At some point in your study of psychology, you may be required to write a case study. These are often used in clinical cases or in situations when lab research is not possible or practical. In undergraduate courses, these are often based on a real individual, an imagined individual, or a character from a television show, film, or book.
The specific format for a case study can vary greatly. In some instances, your case study will focus solely on the individual of interest.
Other possible requirements include citing relevant research and background information on a particular topic. Always consult with your instructor for a detailed outline of your assignment.
What Is a Case Study?
A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. Much of Freud's work and theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include Anna O, Phineas Gage, and Genie.
In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior. The hope is that learning gained from studying one case can be generalized to many others.
Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.
One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult to impossible to replicate in a lab.
The case study of Genie, for example, allowed researchers to study whether language could be taught even after critical periods for language development had been missed.
In Genie's case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity to learn language at critical points in her development. This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to study otherwise impossible to reproduce phenomena.
There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists and other researchers might utilize:
- Explanatory case studies are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have actually caused certain things to occur.
- Exploratory case studies are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses.
- Descriptive case studies involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory.
- Intrinsic case studies are a type of case study in which the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget's observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic cast study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.
- Collective case studies involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community of people.
- Instrumental case studies occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.
There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study:
- Prospective case study methods are those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to observe the progression of a particular disease.
- Retrospective case study methods are those that involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to look at information about the individuals life to determine risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of the illness.
Sources of Information Used
There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. The six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:
- Direct observation: This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting. While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
- Interviews: One of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involves structured survey-type questions or more open-ended questions.
- Documents: Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc.
- Archival records: Census records, survey records, name lists, etc.
- Physical artifacts: Tools, objects, instruments and other artifacts often observed during a direct observation of the subject.
- Participant observation: Involves the researcher actually serving as a participant in events and observing the actions and outcomes.
Section 1: A Case History
1. Background Information
The first section of your paper will present your client's background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.
2. Description of the Presenting Problem
In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with. Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.
3. Your Diagnosis
Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the clients symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.
Section 2: The Intervention
The second section of your paper will focus on the intervention used to help the client. Your instructor might require you to choose from a particular theoretical approach or ask you to summarize two or more possible treatment approaches.
Some of the possible treatment approaches you might choose to explore include:
1. Psychoanalytic Approach
Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client's problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
2. Cognitive-Behavioral Approach
Explain how a cognitive-behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive-behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
3. Humanistic Approach
Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy. Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client's reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
- Do not refer to the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, use his or her name or a pseudonym.
- Remember to use APA format when citing references.
- Read examples of case studies to gain and idea about the style and format.
A Word From Verywell
Case studies can be a useful research tool but they need to be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They can be helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a great deal of information about a specific individual or group of people.
If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to follow.
Gagnon, YC. The Case Study as a Research Method: A Practical Handbook. Quebec: PUQ; 2010.
Yin, RK. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Sage Publications; 2013.
17 Steps to Live Presentation Success [Case Study]
Have you ever noticed how certain speakers always give a great presentation regardless of what they’re talking about while others just read their slide deck, changing a few words to make it appear relevant?
In the pre-powerpoint presentation days I was at a industry conference listening to a top rated, bestselling author present. As he paced back and forth rarely looking at the audience, he dropped the organization’s name into the speech at pre-determined spots as if his talk was Mad Lib. I sat wondering how many times he had given the same tired speech.
While presentation tools have improved, the bottom line is that you’re the presentation. You need to impart knowledge your audience can grasp within your time frame and leave them feeling they’ve gained a few actionable things they can accomplish based on your talk.
Remember as a form of content marketing, your talk should be a promotion-free zone. It’s goal is to help establish you as an area expert. Here’s a 10-step plan to help you create a basic live presentation and 7 tips on making that presentation a success.
10 steps to create the basic live presentation
- Determine the presentation topic. Understand what the conference or meeting is about and how your presentation fits into the whole. This includes knowing who your audience will be, why they’re attending the event, and what their pain points are. Remember a presentation is a communication, it’s not an opportunity to promote your company.
- Write the presentation brief.Create a short description of the presentation. Include a sexy title to lure people in and 3 benefits or take-aways. Skip the buzzwords. Give your audience the red meat information they’re seeking.
- Outline your talk. Granted we’re all creatures of habit who love to put off doing things until the deadline is upon us, but outline your talk while these conversations and ideas are fresh in your mind. This way you can jot down your thoughts and put some initial organization around them while the topic’s still fresh.
- Develop the easy parts first. Don’t force yourself to do slide 4 after slide 3. Instead build the slides that are easiest first and put placeholders where appropriate. If you’re using information from an existing presentation, at a minimum, change the visual image to make it feel fresh.
- Fill in the blanks. Go back to create content for the empty slides. Since this requires additional thought and creative time, use this opportunity to develop other content such as blog post.
- Build your presentation story. Your presentation must hold together as one entity, not a group of unrelated slides. Stories further enhance the value of your presentation because they put your information in context.
- Edit your presentation in line with the story line. This is where you ensure that your story line makes sense and eliminate redundant pieces of your presentation. Aim to make your content tighter.
- Go through the presentation with someone else. It can be your spouse or a colleague who has your permission to tell you there’s issue that needs to be addressed. Check for copyediting, data reliability and timing. Think in terms of what you plan to say with each slide. Remember that you don’t need to say the words on the slide. Slides are there to enhance your presentation. They aren’t the focus, you are.
- Give your presentation a last edit. Check grammar and other design issues. Does the presentation hold together as a consistent whole?
- Practice your talk. While no one plans on having problems, there are always things beyond your control. Often, they’re technology based. You need to keep going and make the best of it because as they say, the show must go on. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income turned a potential disaster into a major win at Blog World Expo. (Note: This is why I don’t use videos or show the Internet live in my talks.)
7 Tips to Improve Your Presentation’s Appeal
To get your presentation to the next level, here are 7 actionable presentation tips:
- Make your slides easy-to-consume. This means providing enough text so that they convey your message but don’t make your talk unnecessary. Keep the text large enough to be seen from the back of the room and provide enough contrast so that everyone can read them. Use a minimum of 24 point type (except for credits and sources.)
- Integrate your branding into your presentation. Use colors, typeface and other elements such as visuals that represent your business. This isn’t always possible because many conferences require you use their template.
- Dress for the occasion. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes so you feel good. This is where clothes make the (wo)man. At Content Marketing World, I substituted my leather biker jacket for my conventional suit to be in line with their rock and roll theme. I was surprised at how empowering it felt.
- Make your presentation tweet-friendly. Incorporate the show’s hashtag and your Twitter handle. Place them so that they stand out and are readable. Create tweetable phrases with shortened URLs to facilitate sharing. When presenting at an event that encourages tweeting, schedule relevant tweets in advance using the show’s hashtag.
- Use a couple of level setting questions. This helps you get an idea of who is in the room so that you can select examples that are most relevant. It also helps you get a feel for the audience. Of course, you don’t want to let these questions take over for your presentation or people will start tweeting about how bad the talk is.
- Create a special offer at the end of your presentation. Give your audience another piece of content or other useful reference. Even better is if you can give away a book or small gift to get people involved.
- Share your presentation. While I appreciate the desire to maintain control over your content, the reality is with smartphones and tablets attendees will take images of anything they want to remember. So why not maximize the reach? To this end, make sure that the show doesn’t want to keep your presentation behind a password protected site.
Mini Case Study: Content Marketing World Presentation
At Content Marketing World 2013 in Cleveland, I presented a session, titled, “21 Tips & Tricks Guaranteed To Make Your Content Marketing More Effective In 45 Minutes.”
- Title: I picked the title to grab attendees’ interest during a period where there were a lot of options competing for their time.
- Outline: I used the basic content marketing cycle as the basis for my structure and filled in the points where appropriate. This helped create a natural story flow. I also included a basic agenda slide to help guide attendees.
- Slide development. Since I was allocated 45 minutes, I had roughly 2 minutes per slide. I maximized my presentation by incorporating a music related image in line with the rock and roll theme of the show and an example or two. I aimed for a mix of examples since I expected the audience to be a combination of B2C, B2B, not-for-profit and solopreneurs. Where appropriate, I added research and data points. (These wound up being some of the most tweeted parts of my presentation.) I always referenced data points and photo credits. Additionally, where relevant I included links to other articles.
- Story. I used the content marketing cycle as a structure for my talk. I incorporated section slides that I gave a different look so I could tell where I was in the talk.
- Social media friendly. In addition to adding the hashtag and my Twitter handle, I set up a series of tweets related to my talk. I also let my followers know that I was presenting so that they wouldn’t be surprised by the activity in my stream.
- Other content creation. Based on my presentation, I wrote a few blog posts including the one incorporating the 21 tips and tricks.
- Special offer. In line with Content Marketing World’s orange theme, I gave away an orange cowl. The room monitor collected everyone’s card and drew one at random.
- Sent a post-event emailing. To thank my audience, I sent a post event emailing.
Presentations are a major piece of content that build your credibility in your field and enable you to engage with people in real time. Maximize your efforts by creating additional content and interacting with your audience.
Take the time to create a killer presentation. It takes work to make it look easy but it’s well worth it.
What other tips would you add to this list and why?
Photo Credit: Podium: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/6071515104/
Photo of Heidi Cohen at Content Marketing World 2013: Paul Roetzer of PR 20/20
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