Research Methods A2

  • Created by: mimimomo
  • Created on: 25-09-18 00:06

Case studies

  • A case study is the detailed study of one individual or a small group who all have something in common
  • Information is gathered from a range of sources, such as interviews with the person involved and their friends/family.
  • They could be observed in their daily life. Psychologists can also use IQ or personality tests, look at medical records, carry out brain scans, or use experiments to test what the person/group can and can’t do.
  • The findings represent the individual’s thoughts, emotions, feelings and abilities.
  • Case studies are usually longitudinal, following the person or group over a long period of time.
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Strengths of case studies


  • A large amount of rich, in depth data is gathered, giving a very detailed insight into the person or group under investigation. Information that may be overlooked using other methods is likely to be revealed.
  • Vital for investigating aspects of human behaviour and experience that are rare or cannot be replicated experimentally due to ethical constraints.


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Weaknesses of case studies


  • Cannot be replicated, so case studies lack reliability.
  • Findings can’t usually be generalised.  Subjects of case study are usually unusual or special so are not representative of the rest of the population.
  • Findings are likely to be subjective. Due to the longitudinal nature of many case studies the researcher will often form an attachment to the people they are studying which could bias their interpretations.
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Content analysis

  • Content analysis is a way of quantifying data which is non-numerical (e.g. words and pictures). 
  • For example researchers have analysed on-line dating profiles to investigate whether men and women are looking for different things in a relationship.
  • Other research ers have looked at advertisement for toys to investigate whether adverts use gender stereotypes when targeting children.
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Steps involved in content analysis

1) State the aims and hypotheses

2) Decide on the sample

3) Decide on the units of analysis and develop a coding system

4) Establish reliability in the coding system

5) Analyse the findings and interpret them in terms of the hypothesis

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Evaluation of content and thematic analysis


As the method doesn’t require direct contact with people, investigators cannot influence behaviour.

Content analysis can be used to complement other methods and is especially useful as a longitudinal tool in looking at trends and changes over time.


There may be a lack of objectivity because researchers have to make decisions about what behaviour or themes to look for and how to categorise it.

It is a description of behaviour rather than an explanation of it (‘what’ but not why)




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Thematic analysis

  • This type of content analysis also analyses qualitative data but is not worried about quantifying it, focusing instead on identifying themes or ideas in the data.  
  • The data is searched for themes and similar themes are sorted together.
  • Themes may change as more data is analysed and new themes emerge. This means themes are constantly adjusted and data is read and re-read until there is data saturation and no more new themes can be identified.
  • When the report is written up the themes are categorised and discussed, and the data within each category provides the evidence for the themes (e.g. through direct quotes from participants)
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