Robert Yin is one of the foremost experts on case study. To begin our understanding of case study, Yin (2014) offered the concept that “case studies are the preferred strategy when ‘how’ or ‘why’ questions are being posed, when the investigator has little control over events, and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon within some real-life context” (p. 1). Creswell (2013) notes that case study can be defined as a:
qualitative approach in which the investigator explores a real-life, contemporary bounded system (a case) or multiple bounded systems (cases) over time, through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information (e.g. observations, interviews, audiovisual material, and documents and reports), and reports a case description and case themes. The unit of analysis in the case study might be multiple cases (a multisite study) or a single case (a within-site study). (p. 97)
As a result, it is important to not only recognize the how and why a case study exists, but understand the variances in types of case study, and make sure the chosen type of study is appropriate for the inquiry.
Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008). Qualitative case study methodology: Study design and implementation for novice researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 544-559. Retrieved from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR13-4/baxter.pdf
Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Merriam, S. B. (2007). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Stake, R. E. (2010). Qualitative research: Studying how things work. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.