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What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

Deep Dive into a Topic

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.


california drought 2014 case study

california drought 2014 case study

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Resource management - water

Global water supply and consumption are unequal. The demand for water is increasing and water is not always available. Water insecurity is a big issue in some parts of the world.

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Case study - drought in California

California is a coastal state in western USA with a population of around 39 million residents. It has deserts to the east, but there is usually plenty of rainfall to provide water along the coast. There are around 24 million acres (or 9.7 million ha) of farmland in California. Roughly 40% of the country's vegetables, fruit and nuts are grown in the state, which generates around $50 billion each year.

California has experienced drought since 2011. Irrigated crops use a lot of the freshwater supplies in the region. Rising temperatures, falling rainfall levels and a growing population are also contributing to the problem.

The drought has lowered groundwater levels. This can cause lots of problems, such as:

  • Subsidence - this is a fall in the level of the land, which damages properties.
  • Sea water intrusion - this is when sea water flows in to groundwater spaces known as aquifers . People cannot drink sea water as it is salty.
  • Fires - vegetation becomes very dry and intense heat, such as lightning strikes, can set it alight easily.
  • Ecosystem damage.

In 2014 California introduced a new law called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act or SGMA. It aimed to regulate the use of groundwater supplies and make ground supplies sustainable by the year 2040 . However, many years after this law was put in place, wells are still drying up. There are still many improvements to make before the targets can be met.

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california drought 2014 case study

Public Health Impact of Drought: California Case Study

By Gilbert Benavidez

Landscape with dust in the air obscuring the sun during California drought

Looking back on the summer of 2014 I remember dead lawns, the constant worry of taking too long in the shower, the restrictions on building pools, and how my favorite lakeside campground was closed because the lake was too shallow. The terrible California drought lasted roughly four years, destroying livelihoods built on crop yields and displacing people who lived in the rural Mojave. Drought mapping from Mother Jones and the United States Drought Monitor shows just how bad the situation in California was.

Barreau, et al. examined the population health ramifications caused by drought in two California counties. The authors used a rapid assessment method to evaluate household water access and acute stressors such as property damage and household finances.


Barreau’s results in 2015 paint a picture of the devastating health impact of drought. When drought conditions negatively affected household finances, there was a large impact on health, with people facing nearly nine times higher odds of adverse health outcomes including worsening of chronic disease, acute stress, and exacerbated psychological illness and distress. When drought conditions were destructive of household property, there were 3.93 times the odds of negative health outcomes for people. Households that did not have running water experienced 1.38 times the odds of their health being negatively affected.

The data ascertained from this study should inform disaster preparedness policy for Southern California and other drought prone areas of the world. In addition to increasing water imports to drought affected areas, increasing medical personnel presence at local clinics may help to curb negative drought-related health outcomes.

Feature image: David Prasad, _IGP5877_Skaggs-Bridge_Fresno-Co . Near Biola, California, on a dry, windy afternoon at the height of the mega-drought of 2011-15, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 . Gif from Mother Jones .

Gilbert Benavidez, PHP fellow, headshot

Gilbert Benavidez

Gilbert Benavidez is a policy analyst for the Partnered Evidence-based Policy Resource Center (PEPReC) at the Boston VA. Gilbert received his MPH from the Boston University School of Public Health, where he concentrated in health law, bioethics and human rights. His primary interest is combining data analytics with law and policy instruments to pursue human rights. He was a 2017 Public Health Post Fellow.

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  6. Can the US Survive California’s Drought?

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  1. What Is a Case Study?

    When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to lear...

  2. Why Are Case Studies Important?

    Case studies are important because they help make something being discussed more realistic for both teachers and learners. Case studies help students to see that what they have learned is not purely theoretical but instead can serve to crea...

  3. What Are Some Examples of Case Studies?

    Examples of a case study could be anything from researching why a single subject has nightmares when they sleep in their new apartment, to why a group of people feel uncomfortable in heavily populated areas. A case study is an in-depth anal...

  4. usa drought 2014 case study sheet

    California is a state located on the western coast of the USA. A severe drought in California has depleted snow packs, rivers, and lakes, and groundwater use

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  6. California Drought (Developed Country Case Study)

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  7. California Drought Case Study

    California had dwindled to alarmingly low levels by July 2014. It should

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  9. Public Health Impact of Drought: California Case Study

    Landscape with dust in the air obscuring the sun during California drought. Looking back on the summer of 2014 I remember dead lawns, the

  10. A Case Study of the 2011-17 California Drought

    ... drought awareness occurred when the drought condition reached its peak and the governor declared the drought emergency (January 2014). The other peaks in August

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    In the case of forest impacts, little can be done to substantially manage ... Economic analysis of the 2014 drought for California agriculture.

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  14. California Drought Case Study Flashcards

    California State Governor declared State of Emergency declared in 2014 - new laws and regulations put in place.