A case study is a research with only one respondent, object or case. From this object a lot of information is collected to gain insight in the backgrounds and the relations between the aspects related to the topic of the study.
A case study is a special type of research. If a lot of respondents, or objects participate in the research - say over 30 - it is a quantitative research. If only a few respondents or objects participate in the research, it is a qualitative research. A case study has only one respondent, object or case.
A lot of students find it hard to identify a case study. This isn’t strange because sometimes it is hard to find the unit of analysis. To identify it correctly, the research question is the distinguishing factor. Let’s give some examples.
If one object is turned upside out, in and out and every single aspect is being notated, this is a case study. A solely dice can be investigated to see if its not false.
If one company is being investigated and all aspects are being notated, this is a case study. The unit of research is the company. If only one company is investigated, it is called a case study. If a few companies are investigated, it is called a qualitative research. If a lot of companies are investigated it is called a quantitative research.
If one employee is being studied about how he likes his job, it is called a case study. If a few employees are being studied (with an interview), it is a qualitative research. If a lot of employees are being studied (with a survey), it is called a quantitative research. Notice different kinds of techniques are being used, but this is the consequence of the numbers of participants.
Multilevel and case study
A study might have the characteristics of combination. One company might be studied (case study), by interviewing some members of the board of direction (qualitative research) and all employees (quantitative research). Look at this as three different types of research, with three different research questions: how well is this company doing, what did the board do to realise these results and how hard do the employees have to work.
Sometimes the data from several levels have to be analysed in one analysis. This can be done with a technique called multi level analysis.
Related topics to case study:
Every research can be classified on three dimensions:
1) the research design
2) the location of data collection and
3) the number of cases.
Together they form the research cube. With this classification 72 types of research can be distinguished.