Guide on case study design

A case study is a search of relevant information for any problem, which must necessarily be properly drawn up. To create a correct case study design, it will be necessary to generalize the material covered and write down the conclusions. Scientific work envisages conducting new research in practice, and in the final version, work is devoted to scientific research.


Such work can be of a scientific and abstract character, each of which provides its analysis.

  • Abstract work requires the analysis of different points of view on the topic of work. After analyzing the sources used, show your opinion on the highlights of the problem.
  • In order to write a scientific paper, it usually takes more time, since it is necessary to study documentary sources. Such a study is valuable because the author points out new facts, studies, and so on.

The presented work should contain a clear organization, structuring. It should contain an introduction, the main text about the work done, conclusions, sources, and annexes.

  • The introduction provides a description of the relevance of the topic, a problem that is examined and studied. Here, it is worth mentioning the goal and the main task. It is also important to specify what time frame the topic covers. An overview of the sources that were the basis for writing the work are also indicated here.
  • The main text of the study should be written according to the chosen topic, while it is important to observe the time frame that was specified in the introduction. It is not necessary to show in the work already all known facts that simply overshadow your new information and discoveries. First of all, try to focus on new, interesting discoveries. It is worth writing logically in a strict thematic sequence.
  • Upon completion of the work, it is worthwhile to draw the appropriate conclusions, which will concern exactly the goals and tasks that were indicated in the introduction section.
  • Sources that were used at the time of writing the research should be listed alphabetically.
  • And after that you can proceed with the design of the annex. It should have different graphics, drawings, and tables, which correspond to the theme of the work. It’s also worth providing links to the application.
Also, you should pay attention to the drawing up of a plan and that is why you can use an approximate option, such as:
  • Choosing a topic for future work
  • Search for necessary sources
  • Definition of tasks and objectives of the work
  • Writing a work plan
  • Study and analysis of literature
  • Writing a draft
  • Structuring work
  • Finishing option

5 types of qualitative case study

When we talk about qualitative case study design, we think only of one type. But, as in the case of quantitative, there are many variations of qualitative research.

Qualitative research is segmented according to the same principle as usability tests.

One of the most popular ways is to break up qualitative research into 5 types:
  • Ethnographic
  • Narrative
  • Phenomenological
  • Grounded theory
  • Case study itself

Despite the fact that all the 5 techniques use similar techniques of data collection (observation, interviews, and viewing of text), they differ in what goals they pursue – something like the different types of usability tests. And just like the classification of different usability studies, the difference between these methods can be slightly blurred. Let’s look at these methods in more detail.

Ethnographic method

Ethnographic research is probably the most famous and applied from most often. In this study, you immerse yourself in the participant’s environment to understand his goals, culture, problems, motivations, and all sorts of situations. Ethnographic research is rooted in culturological anthropology where researchers immerse themselves in an unfamiliar culture, sometimes for years. You rely not on surveys or interviews, but on the experience gained from the participant’s cultural environment.

The narrative method

The narrative approach unites the sequence of events, usually from one or two people, forming a coherent story. You conduct in-depth interviews, read documents, and search for general topics. Quite often, interviews last for several weeks, months, or even years, but the final narrative does not necessarily need to maintain a chronological order. It can be presented as a history that reconciles conflicting stories and emphasizes tense moments that can become opportunities for change.

For example, the narrative approach may well be suitable for creating a person. Although a person need to be created using several methods, in-depth interviews can provide details that help describe the cultural human environment, be it a student, trying to go to college, or a working mother.

Phenomenological method

When you want to describe an event, an action, or some phenomenon, the phenomenological method of qualitative research is best suited.

To understand the significance the participant gives to the test subject, a phenomenological study combines several techniques, such as interviews, reading papers, watching videos, or attending any events. To understand the motivation, you rely on the participants’ own views.

As in the case of other qualitative studies, you do not start with a well-formulated hypothesis. In a phenomenological study, you often conduct a large number of interviews to create a sufficient set of data to search for new topics and use other participants to confirm their results.

For example, over the past 5 years, a variety of online courses have started to appear massively, and you want to know how people interact with them. Although you can learn how much time a person spends on the site and what content they can access using logs, phenomenological research is aimed at better understanding the student experience and how it may affect the understanding of the material.

Grounded theory

While phenomenological research attempts to describe the essence of an activity or event, the method of a well-founded theory seeks to provide an explanation, or reasons behind this event. To create a theory based on data, you use interviews and existing documents.

To define topics and create a theory, you go through a series of open and axial encodings. The size of the sample is also often increased – between 20 and 65. The method of the grounded theory can help to better understand how the user community uses the product or performs tasks, thereby informing your design decisions.

Case study

Researchers can rely on the value of a case study to explain an organization, company, or event. The case study is a deep understanding of the subject, through a variety of types of data sources. Case studies can be explanatory, research, or describe an event.

For example, a case study on how a multi-national organization has implemented UX methodologies into a flexible development environment will be useful and informative for a variety of organizations.

How to create a plan for case study

The basis of the proposed method for the creation of the plan is the logic of writing a scientific article, which identifies the main elements that are universal for most scientific works.

Below is the most general algorithm for planning the process of case study design.

When starting work, the author must answer a number of important questions:
  • What is the general problem of the study?
  • What conclusions did the previous researchers come to?
  • What sources should be studied?
  • What new things should be learned and why?
  • How to apply the results obtained?

Answers to these questions allow the author to get an idea of the forthcoming work, build its general concept, determine the object, subject, purpose, and hypothesis of the study.

The object of the study is a process, system or phenomenon with a particular issue. The subject of the study is a part of the object (an individual part or property), it has some characteristics of the object. Finding the solution can be done when examining the results of an influence on a subject that is an element of the object. The drawing helps to present and remember the relationship between the subject and the object of the study.

Next, the author formulates the goal.

For a scientific study, the goal can be experimental proof of new data or facts about the object, process or phenomenon; new interpretation of known data, systematization of existing representations. The goal of any study is to present some new knowledge and data.

To form a goal, use the following technique:
  • The study’s result plus the study’s object plus the ways to reach the result.

When creating a goal, you can suggest a hypothesis – a possible solution to the issue you’re studying. It is important that the hypothesis is checked and contains the concepts available in science.

The purpose of the study involves the definition of tasks – the steps leading to the achievement of the goal. In general terms, the research tasks can be designated as follows:
  • Study the state of the issue
  • Identification of characteristic features of the phenomenon being investigated/clarification of the definition of concepts
  • Development and implementation of the experiment/systematization and analysis of the data obtained
  • Proposed ways of solving the problem and their argumentation/identification of conditions that provide an effective solution to the problem
  • Checking the proposed solution to the problem

Each subsequent task is based on the results of the previous one. The above tasks are conditional – depending on the specifics of the study, they can vary, some tasks may be missing.

After formulating the goal, hypothesis, and tasks, the author outlines the plan and methodology of scientific work.

The plan of a scientific study is its content (achievement of the goal – problem solving with the help of methods), built logically according to the following sections: introduction, review of literature, main part (theoretical/experimental section, analytical/practical section), and conclusion/outcomes. In the scientific article, sections are allocated conditionally, in larger ones – these can be parts, chapters, and paragraphs. The structure of a scientific article can also include an annotation, a list of sources and, if necessary, an application.

In the introduction, the general theme of the research is stated, its relevance is substantiated, the subject, object, purpose, hypothesis (if any), tasks, and methods of research, theoretical and practical significance are described.

The relevance of the topic shows how important the topic is today.

Scientific novelty shows how your work is different from other similar researches.

Then is an analytical literature review, which helps evaluate and study the current state of the issue. Don’t just name the most famous studies done on the subject, critically analyze them, agreeing or disagreeing with the point of the scientist.

The main part can be conditionally divided into theoretical/experimental and analytical/practical sections. It is important that the theoretical positions or stages of the experiment are based on methods.

This is necessary so that the reader can evaluate the correctness of the research process or reproduce the experiment using the same methods and get exactly the same result (check the correctness of the solution).

In conclusion, a brief description of the whole study is given – whether the tasks are completed, whether the goal is achieved, the hypothesis is confirmed or disproved. There are also prospects for further research on the problem.

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