Case Study Method in Psychology

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

Case Study Method

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 and causes of behavior. Case studies can be used in a variety of fields including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.

Case Study Method in Psychology

This method is one of the steps used in the clinical method of studying behaviour. This method is used for those who are suffering from physical or mental disorders. For this the case history has to be made of the earlier experiences of the individual which may be responsible for the present behaviour. Information is also collected from his parents, family, relatives, guardians, neighbours, friends, teachers and from reports about the individual's past. This information will enable the clinical psychologists to diagnose and suggest treatment if there is any problem. However, this method will be successful only if the clinical researcher is technically efficient. The findings are limited to the individuals observed and the findings cannot be generalized.

Characteristics of Case Study Method

The essential characteristics of the case study method are as under:

  1. The researcher can take one single social unit or more of such units for his study purpose, may even take a situation to study the same comprehensively.
  2. To obtain enough information for drawing correct inferences.
  3. To make a complete study of the social unit covering all facets.
  4. Try to understand the complex factors that are operative within a social unit as an integrated totality.
  5. The approach happens to be qualitative and not quantitative. Mere quantitative information is not collected. Every possible effort is made to collect information concerning all aspects of life.
  6. To know the mutual inter-relationship of causal factors.
  7. The behavior pattern of the concerning unit is studied directly and not by an indirect and abstract approach.
  8. It results in fruitful hypotheses along with the data which may be helpful in testing them, and thus it enables the generalized knowledge to get richer and richer.

Advantages of the Case Study Method

  1. Provides a detailed description of rare and specific cases.
  2. Provides an opportunity for innovation.
  3. Allow researchers to collect rich qualitative information.
  4. Allow researchers to challenge theoretical assumptions.

Case studies provide far more detailed information on the rare or hard to study cases and the information concerning measurable or quantitative insights of the case and the detailed information related to the qualitative aspects of human behavior.

Limitations of Case Study Method

  1. Lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population.
  2. Researchers' own subjective feeling may influence the case study (researcher bias).
  3. Difficult to replicate.
  4. Time-consuming and expensive.
  5. The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted on the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources.

Types of Case Study Method

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

1. Collective case studies:- These involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community of people.

2. Descriptive case studies:- These involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory.

3. Explanatory case studies:- These are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have actually caused certain things to occur.

4. Exploratory case studies:- These are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses.

5. Instrumental case studies:- These occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.

6. Intrinsic case studies:- This type of case study is when the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget's observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic cast study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.

How to Write a Psychology Case Study

When thinking of writing your own case study, consider these eight steps to help get you started:

1. Gather Information to Create a Profile for a Subject

It's important to understand as much as you can about the research subject prior to developing research methods and a hypothesis. You can use previous case studies for supplemental data that may help you conduct and understand theories or information to enhance your research for the case study. After collecting information from previous studies, gather information on the subject from these four areas:

  • (i). Official or government records: This includes employment history, academic history and medical records.
  • (ii). Personal items: This includes a subject's diary, photographs, personal notes to themselves and official clinical notes or reports.
  • (iii). Interviews: This includes speaking to the subject directly and also their friends, family, coworkers, professors, neighbors and employers.
  • (iv). Observations: This includes observing the subject as they perform daily routines.

2. Choose a Case Study Method

There are two methods to choose from while developing a psychology case study: the prospective method and the retrospective method. Consider what the case study explores and what research you're hoping to discover in order to select the correct method. A prospective case study involves observing an individual or group to determine and understand psychological outcomes. Retrospective case studies use historical information, such as a subject's diagnosis, to determine what factors throughout their life may affect the subject's psychological health and previous behaviors.

3. Collect information regarding the subject's background

The first section of a case study includes the subject's history or background. In this section, a research psychologist collects the following information:

  • (i). Age
  • (ii). Gender
  • (iii). Employment status
  • (iv). Health status
  • (v). Family members
  • (vi). Relationship status
  • (vii). Family health history
  • (viii). Drug and alcohol history
  • (ix). Challenges in life
  • (x). Life goals
  • (xi). Coping skills
  • (xii). Strengths
  • (xiii). Weaknesses

4. Describe the Subject's Symptoms or Problems

Include any emotional, physical or sensory symptoms a subject may experience in order to develop a proper treatment. Thoughts, feelings or concerns that relate to the symptoms the subject is experiencing are also valuable to document in your study. If the subject undergoes any testing, describe all scores and assessments relevant to the case study.

5. Analyze the Data and Establish a Diagnosis

This step involves using the data from your research to analyze and select the appropriate diagnosis for the subject. To provide evidence to support your diagnosis, explain each step of your research methods and include the subject's symptoms. Symptoms can also provide support and show how the subject meets the diagnostic criteria for a specific disorder.

6. Choose a treatment approach

The next step in writing a psychology case study is to choose a treatment approach once you reach a diagnosis. Here are four treatment approaches you may decide to use:

  • (i). Cognitive-behavioral approach:- This approach allows a psychologist to offer treatment using therapy sessions and allowing a subject to develop cognitive-behavioral coping mechanisms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals adjust their ways of thinking and create healthier thinking patterns to improve their mental health.
  • (ii). Humanistic approach:- This approach describes treatments that relate to a subject's behavior, feelings and self-esteem. A psychologist may use a humanistic treatment to help a subject realize their potential and improve their overall well-being.
  • (iii). Psychoanalytic approach:- Psychoanalytic treatments use talk therapy to understand aspects of the unconscious mind and how it may affect behavior. This approach can help identify any repressed experiences or memories that may provoke symptoms of mental illness.
  • (iv). Pharmacological approach:- Psychiatrists who use this approach typically prescribe medication to treat symptoms of mental illness rather than talk therapy. Since this treatment primarily uses medication, it's vital to document each medication treatment and its effectiveness.

7. Describe treatment goals and processes

After identifying a treatment approach, define the goals of using this treatment, how you intend to use the treatment and any outcomes you expect to occur after treatment. Some goals may include eliminating symptoms entirely or using the treatment to reduce some symptoms and implement coping strategies so the subject can return to a functional life. It's important to document your treatment methods and monitor how the subject responds to the treatment to provide further information on the diagnosis for future research.

8. Write a Discussion Section

The last section in a psychology case study is the discussion section. In this section, you describe all processes, findings and factors of the case study, including any limitations and how the study supports previous research. This section also includes any psychological findings or ideas that may require further research. The discussion section gives you an opportunity to review all aspects of your study and determine its accuracy, the benefits it may provide to future research studies and approaches for treatment a psychologist may use with a different subject who has a similar history and symptoms.

Relationship between Education and Psychology

Psychology is closely related to education. Education is the modification of behaviour in a desirable direction or in a controlled environment and psychology is the study of behaviour or science of behaviour. To modify the behaviour or to bring about some changes in the behaviour it is necessary to study the science of behaviour. Thus, education and psychology are logically related.

The developmental stages of children and charcteristics are very essential factors which the teacher must know in order to be a successful teacher. The traditional education was subject centred and teacher dominated. But the modern concept of education has been changed into learning centred to learner centred.

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