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What Is a Case Study?

An in-depth study of one person, group, or event

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

psychology case studies techniques

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

psychology case studies techniques

Verywell / Colleen Tighe

Benefits and Limitations

Types of case studies, how to write a case study.

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 various fields, including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.

The purpose of a case study is to learn as much as possible about an individual or group so that the information can be generalized to many others. Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective, and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.

While case studies focus on a single individual or group, they follow a format similar to other types of psychology writing. If you are writing a case study, it is important to follow the rules of APA format .  

A case study can have both strengths and weaknesses. Researchers must consider these pros and cons before deciding if this type of study is appropriate for their needs.

One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult to impossible to replicate in a lab. Some other benefits of a case study:

  • Allows researchers to collect a great deal of information
  • Give researchers the chance to collect information on rare or unusual cases
  • Permits researchers to develop hypotheses that can be explored in experimental research

On the negative side, a case study:

  • Cannot necessarily be generalized to the larger population
  • Cannot demonstrate cause and effect
  • May not be scientifically rigorous
  • Can lead to bias

Researchers may choose to perform a case study if they are interested in exploring a unique or recently discovered phenomenon. The insights gained from such research can help the researchers develop additional ideas and study questions that might be explored in future studies.

However, it is important to remember that the insights gained from case studies cannot be used to determine cause and effect relationships between variables. However, case studies may be used to develop hypotheses that can then be addressed in experimental research.

Case Study Examples

There have been a number of notable case studies in the history of psychology. Much of  Freud's work and theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include:

  • Anna O : Anna O. was a pseudonym of a woman named Bertha Pappenheim, a patient of a physician named Josef Breuer. While she was never a patient of Freud's, Freud and Breuer discussed her case extensively. The woman was experiencing symptoms of a condition that was then known as hysteria and found that talking about her problems helped relieve her symptoms. Her case played an important part in the development of talk therapy as an approach to mental health treatment.
  • Phineas Gage : Phineas Gage was a railroad employee who experienced a terrible accident in which an explosion sent a metal rod through his skull, damaging important portions of his brain. Gage recovered from his accident but was left with serious changes in both personality and behavior.
  • Genie : Genie was a young girl subjected to horrific abuse and isolation. The case study of Genie allowed researchers to study whether language could be taught even after critical periods for language development had been missed. Her case also served as an example of how scientific research may interfere with treatment and lead to further abuse of vulnerable individuals.

Such cases demonstrate how case research can be used to study things that researchers could not replicate in experimental settings. In Genie's case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity to learn language at critical points in her development.

This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to study phenomena that are otherwise impossible to reproduce.

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

  • 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. For example, psychologists might explore how access to resources in a community has affected the collective mental well-being of those living there.
  • 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.
  • Explanatory case studies : These   are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have caused certain things to occur.
  • 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 .
  • Instrumental case studies : These occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.
  • 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.

The three main case study types often used are intrinsic, instrumental, and collective. Intrinsic case studies are useful for learning about unique cases. Instrumental case studies help look at an individual to learn more about a broader issue. A collective case study can be useful for looking at several cases simultaneously.

The type of case study that psychology researchers utilize depends on the unique characteristics of the situation as well as the case itself.

There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study, including prospective and retrospective case study methods.

Prospective case study methods are those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to observe the progression of a particular disease.

Retrospective case study methods involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to look at information about the individual's life to determine risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of the illness.

Where to Find Data

There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. Six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:

  • Archival records : Census records, survey records, and name lists are examples of archival records.
  • Direct observation : This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting . While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
  • Documents : Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc., are the types of documents often used as sources.
  • Interviews : Interviews are one of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involve structured survey questions or more open-ended questions.
  • Participant observation : When the researcher serves as a participant in events and observes the actions and outcomes, it is called participant observation.
  • Physical artifacts : Tools, objects, instruments, and other artifacts are often observed during a direct observation of the subject.

Section 1: A Case History

This section will have the following structure and content:

Background information : The first section of your paper will present your client's background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.

Description of the presenting problem : In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with.

Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.

Your diagnosis : Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the client's symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.

Section 2: Treatment Plan

This portion of the paper will address the chosen treatment for the condition. This might also include the theoretical basis for the chosen treatment or any other evidence that might exist to support why this approach was chosen.

  • Cognitive behavioral approach : Explain how a cognitive behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
  • Humanistic approach : Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy . Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client's reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
  • Psychoanalytic approach : Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client's problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
  • Pharmacological approach : If treatment primarily involves the use of medications, explain which medications were used and why. Provide background on the effectiveness of these medications and how monotherapy may compare with an approach that combines medications with therapy or other treatments.

This section of a case study should also include information about the treatment goals, process, and outcomes.

When you are writing a case study, you should also include a section where you discuss the case study itself, including the strengths and limitiations of the study. You should note how the findings of your case study might support previous research. 

In your discussion section, you should also describe some of the implications of your case study. What ideas or findings might require further exploration? How might researchers go about exploring some of these questions in additional studies?

Here are a few additional pointers to keep in mind when formatting your case study:

  • Never refer to the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, their name or a pseudonym.
  • Read examples of case studies to gain an idea about the style and format.
  • Remember to use APA format when citing references .

A Word From Verywell

Case studies can be a useful research tool, but they need to be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They are helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a great deal of information about a specific individual or group of people.

If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to follow. If you are writing your case study for professional publication, be sure to check with the publisher for their specific guidelines for submitting a case study.

Simply Psychology. Case Study Method .

Crowe S, Cresswell K, Robertson A, Huby G, Avery A, Sheikh A. The case study approach . BMC Med Res Methodol . 2011 Jun 27;11:100. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100

Gagnon, Yves-Chantal.  The Case Study as Research Method: A Practical Handbook . Canada, Chicago Review Press Incorporated DBA Independent Pub Group, 2010.

Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . United States, SAGE Publications, 2017.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Case Study Research Method in Psychology

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Educator, Researcher

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources and by using several different methods (e.g., observations & interviews).

The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient’s personal history). In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual.

The information is mainly biographical and relates to events in the individual’s past (i.e., retrospective), as well as to significant events which are currently occurring in his or her everyday life.

The case study is not itself a research method, but researchers select methods of data collection and analysis that will generate material suitable for case studies.

Case studies are widely used in psychology, and amongst the best known were the ones carried out by Sigmund Freud, including Anna O and Little Hans .

Freud (1909a, 1909b) conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses.

Even today, case histories are one of the main methods of investigation in abnormal psychology and psychiatry.

This makes it clear that the case study is a method that should only be used by a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, i.e., someone with a professional qualification.

There is an ethical issue of competence. Only someone qualified to diagnose and treat a person can conduct a formal case study relating to atypical (i.e., abnormal) behavior or atypical development.

The procedure used in a case study means that the researcher provides a description of the behavior. This comes from interviews and other sources, such as observation.

The client also reports detail of events from his or her point of view. The researcher then writes up the information from both sources above as the case study and interprets the information.

The research may also continue for an extended period of time, so processes and developments can be studied as they happen.

Amongst the sources of data the psychologist is likely to turn to when carrying out a case study are observations of a person’s daily routine, unstructured interviews with the participant herself (and with people who know her), diaries, personal notes (e.g., letters, photographs, notes) or official document (e.g., case notes, clinical notes, appraisal reports).

The case study method often involves simply observing what happens to or reconstructing ‘the case history’ of a single participant or group of individuals (such as a school class or a specific social group), i.e., the idiographic approach .

The interview is also an extremely effective procedure for obtaining information about an individual, and it may be used to collect comments from the person’s friends, parents, employer, workmates, and others who have a good knowledge of the person, as well as to obtain facts from the person him or herself.

Most of this information is likely to be qualitative (i.e., verbal description rather than measurement), but the psychologist might collect numerical data as well.

The data collected can be analyzed using different theories (e.g., grounded theory, interpretative phenomenological analysis, text interpretation, e.g., thematic coding).

All the approaches mentioned here use preconceived categories in the analysis, and they are ideographic in their approach, i.e., they focus on the individual case without reference to a comparison group.

Interpreting the information means the researcher decides what to include or leave out. A good case study should always clarify which information is the factual description and which is an inference or the researcher’s opinion.

  • Provides detailed (rich qualitative) information.
  • Provides insight for further research.
  • Permitting investigation of otherwise impractical (or unethical) situations.

Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants (nomothetic approach) with the aim of ‘averaging’.

Because of their in-depth, multi-sided approach, case studies often shed light on aspects of human thinking and behavior that would be unethical or impractical to study in other ways.

Research that only looks into the measurable aspects of human behavior is not likely to give us insights into the subjective dimension of experience, which is important to psychoanalytic and humanistic psychologists.

Case studies are often used in exploratory research. They can help us generate new ideas (that might be tested by other methods). They are an important way of illustrating theories and can help show how different aspects of a person’s life are related to each other.

The method is, therefore, important for psychologists who adopt a holistic point of view (i.e., humanistic psychologists ).


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

Because a case study deals with only one person/event/group, we can never be sure if the case study investigated is representative of the wider body of “similar” instances. This means the conclusions drawn from a particular case may not be transferable to other settings.

Because case studies are based on the analysis of qualitative (i.e., descriptive) data , a lot depends on the psychologist’s interpretation of the information she has acquired.

This means that there is a lot of scope for observer bias , and it could be that the subjective opinions of the psychologist intrude in the assessment of what the data means.

For example, Freud has been criticized for producing case studies in which the information was sometimes distorted to fit particular behavioral theories (e.g., Little Hans ).

This is also true of Money’s interpretation of the Bruce/Brenda case study (Diamond, 1997) when he ignored evidence that went against his theory.

Diamond, M., & Sigmundson, K. (1997). Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-term Review and Clinical Implications. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , 151(3), 298-304

Freud, S. (1909a). Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306

Freud, S. (1909b). Bemerkungen über einen Fall von Zwangsneurose (Der “Rattenmann”). Jb. psychoanal. psychopathol. Forsch ., I, p. 357-421; GW, VII, p. 379-463; Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis, SE , 10: 151-318.

Further Information

  • Case Study Approach
  • Case Study Method
  • Enhancing the Quality of Case Studies in Health Services Research
  • “We do things together” A case study of “couplehood” in dementia
  • Using mixed methods for evaluating an integrative approach to cancer care: a case study

psychology case studies techniques

psychology case studies techniques

How to Write a Psychology Case Study: Expert Tips

psychology case studies techniques

Have you ever heard of Phineas Gage, a man whose life story became a legendary case study in the annals of psychology? In the mid-19th century, Gage, a railroad construction foreman, survived a near-fatal accident when an iron rod pierced through his skull, severely damaging his brain. What makes this tale truly remarkable is that, despite his physical recovery, Gage's personality underwent a dramatic transformation. He went from being a mild-mannered and responsible individual to becoming impulsive and unpredictable. This remarkable case marked the dawn of psychology's fascination with understanding the intricate workings of the human mind. Case studies, like the one of Phineas Gage, have been a cornerstone of our understanding of human behavior ever since.

Short Description

In this article, we'll unravel the secrets of case study psychology as the powerful tool of this field. We will explore its essence and why these investigations are so crucial in understanding human behavior. Discover the various types of case studies, gain insights from real-world examples, and uncover the essential steps and expert tips on how to craft your very own compelling study. Get ready to embark on a comprehensive exploration of this invaluable research method.

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What Is a Case Study in Psychology

A case study psychology definition can be compared to a magnifying glass turned toward a single individual, group, or phenomenon. According to our paper writer , it's a focused investigation that delves deep into the unique complexities of a particular subject. Rather than sifting through mountains of data, a case study allows us to zoom in and scrutinize the details, uncovering the 'whys' and 'hows' that often remain hidden in broader research.

A psychology case study is not about generalizations or sweeping theories; it's about the intricacies of real-life situations. It's the detective work of the field, aiming to unveil the 'story behind the data' and offering profound insights into human behavior, emotions, and experiences. So, while psychology as a whole may study the forest, a case study takes you on a journey through the trees, revealing the unique patterns, quirks, and secrets that make each one distinct.

The Significance of Psychology Case Studies

Writing a psychology case study plays a pivotal role in the world of research and understanding the human mind. Here's why they are so crucial, according to our ' do my essay ' experts:

how to write psychology case study

  • In-Depth Exploration: Case studies provide an opportunity to explore complex human behaviors and experiences in great detail. By diving deep into a specific case, researchers can uncover nuances that might be overlooked in broader studies.
  • Unique Perspectives: Every individual and situation is unique, and case studies allow us to capture this diversity. They offer a chance to highlight the idiosyncrasies that make people who they are and situations what they are.
  • Theory Testing: Case studies are a way to test and refine psychological theories in real-world scenarios. They provide practical insights that can validate or challenge existing hypotheses.
  • Practical Applications: The knowledge gained from case studies can be applied to various fields, from clinical psychology to education and business. It helps professionals make informed decisions and develop effective interventions.
  • Holistic Understanding: Case studies often involve a comprehensive examination of an individual's life or a particular phenomenon. This holistic approach contributes to a more profound comprehension of human behavior and the factors that influence it.

Varieties of a Psychology Case Study

When considering how to write a psychology case study, you should remember that it is a diverse field, and so are the case studies conducted within it. Let's explore the different types from our ' write my research paper ' experts:

  • Descriptive Case Studies: These focus on providing a detailed description of a particular case or phenomenon. They serve as a foundation for further research and can be valuable in generating hypotheses.
  • Exploratory Case Studies: Exploratory studies aim to investigate novel or scarcely explored areas within psychology. They often pave the way for more in-depth research by generating new questions and ideas.
  • Explanatory Case Studies: These delve into the 'why' and 'how' of a particular case, seeking to explain the underlying factors or mechanisms that drive a particular behavior or event.
  • Instrumental Case Studies: In these cases, the individual or situation under examination is instrumental in testing or illustrating a particular theory or concept in psychology.
  • Intrinsic Case Studies: Contrary to instrumental case studies, intrinsic ones explore a case for its own unique significance, aiming to understand the specific details and intricacies of that case without primarily serving as a tool to test broader theories.
  • Collective Case Studies: These studies involve the examination of multiple cases to identify common patterns or differences. They are helpful when researchers seek to generalize findings across a group.
  • Longitudinal Case Studies: Longitudinal studies track a case over an extended period, allowing researchers to observe changes and developments over time.
  • Cross-Sectional Case Studies: In contrast, cross-sectional case studies involve the examination of a case at a single point in time, offering a snapshot of that particular moment.

The Advantages of Psychology Case Studies

Learning how to write a case study offers numerous benefits, making it a valuable research method in the field. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Rich Insights: Case studies provide in-depth insights into individual behavior and experiences, allowing researchers to uncover unique patterns, motivations, and complexities.
  • Holistic Understanding: By examining a case in its entirety, researchers can gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence human behavior, including psychological, environmental, and contextual aspects.
  • Theory Development: Case studies contribute to theory development by providing real-world examples that can validate or refine existing psychological theories.
  • Personalized Approach: Researchers can tailor their methods to fit the specific case, making it a flexible approach that can adapt to the unique characteristics of the subject.
  • Application in Practice: The knowledge gained from case studies can be applied in various practical settings, such as clinical psychology, education, and organizational management, to develop more effective interventions and solutions.
  • Real-World Relevance: Psychology case studies often address real-life issues, making the findings relevant and applicable to everyday situations.
  • Qualitative Data: They generate qualitative data, which can be rich in detail and context, offering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
  • Hypothesis Generation: Case studies can spark new research questions and hypotheses, guiding further investigations in psychology.
  • Ethical Considerations: In some cases, case studies can be conducted in situations where experimental research may not be ethical, providing valuable insights that would otherwise be inaccessible.
  • Educational Value: Case studies are commonly used as teaching tools, helping students apply theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios and encouraging critical thinking.

How to Write a Psychology Case Study

Crafting a psychology case study requires a meticulous approach that combines the art of storytelling with the precision of scientific analysis. In this section, we'll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to create an engaging and informative psychology case study, from selecting the right subject to presenting your findings effectively.

Step 1: Gathering Information for Subject Profiling

To create a comprehensive psychology case study, the first crucial step is gathering all the necessary information to build a detailed profile of your subject. This profile forms the backbone of your study, offering a deeper understanding of the individual or situation you're examining.

According to our case study writing service , you should begin by collecting a range of data, including personal history, demographics, behavioral observations, and any relevant documentation. Interviews, surveys, and direct observations are common methods to gather this information. Ensure that the data you collect is relevant to the specific aspects of the subject's life or behavior that you intend to investigate.

By meticulously gathering and organizing this data, you'll lay the foundation for a robust case study that not only informs your readers but also provides the context needed to make meaningful observations and draw insightful conclusions.

Step 2: Selecting a Case Study Method

Once you have gathered all the essential information about your subject, the next step in crafting a psychology case study is to choose the most appropriate case study method. The method you select will determine how you approach the analysis and presentation of your findings. Here are some common case study methods to consider:

  • Single-Subject Case Study: This method focuses on a single individual or a particular event, offering a detailed examination of that subject's experiences and behaviors.
  • Comparative Case Study: In this approach, you analyze two or more cases to draw comparisons or contrasts, revealing patterns or differences among them.
  • Longitudinal Case Study: A longitudinal study involves tracking a subject or group over an extended period, observing changes and developments over time.
  • Cross-Sectional Case Study: This method involves analyzing subjects at a specific point in time, offering a snapshot of their current state.
  • Exploratory Case Study: Exploratory studies are ideal for investigating new or underexplored areas within psychology.
  • Explanatory Case Study: If your goal is to uncover the underlying factors and mechanisms behind a specific behavior or phenomenon, the explanatory case study is a suitable choice.

Step 3: Gathering Background Information on the Subject

In the process of learning how to write a psychology case study, it's essential to delve into the subject's background to build a complete and meaningful narrative. The background information serves as a crucial context for understanding the individual or situation under investigation.

To gather this information effectively:

  • Personal History: Explore the subject's life history, including their upbringing, family background, education, and career path. These details provide insights into their development and experiences.
  • Demographics: Collect demographic data, such as age, gender, and cultural background, as part of your data collection process. These factors can be influential in understanding behavior and experiences.
  • Relevant Events: Identify any significant life events, experiences, or transitions that might have had an impact on the subject's psychology and behavior.
  • Psychological Factors: Assess the subject's psychological profile, including personality traits, cognitive abilities, and emotional well-being, if applicable.
  • Social and Environmental Factors: Consider the subject's social and environmental context, including relationships, living conditions, and cultural influences.

Step 4: Detailing the Subject's Challenges

While writing a psychology case study, it is crucial to provide a thorough description of the subject's symptoms or the challenges they are facing. This step allows you to dive deeper into the specific issues that are the focus of your study, providing clarity and context for your readers.

To effectively describe the subject's symptoms or challenges, consider the following from our psychology essay writing service :

  • Symptomatology: Enumerate the symptoms, behaviors, or conditions that the subject is experiencing. This could include emotional states, cognitive patterns, or any psychological distress.
  • Onset and Duration: Specify when the symptoms or challenges began and how long they have persisted. This timeline can offer insights into the progression of the issue.
  • Impact: Discuss the impact of these symptoms on the subject's daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. Consider their functional impairment and how it relates to the observed issues.
  • Relevant Diagnoses: If applicable, mention any psychological or psychiatric diagnoses that have been made in relation to the subject's symptoms. This information can shed light on the clinical context of the case.

Step 5: Analyzing Data and Establishing a Diagnosis

Once you have gathered all the necessary information and described the subject's symptoms or challenges, the next critical step is to analyze the data and, if applicable, establish a diagnosis.

To effectively analyze the data and potentially make a diagnosis:

  • Data Synthesis: Organize and synthesize the collected data, bringing together all the relevant information in a coherent and structured manner.
  • Pattern Recognition: Identify patterns, themes, and connections within the data. Look for recurring behaviors, triggers, or factors that might contribute to the observed symptoms or challenges.
  • Comparison with Diagnostic Criteria: If the study involves diagnosing a psychological condition, compare the subject's symptoms and experiences with established diagnostic criteria, such as those found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
  • Professional Consultation: It is advisable to consult with qualified professionals, such as clinical psychologists or psychiatrists, to ensure that the diagnosis, if applicable, is accurate and well-informed.
  • Thorough Assessment: Ensure a comprehensive evaluation of the data, considering all possible factors and nuances before reaching any conclusions.

Step 6: Choosing an Intervention Strategy

Choosing an appropriate intervention approach is a pivotal phase in case study psychology, especially if your subject's case involves therapeutic considerations. Here's how to navigate this step effectively:

  • Review Findings: Revisit the data and analysis you've conducted to gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject's symptoms, challenges, and needs.
  • Consultation: If you're not a qualified mental health professional, it's advisable to consult with experts in the field, such as clinical psychologists or psychiatrists. They can offer valuable insights and recommendations for treatment.
  • Tailored Approach: Select a treatment approach that is tailored to the subject's specific needs and diagnosis, if applicable. This could involve psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of interventions.
  • Goal Setting: Clearly define the goals and objectives of the chosen treatment approach. What do you hope to achieve, and how will progress be measured?
  • Informed Consent: If the subject is involved in the decision-making process, ensure they provide informed consent and are fully aware of the chosen treatment's details, potential benefits, and risks.
  • Implementation and Monitoring: Once the treatment plan is established, put it into action and closely monitor the subject's progress. Make necessary adjustments based on their responses and evolving needs.
  • Ethical Considerations: Be mindful of ethical standards and maintain the subject's confidentiality and well-being throughout the treatment process.

Step 7: Explaining Treatment Objectives and Procedures

In the final phases of your psychology case study, it's essential to provide a clear and detailed description of the treatment goals and processes that have been implemented. This step ensures that your readers understand the therapeutic journey and its intended outcomes.

Here's how to effectively describe treatment goals and processes:

  • Specific Goals: Outline the specific goals of the chosen treatment approach. What are you aiming to achieve in terms of the subject's well-being, symptom reduction, or overall improvement?
  • Interventions: Describe the therapeutic interventions that have been employed, including psychotherapeutic techniques, medications, or other strategies. Explain how these interventions are intended to address the subject's challenges.
  • Timelines: Specify the expected timeline for achieving treatment goals. This may include short-term and long-term objectives, as well as milestones for assessing progress.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Discuss the methods used to monitor and evaluate the subject's response to treatment. How are you measuring progress or setbacks, and how frequently are assessments conducted?
  • Adjustments: Explain how the treatment plan is adaptable as you would in a persuasive essay . If modifications to the goals or interventions are required, clarify the decision-making process for making such adjustments.
  • Collaboration: If relevant, highlight any collaboration with other professionals involved in the subject's care, emphasizing a multidisciplinary approach for comprehensive treatment.
  • Patient Involvement: If the subject is actively engaged in their treatment, detail their role, responsibilities, and any tools or resources provided to support their participation.

Step 8: Crafting the Discussion and Concluding Remarks

In the final phase of your psychology case study, the discussion section is where you interpret the findings, reflect on the significance of your study, and offer insights into the broader implications of the case. Here's how to effectively write this section:

  • Interpretation: Begin by interpreting the data and analysis you've presented in your case study. What do the findings reveal about the subject's psychology, behavior, or experiences?
  • Relevance to Research Questions: Discuss how your findings align with or deviate from the initial research questions or hypotheses you set out to investigate.
  • Comparison with Literature: Compare your findings with existing literature and research in the field of psychology. Highlight any consistencies or disparities and explain their significance.
  • Clinical Considerations: If your case study has clinical or practical relevance, address the implications for therapeutic approaches, interventions, or clinical practices.
  • Generalizability: Evaluate the extent to which the insights from your case study can be generalized to a broader population or other similar cases.
  • Strengths and Limitations: Be candid about the strengths and limitations of your case study. Acknowledge any constraints or biases and explain how they might have influenced the results.
  • Future Research Directions: Suggest areas for future research or additional case studies that could build on your findings and deepen our understanding of the subject matter.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the key takeaways from your case study and provide a concise conclusion that encapsulates the main findings and their significance.

5 Helpful Tips for Crafting a Psychology Case Study

Much like learning how to write a synthesis essay , writing a compelling case study involves careful planning and attention to detail. Here are some essential guidelines to help you in the process:

  • Consider Cultural Sensitivity: Recognize the importance of cultural diversity and sensitivity in your case study. Take into account the cultural background of your subject and its potential impact on their behavior and experiences.
  • Use Clear Citations: Properly cite all sources, including previous research, theories, and relevant literature. Accurate citations lend credibility to your case study and acknowledge the work of others.
  • Engage in Peer Discussion: Engage in discussions with peers or colleagues in the field throughout the case study process. Collaborative brainstorming and sharing insights can lead to a more well-rounded study.
  • Be Mindful of Ethics: Continuously monitor and reassess the ethical considerations of your case study, especially when it involves sensitive topics or individuals. Prioritize the well-being and rights of your participants.
  • Practice Patience and Persistence: Case studies can be time-consuming and may encounter setbacks. Exercise patience and persistence to ensure the quality and comprehensiveness of your research.

Case Study Psychology Example

In this psychology case study example, we delve into a compelling story that serves as a window into the fascinating realm of psychological research, offering valuable insights and practical applications.

Final Outlook

As we conclude this comprehensive writing guide on how to write a psychology case study, remember that every case holds a unique story waiting to be unraveled. The art of crafting a compelling case study lies in your hands, offering a window into the intricate world of the human mind. We encourage you to embark on your own investigative journeys, armed with the knowledge and skills acquired here, to contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of psychology.

Ready to Unravel the Mysteries of the Human Mind?

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Case Studies

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

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Case studies are very detailed investigations of an individual or small group of people, usually regarding an unusual phenomenon or biographical event of interest to a research field. Due to a small sample, the case study can conduct an in-depth analysis of the individual/group.

Evaluation of case studies:

- Case studies create opportunities for a rich yield of data, and the depth of analysis can in turn bring high levels of validity (i.e. providing an accurate and exhaustive measure of what the study is hoping to measure).

- Studying abnormal psychology can give insight into how something works when it is functioning correctly, such as brain damage on memory (e.g. the case study of patient KF, whose short-term memory was impaired following a motorcycle accident but left his long-term memory intact, suggesting there might be separate physical stores in the brain for short and long-term memory).

- The detail collected on a single case may lead to interesting findings that conflict with current theories, and stimulate new paths for research.

- There is little control over a number of variables involved in a case study, so it is difficult to confidently establish any causal relationships between variables.

- Case studies are unusual by nature, so will have poor reliability as replicating them exactly will be unlikely.

- Due to the small sample size, it is unlikely that findings from a case study alone can be generalised to a whole population.

- The case study’s researcher may become so involved with the study that they exhibit bias in their interpretation and presentation of the data, making it challenging to distinguish what is truly objective/factual.

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Introduction to Psychology/Case Studies

Case study in psychology refers to the use of a descriptive research approach to obtain an in-depth analysis of a person, group, or phenomenon. A variety of techniques may be employed including personal interviews, direct-observation , psychometric tests , and archival records. The psychology case studies are mostly used in clinical research to describe rare events and conditions, which contradict well established principles in the field of psychology . [1] Case studies are generally a single-case design, but can also be a multiple-case design, where replication instead of sampling is the criterion for inclusion. [2] Like other research methodologies within psychology, the case study must produce valid and reliable results in order to be useful for the development of future research. Distinct advantages and disadvantages are associated with the case study in psychology.

  • 1 Advantages
  • 2 Disadvantages
  • 3 Famous case studies in psychology
  • 4 References

Advantages [ edit | edit source ]

One major advantage of the case study in psychology is the potential for the development of novel hypotheses for later testing. Second, the case study can provide detailed descriptions of specific and rare cases.

Disadvantages [ edit | edit source ]

The major disadvantages of the case study in psychology is the inability to draw cause and effect relationships or test hypotheses. Further, with the case study it is impossible to generalize the findings to a wider population. [1]

Famous case studies in psychology [ edit | edit source ]

  • Phineas Gage
  • Freud and Little Hans
  • John Money and the John/Joan case
  • Genie (feral child)
  • Piaget's studies
  • Washoe (sign language)

References [ edit | edit source ]

  • ↑ a b Christensen, L. B. (1994).“Experimental methodology"( 6th ed).,Simon & Schuster:Needham Heights, MA. ISBN 978-0-205-15506-4 .
  • ↑ Yin, R.(1994). “Case study research: Design and methods” (2nd ed.).Sage Publishing:Beverly Hills, CA. ISBN 978-0-7619-2553-8 .

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Case Study Method in Psychology

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:

  • 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.
  • To obtain enough information for drawing correct inferences.
  • To make a complete study of the social unit covering all facets.
  • Try to understand the complex factors that are operative within a social unit as an integrated totality.
  • 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.
  • To know the mutual inter-relationship of causal factors.
  • The behavior pattern of the concerning unit is studied directly and not by an indirect and abstract approach.
  • 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

  • Provides a detailed description of rare and specific cases.
  • Provides an opportunity for innovation.
  • Allow researchers to collect rich qualitative information.
  • 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

  • Lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population.
  • Researchers' own subjective feeling may influence the case study (researcher bias).
  • Difficult to replicate.
  • Time-consuming and expensive.
  • 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:

  • (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.

  • Introspection and Observation Method in Psychology
  • Adolescence Development: Meaning and Characteristics
  • Meaning Definitions, Nature and Scope of Psychology

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