The Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Studies
Case studies frequently occur in psychological research. And has contributed greatly to our understanding of psychology (see cases such as Phineas Gage or Miss A). However most of these cases occured before psychology began placing an emphasis on the importance of having a scientific basis for research. Therefore this blog will address the question of whether we should still be conducting case studies.
Obviously there are some places where case studies are not appropriate, in drug studies, for example case studies would be inappropriate. The last thing that a research wants to do is to test a new depression drug on a one participant, find it has no side effects, only to find out later on that it causes 90% of people who take the drug’s heads to explode.
Having said that case studies are invaluable in certain situations, much of our understanding of how the brain works is based on case studies, extensive research of people with amnesia such as Clive Wearing and H.M has greatly improved our understanding of memory. Case studies like these have helped us understand memory because of the rich quality of the data they provide. This is because researchers can spend a more time examining the cause and effect of the brain injuries and how they effect a person’s memory.
Case studies can also be more cost effective. In my case, for my dissertation, I am studying parental training programmes. Now ideally I would travel to different areas of England and Wales to see how easy it for richer parents to achieve the Government’s 5 a day parenting tips compared to single mothers who work from 9 to 5. Unfortunately I only have a budget of £30 therefore I need to be cost efficient. A case study would be the Ideal way to save money as I would only have to travel to visit one participant (preferably one in Bangor). It would also save me money on printing as I would only need one set of questionnaires. However I cannot draw any conclusions as to the effectiveness of following the Government’s advice because one parent is not going to be like another, therefore a wide range of participants is best.
In the end case studies still provide us with rich data and therefore will still have a place in psychological research, however research with a large group of participants should always be the preference of researchers as it will provide greater validity to a study’s findings.