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The case study approach

Sarah Crowe1*, Kathrin Cresswell2, Ann Robertson2, Guro Huby3, Anthony Avery1 and Aziz Sheikh2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Primary Care, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

2 Centre for Population Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

3 School of Health in Social Science, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100

Published: 27 June 2011


The case study approach allows in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life settings. The value of the case study approach is well recognised in the fields of business, law and policy, but somewhat less so in health services research. Based on our experiences of conducting several health-related case studies, we reflect on the different types of case study design, the specific research questions this approach can help answer, the data sources that tend to be used, and the particular advantages and disadvantages of employing this methodological approach. The paper concludes with key pointers to aid those designing and appraising proposals for conducting case study research, and a checklist to help readers assess the quality of case study reports.