VCSEwiki:Case study development

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What is a case study?

A detailed examination of a single particular issue, a case study represents a PRACTICAL contribution to the theme based on experience from more than readings. It is:

"...a complex example which provides insight into the context of a problem as well as illustrating the main point."[1]

"...based on topics that demonstrate theoretical concepts in an applied setting."[2]

...investigation of a case study is driven by an interest in indivudual cases, not by the methods of inquiry, as it "...focuses on a single actor, single enterprise, etc., usually under natural conditions so as to understand it (a bounded system in its natural habitat)"Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many studies allow an investigation into what works and what does not [3]

But it should gather evidence so that it is accessible for subsequent critical assessment (a case study is sometimes conceptualized as a form of research or its preliminary stage)!

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Types of case studiesCite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

  • Intrinsic – a case study undertaken by an individual who wants to better understand a particular case - the case does not represent other cases (driven by interest in particular)
  • Instrumental – provides insight into an issue to better understand its principles (driven by interest in theory)
  • Collective – a number of cases studied jointly to inquire into some issue, helps theorizing about a larger collection of cases – the basis for naturalistic generalization Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many
  • but some of the case studies may present special activities or endeavors with innovative potential so that they can not be subsumed under some existing conceptual framework!
  • on the other hand, it is suspected that they may also to be used as a corruptive agent – providing non-reproducible data or information that might demonstrate non-existing qualities - see criticism of the case study method with regard to its validity and reliability.

Writing a case study [3]

In order to write a good case study, you should:

  • choose a local issue with a global dimension and describe it
  • try to express the nature of the case
  • find out information about its historical background
  • illustrate the physical setting
  • describe the context (cultural, legal, economic, political, aesthetic, as appropriate)
  • find out about other cases through which the case could be recognized

The writing process is similar to any other academic discourse - please follow the instructions.


  • there should be a clear purpose to the case study and the study should address it - case study writing is not simply a description of the situation
  • it is important that all of the actors that represent all potentially diverging interests are involved in the case study and their role is explained
  • it should be explained how the case study could be useful for situations outside its context because...
  • ...your case study will be displayed as an "example of your work" in the 2010/2011 student case studies and serve as a model for the next intake of students.

Use of case studies

  • instrumental – lead to prescriptive guidelines, criteria and norms
  • emancipatory – provide ideas, suggestions and imagery that sensitize outsiders (process oriented use)

If you want to learn more, you might explore the resources and links we have provided you with.


New Zealand 2010: Mining in Schedule 4 Conflict (a case study from spring 2010) - the text is available in the history of the page showing the different stages of the writing process and a summary of the revision is also provided.

Case study assessment

Case studies are written with particular (specific) goals: to demonstrate some feature of a concrete example and to make the experience transferable to different contexts. A good case study fulfills the goals for which it has been written.


  1. Fry H, Ketteridge S and Marshall S (1999) A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Kogan Page, Glasgow, pp408
  2. Davis, C. & Wilcock, E. (2003) Teaching Materials Using Case Studies. The UK Centre for Materials Education. Available from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Corcoran, P. B., Walker, K. E., & Wals, A. E. (2004). Case studies, make-your-case studies, and case stories: a critique of case-study methodology in sustainability in higher education. Environmental Education Research, 10(1), 7–21.

Other resources (some are for teachers and some are for students :-))

Creative Commons Author: Jana Dlouhá, Jiří Dlouhý, Andrew Barton. This article was published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. How to cite the article: Jana Dlouhá, Jiří Dlouhý, Andrew Barton. (2. 07. 2022). VCSEwiki:Case study development. VCSEWiki. Retrieved 20:38 2. 07. 2022) from: <>.