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What is a case study?
  1. Roberta Heale1,
  2. Alison Twycross2
  1. 1School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2School of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Roberta Heale, School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON P3E2C6, Canada; rheale{at}laurentian.ca

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What is it?

Case study is a research methodology, typically seen in social and life sciences. There is no one definition of case study research.1 However, very simply… ‘a case study can be defined as an intensive study about a person, a group of people or a unit, which is aimed to generalize over several units’.1 A case study has also been described as an intensive, systematic investigation of a single individual, group, community or some other unit in which the researcher examines in-depth data relating to several variables.2

Researchers describe how case studies examine complex phenomena in the natural setting to increase understanding of them.3 4 Indeed, Sandelowski5 suggests using case studies in research means that the holistic nature of nursing care can be addressed. Furthermore, when describing the steps undertaken while using a case study approach, this method of research allows the researcher to take a complex and broad topic, or phenomenon, and narrow it down into a manageable research question(s). By collecting qualitative or quantitative datasets about the phenomenon, the researcher gains a more in-depth insight into the phenomenon than would be obtained using only one type of data. This is illustrated in the examples provided at the end of this paper.

Often there are …

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