Case Study Research Design

Module fact file

Masters Level
Summer Term
10 credits
Contact Hours:
Over two days

Contact details

Module lead
Professor Robert W Scapens

Module description

Case studies are increasingly being used in many areas of the social sciences, and it is widely recognised that case research can be powerful in developing, modifying and extending theory in both exploratory and explanatory research designs.  However, there can be misunderstanding of the methodological underpinnings of research using case studies.  Different methodological perspectives can use case studies in quite different ways.  For example, the role of case studies in positivist research is quite different to their use by interpretive researchers.

This course focuses on the methodological underpinnings of case study research and the roles of case studies in different methodological traditions within the diverse fields of business and management, and related areas within the social sciences.  Examples will be provided of both positivist and interpretive case studies.  Although these examples will inevitably come from specific areas (generally within business and management) our focus will be on the nature of the case study research undertaken, rather than the substantive areas being researched. Categorisations of different methodological bases of case studies will be discussed, and the use of theory in case study research will be explored.  In addition, the course will cover the characteristics of good case research design and ways of constructing ‘convincing’ case studies.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Understand how case study research design is shaped by ontological and epistemological assumptions and how it can be applied in a variety of different research contexts.
  • Understand the different uses of case studies in different areas of social science research (e.g., Business, Social Policy, and Education) and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different research designs.
  • Interpret, analyse and critique case study research which has been carried out by others (and published as papers in the relevant academic literature).
  • Design case studies which can be applied to your own research.
  • Select and utilise the appropriate methods of data collection and analysis for a given case study design.


One 2,000 word essay

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.