Case studies are a type of written assessment used in a range of disciplines that you might be studying at college or university.
In this article, we are going to be taking a look at the format required for a case study if you are studying Psychology.
What is a Psychology Case Study?
In the context of the study of psychology, a case study is an in-depth investigation of a single person, a group of people, a specific event, or a defined community. It is a way of bringing together data from a range of different sources and methods. It’s a form of research most closely associated with Sigmund Freud.
The data that you might seek to include in your psychology case study is an observation of the subject’s daily routine, unstructured interviews with the subject, review of diaries or personal documents as well as the review of more formal documents such as medical files or clinical notes. Most of the data that you will be reviewing and presenting in your case study will be qualitative data. You would most likely supplement this qualitative data with numerical data that you have also collected.
When you are analyzing the data that you are presenting in your case study, you will be applying one of the accepted psychology theories. These include a grounded theory, interpretative phenomenological analysis, or text interpretation such as thematic coding.
Step 1: Observation
If you are applying the case study approach to a subject in your psychology studies, often you will be required to observe the subject, or to try and reconstruct the case history of the subject that you are studying. This is described as the idiographic approach.
Step 2: Data
Data that you may want to include in your case study could include the subjects medical records, employer reports, school reports, or psychological test results. This phase of the process will generally include an interview with the subject and other people relevant to the experience of the subject, such as the subject’s friends, parents, employer, work colleagues, or other relevant people.
Step 3: Interpretation
The researcher needs to be competent enough to be able to understand what their observation and data collection is telling them. The case study format is designed to enable the researcher to interpret all of the available information so that they can provide insights and assessment regarding the subject of the study.
Psychological case studies are an effective way to present available data and provide vivid insight into your chosen subject. However, case studies are not perfect – they are only dealing with the specific subject, so it is not a given interpretation or insights of the case study can be applied to any other subjects or in a wider context. Also, the strength of the psychological case study is in the competence and interpretative abilities of the researcher. This is a subjective analysis of qualitative data and information, so different researchers will most likely reach different conclusions depending on the interpretation they make. Even Freud was criticised for producing case studies in which it seemed that the available information had been distorted to suit the behavioral theories that he was wanting to present.