Basics of Developing Case Studies

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    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

    (NOTE: Much of the information herein was gathered from Michael Patton’s book, “Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods.”)

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    Uses of Case Studies

    Case studies are particularly useful in depicting a holistic portrayal of a client’s experiences and results regarding a program. For example, to evaluate the effectiveness of a program’s processes, including its strengths and weaknesses, evaluators might develop case studies on the program’s successes and failures. Case studies are used to organize a wide range of information about a case and then analyze the contents by seeking patterns and themes in the data, and by further analysis through cross-comparison with other cases. A case can be individuals, programs, or any unit, depending on what the program evaluators want to examine through in-depth analysis and comparison.

    Developing a Case Study

    1. All data about the case is gathered.
    For example, if the study is to highlight a program’s failure with a client, data would be collected about the program, its processes, and the client. Data could result from a combination of methods, including documentation (applications, histories, records, etc.), questionnaires, interviews, and observation.
    2. Data is organized into an approach to highlight the focus of the study.
    In our example, data in the case would be organized in chronological order to portray how the client got into the program, went through the program, and did not receive effective services.
    3. A case study narrative is developed.
    The narrative is a highly readable story that integrates and summarizes key information around the focus of the case study. The narrative should be complete to the extent that it is the eyes and ears of an outside reader to understand what happened regarding the case. In our example, the narrative might include key demographic information about the client, phases in the program’s process through which the client passed and any major differences noticed about that client during the process, early indicators of failures, and key quotes from the client.
    4. The narrative might be validated by review from program participants.
    For example, the client for whom the program failed, would read the narrative to ensure it fully depicted his or her experience and results.
    5. Case studies might be cross-compared to isolate any themes or patterns.
    For example, various case studies about program failures might be compared to notice commonalities in these clients’ experiences and how they went through the program. These commonalities might highlight where in the program the process needs to be strengthened.

    General Information

    Sample Case Study Reports

    For the Category of Evaluations (Many Kinds):

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