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case-study

case-study, case-study method A research design that takes as its subject a single case or a few selected examples of a social entity—such as communities, social groups, employers, events, life-histories, families, work teams, roles, or relationships—and employs a variety of methods to study them. The criteria which inform the selection of the case or cases for a study are a crucial part of the research design and its theoretical rigour. Case-studies include descriptive reports on typical, illustrative, or deviant examples; descriptions of good practice in policy research; evaluations of policies after implementation in an organization; studies that focus on extreme or strategic cases; the rigorous test of a well-defined hypothesis through the use of carefully selected contrasting cases; and studies of natural experiments. The methods used to assemble information are determined in part by ease of access and whether the study is accepted by the subjects. Participant and non-participant observation, unstructured interviews with key informants, analysis of documentary evidence (including personal documents) and information in administrative records, content analysis of key documents issued by the study subject, analysis of significant events occurring within the research period, and sample surveys have all been used to varying degrees in case-study research. There are no standard formats for reporting the methods used, the data collected, and the results from case-studies, but quantitative analysis is less common than in survey reports. See also CASE-HISTORY; COMMUNITY STUDIES.

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