Case studies, Content analysis & Longitudinal research (2023)

Case studies

Case studies are very detailed investigations of an individual or small group of people, usually regarding an unusual phenomenon or biographical event of interest to a research field. Due to a small sample, the case study can conduct an in-depth analysis of the individual/group. It is also important to not that case studies can also focus on typical or mundane things such as childhood memories.

Case studies will tend to collect qualitative data. A researcher will collect a history of information on the individual and they can do this through a variety of methods including interviews, observations, questionnaires and psychometric tests.

Case studies tend to take place over a long period of time where data is collected many times over this period. The data collection may also involve gathering information from the individuals family, friends and professionals connected to the individual, such as teachers or doctors.

One case study that you will already be familiar with is the case of Little Hans that was published by Freud. This case study was used to support his theory on the unconscious mind and the oedipus complex.

Case studies, Content analysis & Longitudinal research (1)

We also covered the case study of HM in the memory unit of the course.

(Video) Introduction to longitudinal data analysis

Another famous case study that isn’t covered on the specification, but you may want to look into, is the case study by Thigpen & Cleckley (1954). These psychologists studied a young woman called Eve who was one of the first cases of multiple personality disorder. You can read up on it using the link below:


  • Studying abnormal psychology can us a huge insight into things in which we otherwise would have very limited understanding. For example the case of Eve with multiple personality and the case study of patient KF, whose short-term memory was impaired following a motorcycle accident but left his long-term memory intact, suggesting there might be separate physical stores in the brain for short and long-term memory.
  • The detail collected on a single case may lead to interesting findings that conflict with current theories, and stimulate new paths for research.
  • Case studies create opportunities for a rich and detailed data. The depth of analysis can increase validity (i.e. providing an accurate and exhaustive measure of what the study is hoping to measure).
  • Researchers can build a relationship with the participant and therefore collect data that is possibly more valid as they feel more comfortable to be honest around the researcher.


  • There is little control over a number of variables involved in a case study, so it is difficult to confidently establish any causal relationships between variables.
  • Case studies are unusual by nature, so will have poor reliability as replicating them exactly will be unlikely.
  • Due to the small sample size, it is unlikely that findings from a case study alone can be generalised to a whole population.
  • The case study’s researcher may become so involved with the study that they exhibit bias in their interpretation and presentation of the data, making it challenging to distinguish what is truly objective/factual.
  • In addition, case studies may have ethical issues in terms of privacy. This is because they tend to study unusual topics of behaviour and the researcher will spend a lot of time with the participant.

Content Analysis & Coding

Content analysis is a method used to analyse qualitative data and is often used when analysing data in case studies. In its most common form it is a technique that allows a researcher to take qualitative data and to transform it into quantitative data (numerical data). The technique can be used for data in many different formats, for example interview transcripts, film, audio recordings, diary entries, emails etc.

How is content analysis carried out?

One example is if a researcher wanted to analyse data from an observational study where 100 cars were fitted with video cameras to record the driver’s behaviour. In order to analyse the videos using content analysis, the following steps would be made:

  1. The psychologist would begin by watching some of the film clips of driver behaviour.
  2. This would enable the psychologist to identify potential categories which emerged from the data. These categories would tend to be behaviours that appeared to happen regularly throughout the film. Some examples of categories / themes from this video may include: passenger distractions, gadget distractions, etc.
  3. The psychologists would then have watch the films again and count the number of examples which fell into each category to provide quantitative data. This is called Coding because it involves categorising large amounts of information into meaningful chunks/codes

Other examples of coding include:

  • counting how many times particular words are used in children’s adverts aimed at boys compared to girls e.g. words like adventurous, caring or kind
  • number of positive or negative words used by a mother to describe her child’s behaviour
  • number of swear words in a film.

Content Analysis: Thematic Analysis

The main difference between Thematic analysis and Coding is that coding tranforms qualitative data into quantitative data, thematic analysis keeps the data as qualitative, but it attempts to condense the data.

Psychologists can do this by repeatedly reviewing the data so that they can identify trends in the meaning conveyed by language. The process of coding and identification of themes are closely linked insofar as themes may only emerge after data is coded. However, this is not always the case, themes may also emerge by reading over the content over and over again, and the researcher may notice trends in doing so.

(Video) TOPIC 2: RESEARCH METHODS - Content Analysis

Themes are descriptive in comparison to coding units, and is therefore under the branch of qualitative data. Themes will tend to focus on identifying trends and commonalities in terms of ideas, expression, and emotion, whereas coding is more focused on how many particular words are used, or how often a particular behaviour has occurred. The themes identified are re-analysed so that they become more refined and relevant. The researcher then picks out specific examples of the themes by quoting the qualitative data in order to support the existence of the theme. The researcher may then collect further data from other people and then look for the same themes to see if a pattern emerges, thus improving the validity.

For example, when I was at university, I used thematic analysis to identify themes in an interview that I carried out with someone about their depression and physical disability.

I found themes like ‘dehumanising the illness’. Through the process of coding, the words ‘monster’, ‘fight’ and ‘it’ came up quite a lot, and it was through this coding, that I was able to identify a theme. I then provided quotes, everytime the individual did this. For example ‘It’s like a monster that you have to fight everyday. It’s hard to not let it beat you, but I try my best to keep it at bay’ I interpreted this as the individual, trying to detach themselves from from the illness and not wanting to accept that it was a part of them.

Try it yourself!

If you want to, you guys could have a go at content analysis yourself. Please see below a video of Richard Kuklinski. He was a hit man and he has claimed to have killed over 200 people. In a usual content analysis you would watch the video over and over again and pick out commonalities in order do develop codes and themes, but I’ve watched this so many times that I will give them to you.

In terms of codes, I want you to tally on a piece of paper every time he refers to basic physical and materialistic things such as sex, food, clothes, money, possessions. I have chosen this code because psychopaths tend to place a lot of importance on basic needs compared to emotional needs.

The second code, tally everytime he smirks, laughs or smiles when he is talking about extreme things, things that your usual person may not find very funny. I have chosen this code as it is a sign of a lack of remorse.

From the coding, did you notice any themes of your own?

Now, for thematic analysis, you need to have some themes, and you need to provide quotes of what Kuklinski says that could fit into those themes. For example the first theme I would like you to find quotes for is ‘Casual Language -Extreme Behaviour’

For example when Kuklinski is talking about his crimes, he says it in a very matter of fact way, again evidence for a lack of remorse

(Video) Study Designs (Cross-sectional, Case-control, Cohort) | Statistics Tutorial | MarinStatsLectures

‘I once shot a guy in his Adam’s apple, to see how long it took for him to die. A few minutes. He drowned actually. I was with someone else, we had a $50 bet….. I lost’

The final theme I would like you to find quotes for is ‘Victims Deserving of Death’. For example when Kuklinski talks about his murders he tends to make it sound like there was no other option and that they were kind of asking to die.

‘This person decided that he couldn’t wait to get inside to urinate. He never did’

I really recommend that you have a go at this. It’s a very interesting documentary and highlights the contributions of nature and nurture towards the end. I must watch!

Evaluation of content analysis


  • It is a reliable way to analyse qualitative data as the coding units are far less open to interpretation and so are applied in the same way over time and with different researchers. When there are simple codes, a computer can be used to pick them out which increases the reliability even further.
  • Tends to be ethical, as the content that is analysed can often be data that is widely open and available such as newspapers, online interviews, adverts etc. This also means that researchers do not need to collect he data themselves. Secondary data is therefore less time consuming.
  • Data can be quantitative and qualitative which allows data to be in depth through thematic analysis, but also includes the benefit of being able to easily present data and make comparisons through coding units.
  • Coding is a relatively easy technique to use and is not too time consuming
  • Coding allows a statistical analysis to be conducted if required as there is usually quantitative data as a result of the procedure.
  • Offers a method to analyse a variety of forms of data including media and self-report methods so that insights into cultural trends and experiences can be understood.


  • The identification of suitable themes and codes is subjective and decided by the researcher alone, meaning that conclusions lack any scrutiny or objectivity. Coding units tend to have higher inter-rater reliability as other researchers can clearly define and interpret it in an objective way. Whereas themes through thematic analysis tend to be more subjective and this can reduce the inter-reliability as they could be interpreted differently by different researchers.
  • Causality cannot be established as it merely describes the data and bases interpretations on the researchers beliefs.
  • Thematic analysis can be quite time consuming. This is because in order to build themes, you need to go over the content a number of times.

Longitudinal Research

Longitudinal researchis a type of correlationalresearchthat involves looking at variables over an extended period of time. This type ofstudycan take place over a period of weeks, months, or even years. In some cases,longitudinal studies can last several decades. Longitudinal research tend to have much larger samples in comparison to a case study which would have one individual or a small group of people. They tend to collect quantitative data due to having larger samples.


  • For many types of research, longitudinal studies provide unique insight that might not be possible any other way. This method allows researchers to look at changes over time. Because of this, longitudinal methods are particularly useful when studying development and lifespan issues. Researchers can look at how certain things may change at different points in life and explore some of the reasons why these developmental shifts take place. For example, consider longitudinal studies that looked at how identical twins reared together versus those reared apart differ on a variety of variables. Researchers tracked participants from childhood into adulthood to look at how growing up in a different environment influences things such aspersonality and achievement. Carrying out a snapshot study would lack validity in trying to gain long term development and change.
  • Since the participants share the same genetics there is no issue of individual differences. Unlike a cross-sectional study which would be comparing different sets of individuals of different ages. Longitudinal research doesn’t have the issue of this extraneous variable.
  • The collection of quantitative data can make it easy to analyse when looking at the development of behaviour over time. And also make data collection quicker.


Snapshot research

A snapshot study takes place at just one point in time, usually with a larger group of participants. It can collect both quantitative and qualitative.


Fast way of collecting data as you are only collecting data at one point in time.

Typically a larger sample and therefore it will be more generalisable. Also, because it is at one point in time, attrition rates are less likely.

Good way of obtaining evidence before a costly and time consuming longitudinal study.

Data is most likely quantitative, so it is easy to see cause and effect in the data.

Tends to have high reliability due to using experiments and collecting.


Lacks depth and detail in the data due to tending to collect quantitative data

(Video) Longitudinal Study of EYPS: Islington Case Study Part 1

It does not capture how behaviour can change over time. Therefore it may not reflect behaviour in the long-term.

Due to the use of experiments, they can lack ecological validity.


Are case studies and longitudinal studies the same? ›

In case-control studies, researchers study one group of people who have developed a particular condition and compare them to a sample without the disease. Case-control studies look at a single subject or a single case, whereas longitudinal studies are conducted on a large group of subjects.

How do you write a content analysis in a case study? ›

Content analysis is a method used to analyse qualitative data and is often used when analysing data in case studies. In its most common form it is a technique that allows a researcher to take qualitative data and to transform it into quantitative data (numerical data).

Can content analysis be used in case study? ›

Content analysis is particularly useful for case study research when more sophisticated tools of analysis cannot be employed because they are more expensive or because their use is restricted by a number of ethical dilemmas.

What are case studies and content analysis? ›

Content analysis is a systematic, quantitative approach to analyzing the content or meaning of communicative messages.In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is difference between case study and content analysis analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior.

Can a longitudinal study be a case study? ›

Longitudinal research has been used in both experimental and case study designs: to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention or theory; to assess the validity and reliability of a previous a single, short–time frame study; to identify factors that may constrain or support the long-term effectiveness of a strategy ...

What is an example of a longitudinal research study? ›

For example, a five-year study of children learning to read would be a cohort longitudinal study. Researchers might compare environmental and other factors in the children and measure outcomes over time. Some longitudinal studies are retrospective in nature; these examine data and evidence after the fact.

What is an example of content analysis in research? ›

Using content analysis, researchers can quantify and analyze the presence, meanings, and relationships of such certain words, themes, or concepts. As an example, researchers can evaluate language used within a news article to search for bias or partiality.

How do you complete content analysis? ›

How to conduct content analysis
  1. Step 1: Select the content you will analyse. ...
  2. Step 2: Define the units and categories of analysis. ...
  3. Step 3: Develop a set of rules for coding. ...
  4. Step 4: Code the text according to the rules. ...
  5. Step 5: Analyse the results and draw conclusions.
5 May 2022

How do you write a case analysis example? ›

Writing a Case Study Analysis
  1. Read and Examine the Case Thoroughly. Take notes, highlight relevant facts, underline key problems.
  2. Focus Your Analysis. Identify two to five key problems. ...
  3. Uncover Possible Solutions/Changes Needed. ...
  4. Select the Best Solution.

What type of content is a case study? ›

A case study is a type of content that businesses use to demonstrate the benefits of their product or service. A case study offers a solution to a problem that the reader may be experiencing. This content can help people learn about a new product or service and decide if it's the right fit for them.

Which type of research is content analysis compatible with? ›

Content analysis is a method commonly used in qualitative research to aid data collection.

How do you analyze case study results? ›

The case study analysis can be broken down into the following steps:
  1. Identify the most important facts surrounding the case.
  2. Identify the key issue or issues.
  3. Specify alternative courses of action.
  4. Evaluate each course of action.
  5. Recommend the best course of action.

What are the 3 types of case studies? ›

Types of Case Studies
  • Collective case studies: These involve studying a group of individuals. ...
  • Descriptive case studies: These involve starting with a descriptive theory. ...
  • Explanatory case studies: These are often used to do causal investigations.
7 Nov 2022

How do you write a case study research question? ›

Typically, case study research questions use words such as how or why. Over- all, the case study research questions need to address the substance of what (case) the study is about (Hatch, 2002, p. 10). To formulate your case study research questions, think of conducting a case study like painting a picture.

What are the examples of case study research? ›

Case studies involve analysis of small data sets, such as one or two companies, that may lead the researcher to gain some insights about trends in relevant industries. For example, a case study about the Mitsubishi car company might be used to generalise about similar companies in the automobile industry.

What is a longitudinal case study? ›

In a longitudinal study, researchers repeatedly examine the same individuals to detect any changes that might occur over a period of time. Longitudinal studies are a type of correlational research in which researchers observe and collect data on a number of variables without trying to influence those variables.

What's a longitudinal case study? ›

A longitudinal study, like a cross-sectional one, is observational. So, once again, researchers do not interfere with their subjects. However, in a longitudinal study, researchers conduct several observations of the same subjects over a period of time, sometimes lasting many years.

What are the three types of longitudinal research? ›

There are a range of different types of longitudinal studies: cohort studies, panel studies, record linkage studies.

What type of data is a longitudinal study? ›

Longitudinal data is data that is collected sequentially from the same respondents over time. This type of data can be very important in tracking trends and changes over time by asking the same respondents questions in several waves carried out of time.

What analysis is used for longitudinal data? ›

ANOVA approaches for longitudinal data include a repeated measures ANOVA and multivariate ANOVA (MANOVA). Both focus on comparing group means (e.g., the TMS scores between “low,” “medium,” and “high” disease categories), but neither informs about subject-specific trends over time.

What defines a case study? ›

a case study can be defined as an intensive study about a person, a group of people or a unit, which is aimed to generalize over several units'.1 A case study has also been described as an intensive, systematic investigation of a single individual, group, community or some other unit in which the researcher examines in ...

Which tool is used for content analysis? ›

cognitiveSEO. cognitiveSEO is able to analyze the rankings of any keyword in any language and country. The tool reveals things like topically-related keywords to include on your page, a content performance score, a Flesch-Kincaid score, and the number of words currently on the page.

What are the two types of content analysis? ›

Types of Content Analysis

In this guide, we discuss two general categories of content analysis: conceptual analysis and relational analysis. Conceptual analysis can be thought of as establishing the existence and frequency of concepts most often represented by words of phrases in a text.

What is the most important step in writing content analysis? ›

It is very important to capture the relevant information needed for the content analysis so that there is enough data for the intended content analysis. Just like any other research, content analysis also involves sampling, just that it is not the people or the products, the sample here is the content itself.

Is content analysis easy? ›

Content analysis almost always involves some level of subjective interpretation, which can affect the reliability and validity of the results and conclusions. Manually coding large volumes of text is extremely time-consuming, and it can be difficult to automate effectively.

What are the three approaches to content analysis? ›

Rather than being a single method, current applications of content analysis show three distinct approaches: conventional, directed, or summative.

Is content analysis reliable? ›

Content analyses are very reliable. This is because other people can study the same artefact using your coding system. This is inter-rater reliability.

How do you start a case study introduction? ›


Briefly outline the case to identify its significance. State the report's aim(s). Provide the organisation of the main ideas in the report. Briefly describe the key problem and its significance (You usually do not need to provide details of findings or recommendations.

How do you start a case study essay? ›

How to write a case study response
  1. Introduction. Introduce the main purpose of the case study and briefly outline the overall problem to be solved.
  2. Description. Write a brief description of the case under discussion giving an outline of the main issues involved. ...
  3. Discussion. ...
  4. Conclusion / Recommendations.
10 Feb 2022

How do you answer case study Questions? ›

There are several steps to writing an answer to a case study assignment:
  7. STEP 7: SUBMIT.

What is the main purpose of a case study? ›

A case study is a research approach that is used to generate an in-depth, multi-faceted understanding of a complex issue in its real-life context. It is an established research design that is used extensively in a wide variety of disciplines, particularly in the social sciences.

How do you solve a case study interview? ›

Apply this five-step approach while working through the case interview:
  1. Understand the issue; ask clarifying questions as needed.
  2. Identify the underlying assumptions.
  3. Summarize specific issues and findings.
  4. State your recommendations.
  5. Outline next steps and expected results/impacts.

What is one of the main advantages of content analysis? ›

Content analysis focuses on the specific communication message and the message creator. It is often said that an advantage of content analysis is that the message is “close to” the communicator; that is, content analysis examines communicative messages either created by or recorded from the communicator.

Is content analysis a primary research method? ›

Content Analysis may be a primary method that involves the use of secondary data. Content analysis generally involves using a primary research method to analyse secondary data (data that, in some respects, already exists).

What is case study analysis in qualitative research? ›

Background. Qualitative case study is a research methodology that helps in exploration of a phenomenon within some particular context through various data sources, and it undertakes the exploration through variety of lenses in order to reveal multiple facets of the phenomenon (Baxter & Jack, 2008).

What are 2 methods used in a case study? ›

Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews, observations, and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g. newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

What are the 4 types of case study? ›

What Are The Types Of Case Study?
  • Illustrative Case Study.
  • Exploratory Case Study.
  • Cumulative Case study.
  • Critical Instance Case Study.
24 Nov 2021

What are the 6 parts of case study? ›

6 parts of a case analysis
  • Preparation. Just like with any study, it's important to first prepare to conduct the case analysis. ...
  • Introduction. ...
  • Background information. ...
  • Proposed solutions. ...
  • Recommendations. ...
  • Review.

What is the best topic for case study research? ›

Case Study Ideas
  • Military operations and the PTSD recovery process.
  • The most common misconceptions about children with Autism.
  • The workplace leadership and the complex of Emperor.
  • The perception of danger in different cultures.
  • The origins of bipolar disorder through the prism of domestic violence.

What are 5 good research questions? ›

Five Questions for Good Research
  • What is the problem to be solved? Every good research project solves some particular problem. ...
  • Who cares about this problem and why? ...
  • What have others done? ...
  • What is your solution to the problem? ...
  • How can you demonstrate that your solution is a good one?

What are the main types of case study? ›

Types of Case Studies
  • Illustrative Case Studies. These are primarily descriptive studies. ...
  • Exploratory (or pilot) Case Studies. ...
  • Cumulative Case Studies. ...
  • Critical Instance Case Studies. ...
  • Individual Theories. ...
  • Organizational Theories. ...
  • Social Theories. ...
  • Strengths.

What is another name for longitudinal study? ›

A longitudinal study (or longitudinal survey, or panel study) is a research design that involves repeated observations of the same variables (e.g., people) over short or long periods of time (i.e., uses longitudinal data).

What is the alternative to a longitudinal study? ›

An alternative is an omnibus (or multi-thematic) panel where the information collected varies from one point in time to another. Another alternative is the cohort study where people who belong to the same cohort are measured on more than one occasion.

What is called longitudinal study? ›

In a longitudinal study, researchers repeatedly examine the same individuals to detect any changes that might occur over a period of time. Longitudinal studies are a type of correlational research in which researchers observe and collect data on a number of variables without trying to influence those variables.

What type of design is a longitudinal study? ›

Longitudinal study designs

Repeated cross-sectional studies where study participants are largely or entirely different on each sampling occasion; Prospective studies where the same participants are followed over a period of time.

What is longitudinal in simple words? ›

: placed or running lengthwise. The insect's back is black with yellow longitudinal stripes. : of or relating to length or the lengthwise dimension.

What is a longitudinal example? ›

A sound wave is an example of a longitudinal wave and is produced by the vibrating motion of the particles that travel through a conductive medium.

Is a longitudinal study qualitative or quantitative? ›

Quite often, a longitudinal study is an extended case study, observing individuals over long periods, and is a purely qualitative undertaking.

What is the purpose of longitudinal studies? ›

The benefit of a longitudinal study is that researchers are able to detect developments or changes in the characteristics of the target population at both the group and the individual level. The key here is that longitudinal studies extend beyond a single moment in time.

What are the three types of longitudinal studies? ›

There are a range of different types of longitudinal studies: cohort studies, panel studies, record linkage studies.

Which factor is a problem with longitudinal research? ›

The main challenge of using a longitudinal design is the cost in time and resources. These studies are much more expensive and take much longer to conduct than a cross-sectional study with the same number of participants.

What is the problem with longitudinal studies? ›

Attrition. Over time, participants may cease to take part in a longitudinal study. This is known as attrition. Attrition can result from a range of factors, some of which are unavoidable, while others can be reduced by careful study design or practice.

How do you start a longitudinal study? ›

Go to:
  1. Step one: Build a collaborative team and set a long-term plan. ...
  2. Step two: Develop a strong theoretical framework to support research questions. ...
  3. Step three: Design a comprehensive study that maps onto study aims. ...
  4. Step four: Determine the sample and develop a recruitment plan. ...
  5. Step five: Select and/or develop measures.
30 Mar 2016


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