by Tanja Tuulikki Välisalo last modified Mar 08, 2010 02:09 PM


circle_aims aimsExploring BackgroundTemporal ProcessesRelationships and ConnectionsCause and EffectModels and TheoriesPredicting the FutureCritical Views and ChangeCaseCategories, Classes and TypesExperiencesBelieves, Opinions and AttitudesConstruction of MeaningsInterpretationPhenomena


Humanistic research may focus on exploring only a single or a small group of research objects. A case may be a work of art, a book, an event, an interaction situation, a person, a community, or a concept. The key characteristic for this kind of research aim is that the researcher clearly defines the quantity of research objects. The research aims to produce an in-depth analysis of a case or a few cases chosen to be the focus of the research and to explain the cultural and social structures, meanings, contexts and their effects.



A case can be a concrete and existing phenomenon illustrated by the data or can be a theoretical concept, model or way of thinking. You can use either empirical research or theoretical research.

But you can also use other research strategies. Qualitative research enables you to make an in-depth analysis of a case. Multi-method research using both qualitative and quantitative research enables you to get a multiple image of the features and qualities of the case.

A case study enables you to make in-depth analysis of a singular object or a small group of objects. Case studies can be used as a part of narrower research strategies. 


Data Collection

When the aim of your research is to make an in-depth analysis of a case, you can use different types of data collected by a variety of methods. The characteristics and environment of the chosen case determine the selection of the data collection methods.

You can use either data collected for previous research by another researcher (existing concrete materials) or collect / produce your own data during the research process. A case study is usually conducted as a population study, in which all available materials are used in the research of the chosen phenomenon.

You can collect data through interviews, questionnaires, observations or analyzing archival materials.


Data Analysis

Qualitative analysis methods are suitable for case study research. The aims of the research project and the research questions will determine whether or not you use less or more precise analysis methods in a case study

Qualitative analysis methods suitable for a case study are: narrative analysis, conversation analysis, discourse analysis, phenomenographical analysis, hermeneutic analysis, semiotic analysis and close reading.


Philosophy of Science

Qualitative analysis methods in the humanities are based on interpretivism. Views emphasising interpretation in the formation of meanings and subjectivity in meaning-making processes are based on relativism. Quantitative analysis methods are based on positivism, which stresses the production of knowledge through exact measurements and use of numeric variables.  Views emphasising the exactness and correctness of measured knowledge are based on realism, which views knowledge as objective.

As the analysis methods used in a case study should provide multiple points of view, the philosophical background of the research can be broad. The case study may emphasise:

Constructivism as a way of perceiving knowledge, reality and meanings as structures.

Hermeneutics is a way of interpreting the meanings of phenomena.