Case studies have always been an important part of teaching and also have been used regularly in the social sciences and design. They are useful in exploratory research for comparison with existing knowledge about a topic, problem, phenomenon or design, as well as to provide inspiration and to inform better practice. The case study approach allows detailed and extensive knowledge to be developed about one or more instances or examples, helping provide context, examples and the potential to triangulate learnings with other sources of primary and secondary information. Case studies can be representative of a particular topic or instance, but are also often chosen because they represent an atypical example from which particular lessons can be learnt.
Case studies are useful resources for designers and researchers, requiring them to determine a problem, develop hypotheses to test through research, and use research and observation to check their hypotheses and revise them if necessary. Case studies often represent “stories” or narratives than can help a researcher to develop their ideas and enrich their understanding.
And like all good researchers, they may end up writing their own case study when the project is completed!
Universal Methods of Design by Martin & Hanington