Psychology Research Methods 5

  • Created by: Kerrie27
  • Created on: 12-04-15 18:30

Case Study

What is a case study?

Case studies are in-depth investigations of a single person or group.  Data can be gathered from a range of different sources and using several different methods - observations and interviews. Case studies allow researchers to analyse unusual cases in a lot of detail, e.g Freud's study of Little Hans. The case study method often involves simply observing what happens to, or reconstucting 'the case history' of a single participant or group of individuals. Sources and methods may include direct observation, interviews, documents, archival records, physical artifacts.

A case study is 'research performed in detail on a single individual, group, incident, or community, as opposed to, for instance, a sample of the whole population.' 

Psychometric tests may be involved with a case study (Thigpen&Cleckley), a psychometric tests is the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurements. 

Prospective: A type of case study in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. Retrospective: A type of case study that involves looking at historical information. Things in the past, may ask a ppt to look back on their lives.

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Case Study (Strengths)


Case studies are particularly useful in revealing the origins of abnormal behaviour, some forms of psychotherapry rely on building up a long and detailed case history as an aid to understanding and helping the client.

Case studies allow psychologists to look at people in situations which could not possibily have been engineered/manipulted e.g recovery from illness. Gives researchers the opportunity to study rare phenomena in a lot of detail. Permitting investigation of otherwise impractical or unethical situations

Case studies usually provide an in-depth picture producing rich data and sometimes produce quantitative data too. Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were dealing with a large number of participants.

Case studies often relate to a participants real life - ecological validity. 

Provides insight for further research. 

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Case Study (Weaknesses)


Case studies only relate to one individual or a small group of people and therefore it is difficult to generalise these results to the wider population, it is difficult knowing how typical the individual is. Cannot be sure whether conclusions drawn apply elsewhere. 

If the study is retrospective (the individual is asked to look back over their life) then memory may not be accurate and people may deliberately mislead the researcher. Making the data unreliable.

It is difficult to control variables meaning that it is hard to draw casual relationships (cause and effect). The close relationship that the researcher and the participant have may intoduce bias. The researchers own subjective feeling may influence the case study. They are based on the analysis of qualitative data a lot depends on the interpretation the researcher places on the information acquied. 

Case studies are often time consuming and therefore expensive. 

In terms of ethics, informed consent can be difficult to obtain if they subject has a rare disorder or is vulnerable. 

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