Main Difference – Case Study vs Phenomenology
Case study and phenomenology are two terms that are often used in the field of social sciences and research. Both these terms refer to types of research methods; however, phenomenology is also a concept in philosophical studies. As a research methodology, the main difference between case study and phenomenology is that case study is an in-depth and detailed investigation of the development of a single event, situation, or an individual over a period of time whereas phenomenology is a study that is designed to understand the subjective, lived experiences and perspectives of participants.
In this article, we will be discussing,
1. What is a Case Study
– Definition, Use, Data Collection, Limitations
2. What is Phenomenology
– Definition, Use, Data Collection, Limitations
3. What is the difference between Case Study and Phenomenology
What is a Case Study
A case study is defined as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used” (Yin,1984). In simple terms, it is an in-depth and detailed investigation of the development of a single event, situation, or an individual over a period of time. Case studies are often used to explore and unearth complex issues such as social issues, medical conditions, etc. Many researchers use case study method to explore social issues like prostitution, drug addiction, unemployment, and poverty. Case studies can be qualitative and/or quantitative in nature.
A case study commences with identifying and defining the research problem; then the researcher has to select the cases and decide techniques for data collection and analysis. This is followed by collecting data in the field and evaluating and analyzing the data. The final step in a case study involves preparing the research report. Data collection methods in a case study involve observations, questionnaires, interviews, analysis of recorded data, etc. A successful case study is always context-sensitive, holistic, systematic, layered and comprehensive.
Case studies are sometimes classified into three categories known as exploratory, descriptive and explanatory case studies. Ethnographies are also considered as a type of case studies.
Although case studies offer detailed and in-depth information about a particular phenomenon, it is difficult to use this information to form generalization since they only focus on a single phenomenon.
What is Phenomenology
Phenomenology is both a philosophy and a research method. As a philosophical study, phenomenology refers to the study of the structures of experience and consciousness. In the field of research, it refers to a study that is designed to understand the subjective, lived experiences and perspectives of participants. Phenomenology is based on the principle that a single experience can be interpreted in multiple ways and that reality consists of each participant’s interpretation of the said experience. Thus, phenomenology provides information about unique individual experiences, offering a rich and complete description of human experiences and meanings.
Data is collected in phenomenology through long and intensive, semi-structured or unstructured personal interviews. The researcher may also have to conduct several interview sessions with each participant since phenomenology relies heavily on interviews. However, the information gathered through these interviews may also depend on the interviewing skills of the researcher and the articulate skills of the participants. This is a limitation of this method.
Difference Between Case Study and Phenomenology
Case Study: Case study is an in-depth and detailed investigation of the development of a single event, situation, or an individual over a period of time.
Phenomenology: Phenomenology is a study that is designed to understand the subjective, lived experiences and perspectives of participants.
Case Study: Data collection methods include observations, interviews, questionnaires, etc.
Phenomenology: Interviews are the main method of data collection.
Case Study: Case studies focus on a single incident, event, organization, or an individual.
Phenomenology: Phenomenology focus on various individuals and their experiences.
Case Study: The information obtained from a case study cannot be used to make generalizations.
Phenomenology: Information relies heavily on the interviewing skills of the researcher and the articulate skills of the participants.
1. Yin, Robert. “Case study research. Beverly Hills.” (1984).
1. “5 Candidates reading a questionnaire Photo Tony Ntumba MONUSCO” by MONUSCO Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
2. “1702648” (Public Domain) via Pixabay
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