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Qualitative study design

Case Studies


In depth description of the experience of a single person, a family, a group, a community or an organisation.



An example of a qualitative case study is a life history which is the story of one specific person.  A case study may be done to highlight a specific issue by telling a story of one person or one group. 


  • Observation
  • Interview
  • Oral recording
  • Documents


strengths Strengths

  • Ability to explore and describe, in depth, an issue or event. 

  • Develop an understanding of health, illness and health care in context. 

  • Single case can be used to develop or disprove a theory. 

  • Can be used as a model or prototype. 


limitations Limitations

  • Labour intensive and generates large diverse data sets which can be hard to manage. 

  • Case studies are seen by many as a weak methodology because they only look at one person or one specific group and aren’t as broad in their participant selection as other methodologies. 


iconExample questions

This methodology can be used to ask questions about a specific drug or treatment and its effects on an individual.

  • Does thalidomide cause birth defects?
  • Does exposure to a pesticide lead to cancer?


iconExample studies

  • Choi, T. S. T., Walker, K. Z., & Palermo, C. (2018). Diabetes management in a foreign land: A case study on Chinese Australians. Health & Social Care in the Community, 26(2), e225-e232. 
  • Wingrove, K., Barbour, L., & Palermo, C. (2017). Exploring nutrition capacity in Australia's charitable food sector. Nutrition & Dietetics, 74(5), 495-501. 


  • Green, J., & Thorogood, N. (2018). Qualitative methods for health research (4th ed.). London: SAGE.