Case Study Methods For Program Evaluation
Overview of the Case Study Process
- Selecting Cases
- Data Collection
- Data Processing and Analysis
- Writing Up Case Studies
A very useful U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report addresses in detail the use of the case study methods for program evaluation, including identification of six different “types” or approaches to Case Studies [link to: http://betterevaluation.org/plan/approach/case_study].
A much more concise guide “Using Case Studies to Do Program Evaluation” is available from the California Department of Health Services.
Case Study Design
Case study evaluations are generally organized around a central issue or a small number of research questions. The task of the evaluator is to design the study to collect the most appropriate data, to organize and analyze data from multiple sources, and to compile these data and analyses into case descriptions that reveal the essence of the program within the specific context of each particular case.
A single case description is built on multiple data sources, which can include observations, interviews, documents, artifacts, questionnaires, journals, or other sources. The final product of the case study—the write-up, should be descriptive enough to allow the reader to share in the experiences of program participants, and each case should stand alone.
Primary attention is given to analysis of each case as a separate unit, however cross-case analyses to identify commonalities and divergences are often a secondary goal. The value of a particular case study is dependent upon the logic of its design for answering the research questions, collection of comprehensive and appropriate data from multiple sources, thorough and purposeful description and analysis, and a carefully balanced write-up, rich with data excerpts, that is organized in a way that allows readers to draw their own conclusions.