A psychology case study is a document that investigates the behavior of groups or a single person in relation to events, environment or to one another. There are numerous ways in which one gets this data; it could be through archival records, direct observation, interviews and psychometric tests. Most of these studies are used for clinical research. The case study in itself is not research; all it is needed for is collecting data to help the researchers analyze the work more efficiently. There are times where the case studies are replicated instead of sampling.
This method of collecting research must produce reliable and valid results. Sometimes a Psychology case study may be confused with the case method but it is important to take note that they are not the same. In psychology these case studies are specifically used for particular individuals.
Like many methods it has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages of a psychology case study are:
- The case study provides an intuitive description of rare and specific cases.
- Allow for a formation of a hypothesis that can be used in the future for reference.
- It is easy detailed information.
The disadvantages of using these types of case studies are:
The inability to test a hypothesis
- It is extremely improbable to map cause and effect in a relationship.
- It is difficult to generalize with this kind of case study.
- It is extremely time consuming.
- Researcher may be biased on put what he thinks is necessary.
There are quite a number of real world examples that have been conducted using a psychology case study. For example, there is the Freud and the Rat man, Freud and little Hans, Breuer and Freud, Harlow-Phineas Gage, Washoe, Piagets Studies and many more.
Sigmund Freud was known for using the psychology case study for his research. He used those case studies to conduct research into the private lives of his patients to assist them with their illness. Because of the bias nature of case studies Freud himself was accused of altering data to fit the theory about behavior. Even Money was accused of ignoring data that threw of his theory in his case study.
The data that is in these case studies are usually biographical in relation to the patients past and their current ongoing. The psychiatrist studying the patient may rely on medical records, school reports, employers reports and psychological test results. Interviews can also be conducted on their family, friends, workmates and anyone who was in a relationship with the patient.
Because of ethical issue of competence, a psychology case study should only be conducted be qualified personnel. The researcher ultimately decides what to put and leave out the information that they have gotten from the interviews. A case study should clearly distinguish which are actual facts and what data is the researchers opinion. These case studies are exploratory in nature and are capable of assisting us in generating new ideas. When psychologists are using these methods they are advised to take on a holistic view of the situation.