The below is pulled entirely from Bruce Berg’s Book: Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences (7th Edition). Allyn & Bacon. 2008.

Case Study Definition:

“a method involving systematically gathering enough information about a particular person, social setting, event, or group to permit the researcher to effectively understand how the subject operates or functions.” (pg. 317)


Can be rather pointed in their focus or approach a broad view of life and society. Extremely rich, detailed, and in-depth information is gathered. Often used as a method for guiding research – aim is to uncover the manifest interaction of significant factors characteristic of the phenomenon, individual, community, or institution being studied. Focus on holistic description and explanation. (pg. 318)

Theory-Before-Research (reasons for): (pg. 319)

  • It can assist in selecting cases to be studied and whether to use single-case or multiple-case design.
  • Can help specify what is being explored when undertaking exploratory studies.
  • Aids in defining a complete and appropriate description when undertaking descriptive studies.
  • Can stimulate rival theories in exploratory case studies.
  • Can support generalization the researcher may seek to make to other cases.

Research-Before-Theory (Grounded Theory): (pg. 320)

Basically, “theory can be uncovered and informed as a consequence of the data collection and interpretations of this data made throughout the development of the case study – hence, a grounded case study.” (pg. 320) – see figure 10.1 on page 321 for an illustration of the development of grounded theory via case study methods.

Types of Case Studies: (pg. 325)

  1. Intrinsic – when the researcher wants to better understand a particular case. To better understand intrinsic aspects of the subject.
  2. Instrumental – provides insight into an issue or refine a theoretical explanation, often used to support theory, focused on a single concern and identifies a single case to illustrate this concern.
  3. Collective – multiple cases, cross-cases, comparative cases, and contrasting cases. Studying several cases to better understand or theorize about a broader context.

Case Study Design Types: (pg. 327)

  1. Exploratory – fieldwork and data collection done before defining a research question. (often as a prelude to larger studies)
  2. Explanatory – useful for causal studies, examining a plurality of influences for a complex study.
  3. Descriptive – formation of a viable theoretical orientation prior to enunciating research questions.
    1. Five Component Elements of a Formal Design:
      • Study questions
      • Study propositions or theoretical framework
      • Indentify the unit(s) of analysis
      • Logical linking of data to propositions or theory
      • Criteria for interpreting findings

Other Types of Case Studies: (pg. 328)

  1. Snapshot – detailed, objective studies of one research entity at one point in time. Hypothesis testing by comparing patterns across subentities
  2. Longitudinal – studying one research entity at multiple time points
  3. Pre-post – studies of one research entity at two times separated by a critical event. (one that on the basis of the theory under study would be expected to impact case observations significantly)
  4. Patchwork – set of multiple case studies of the same entity, using snapshot, longitudinal, and/or pre-post designs. Intended to provide a more holistic view of the dynamics of the subject.
  5. Comparative – multiple case studies of multiple entities for the purpose of cross-unit comparison. Usually both qualitative & quantitative comparisons.


When case studies are properly undertaken, they should not only fit the specific individual, group, or event studied but also generally provide understanding about similar individuals, groups, and events. (pg. 330)


Part 1: Documents describing the method

CARE. Sha, M.K. et al. Embracing Participation in Development: Worldwide experience from CARE’s Reproductive Health Programs with a step-by-step field guide to participatory tools and techniques. CARE. October 1999. Accessible here.

IFRCVulnerability and Capacity Assessment Toolbox. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Geneva, Switzerland. October 1996. Accessible here.

Part 2: Documents utilizing the method 

CRSProject LISTEN Evaluation Report/Case Study. Catholic Relief Services Malawi and USAID. May 2007. Accessible here.

WVPoverty Reduction: Are the Strategies Working? World Vision UK. June 2005. Accessible here.