Case study research is a widely-used approach in qualitative research. The advantages of case study research include its ability to investigate complex social phenomena and to handle dense data. However, it has several drawbacks, such as defining the case and ensuring rigour. The large variety in descriptions of case study implementation makes the application of case study research a challenge for novice and experienced researchers alike. The aim of this paper is to describe a novice’s foray into case study research, illustrating advantages, drawbacks, and applications of case study research through examples from a previously conducted case study. By mapping consistencies and differences in the case study descriptions, this paper offers a way for novice researchers to familiarize themselves with the range of case study perspectives and with the choices and considerations that must accompany the choice of case study research. This paper shows the definitional and structural challenges that case study researchers may face. We identified 14 descriptions of case study research with unclear or overlapping distinctions. Despite the large number of variations in case study descriptions, we singled out one main distinction: the distinction between multiple and single case studies. The sheer proliferation of how case study research should be conducted underlines the great responsibility case study researchers have when choosing an analytical and methodological approach and ensuring rigour in their research.


case study research, novice researchers, generalizability, health services research

Author Bio(s)

Malin Knutsen Glette, PhD, is a member of the Faculty of Health Science, SHARE – Centre for Resilience in Healthcare at the University of Stavanger; and member of the Faculty of Health, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Haugesund, Norway. Please direct correspondence to Malinknutsen.glette@hvl.no.

Siri Wiig is Professor of Quality and Safety in Healthcare Systems, Faculty of Health Science, SHARE – Centre for Resilience in Healthcare at the University of Stavanger, Norway. Please direct correspondence to Siri.wiig@uis.no.

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