I can’t find an answer that explicitly says that a case study is a type of research (e.g. analytical research paper, persuasive research paper, definition research paper, etc.). There’s this site that says that a case study is a research methodology (it’s the third chapter of a research paper).

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    You need to be a bit clearer. Most case studies used in education are at least a bit contrived.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 11:57
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    The term is applied differently in different disciplines, it seems. What discipline is your question referring to? Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:27
  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


The case study is a qualitative research method in several disciplines, mostly in the social sciences.1 A research paper that builds on this method might also be referred to as a "case study".2

1 See e.g. Gerring, J. (2007) Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

2 See e.g. Hooghe, L. (2005) ‘Several Roads Lead to International Norms, but Few Via International Socialization: A Case Study of the European Commission’. International Organization, Vol. 59, No. 4, pp. 861–898.

  • Thank you so much for clarifying. Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:30

A "case study" can mean several things:

  1. A small[*] piece of original research that was published as part of another research paper or review. For example: a paper describes a theory and subsequently applies it to a small and well-defined subset (a case) of possible applications of the theory, thereby providing anecdotal evidence that the theory is useful,

  2. Particularly in the social sciences, a "case study" may be described in a separate paper, and present anecdotal evidence (or contradiction) of a theory that was published elsewhere. (So similar to (1), but the "case study" is now a separate publication)

  3. A study that is not published in a peer-reviewed journal, but used for example to promote new equipment from a commercial manufacturer by demonstrating its usefulness for the given "case" (this is also called "application note").

Note also that some journals have very specific requirements for the publication types they accept, and that those types are defined by the journal in question.

[*] see commments

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    +1 Most qualitative social science researchers would argue that case studies can be designed to provide much more than anecdotal evidence, however! (Even most quants would agree.) And (especially comparative) case studies are not necessarily "small" pieces of research. The three case studies by Theda Skocpol in "States and Social Revolutions" span some 300 pages and go to profound depths. Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:21
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    @henning Just to clarify: "small" here is meant with respect to the set containing all the other possible cases, not to describe the amount of effort invested in the research or length of the paper or something like that.
    – Louic
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:39
  • I see, "small n" then. Thanks for clarifying. Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:49

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