Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author, educational consultant, and speaker focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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What Is a Case Study?

A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject"s life and history is analyzed to seek patterns & causes of behavior. Case studies can be used in a variety of fields including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, và social work.

The hope is that learning gained from studying one case can be generalized khổng lồ many others. Unfortunately, case studies tkết thúc khổng lồ be highly subjective sầu and it is sometimesdifficult khổng lồ generalize results khổng lồ a larger population.

While case studies focus on a single individual or group, they follow a format that is similar to lớn other types of psychology writing. If you are writing a case study, it is important khổng lồ follow the rules of APA format.

Benefits và Limitations

A case study can have both strengths and weaknesses. Researchers must consider these pros & cons before deciding if this type of study is appropriate for their needs.

One of the greachạy thử advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult khổng lồ impossible lớn replicate in a lab. Some other benefits of a case study:

Allows researchers khổng lồ collect a great giảm giá khuyến mãi of informationGive researchers the chance lớn collect information on rare or unusual casesAllows researchers khổng lồ develop hypotheses that can be explored in experimental research
Cannot necessarily be generalized lớn the larger populationCannot demonstrate cause and effectMay not be scientifically rigorousCan lead to lớn bias

Researchers may choose lớn perkhung a case study if they are interested in exploring a chất lượng or recently discovered phenomenon. The insights gained from such retìm kiếm can then help the researchers develop additional ideas & study questions that might then be explored in future studies.

Case Study Examples

There have been a number of notable case studies in the history of psychology. Much ofFreud"s work và theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include:

Such cases demonstrate how case retìm kiếm can be used khổng lồ study things that researchers could not replicate in experimental settings. In Genie"s case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity khổng lồ learn language at critical points in her development.

This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to lớn study phenomena that are otherwise impossible khổng lồ reproduce.


There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists và other researchers might utilize:

Collective case studies: Theseinvolve sầu studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community of people.Explanatory case studies: Theseare often used khổng lồ bởi causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have sầu actually caused certain things lớn occur.Instrumental case studies: Theseoccur when the individual or group allows researchers khổng lồ understand more than what is initially obvious lớn observers.

The type of case study that is used depends on the chất lượng characteristics of the situation as well as the case itself.

How khổng lồ Write a Case Study

There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study, including prospective sầu and retrospective sầu case study methods.

Prospective case study methodsare those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to lớn observe sầu the progression of a particular disease.

Retrospective case study methods involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to lớn look at information about the individual"s life khổng lồ determine risk factors that may have contributed to lớn the onset of the illness.

Where to Find Data

There are a number of different sources & methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. Six major sources that have been identified by researchersare:

Archival records:Census records, survey records, and name lists are examples of archival records.Documents:Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc., are the types of documents often used as sources.

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Interviews:Interviews are one of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involve structured survey questions or more open-ended questions.Participant observation:When the researcher serves as a participant in events và observes the actions và outcomes, it is called participant observation.Physical artifacts:Tools, objects, instruments, and other artifacts are often observed during a direct observation of the subject.

Background information: The first section of your paper will present your client"s background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills & weaknesses.

Description of the presenting problem: In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with.

Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, và perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.

Your diagnosis: Provide your diagnosis và give the appropriate Diagnostic & Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the client"s symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.

Section 2: Treatment Plan

This portion of the paper will address the chosen treatment for the condition. This might also include the theoretical basis for the chosen treatment or any other evidence that might exist to lớn support why this approach was chosen.

Pharmacological approach: If treatment primarily involves the use of medications, explain which medications were used and why. Provide background on the effectiveness of these medications & how monotherapy may compare with an approach that combines medications with therapy or other treatments.

This section of a case study should also include information about the treatment goals, process, and outcomes.


When you are writing a case study, you should also include a section where you discuss the case study itself, including the strengths & limitiations of the study. You should note how the findings of your case study might tư vấn previous research.

In your discussion section, you should also describe some of the implications of your case study. What ideas or findings might require further exploration? How might researchers go about exploring some of these questions in additional studies?

Here are a few additional pointers lớn keep in mind when formatting your case study:

Never refer lớn the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, their name or a pseudonym.Read examples of case studies to gain an idea about the style & format.

A Word From Verywell

Case studies can be a useful retìm kiếm tool, but they need to lớn be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They are helpful for looking at quality situations và allow researchers to gather a great khuyến mãi of information about a specific individual or group of people.

If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure lớn kiểm tra with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to lớn follow. If you are writing your case study for professional publication, be sure lớn kiểm tra with the publisher for their specific guidelines for submitting a case study.

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