auckland. Aiming to gain a comprehensive understanding of vaccine safety and effectiveness profiles, the GVDN strives to create a safer immunisation landscape that empowers decision making for the global community. For further information, visit globalvaccinedatanetwork.org.

Disclaimer: This news release summarises the key findings of the GVDN observed versus expected study. To view the full publication in Vaccine, visit doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2024.01.100.

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totalling US$10,108,491 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit cdc.gov

Media enquiries: gvdn@auckland.ac.nz and communications@uniservices.co.nz

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Reproductive rights in America

Abortion pills that patients got via telehealth and the mail are safe, study finds.

Selena Simmons-Duffin

Selena Simmons-Duffin

case studies analysis is mainly

Access to the abortion drug mifepristone could soon be limited by the Supreme Court for the whole country. Here, a nurse practitioner works at an Illinois clinic that offers telehealth abortion. Jeff Roberson/AP hide caption

Access to the abortion drug mifepristone could soon be limited by the Supreme Court for the whole country. Here, a nurse practitioner works at an Illinois clinic that offers telehealth abortion.

In March, the Supreme Court will hear a case about mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medication abortions. A key question in that case is: Was the Food and Drug Administration correct when it deemed the drug safe to prescribe to patients in a virtual appointment?

A study published Thursday in Nature Medicine looks at abortion pills prescribed via telehealth and provides more support for the FDA's assessment that medication abortion is safe and effective.

Researchers examined the electronic medical records for more than 6,000 patients from three providers of abortion via telehealth. They also conducted an opt-in survey of 1,600 patients.

Some abortion patients talked to a provider over video, others used a secure chat platform, similar to texting. If patients were less than 10 weeks pregnant and otherwise found to be eligible, the providers prescribed two medications: mifepristone, which blocks a pregnancy hormone called progesterone, and misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions. Patients got both medicines via mail-order pharmacy.

Research at the heart of a federal case against the abortion pill has been retracted

Shots - Health News

Research at the heart of a federal case against the abortion pill has been retracted.

"Then 3 to 7 days later, there was a clinical follow up," explains the study's lead author, Ushma Upadhyay of the University of California – San Francisco. "The provider checked in with the patient. 'Did you receive the medications? Did you take the medications?' They asked about symptoms. And then there was a clinical follow-up four weeks after the original intake."

The researchers found that the medication was effective – it ended the pregnancy without any additional follow-up care for 97.7% of patients. It was also found to be safe – 99.7% of abortions were not followed by any serious adverse events. The safety and efficacy was similar whether the patients talked to a provider over video or through secure chat.

"These results shouldn't be surprising," Upadhyay says. "It's consistent with the over 100 studies on mifepristone that have affirmed the safety and effectiveness of this medication."

The results also echo international research on telehealth abortion and studies of medication abortion dispensed in a clinic with an in-person appointment, she notes.

Rishi Desai of Harvard Medical School is a medication safety expert who was not involved in the study. He says it was "well-conducted," especially considering it can be difficult to track patients who only connect with providers remotely.

"I would say that this study provides reassuring data regarding safety of the medications, and this is very much in line with what we have seen in many previous studies," he says. "So it's good to see that safety findings hold up in this setting as well."

Still, whether mifepristone is safe and whether FDA has appropriately regulated how it is prescribed is a live legal question right now.

An anti-abortion rights group sued FDA in 2022, arguing that mifepristone is not safe and was improperly approved in 2000. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a district court judge appointed to the federal bench by President Trump, ruled that mifepristone should be pulled from the market nationwide. Although his decision didn't take effect pending appeals, the appeals court ruled against the FDA in part, specifically rolling back telehealth abortion access. That is also on hold for now.

The Supreme Court hears arguments in the case on March 26. The decision could affect access to medication abortion nationwide and set a new precedent on challenges to the FDA's authority.

Recently, there's been a flurry of mifepristone research news. Last week, a paper that raised safety concerns about mifepristone was retracted . This study, released Thursday, affirms the FDA's position that the medicine can be safely prescribed remotely.

Upadhyay says she's been working on this research for years and that the timing of its publication weeks before the Supreme Court arguments is coincidental.

"I don't know if they can enter new evidence into the case at this point," she says. "But I do hope it impacts the perception of how safe this medication is."

  • abortion pill
  • mifepristone
  • Abortion rights
  • Supreme Court

Case Study: Ronin161’s Portfolio – 2024

A look into the making of Ronin161’s new portfolio for 2024, from ideas to code. Plus an in-depth explanation about the custom Toon Shader.

case studies analysis is mainly

From our sponsor: Get into notable designers’ heads: stories about leadership, burnout, and more, produced by Readymag and You Creative Media.

Introduction & Motivation

We wanted to update our portfolio, which was created in 2018. For this, our main objective was to maintain the essence of the website, retaining its key points, but rework the art direction, make it more colorful, review our 3D character, the performance, go further on the creative side and add a CMS among other things.

The V01 aimed to offer an original concept as a portfolio with a touch of surrealism and provocation via our 3D, navigation and through the character’s behavior capturing the user’s attention (with awkward, funny or even arrogant poses).

case studies analysis is mainly

In this post, we’ll explain some of the main concepts and effects of the website along with some examples.

We wanted to completely rethink the rendering of the meshes to achieve a slightly cartoonish/drawing result.

Also maintaining smooth transitions between pages, with different lighting and rendering, having texts in WebGL stylized with randomized parameters for a unique experience and better integration with the 3D.

Of course, all of this needs to remain as performant as possible.

  • Three.js & Custom WebGL Tools

Custom Toon Shading

There are two parts that compose Toon Shading (also call cel shading).

The first is that, rather than a continuous change of color, values of luminance are clamp resulting in some regions that are all the same color.

Second is that usually Toon shaders objects have outlines around them.

We use Three.js as our WebGL library. There’s a Toon Material in the examples, but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. We wanted better control over the rendering and to add some grain to the image. So we had to create a custom shader.

Three.js example: https://threejs.org/examples/webgl_materials_toon.html

The first step was to obtain only 2 tones in the shading: the lit part in some color and the shadow part in black. For this, we used the maths of the lights in the shader and compare the value the luminance of the pixel with a threshold. Then, we switch the shadows from black to blue.

The second step was to calculate a gradient for where to apply afterwards the noise gradually.

The third step was to insert noise into this gradient to break up the linear aspect and give it a more drawn aspect.

Afterward, we adjusted the various parameters based on the lighting, character, and the rest of the website to get the desired result.

Post Effects

The website has several post-processing effects.

For context, each page has its own scene, with its own meshes (character, texts, etc.) depending on the content of the page. The different pages are drawn in 2 render targets used in ping-pong method (only active pages are rendered) so that the Slice transition can be possible and done in a fullscreen plane.

Some additional post-effects are added on this plane shader:

  • Vignette , RGB Shift and Bulge Effect : linked to scroll and mouse movement

Next, the rest of the effects are then applied:

  • Fluid simulation : linked to mouse movement and coupled with datamoshing simulation afterwards
  • Datamoshing : UVs deformation based on fluid simulation + optical flow algorithm linked to scroll + pixelation and noise on the result of both simulations
  • Bloom : mainly for videos in the project pages
  • Blur : used when the gallery in project pages is open
  • Color grain : reminder of the toon shader
  • Cursor : the cursor is completely managed in post with shapes in the shader using transform, state, shading, blend

We used our own in-house library of post-processing to give us better control, results and performance for all these effects.

Indeed, some effects such as simulations or bloom require separate render targets for calculations, but all the final calculations and computation of theses do not require separate rendering, so they are automatically compiled into a single shader (resulting in only 1 pass). This avoids having 1 effect = 1 render, which would be too heavy in terms of performance, and lose some quality.

WebGL Texts

We wanted to have text in WebGL as well to better integrate them with the rest of the website and the art direction. However, we didn’t want to entirely neglect accessibility, which is why we also had HTML text underneath some WebGL texts for click and select purposes.

This also gave us more possibilities for rendering (solid texts, outlines, noise, gradients…).

Unfortunately, it’s always a bit complicated to work with text in WebGL (size, wrapping, responsive…), but a few years ago, we also created a custom library to handle this, which we had to improve a lot for this portfolio update. This library uses MSDF texts, allowing for clear, sharp, flexible typography while remaining efficient.

One of the challenges was to able to customize the shader according to our desires, dynamic parameters and the animations of each text, as if they were HTML texts, especially hiding the texts letter by letter, which was a real challenge, we are doing so with custom attribute and uniforms in the shaders.

More infos on MSDF: https://github.com/Chlumsky/msdfgen

3D Character

A significant part of the website identity also comes from our iconic character. This was created in Character Creator (CC), a 3D character design software. All textures have been done in Substance Painter.

case studies analysis is mainly

We wanted to take up the concept of the V01 of the website, where the character could have multiple poses and follow the cursor with his head to track the user movement.

However, we wanted to make it more lively and unique with each pose. For this, we thought of making his eye blink, as well as giving it more pronounced facial expressions and custom textures for each pose.

The character currently has 7 states, therefore 7 poses, facial expressions, and set of textures (head, arms, body).

This resulted in several challenges:

  • How to use the character from CC but optimize it for the web?
  • How to load multiple poses and facial expressions without loading different files for loading performance?
  • How to make the character blink his eyes?
  • How to optimize textures if we wanted several?
  • Since we only see the top of the character, we removed the bottom part and bones below the waist, allowing us to reduce drastically the filesize. Thanks to CC, we could also export this character in lower definition.
  • To avoid loading multiple models, we decided to have only one file using a skeletal mesh. This allows us to move the bones and thus recreate the poses we wanted. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for facial expressions, for this we needed morphs targets. For optimization and filesize reasons, we decided to divide the character into 2 parts, the body and the head, which we would recombine in code. Indeed, the morphs duplicate all the vertices. Only the vertices of the head needed to be changed, unlike the body which remained static. So we exported the head with all the bones and the morphs we need to set them in code like the bones to give us the expression we wanted. This means we also can animate the face if we wanted. We also exported the body but with only the bones, much smaller filesize.
  • Thanks to the morphs, we were able to obtain one for opening or closing the eyes. We can play with different timing and delays to add some randomness and realism to the blinking.
  • Despite our efforts, the weight of the mesh, especially the head, and all the textures were too heavy and took up too much GPU RAM for our taste. We converted the mesh into binary glTF with mesh optimizer extension to optimize the vertices and weight. As for textures, we grouped different parts of the body (head, arms, legs) into a spritesheet, which we then converted into the basis format, which is more suitable (and lighter) for the GPU. With all this, we achieved a more satisfying result.

With the workflow we had found, it is entirely possible to easily create new poses and crazy combination and integrate them into the website without adding to much weight in filesize.

Before optimization:

  • Head: 4.9Mo
  • Body: 631Ko
  • 21 textures (7 poses x 3 mesh parts): 3.9Mo

After optimization:

  • Head: 2.9Mo
  • Body: 301Ko
  • 7 textures spritesheet: 1.39Mo

More infos on gltfpack and mesh optimizer: https://meshoptimizer.org/gltf/

Basis compression: https://github.com/BinomialLLC/basis_universal

We hope you enjoyed this case study. We can’t go into details about every aspect and issue we encountered, but we hope this gives you a good overview of the challenges and ambitions we had and perhaps you even learned a few tips and tricks.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask us on Twitter or Instagram .

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