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Social Work and Human Services Guide: Case Studies

Find targeted resources for research and referencing

Case study analysis tips

The case study analysis consists of two parts, the group and individual components.  Here are some tips and critical questions:

Group Component:

A critical analysis examines the case study according to key concepts and includes evidence to support and reinforce core concepts and community work theories and practices.

Unpack the case study from a social work perspective by:

  1. Outlining important theories, theorists, frameworks etc.
  2. Identify understandings of community, models of practice, state or partnership influences, decision-making and leadership strategies, and other key concepts using evidence from the case study.
  3. What is happening in the case study and how does it relate to what you have learned about community work?
  4. What is the relationship that exists between the key theories, and implications for best practice in community work?
  5. Identify any limitations and possible areas for further research.

Individual Component:

A discussion paper considers and offers an interpretation or evaluation of something; or gives a judgement of the value of arguments and application to a specific context (eg. your chosen local context).

In your discussion paper:

  1. Briefly describe the case study and your chosen community context.
  2. Explain the implications for your own community.  In order to do this, your discussion paper must outline specific issues within your community .
  3. In your discussion paper, use evidence and examples from the case study to demonstrate your understanding of specific issues and the application/relevance of those issues to your own community.
  4. What are the "take home messages" from the case study and how may the lessons/findings be applied to your chosen community as a community worker?

Case study analysis: Tips from the experts

In their article "How to Critically Evaluate Case Studies in Social Work", Lee, Mishna and Brennenstuhl offer some criteria to be considered when evaluating case studies.

  • Transferability: how transferable are the findings to other contexts?  Can the intervention or strategy be applied to work with similar cases?
  • Credibility: can a causal relationship be seen between intervention and outcome? Is it clearly evident that the intervention is responsible for the outcome?
  • Confirmability: is there a logical and reasonable conceptual link between the constructs studied and the measures used in the case study?
  • Dependability/Reliability: Could the study be repeated and produce the same results? This is an indication of good case study design, that it is stable and consistent.
The authors conclude that "Well developed case studies will enhance transferability of interventions to the field as practitioners struggle to find and apply the best available evidence in effectively helping their clients." (Lee, Mishna & Brennenstuhl, 2010, p. 688).

Case study infographic

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