Skip to main content


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.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"case-study." A Dictionary of Sociology. . 18 Mar. 2019 <>.

"case-study." A Dictionary of Sociology. . (March 18, 2019).

"case-study." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved March 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.