Case reports offer many benefits to qualitative researchers who want to maximize the value of their research. First, case reports allow you to directly relate your findings to what you already know and have done. You can use your previous research and your own expertise to describe new research. You can share your findings with your audience or a review panel. You can share your conclusions without revealing too much, which is why case reports are great when paired with other types of qualitative research, such as reviews, commentaries, or student notes and examinations.
Second, case studies allow you to present your work in a unique way that engages your readers. A typical qualitative case study describes an important, although often overlooked, aspect of a problem. It describes the work that a researcher did in order to achieve an important goal. Rather than presenting the work as a summary or a snapshot of the research, a case study allows you to tell your story in full detail – from the point of view of the researcher who found it, through the processes and results that led up to that point, and finally to the results and conclusions that are relevant to the topic.
Finally, case studies add another layer of quality assurance to your qualitative research. If a reviewer recommends that your paper is published, you can be confident that the quality level is high. This is because case studies are generally accepted as being as good as, if not better than, published literature. The same goes for a reviewer – if a reviewer comments on a published manuscript and states that it is essentially indistinguishable from other published works, you can feel confident that the quality is good. You have double checked that your work has moved in the right direction.
Case studies are also an increasingly popular approach amongst traditional quantitative researchers to describe methods and findings in published case studies, thereby increasing the value of the published case studies as a source of new knowledge and innovation for the quantitative researcher. As an increasing number of quantitative researchers choose to use case studies as an empirical tool, the qualitative journals that publish these types of research are recognizing the importance of providing an accurate description of the methodology. Many journal editors have started making case study descriptions a standard part of their editorial guidelines, and in some cases, the guidelines themselves have been modified to eliminate the need for additional documentation.
While this may be an encouraging sign for scholars considering pursuing a field as broad and diverse as quantitative research, it is important to recognize that there is still considerable room for improvement. While improving the design of empirical studies can be a challenge, especially given the increasing number of disciplines and empirical approaches used in such studies, it is not impossible. For instance, a major problem faced by most case studies in the last decade was the overuse of descriptive adjectives. It is easy to assume that descriptive keywords in research documents provide a rich opportunity for future research studies and to provide a vocabulary for future studies. However, it is important to remember that overusing of adjectives can cause the whole to be less rich in analysis and interpretation and, thus, reduces the overall richness and value of the case study.
Another problem that can arise from the use of too many descriptive words is the temptation to describe the results in terms of their impact or implications rather than their actual contribution to the topic(s). One problem with overly broad methodology descriptions is that they can leave the readers with the false impression that the qualitative aspects of the study are irrelevant to their understanding. As a result, the study findings can be seen as having no real social relevance and this can lead to bad study results. It is important to remember that although a descriptive phrase is appropriate for drawing a generalizable definition of the methodologies involved, it is not appropriate for drawing causal conclusions about the nature of the methodology or its accuracy in predicting real-world results. In addition, it is important to remember that the overall quality of research is largely affected by the choice of expressive styles and the choice of methodology. Finally, it should be noted that the overall usefulness of any descriptive phrase (including the use of language, categories and methodologies) is highly dependent on how it fits into the rest of the literature and on the research question.
The current trend is moving towards more descriptive studies that can better inform decision makers. This trend is supported by the fact that many regulatory agencies are now requiring agencies to conduct in-depth studies before issuing rule changes. It is expected that in the next few years, many regulatory agencies will require agencies to conduct case studies as part of their rulemaking processes.