define case study in library science

The Ultimate Guide to Qualitative Research - Part 1: The Basics

define case study in library science

  • Introduction and overview
  • What is qualitative research?
  • What is qualitative data?
  • Examples of qualitative data
  • Qualitative vs. quantitative research
  • Mixed methods
  • Qualitative research preparation
  • Theoretical perspective
  • Theoretical framework
  • Literature reviews

Research question

  • Conceptual framework
  • Conceptual vs. theoretical framework

Data collection

  • Qualitative research methods
  • Focus groups
  • Observational research

What is a case study?

Applications for case study research, what is a good case study, process of case study design, benefits and limitations of case studies.

  • Ethnographical research
  • Ethical considerations
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Power dynamics
  • Reflexivity

Case studies

Case studies are essential to qualitative research , offering a lens through which researchers can investigate complex phenomena within their real-life contexts. This chapter explores the concept, purpose, applications, examples, and types of case studies and provides guidance on how to conduct case study research effectively.

define case study in library science

Whereas quantitative methods look at phenomena at scale, case study research looks at a concept or phenomenon in considerable detail. While analyzing a single case can help understand one perspective regarding the object of research inquiry, analyzing multiple cases can help obtain a more holistic sense of the topic or issue. Let's provide a basic definition of a case study, then explore its characteristics and role in the qualitative research process.

Definition of a case study

A case study in qualitative research is a strategy of inquiry that involves an in-depth investigation of a phenomenon within its real-world context. It provides researchers with the opportunity to acquire an in-depth understanding of intricate details that might not be as apparent or accessible through other methods of research. The specific case or cases being studied can be a single person, group, or organization – demarcating what constitutes a relevant case worth studying depends on the researcher and their research question .

Among qualitative research methods , a case study relies on multiple sources of evidence, such as documents, artifacts, interviews , or observations , to present a complete and nuanced understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. The objective is to illuminate the readers' understanding of the phenomenon beyond its abstract statistical or theoretical explanations.

Characteristics of case studies

Case studies typically possess a number of distinct characteristics that set them apart from other research methods. These characteristics include a focus on holistic description and explanation, flexibility in the design and data collection methods, reliance on multiple sources of evidence, and emphasis on the context in which the phenomenon occurs.

Furthermore, case studies can often involve a longitudinal examination of the case, meaning they study the case over a period of time. These characteristics allow case studies to yield comprehensive, in-depth, and richly contextualized insights about the phenomenon of interest.

The role of case studies in research

Case studies hold a unique position in the broader landscape of research methods aimed at theory development. They are instrumental when the primary research interest is to gain an intensive, detailed understanding of a phenomenon in its real-life context.

In addition, case studies can serve different purposes within research - they can be used for exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory purposes, depending on the research question and objectives. This flexibility and depth make case studies a valuable tool in the toolkit of qualitative researchers.

Remember, a well-conducted case study can offer a rich, insightful contribution to both academic and practical knowledge through theory development or theory verification, thus enhancing our understanding of complex phenomena in their real-world contexts.

What is the purpose of a case study?

Case study research aims for a more comprehensive understanding of phenomena, requiring various research methods to gather information for qualitative analysis . Ultimately, a case study can allow the researcher to gain insight into a particular object of inquiry and develop a theoretical framework relevant to the research inquiry.

Why use case studies in qualitative research?

Using case studies as a research strategy depends mainly on the nature of the research question and the researcher's access to the data.

Conducting case study research provides a level of detail and contextual richness that other research methods might not offer. They are beneficial when there's a need to understand complex social phenomena within their natural contexts.

The explanatory, exploratory, and descriptive roles of case studies

Case studies can take on various roles depending on the research objectives. They can be exploratory when the research aims to discover new phenomena or define new research questions; they are descriptive when the objective is to depict a phenomenon within its context in a detailed manner; and they can be explanatory if the goal is to understand specific relationships within the studied context. Thus, the versatility of case studies allows researchers to approach their topic from different angles, offering multiple ways to uncover and interpret the data .

The impact of case studies on knowledge development

Case studies play a significant role in knowledge development across various disciplines. Analysis of cases provides an avenue for researchers to explore phenomena within their context based on the collected data.

define case study in library science

This can result in the production of rich, practical insights that can be instrumental in both theory-building and practice. Case studies allow researchers to delve into the intricacies and complexities of real-life situations, uncovering insights that might otherwise remain hidden.

Types of case studies

In qualitative research , a case study is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on the nature of the research question and the specific objectives of the study, researchers might choose to use different types of case studies. These types differ in their focus, methodology, and the level of detail they provide about the phenomenon under investigation.

Understanding these types is crucial for selecting the most appropriate approach for your research project and effectively achieving your research goals. Let's briefly look at the main types of case studies.

Exploratory case studies

Exploratory case studies are typically conducted to develop a theory or framework around an understudied phenomenon. They can also serve as a precursor to a larger-scale research project. Exploratory case studies are useful when a researcher wants to identify the key issues or questions which can spur more extensive study or be used to develop propositions for further research. These case studies are characterized by flexibility, allowing researchers to explore various aspects of a phenomenon as they emerge, which can also form the foundation for subsequent studies.

Descriptive case studies

Descriptive case studies aim to provide a complete and accurate representation of a phenomenon or event within its context. These case studies are often based on an established theoretical framework, which guides how data is collected and analyzed. The researcher is concerned with describing the phenomenon in detail, as it occurs naturally, without trying to influence or manipulate it.

Explanatory case studies

Explanatory case studies are focused on explanation - they seek to clarify how or why certain phenomena occur. Often used in complex, real-life situations, they can be particularly valuable in clarifying causal relationships among concepts and understanding the interplay between different factors within a specific context.

define case study in library science

Intrinsic, instrumental, and collective case studies

These three categories of case studies focus on the nature and purpose of the study. An intrinsic case study is conducted when a researcher has an inherent interest in the case itself. Instrumental case studies are employed when the case is used to provide insight into a particular issue or phenomenon. A collective case study, on the other hand, involves studying multiple cases simultaneously to investigate some general phenomena.

Each type of case study serves a different purpose and has its own strengths and challenges. The selection of the type should be guided by the research question and objectives, as well as the context and constraints of the research.

The flexibility, depth, and contextual richness offered by case studies make this approach an excellent research method for various fields of study. They enable researchers to investigate real-world phenomena within their specific contexts, capturing nuances that other research methods might miss. Across numerous fields, case studies provide valuable insights into complex issues.

Critical information systems research

Case studies provide a detailed understanding of the role and impact of information systems in different contexts. They offer a platform to explore how information systems are designed, implemented, and used and how they interact with various social, economic, and political factors. Case studies in this field often focus on examining the intricate relationship between technology, organizational processes, and user behavior, helping to uncover insights that can inform better system design and implementation.

Health research

Health research is another field where case studies are highly valuable. They offer a way to explore patient experiences, healthcare delivery processes, and the impact of various interventions in a real-world context.

define case study in library science

Case studies can provide a deep understanding of a patient's journey, giving insights into the intricacies of disease progression, treatment effects, and the psychosocial aspects of health and illness.

Asthma research studies

Specifically within medical research, studies on asthma often employ case studies to explore the individual and environmental factors that influence asthma development, management, and outcomes. A case study can provide rich, detailed data about individual patients' experiences, from the triggers and symptoms they experience to the effectiveness of various management strategies. This can be crucial for developing patient-centered asthma care approaches.

Other fields

Apart from the fields mentioned, case studies are also extensively used in business and management research, education research, and political sciences, among many others. They provide an opportunity to delve into the intricacies of real-world situations, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of various phenomena.

Case studies, with their depth and contextual focus, offer unique insights across these varied fields. They allow researchers to illuminate the complexities of real-life situations, contributing to both theory and practice.

define case study in library science

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Understanding the key elements of case study design is crucial for conducting rigorous and impactful case study research. A well-structured design guides the researcher through the process, ensuring that the study is methodologically sound and its findings are reliable and valid. The main elements of case study design include the research question , propositions, units of analysis, and the logic linking the data to the propositions.

The research question is the foundation of any research study. A good research question guides the direction of the study and informs the selection of the case, the methods of collecting data, and the analysis techniques. A well-formulated research question in case study research is typically clear, focused, and complex enough to merit further detailed examination of the relevant case(s).


Propositions, though not necessary in every case study, provide a direction by stating what we might expect to find in the data collected. They guide how data is collected and analyzed by helping researchers focus on specific aspects of the case. They are particularly important in explanatory case studies, which seek to understand the relationships among concepts within the studied phenomenon.

Units of analysis

The unit of analysis refers to the case, or the main entity or entities that are being analyzed in the study. In case study research, the unit of analysis can be an individual, a group, an organization, a decision, an event, or even a time period. It's crucial to clearly define the unit of analysis, as it shapes the qualitative data analysis process by allowing the researcher to analyze a particular case and synthesize analysis across multiple case studies to draw conclusions.


This refers to the inferential model that allows researchers to draw conclusions from the data. The researcher needs to ensure that there is a clear link between the data, the propositions (if any), and the conclusions drawn. This argumentation is what enables the researcher to make valid and credible inferences about the phenomenon under study.

Understanding and carefully considering these elements in the design phase of a case study can significantly enhance the quality of the research. It can help ensure that the study is methodologically sound and its findings contribute meaningful insights about the case.

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Conducting a case study involves several steps, from defining the research question and selecting the case to collecting and analyzing data . This section outlines these key stages, providing a practical guide on how to conduct case study research.

Defining the research question

The first step in case study research is defining a clear, focused research question. This question should guide the entire research process, from case selection to analysis. It's crucial to ensure that the research question is suitable for a case study approach. Typically, such questions are exploratory or descriptive in nature and focus on understanding a phenomenon within its real-life context.

Selecting and defining the case

The selection of the case should be based on the research question and the objectives of the study. It involves choosing a unique example or a set of examples that provide rich, in-depth data about the phenomenon under investigation. After selecting the case, it's crucial to define it clearly, setting the boundaries of the case, including the time period and the specific context.

Previous research can help guide the case study design. When considering a case study, an example of a case could be taken from previous case study research and used to define cases in a new research inquiry. Considering recently published examples can help understand how to select and define cases effectively.

Developing a detailed case study protocol

A case study protocol outlines the procedures and general rules to be followed during the case study. This includes the data collection methods to be used, the sources of data, and the procedures for analysis. Having a detailed case study protocol ensures consistency and reliability in the study.

The protocol should also consider how to work with the people involved in the research context to grant the research team access to collecting data. As mentioned in previous sections of this guide, establishing rapport is an essential component of qualitative research as it shapes the overall potential for collecting and analyzing data.

Collecting data

Gathering data in case study research often involves multiple sources of evidence, including documents, archival records, interviews, observations, and physical artifacts. This allows for a comprehensive understanding of the case. The process for gathering data should be systematic and carefully documented to ensure the reliability and validity of the study.

Analyzing and interpreting data

The next step is analyzing the data. This involves organizing the data , categorizing it into themes or patterns , and interpreting these patterns to answer the research question. The analysis might also involve comparing the findings with prior research or theoretical propositions.

Writing the case study report

The final step is writing the case study report . This should provide a detailed description of the case, the data, the analysis process, and the findings. The report should be clear, organized, and carefully written to ensure that the reader can understand the case and the conclusions drawn from it.

Each of these steps is crucial in ensuring that the case study research is rigorous, reliable, and provides valuable insights about the case.

The type, depth, and quality of data in your study can significantly influence the validity and utility of the study. In case study research, data is usually collected from multiple sources to provide a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the case. This section will outline the various methods of collecting data used in case study research and discuss considerations for ensuring the quality of the data.

Interviews are a common method of gathering data in case study research. They can provide rich, in-depth data about the perspectives, experiences, and interpretations of the individuals involved in the case. Interviews can be structured , semi-structured , or unstructured , depending on the research question and the degree of flexibility needed.


Observations involve the researcher observing the case in its natural setting, providing first-hand information about the case and its context. Observations can provide data that might not be revealed in interviews or documents, such as non-verbal cues or contextual information.

Documents and artifacts

Documents and archival records provide a valuable source of data in case study research. They can include reports, letters, memos, meeting minutes, email correspondence, and various public and private documents related to the case.

define case study in library science

These records can provide historical context, corroborate evidence from other sources, and offer insights into the case that might not be apparent from interviews or observations.

Physical artifacts refer to any physical evidence related to the case, such as tools, products, or physical environments. These artifacts can provide tangible insights into the case, complementing the data gathered from other sources.

Ensuring the quality of data collection

Determining the quality of data in case study research requires careful planning and execution. It's crucial to ensure that the data is reliable, accurate, and relevant to the research question. This involves selecting appropriate methods of collecting data, properly training interviewers or observers, and systematically recording and storing the data. It also includes considering ethical issues related to collecting and handling data, such as obtaining informed consent and ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of the participants.

Data analysis

Analyzing case study research involves making sense of the rich, detailed data to answer the research question. This process can be challenging due to the volume and complexity of case study data. However, a systematic and rigorous approach to analysis can ensure that the findings are credible and meaningful. This section outlines the main steps and considerations in analyzing data in case study research.

Organizing the data

The first step in the analysis is organizing the data. This involves sorting the data into manageable sections, often according to the data source or the theme. This step can also involve transcribing interviews, digitizing physical artifacts, or organizing observational data.

Categorizing and coding the data

Once the data is organized, the next step is to categorize or code the data. This involves identifying common themes, patterns, or concepts in the data and assigning codes to relevant data segments. Coding can be done manually or with the help of software tools, and in either case, qualitative analysis software can greatly facilitate the entire coding process. Coding helps to reduce the data to a set of themes or categories that can be more easily analyzed.

Identifying patterns and themes

After coding the data, the researcher looks for patterns or themes in the coded data. This involves comparing and contrasting the codes and looking for relationships or patterns among them. The identified patterns and themes should help answer the research question.

Interpreting the data

Once patterns and themes have been identified, the next step is to interpret these findings. This involves explaining what the patterns or themes mean in the context of the research question and the case. This interpretation should be grounded in the data, but it can also involve drawing on theoretical concepts or prior research.

Verification of the data

The last step in the analysis is verification. This involves checking the accuracy and consistency of the analysis process and confirming that the findings are supported by the data. This can involve re-checking the original data, checking the consistency of codes, or seeking feedback from research participants or peers.

Like any research method , case study research has its strengths and limitations. Researchers must be aware of these, as they can influence the design, conduct, and interpretation of the study.

Understanding the strengths and limitations of case study research can also guide researchers in deciding whether this approach is suitable for their research question . This section outlines some of the key strengths and limitations of case study research.

Benefits include the following:

  • Rich, detailed data: One of the main strengths of case study research is that it can generate rich, detailed data about the case. This can provide a deep understanding of the case and its context, which can be valuable in exploring complex phenomena.
  • Flexibility: Case study research is flexible in terms of design , data collection , and analysis . A sufficient degree of flexibility allows the researcher to adapt the study according to the case and the emerging findings.
  • Real-world context: Case study research involves studying the case in its real-world context, which can provide valuable insights into the interplay between the case and its context.
  • Multiple sources of evidence: Case study research often involves collecting data from multiple sources , which can enhance the robustness and validity of the findings.

On the other hand, researchers should consider the following limitations:

  • Generalizability: A common criticism of case study research is that its findings might not be generalizable to other cases due to the specificity and uniqueness of each case.
  • Time and resource intensive: Case study research can be time and resource intensive due to the depth of the investigation and the amount of collected data.
  • Complexity of analysis: The rich, detailed data generated in case study research can make analyzing the data challenging.
  • Subjectivity: Given the nature of case study research, there may be a higher degree of subjectivity in interpreting the data , so researchers need to reflect on this and transparently convey to audiences how the research was conducted.

Being aware of these strengths and limitations can help researchers design and conduct case study research effectively and interpret and report the findings appropriately.

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  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

Case study examples
Research question Case study
What are the ecological effects of wolf reintroduction? Case study of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park
How do populist politicians use narratives about history to gain support? Case studies of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and US president Donald Trump
How can teachers implement active learning strategies in mixed-level classrooms? Case study of a local school that promotes active learning
What are the main advantages and disadvantages of wind farms for rural communities? Case studies of three rural wind farm development projects in different parts of the country
How are viral marketing strategies changing the relationship between companies and consumers? Case study of the iPhone X marketing campaign
How do experiences of work in the gig economy differ by gender, race and age? Case studies of Deliveroo and Uber drivers in London

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Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

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Distinguishing case study as a research method from case reports as a publication type

The purpose of this editorial is to distinguish between case reports and case studies. In health, case reports are familiar ways of sharing events or efforts of intervening with single patients with previously unreported features. As a qualitative methodology, case study research encompasses a great deal more complexity than a typical case report and often incorporates multiple streams of data combined in creative ways. The depth and richness of case study description helps readers understand the case and whether findings might be applicable beyond that setting.

Single-institution descriptive reports of library activities are often labeled by their authors as “case studies.” By contrast, in health care, single patient retrospective descriptions are published as “case reports.” Both case reports and case studies are valuable to readers and provide a publication opportunity for authors. A previous editorial by Akers and Amos about improving case studies addresses issues that are more common to case reports; for example, not having a review of the literature or being anecdotal, not generalizable, and prone to various types of bias such as positive outcome bias [ 1 ]. However, case study research as a qualitative methodology is pursued for different purposes than generalizability. The authors’ purpose in this editorial is to clearly distinguish between case reports and case studies. We believe that this will assist authors in describing and designating the methodological approach of their publications and help readers appreciate the rigor of well-executed case study research.

Case reports often provide a first exploration of a phenomenon or an opportunity for a first publication by a trainee in the health professions. In health care, case reports are familiar ways of sharing events or efforts of intervening with single patients with previously unreported features. Another type of study categorized as a case report is an “N of 1” study or single-subject clinical trial, which considers an individual patient as the sole unit of observation in a study investigating the efficacy or side effect profiles of different interventions. Entire journals have evolved to publish case reports, which often rely on template structures with limited contextualization or discussion of previous cases. Examples that are indexed in MEDLINE include the American Journal of Case Reports , BMJ Case Reports, Journal of Medical Case Reports, and Journal of Radiology Case Reports . Similar publications appear in veterinary medicine and are indexed in CAB Abstracts, such as Case Reports in Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Record Case Reports .

As a qualitative methodology, however, case study research encompasses a great deal more complexity than a typical case report and often incorporates multiple streams of data combined in creative ways. Distinctions include the investigator’s definitions and delimitations of the case being studied, the clarity of the role of the investigator, the rigor of gathering and combining evidence about the case, and the contextualization of the findings. Delimitation is a term from qualitative research about setting boundaries to scope the research in a useful way rather than describing the narrow scope as a limitation, as often appears in a discussion section. The depth and richness of description helps readers understand the situation and whether findings from the case are applicable to their settings.


Case study as a qualitative methodology is an exploration of a time- and space-bound phenomenon. As qualitative research, case studies require much more from their authors who are acting as instruments within the inquiry process. In the case study methodology, a variety of methodological approaches may be employed to explain the complexity of the problem being studied [ 2 , 3 ].

Leading authors diverge in their definitions of case study, but a qualitative research text introduces case study as follows:

Case study research is defined as a qualitative approach in which the investigator explores a real-life, contemporary bounded system (a case) or multiple bound systems (cases) over time, through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information, and reports a case description and case themes. The unit of analysis in the case study might be multiple cases (a multisite study) or a single case (a within-site case study). [ 4 ]

Methodologists writing core texts on case study research include Yin [ 5 ], Stake [ 6 ], and Merriam [ 7 ]. The approaches of these three methodologists have been compared by Yazan, who focused on six areas of methodology: epistemology (beliefs about ways of knowing), definition of cases, design of case studies, and gathering, analysis, and validation of data [ 8 ]. For Yin, case study is a method of empirical inquiry appropriate to determining the “how and why” of phenomena and contributes to understanding phenomena in a holistic and real-life context [ 5 ]. Stake defines a case study as a “well-bounded, specific, complex, and functioning thing” [ 6 ], while Merriam views “the case as a thing, a single entity, a unit around which there are boundaries” [ 7 ].

Case studies are ways to explain, describe, or explore phenomena. Comments from a quantitative perspective about case studies lacking rigor and generalizability fail to consider the purpose of the case study and how what is learned from a case study is put into practice. Rigor in case studies comes from the research design and its components, which Yin outlines as (a) the study’s questions, (b) the study’s propositions, (c) the unit of analysis, (d) the logic linking the data to propositions, and (e) the criteria for interpreting the findings [ 5 ]. Case studies should also provide multiple sources of data, a case study database, and a clear chain of evidence among the questions asked, the data collected, and the conclusions drawn [ 5 ].

Sources of evidence for case studies include interviews, documentation, archival records, direct observations, participant-observation, and physical artifacts. One of the most important sources for data in qualitative case study research is the interview [ 2 , 3 ]. In addition to interviews, documents and archival records can be gathered to corroborate and enhance the findings of the study. To understand the phenomenon or the conditions that created it, direct observations can serve as another source of evidence and can be conducted throughout the study. These can include the use of formal and informal protocols as a participant inside the case or an external or passive observer outside of the case [ 5 ]. Lastly, physical artifacts can be observed and collected as a form of evidence. With these multiple potential sources of evidence, the study methodology includes gathering data, sense-making, and triangulating multiple streams of data. Figure 1 shows an example in which data used for the case started with a pilot study to provide additional context to guide more in-depth data collection and analysis with participants.

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Object name is jmla-107-1-f001.jpg

Key sources of data for a sample case study


Case study methodology is evolving and regularly reinterpreted. Comparative or multiple case studies are used as a tool for synthesizing information across time and space to research the impact of policy and practice in various fields of social research [ 9 ]. Because case study research is in-depth and intensive, there have been efforts to simplify the method or select useful components of cases for focused analysis. Micro-case study is a term that is occasionally used to describe research on micro-level cases [ 10 ]. These are cases that occur in a brief time frame, occur in a confined setting, and are simple and straightforward in nature. A micro-level case describes a clear problem of interest. Reporting is very brief and about specific points. The lack of complexity in the case description makes obvious the “lesson” that is inherent in the case; although no definitive “solution” is necessarily forthcoming, making the case useful for discussion. A micro-case write-up can be distinguished from a case report by its focus on briefly reporting specific features of a case or cases to analyze or learn from those features.


Disciplines such as education, psychology, sociology, political science, and social work regularly publish rich case studies that are relevant to particular areas of health librarianship. Case reports and case studies have been defined as publication types or subject terms by several databases that are relevant to librarian authors: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and ERIC. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts (LISTA) does not have a subject term or publication type related to cases, despite many being included in the database. Whereas “Case Reports” are the main term used by MEDLINE’s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and PsycINFO’s thesaurus, CINAHL and ERIC use “Case Studies.”

Case reports in MEDLINE and PsycINFO focus on clinical case documentation. In MeSH, “Case Reports” as a publication type is specific to “clinical presentations that may be followed by evaluative studies that eventually lead to a diagnosis” [ 11 ]. “Case Histories,” “Case Studies,” and “Case Study” are all entry terms mapping to “Case Reports”; however, guidance to indexers suggests that “Case Reports” should not be applied to institutional case reports and refers to the heading “Organizational Case Studies,” which is defined as “descriptions and evaluations of specific health care organizations” [ 12 ].

PsycINFO’s subject term “Case Report” is “used in records discussing issues involved in the process of conducting exploratory studies of single or multiple clinical cases.” The Methodology index offers clinical and non-clinical entries. “Clinical Case Study” is defined as “case reports that include disorder, diagnosis, and clinical treatment for individuals with mental or medical illnesses,” whereas “Non-clinical Case Study” is a “document consisting of non-clinical or organizational case examples of the concepts being researched or studied. The setting is always non-clinical and does not include treatment-related environments” [ 13 ].

Both CINAHL and ERIC acknowledge the depth of analysis in case study methodology. The CINAHL scope note for the thesaurus term “Case Studies” distinguishes between the document and the methodology, though both use the same term: “a review of a particular condition, disease, or administrative problem. Also, a research method that involves an in-depth analysis of an individual, group, institution, or other social unit. For material that contains a case study, search for document type: case study.” The ERIC scope note for the thesaurus term “Case Studies” is simple: “detailed analyses, usually focusing on a particular problem of an individual, group, or organization” [ 14 ].


We call your attention to a few examples published as case studies in health sciences librarianship to consider how their characteristics fit with the preceding definitions of case reports or case study research. All present some characteristics of case study research, but their treatment of the research questions, richness of description, and analytic strategies vary in depth and, therefore, diverge at some level from the qualitative case study research approach. This divergence, particularly in richness of description and analysis, may have been constrained by the publication requirements.

As one example, a case study by Janke and Rush documented a time- and context-bound collaboration involving a librarian and a nursing faculty member [ 15 ]. Three objectives were stated: (1) describing their experience of working together on an interprofessional research team, (2) evaluating the value of the librarian role from librarian and faculty member perspectives, and (3) relating findings to existing literature. Elements that signal the qualitative nature of this case study are that the authors were the research participants and their use of the term “evaluation” is reflection on their experience. This reads like a case study that could have been enriched by including other types of data gathered from others engaging with this team to broaden the understanding of the collaboration.

As another example, the description of the academic context is one of the most salient components of the case study written by Clairoux et al., which had the objectives of (1) describing the library instruction offered and learning assessments used at a single health sciences library and (2) discussing the positive outcomes of instruction in that setting [ 16 ]. The authors focus on sharing what the institution has done more than explaining why this institution is an exemplar to explore a focused question or understand the phenomenon of library instruction. However, like a case study, the analysis brings together several streams of data including course attendance, online material page views, and some discussion of results from surveys. This paper reads somewhat in between an institutional case report and a case study.

The final example is a single author reporting on a personal experience of creating and executing the role of research informationist for a National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded research team [ 17 ]. There is a thoughtful review of the informationist literature and detailed descriptions of the institutional context and the process of gaining access to and participating in the new role. However, the motivating question in the abstract does not seem to be fully addressed through analysis from either the reflective perspective of the author as the research participant or consideration of other streams of data from those involved in the informationist experience. The publication reads more like a case report about this informationist’s experience than a case study that explores the research informationist experience through the selection of this case.

All of these publications are well written and useful for their intended audiences, but in general, they are much shorter and much less rich in depth than case studies published in social sciences research. It may be that the authors have been constrained by word counts or page limits. For example, the submission category for Case Studies in the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) limited them to 3,000 words and defined them as “articles describing the process of developing, implementing, and evaluating a new service, program, or initiative, typically in a single institution or through a single collaborative effort” [ 18 ]. This definition’s focus on novelty and description sounds much more like the definition of case report than the in-depth, detailed investigation of a time- and space-bound problem that is often examined through case study research.

Problem-focused or question-driven case study research would benefit from the space provided for Original Investigations that employ any type of quantitative or qualitative method of analysis. One of the best examples in the JMLA of an in-depth multiple case study that was authored by a librarian who published the findings from her doctoral dissertation represented all the elements of a case study. In eight pages, she provided a theoretical basis for the research question, a pilot study, and a multiple case design, including integrated data from interviews and focus groups [ 19 ].

We have distinguished between case reports and case studies primarily to assist librarians who are new to research and critical appraisal of case study methodology to recognize the features that authors use to describe and designate the methodological approaches of their publications. For researchers who are new to case research methodology and are interested in learning more, Hancock and Algozzine provide a guide [ 20 ].

We hope that JMLA readers appreciate the rigor of well-executed case study research. We believe that distinguishing between descriptive case reports and analytic case studies in the journal’s submission categories will allow the depth of case study methodology to increase. We also hope that authors feel encouraged to pursue submitting relevant case studies or case reports for future publication.

Editor’s note: In response to this invited editorial, the Journal of the Medical Library Association will consider manuscripts employing rigorous qualitative case study methodology to be Original Investigations (fewer than 5,000 words), whereas manuscripts describing the process of developing, implementing, and assessing a new service, program, or initiative—typically in a single institution or through a single collaborative effort—will be considered to be Case Reports (formerly known as Case Studies; fewer than 3,000 words).

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Home > Books > Qualitative versus Quantitative Research

Research Methods in Library and Information Science

Submitted: 28 October 2016 Reviewed: 23 March 2017 Published: 28 June 2017

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.68749

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Library and information science (LIS) is a very broad discipline, which uses a wide rangeof constantly evolving research strategies and techniques. The aim of this chapter is to provide an updated view of research issues in library and information science. A stratified random sample of 440 articles published in five prominent journals was analyzed and classified to identify (i) research approach, (ii) research methodology, and (iii) method of data analysis. For each variable, a coding scheme was developed, and the articles were coded accordingly. A total of 78% of the articles reported empirical research. The rest 22% were classified as non‐empirical research papers. The five most popular topics were “information retrieval,” “information behaviour,” “information literacy,” “library services,” and “organization and management.” An overwhelming majority of the empirical research articles employed a quantitative approach. Although the survey emerged as the most frequently used research strategy, there is evidence that the number and variety of research methodologies have been increased. There is also evidence that qualitative approaches are gaining increasing importance and have a role to play in LIS, while mixed methods have not yet gained enough recognition in LIS research.

  • library and information science
  • research methods
  • research strategies
  • data analysis techniques
  • research articles

Author Information

Aspasia togia *.

  • Department of Library Science & Information Systems, Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Thessaloniki, Greece

Afrodite Malliari

  • DataScouting, Thessaloniki, Greece

*Address all correspondence to: [email protected]

1. Introduction

Library and information science (LIS), as its name indicates, is a merging of librarianship and information science that took place in the 1960s [ 1 , 2 ]. LIS is a field of both professional practice and scientific inquiry. As a field of practice, it includes the profession of librarianship as well as a number of other information professions, all of which assume the interplay of the following:

information content,

the people who interact with the content, and

the technology used to facilitate the creation, communication, storage, or transformation of the content [ 3 ].

The disciplinary foundation of LIS, which began in the 1920s, aimed at providing a theoretical foundation for the library profession. LIS has evolved in close relationship with other fields of research, especially computer science, communication studies, and cognitive sciences [ 4 ].

The connection of LIS with professional practice, on one hand, and other research fields on the other has influenced its research orientation and the development of methodological tools and theoretical perspectives [ 5 ]. Research problems are diverse, depending on the research direction, local trends, etc. Most of them relate to the professional practice although there are theoretical research statements as well. LIS research strives to address important information issues, such as these of “ information retrieval, information quality and authenticity, policy for access and preservation, the health and security applications of data mining ”(p. 3) [ 6 ]. The research is multidisciplinary in nature, and it has been heavily influenced by research designs developed in the social, behavioral, and management sciences and to a lesser extent by the theoretical inquiry adopted in the humanities [ 7 ]. Methods used in information retrieval research have been adapted from computer science. The emergence of evidence‐based librarianship in the late 1990s brought a positivist approach to LIS research, since it incorporated many of the research designs and methods used in clinical medicine [ 7 , 8 ]. In addition, LIS has developed its own methodological approaches, a prominent example of which is bibliometrics. Bibliometrics, which can be defined as “ the use of mathematical and statistical methods to study documents and patterns of publication ” (p. 38) [ 9 ], is a native research methodology, which has been extensively used outside the field, especially in science studies [ 10 ].

Library and information science research has been often criticized as being fragmentary, narrowly focused, and oriented to practical problems [ 11 ]. Many authors have noticed limited use of theory in published research and have advocated greater use of theory as a conceptual basis in LIS research [ 4 , 11 – 14 ]. Feehan et al. [ 13 ] claimed that LIS literature has not evolved enough to support a rigid body of its own theoretical basis. Jarvelin and Vakkari [ 15 ] argued that LIS theories are usually vague and conceptually unclear, and that research in LIS has been dominated by a paradigm which “ has made little use of such traditional scientific approaches as foundations and conceptual analysis, or of scientific explanation and theory formulation ” (p. 415). This lack of theoretical contributions may be associated with the fact that LIS emanated from professional practice and is therefore closely linked to practical problems such as the processing and organization of library materials, documentation, and information retrieval [ 15 , 16 ].

In this chapter, after briefly discussing the role of theory in LIS research, we provide an updated view of research issues in the field that will help scholars and students stay informed about topics related to research strategies and methods. To accomplish this, we describe and analyze patterns of LIS research activity as reflected in prominent library journals. The analysis of the articles highlights trends and recurring themes in LIS research regarding the use of multiple methods, the adoption of qualitative approaches, and the employment of advanced techniques for data analysis and interpretation [ 17 ].

2. The role of theory in LIS research

The presence of theory is an indication of research eminence and respectability [ 18 ], as well as a feature of discipline’s maturity [ 19 , 20 ]. Theory has been defined in many ways. “ Any of the following have been used as the meaning of theory: a law, a hypothesis, group of hypotheses, proposition, supposition, explanation, model, assumption, conjecture, construct, edifice, structure, opinion, speculation, belief, principle, rule, point of view, generalization, scheme, or idea ” (p. 309) [ 21 ]. A theory can be described as “ a set of interrelated concepts, definitions, and propositions that explains or predicts events or situations by specifying relations among variables ” [ 22 ]. According to Babbie [ 23 ], research is “ a systematic explanation for the observed facts and laws that related to a particular aspect of life ” (p. 49). It is “ a multiple‐level component of the research process, comprising a range of generalizations that move beyond a descriptive level to a more explanatory level ” [ 24 ] (p. 319). The role of theory in social sciences is, among other things, to explain and predict behavior, be usable in practical applications, and guide research [ 25 ]. According to Smiraglia [ 26 ], theory does not exist in a vacuum but in a system that explains the domains of human actions, the phenomena found in these domains, and the ways in which they are affected. He maintains that theory is developed by systematically observing phenomena, either in the positivist empirical research paradigm or in the qualitative hermeneutic paradigm. Theory is used to formulate hypotheses in quantitative research and confirms observations in qualitative research.

Glazier and Grover [ 24 ] proposed a model for theory‐building in LIS called “circuits of theory.” The model includes taxonomy of theory, developed earlier by the authors [ 11 ], and the critical social and psychological factors that influence research. The purpose of the taxonomy was to demonstrate the relationships among the concepts of research, theory, paradigms, and phenomena. Phenomena are described as “ events experienced in the empirical world ” (p. 230) [ 11 ]. Researchers assign symbols (digital or iconic representations, usually words or pictures) to phenomena, and meaning to symbols, and then they conceptualize the relationships among phenomena and formulate hypotheses and research questions. “ In the taxonomy, empirical research begins with the formation of research questions to be answered about the concepts or hypotheses for testing the concepts within a narrow set of predetermined parameters ” (p. 323) [ 24 ]. Various levels of theories, with implications for research in library and information Science, are described. The first theory level, called substantive theory , is defined as “ a set of propositions which furnish an explanation for an applied area of inquiry ” (p. 233) [ 11 ]. In fact, it may not be viewed as a theory but rather be considered as a research hypothesis that has been tested or even a research finding [ 16 ]. The next level of theory, called formal theory , is defined as “ a set of propositions which furnish an explanation for a formal or conceptual area of inquiry, that is, a discipline ” (p. 234) [ 11 ]. Substantive and formal theories together are usually considered as “middle range” theory in the social sciences. Their difference lies in the ability to structure generalizations and the potential for explanation and prediction. The final level, grand theory , is “ a set of theories or generalizations that transcend the borders of disciplines to explain relationships among phenomena ” (p. 321) [ 24 ]. According to the authors, most research generates substantive level theory, or, alternatively, researchers borrow theory from the appropriate discipline, apply it to the problem under investigation, and reconstruct the theory at the substantive level. Next in the hierarchy of theoretical categories is the paradigm , which is described as “ a framework of basic assumptions with which perceptions are evaluated and relationships are delineated and applied to a discipline or profession ” (p. 234) [ 11 ]. Finally, the most significant theoretical category is the world view , which is defined as “ an individual’s accepted knowledge, including values and assumptions, which provide a ‘filter’ for perception of all phenomena ” (p. 235) [ 11 ]. All the previous categories contribute to shaping the individual’s worldview. In the revised model, which places more emphasis on the impact of social environment on the research process, research and theory building is surrounded by a system of three basic contextual modules: the self, society, and knowledge, both discovered and undiscovered. The interactions and dialectical relationships of these three modules affect the research process and create a dynamic environment that fosters theory creation and development. The authors argue that their model will help researchers build theories that enable generalizations beyond the conclusions drawn from empirical data [ 24 ].

In an effort to propose a framework for a unified theory of librarianship, McGrath [ 27 ] reviewed research articles in the areas of publishing, acquisitions, classification and knowledge organization, storage, preservation and collection management, library collections, and circulations. In his study, he included articles that employed explanatory and predictive statistical methods to explore relationships between variables within and between the above subfields of LIS. For each paper reviewed, he identified the dependent variable, significant independent variables, and the units of analysis. The review displayed explanatory studies “ in nearly every level, with the possible exception of classification, while studies in circulation and use of the library were clearly dominant. A recapitulation showed that a variable at one level may be a unit of analysis at another, a property of explanatory research crucial to the development of theory, which has been either ignored or unrecognized in LIS literature ” (p. 368) [ 27 ]. The author concluded that “explanatory and predictive relationships do exist and that they can be useful in constructing a comprehensive unified theory of librarianship” (p. 368) [ 27 ].

Recent LIS literature provides several analyses of theory development and use in the field. In a longitudinal analysis of information needs and uses of literature, Julien and Duggan [ 28 ] investigated, among other things, to what extent LIS literature was grounded in theory. Articles “ based on a coherent and explicit framework of assumptions, definitions, and propositions that, taken together, have some explanatory power ” (p. 294) were classified as theoretical articles. Results showed that only 18.3% of the research studies identified in the sample of articles examined were theoretically grounded.

Pettigrew and McKechnie [ 29 ] analyzed 1160 journal articles published between 1993 and 1998 to determine the level of theory use in information science research. In the absence of a singular definition of theory that would cover all the different uses of the term in the sample of articles, they operationalized “theory” according to authors’ use of the term. They found that 34.1% of the articles incorporated theory, with the largest percentage of theories drawn from the social sciences. Information science itself was the second most important source of theories. The authors argued that this significant increase in theory use in comparison to earlier studies could be explained by the research‐oriented journals they selected for examination, the sample time, and the broad way in which they defined “theory.” With regard to this last point, that is, their approach of identifying theories only if the author(s) describe them as such in the article, Pettigrew and McKechnie [ 29 ] observed significant differences in how information science researchers perceive theory:

Although it is possible that conceptual differences regarding the nature of theory may be due to the different disciplinary backgrounds of researchers in IS, other themes emerged from our data that suggest a general confusion exists about theory even within subfields. Numerous examples came to light during our analysis in which an author would simultaneously refer to something as a theory and a method, or as a theory and a model, or as a theory and a reported finding. In other words, it seems as though authors, themselves, are sometimes unsure about what constitutes theory. Questions even arose regarding whether the author to whom a theory was credited would him or herself consider his or her work as theory (p. 68).

Kim and Jeong [ 16 ] examined the state and characteristics of theoretical research in LIS journals between 1984 and 2003. They focused on the “theory incident,” which is described as “an event in which the author contributes to the development or the use of theory in his/her paper.” Their study adopted Glazier and Grover’s [ 24 ] model of “circuits of theory.” Substantive level theory was operationalized to a tested hypothesis or an observed relationship, while both formal and grand level theories were identified when they were named as “theory,” “model,” or “law” by authors other than those who had developed them. Results demonstrated that the application of theory was present in 41.4% of the articles examined, signifying a significant increase in the proportion of theoretical articles as compared to previous studies. Moreover, it was evident that both theory development and theory use had increased by the year. Information seeking and use, and information retrieval, were identified as the subfields with the most significant contribution to the development of the theoretical framework.

In a more in‐depth analysis of theory use in Kumasi et al. [ 30 ] qualitatively analyzed the extent to which theory is meaningfully used in scholarly literature. For this purpose, they developed a theory talk coding scheme, which included six analytical categories, describing how theory is discussed in a study. The intensity of theory talk in the articles was described across a continuum from minimal (e.g., theory is discussed in literature review and not mentioned later) through moderate (e.g., multiple theories are introduced but without discussing their relevance to the study) to major (e.g., theory is employed throughout the study). Their findings seem to support the opinion that “ LIS discipline has been focused on the application of specific theoretical frameworks rather than the generation of new theories ” (p. 179) [ 30 ]. Another point the authors made was about the multiple terms used in the articles to describe theory. Words such as “framework,” “model,” or “theory” were used interchangeably by scholars.

It is evident from the above discussion that the treatment of theory in LIS research covers a spectrum of intensity, from marginal mentions to theory revising, expanding, or building. Recent analyses of the published scholarship indicate that the field has not been very successful in contributing to existing theory or producing new theory. In spite of this, one may still assert that LIS research employs theory, and, in fact, there are many theories that have been used or generated by LIS scholars. However, “ calls for additional and novel theory development work in LIS continue, particularly for theories that might help to address the research practice gap ” (p. 12) [ 31 ].

3. Research strategies in LIS

3.1. surveys of research methods.

LIS is a very broad discipline, which uses a wide range of constantly evolving research strategies and techniques [ 32 ]. Various classification schemes have been developed to analyze methods employed in LIS research (e.g., [ 13 , 15 , 17 , 33 – 35 , 38 ]). Back in 1996, in the “research record” column of the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Kim [ 36 ] synthesized previous categories and definitions and introduced a list of research strategies, including data collection and analysis methods. The listing included four general research strategies: (i) theoretical/philosophical inquiry (development of conceptual models or frameworks), (ii) bibliographic research (descriptive studies of books and their properties as well as bibliographies of various kinds), (iii) R&D (development of storage and retrieval systems, software, interface, etc.), and (iv) action research, it aims at solving problems and bringing about change in organizations. Strategies are then divided into quantitative and qualitative driven. In the first category are included descriptive studies, predictive/explanatory studies, bibliometric studies, content analysis, and operation research studies. Qualitative‐driven strategies are considered the following: case study, biographical method, historical method, grounded theory, ethnography, phenomenology, symbolic interactionism/semiotics, sociolinguistics/discourse analysis/ethnographic semantics/ethnography of communication, and hermeneutics/interpretive interactionism (p. 378–380) [ 36 ].

Systematic studies of research methods in LIS started in the 1980s and several reviews of the literature have been conducted over the past years to analyze the topics, methodologies, and quality of research. One of the earliest studies was done by Peritz [ 37 ] who carried out a bibliometric analysis of the articles published in 39 core LIS journals between 1950 and 1975. She examined the methodologies used, the type of library or organization investigated, the type of activity investigated, and the institutional affiliation of the authors. The most important findings were a clear orientation toward library and information service activities, a widespread use of the survey methodology, a considerable increase of research articles after 1960, and a significant increase in theoretical studies after 1965.

Nour [ 38 ] followed up on Peritz’s [ 37 ] work and studied research articles published in 41 selected journals during the year 1980. She found that survey and theoretical/analytic methodologies were the most popular, followed by bibliometrics. Comparing these findings to those made by Peritz [ 37 ], Nour [ 38 ] found that the amount of research continued to increase, but the proportion of research articles to all articles had been decreasing since 1975.

Feehan et al. [ 13 ] described how LIS research published during 1984 was distributed over various topics and what methods had been used to study these topics. Their analysis revealed a predominance of survey and historical methods and a notable percentage of articles using more than one research method. Following a different approach, Enger et al. (1989) focused on the statistical methods used by LIS researchers in articles published during 1985 [ 39 ]. They found that only one out of three of the articles reported any use of statistics. Of those, 21% used descriptive statistics and 11% inferential statistics. In addition, the authors found that researchers from disciplines other than LIS made the highest use of statistics and LIS faculty showed the highest use of inferential statistics.

An influential work, against which later studies have been compared, is that of Jarvelin and Vakkari [ 15 ] who studied LIS articles published in 1985 in order to determine how research was distributed over various subjects, what approaches had been taken by the authors, and what research strategies had been used. The authors replicated their study later to include older research published between 1965 and 1985 [ 40 ]. The main finding of these studies was that the trends and characteristics of LIS research remained more or less the same over the aforementioned period of 20 years. The most common topics were information service activities and information storage and retrieval. Empirical research strategies were predominant, and of them, the most frequent was the survey. Kumpulainen [ 41 ], in an effort to provide a continuum with Jarvelin and Vakkeri’s [ 15 ] study, analyzed 632 articles sampled from 30 core LIS journals with respect to various characteristics, including topics, aspect of activity, research method, data selection method, and data analysis techniques. She used the same classification scheme, and she selected the journals based on a slightly modified version of Jarvelin and Vakkari’s [ 15 ] list. Library services and information storage and retrieval emerged again as the most common subjects approached by the authors and survey was the most frequently used method.

More recent studies of this nature include those conducted by Koufogiannakis et al. [ 42 ], Hildreth and Aytac [ 43 ], Hider and Pymm [ 32 ], and Chu [ 17 ]. Koufogiannakis et al. [ 42 ] examined research articles published in 2001 and they found that the majority of them were questionnaire‐based descriptive studies. Comparative, bibliometrics, content analysis, and program evaluation studies were also popular. Information storage and retrieval emerged as the predominant subject area, followed by library collections and management. Hildreth and Aytac [ 43 ] presented a review of the 2003–2005 published library research with special focus on methodology issues and the quality of published articles of both practitioners and academic scholars. They found that most research was descriptive and the most frequent method for data collection was the questionnaire, followed by content analysis and interviews. With regard to data analysis, more researchers used quantitative methods, considerably less used qualitative‐only methods, whereas 61 out of 206 studies included some kind of qualitative analysis, raising the total percentage of qualitative methods to nearly 50%. With regard to the quality of published research, the authors argued that “ the majority of the reports are detailed, comprehensive, and well‐organized ” (p. 254) [ 43 ]. Still, they noticed that the majority of reports did not mention the critical issues of research validity and reliability and neither did they indicate study limitations or future research recommendations. Hider and Pymm [ 32 ] described content analysis of LIS literature “ which aimed to identify the most common strategies and techniques employed by LIS researchers carrying out high‐profile empirical research ” (p. 109). Their results suggested that while researchers employed a wide variety of strategies, they mostly used surveys and experiments. They also observed that although quantitative research accounted for more than 50% of the articles, there was an increase in the use of most sophisticated qualitative methods. Chu [ 17 ] analyzed the research articles published between 2001 and 2010 in three major journals and reported the following most frequent research methods: theoretical approach (e.g., conceptual analysis), content analysis, questionnaire, interview, experiment, and bibliometrics. Her study showed an increase in both the number and variety of research methods but lack of growth in the use of qualitative research or in the adoption of multiple research methods.

In summary, the literature shows a continued interest in the analysis of published LIS research. Approaches include focusing on particular publication years, geographic areas, journal titles, aspects of LIS, and specific characteristics, such as subjects, authorship, and research methods. Despite the abundance of content analyses of LIS literature, the findings are not easily comparable due to differences in the number and titles of journals examined, in the types of the papers selected for analysis, in the periods covered, and in classification schemes developed by the authors to categorize article topics and research strategies. Despite the differences, some findings are consistent among all studies:

Information seeking, information retrieval, and library and information service activities are among the most common subjects studied,

Descriptive research methodologies based on surveys and questionnaires predominate,

Over the years, there has been a considerable increase in the array of research approaches used to explore library issues, and

Data analysis is usually limited to descriptive statistics, including frequencies, means, and standard deviations.

3.2. Data collection and analysis

Articles published between 2011 and 2016 were obtained from the following journals: Library and Information Science Research, College & Research Libraries, Journal of Documentation, Information Processing & Management, and Journal of Academic Librarianship ( Table 1 ). These five titles were selected as data sources because they have the highest 5‐year impact factor of the journals classified in Ulrich’s Serials Directory under the “Library and Information Sciences” subject heading. From the journals selected, only full‐length articles were collected. Editorials, book reviews, letters, interviews, commentaries, and news items were excluded from the analysis. This selection process yielded 1643 articles. A stratified random sample of 440 articles was chosen for in‐depth analysis ( Table 2 ). For the purpose of this study, five strata, corresponding to the five journals, were used. The sample size was determined using a margin of error, 4%, and confidence interval, 95%.

Libr & Inf Sci ResColl & Res LibrJ DocInf Proc & ManagJ Acad Libr
ScopeThe research process in library and information science as well as research findings and, where applicable, their practical applications and significanceAll fields of interest and concern to academic and research librariesTheories, concepts, models, frameworks, and philosophies related to documents and recorded knowledgeTheory, methods, or application in the field of information scienceProblems and issues germane to college and university libraries
Start year19791939194519631975
5‐year impact factor1.9811.6171.4801.4681.181

Table 1.

Profile of the journals.

TitlesTotal number of articlesArticles selected
Libr & Inf Sci Res21457
Coll & Res Libr23362
J of Docum30481
Inf Proc & Manag432116
J Acad Libr460123

Table 2.

Journal titles.

Each article was classified as either research or theoretical. Articles that employed specific research methodology and presented specific findings of original studies performed by the author(s) were considered research articles. The kind of study may vary (e.g., it could be an experiment, a survey, etc.), but in all cases, raw data had been collected and analyzed, and conclusions were drawn from the results of that analysis. Articles reporting research in system design or evaluation in the information systems field were also regarded as research articles . On the other hand, works that reviewed theories, theoretical concepts, or principles discussed topics of interest to researchers and professionals, or described research methodologies were regarded as theoretical articles [ 44 ] and were classified in the no‐empirical‐research category. In this category, were also included literature reviews and articles describing a project, a situation, a process, etc.

Each article was classified into a topical category according to its main subject. The articles classified as research were then further explored and analyzed to identify (i) research approach, (ii) research methodology, and (iii) method of data analysis. For each variable, a coding scheme was developed, and the articles were coded accordingly. The final list of the analysis codes was extracted inductively from the data itself, using as reference the taxonomies utilized in previous studies [ 15 , 32 , 43 , 45 ]. Research approaches “ are plans and procedures for research ” (p. 3) [ 46 ]. Research approaches can generally be grouped as qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies. Quantitative studies aim at the systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties or phenomena and their relationships. Qualitative research can be broadly defined as “ any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification ” (p. 17) [ 47 ]. It is a way to gain insights through discovering meanings and explaining phenomena based on the attributes of the data. In mixed model research, quantitative and qualitative approaches are combined within or across the stages of the research process. It was beyond the scope of this study to identify in which stages of a study—data collection, data analysis, and data interpretation—the mixing was applied or to reveal the types of mixing. Therefore, studies using both quantitative and qualitative methods, irrespective of whether they describe if and how the methods were integrated, were coded as mixed methods studies.

Research methodologies , or strategies of inquiry, are types of research models “ that provide specific direction for procedures in a research design ” (p. 11) [ 46 ] and inform the decisions concerning data collection and analysis. A coding schema of research methodologies was developed by the authors based on the analysis of all research articles included in the sample. The methodology classification included 12 categories ( Table 3 ). Each article was classified into one category for the variable research methodology . If more than one research strategy was mentioned (e.g., experiment and survey), the article was classified according to the main strategy.

Research methodologyDescription
Action researchSystematic procedure for collecting information about and subsequently improving a particular situation in a setting where there is a problem needing a solution or change
Bibliometrics“A series of techniques that seeks to quantify the process of written communication” (Ikpaahindi, 1985). The most common type of bibliometric research is citation analysis
Case studyIn‐depth exploration of an activity, an event, a program, etc., usually using a variety of data collection procedures
Content analysisAnalysis (qualitative or quantitative) of secondary text or visual material
EthnographyStudy of behavior, actions, etc. of a group in a natural setting
ExperimentPre‐experimental designs, quasi‐experiments, and true experiments aiming at investigating relationships between variables establishing possible cause‐and‐effect relationships
Grounded theoryThe development of a theory “of a process, action, or interaction grounded in the views of participants” (Creswell, 2014, p. 87)
Mathematical methodStudies employing mathematical analysis (e.g., integrals)
PhenomenologicalThe study of the lived experiences of individuals about a phenomenon (Creswell, 2009)
Secondary data analysisUse of existing data (e.g., circulation statistics, institutional repository data, etc.) to answer the research question(s)
SurveyDescriptive research method used to “describe the characteristics of, and make predictions about, a population” (“LARKS: Librarian and Researcher Knowledge Space,” 2017)
System and software analysis/designDevelopment and experimental evaluation of tools, techniques, systems, etc. related to information retrieval and related areas

Table 3.

Coding schema for research methodologies.

Methods of data analysis refer to the techniques used by the researchers to explore the original data and answer their research problems or questions. Data analysis for quantitative researches involves statistical analysis and interpretation of figures and numbers. In qualitative studies, on the other hand, data analysis involves identifying common patterns within the data and making interpretations of the meanings of the data. The array of data analysis methods included the following categories:

Descriptive statistics,

Inferential statistics,

Qualitative data analysis,

Experimental evaluation, and

Other methods,

Descriptive statistics are used to describe the basic features of the data in a study. Inferential statistics investigate questions, models, and hypotheses. Mathematical analysis refers to mathematic functions, etc. used mainly in bibliometric studies to answer research questions associated with citation data. Qualitative data analysis is the range of processes and procedures used for the exploration of qualitative data, from coding and descriptive analysis to identification of patterns and themes and the testing of emergent findings and hypotheses. It was used in this study as an overarching term encompassing various types of analysis, such as thematic analysis, discourse analysis, or grounded theory analysis. The class experimental evaluation was used for system and software analysis and design studies which assesses the newly developed algorithm, tool, method, etc. by performing experiments on selected datasets. In these cases, “experiments” differ from the experimental designs in social sciences. Methods that did not fall into one of these categories (e.g., mathematical analysis, visualization, or benchmarking) were classified as other methods . If both descriptive and inferential statistics were used in an article, only the inferential were recorded. In mixed methods studies, each method was recorded in the order in which it was reported in the article.

Ten percent of the articles were randomly selected and used to establish inter‐rater reliability and provide basic validation of the coding schema. Cohen’s kappa was calculated for each coded variable. The average Cohen’s kappa value was κ = 0.60, p < 0.000 (the highest was 0.63 and lowest was 0.59). This indicates a substantial agreement [ 48 ]. The coding disparities across raters were discussed, and the final codes were determined via consensus.

3.3. Results

3.3.1. topic.

Table 4 presents the distribution of articles over the various topics, for each of which a detailed description is provided. The five most popular topics of the papers in the total sample of 440 articles were “information retrieval,” “information behavior,” “information literacy,” “library services,” and “organization and management.” These areas cover over 60% of all topics studied in the papers. The least‐studied topics (covered in less than eight papers) fall into the categories of “information and knowledge management,” “library information systems,” “LIS theory,” and “infometrics.”

Information retrievalTheory, algorithms, and experiments in information retrieval, issues related to data mining, and knowledge discovery21.6
Information behaviorInteraction of individuals with information sources. Topics such as information access, information needs, information seeking, and information use are included here15.0
Information literacyIssues related to information literacy and bibliographic instruction (methods, assessment, competences and skills, attitudes, etc.)9.5
Library servicesIssues related to different library services, such as circulation, reference services, ILL, digital services, etc., including innovative programs and services9.3
Organization and managementElements of library management and administration, such as staffing, budget, financing, etc. and issues related to the assessment of library services, standards, etc.7.3
Scholarly communicationIssues related to different aspects of scholarly communication, such as publishing, open access, analysis of literature, methods, and techniques for the evaluation and impact of scientific research (e.g., journal rankings, bibliometric indices, etc.)5.7
Digital libraries and metadataIssues related to digital collections, digital libraries, institutional repositories, design and use of metadata, as well as data management and curation activities4.3
Knowledge organizationProcesses (e.g., cataloguing, subject analysis, indexing and classification) and knowledge and information organization systems (e.g., classification systems, lists of subject headings, thesauri, ontologies)4.3
Library collectionsDevelopment and evaluation of all types of library collections, including special collections. Issues related to e‐resources (e‐books, e‐journals, etc.), including their use, evaluation, management, etc.3.9
Library personnelIssues related to library personnel (qualifications, professional development, professional experiences, etc.)3.6
Research in LISIssues related to research methods employed in LIS research as well as librarians’ engagement in research activities3.0
Social mediaIssues related to social media (facebook, twitter, blogs, etc.) and their use by both libraries and library users2.5
Spaces and facilitiesLibrary buildings, library as place2.0
Information/knowledge managementIssues related to the process of finding, selecting, organizing, disseminating, and transferring information and knowledge1.6
Library information systemsIssues related to different aspects of information systems, such as OPAC, ILS, etc. Design, content, and usability of library websites1.6
LIS theoryIssues related to theoretical aspects of LIS and theoretical studies on the transmission, processing, utilization, and extraction of information1.6
InfometricsThe use of mathematical and statistical methods in research related to information. Bibliometrics and webometrics are included here1.1
OtherTopics that could not be classified anywhere else and were represented by minimal number of articles (e.g., information history, faculty‐librarian cooperation)2.0

Table 4.

Article topics.

Figure 1 shows how the top five topics are distributed across journals. As expected, the topic “information retrieval” has higher publication frequencies in Information Processing & Management, a journal focusing on system design and issues related to the tools and techniques used in storage and retrieval of information. “Information literacy,” “information behavior,” “library services,” and “organization and management” appear to be distributed almost proportionately in College & Research Libraries. “Information literacy” seems to be a more preferred topic in the Journal of Academic Librarianship, while “information behavior” is more popular in the Journal of Documentation and Library & Information Science Research.

define case study in library science

Figure 1.

Distribution of topics across journals.

3.3.2. Research approach and methodology

Of all articles examined, 343 articles, which represent the 78% of the sample, reported empirical research. The rest 22% (N = 97) were classified as non‐empirical research papers. Research articles were coded as quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods studies. An overwhelming majority (70%) of the empirical research articles employed a quantitative research approach. Qualitative and mixed methods research was reported in 21.6 and 8.5% of the articles, respectively ( Figure 2 ).

define case study in library science

Figure 2.

Research approach.

Table 5 presents the distribution of research approaches over the five most famous topics. The quantitative approach clearly prevails in all topics, especially in information retrieval research. However, qualitative designs seem to gain acceptance in all topics (except information retrieval), while in information behavior research, quantitative and qualitative approaches are almost evenly distributed. Mixed methods were quite frequent in information literacy and information behavior studies and less popular in the other topics.

TopicsMixed methodsQualitativeQuantitative
Information behavior14.0%40.4%45.6%
Information literacy17.6%26.5%55.9%
Information retrieval0.0%0.0%100.0%
Library services3.6%39.3%57.1%
Organization and management4.8%23.8%71.4%

Table 5.

Topics across research approach.

The most frequently used research strategy was survey, accounting for almost 37% of all research articles, followed by system and software analysis and design, a strategy used in this study specifically for research in information systems (Jarvelin & Vakkari, 1990). This result is influenced by the fact that Information Processing & Management addresses issues at the intersection between LIS and computer science, and the majority of its articles present the development of new tools, algorithms, methods and systems, and their experimental evaluation. The third‐ and fourth‐ranking strategies were content analysis and bibliometrics. Case study, experiment, and secondary data analysis were represented by 15 articles each, while the rest of the techniques were underrepresented with considerably fewer articles ( Table 6 ).

Research methodology%
System and software analysis/design26.8
Content analysis9.6
Case study4.4
Secondary data analysis4.4
Grounded theory2.6
Action research0.6
Mathematical method0.3

Table 6.

Research methodologies.

3.3.3. Methods of data analysis

Table 7 displays the frequencies for each type of data analysis.

Descriptive statistics28.4
Inferential statistics18.5
Qualitative data analysis27.1
Experimental evaluation24.7
Other methods1.3

Table 7.

Method of data analysis.

Almost half of the empirical research papers examined reported any use of statistics. Descriptive statistics, such as frequencies, means, or standard deviations, were more frequently used compared to inferential statistics, such as ANOVA, regression, or factor analysis. Nearly one‐third of the articles employed some type of qualitative data analysis either as the only method or—in mixed methods studies—in combination with quantitative techniques.

3.4. Discussions and conclusions

The patterns of LIS research activity as reflected in the articles published between 2011 and 2016 in five well‐established, peer‐reviewed journals were described and analyzed. LIS literature addresses many and diverse topics. Information retrieval, information behavior, and library services continue to attract the interest of researchers as they are core areas in library science. Information retrieval has been rated as one of the most famous areas of interest in research articles published between 1965 and 1985 [ 40 ]. According to Dimitroff [ 49 ], information retrieval was the second most popular topic in the articles published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, while Cano [ 50 ] argued that LIS research produced in Spain from 1977 to 1994 was mostly centered on information retrieval and library and information services. In addition, Koufogiannakis et al. [ 42 ] found that information access and retrieval were the domain with the most research, and in Hildreth and Aytac’s [ 43 ] study, most articles were dealing with issues related to users (needs, behavior, information seeking, etc.), services, and collections. The present study provides evidence that the amount of research in information literacy is increasing, presumably due to the growing importance of information literacy instruction in libraries. In recent years, there is an ongoing educational role for librarians, who are more and more actively engaging in the teaching and learning processes, a trend that is reflected in the research output.

With regard to research methodologies, the present study seems to confirm the well‐documented predominance of survey in LIS research. According to Dimitroff [ 49 ], the percentage related to use of survey research methods reported in various studies varied between 20.3 and 41.5%. Powell [ 51 ], in a review of the research methods appearing in LIS literature, pointed out that survey had consistently been the most common type of study in both dissertations and journal articles. Survey reported the most widely used research design by Jarvelin and Vakkari [ 40 ], Crawford [ 52 ], Hildreth and Aytac [ 43 ], and Hider and Pymm [ 32 ]. The majority of articles examined by Koufogiannakis et al. [ 42 ] were descriptive studies using questionnaires/surveys. In addition, survey methods represented the largest proportion of methods used in information behavior articles analyzed by Julien et al. [ 53 ]. There is no doubt that survey has been used more than any other method in LIS research. As Jarvelin and Vakkari [ 15 ] put it, “it appears that the field is so survey‐oriented that almost all problems are seen through a survey viewpoint” (p. 416). Much of survey’s popularity can be ascribed to its being a well‐known, understood, easily conducted, and inexpensive method, which is easy to analyze results [ 41 , 42 ]. However, our findings suggest that while the survey ranks high, a variety of other methods have been also used in the research articles. Content analysis emerged as the third‐most frequent strategy, a finding similar to those of previous studies [ 17 , 32 ]. Although content analysis was not regarded by LIS researchers as a favored research method until recently, its popularity seems to be growing [ 17 ].

Quantitative approaches, which dominate, tend to rely on frequency counts, percentages, and descriptive statistics used to describe the basic features of the data in a study. Fewer studies used advanced statistical analysis techniques, such as t‐tests, correlation, and regressions, while there were some examples of more sophisticated methods, such as factor analysis, ANOVA, MANOVA, and structural equation modeling. Researchers engaging in quantitative research designs should take into consideration the use of inferential statistics, which enables the generalization from the sample being studied to the population of interest and, if used appropriately, are very useful for hypothesis testing. In addition, multivariate statistics are suitable for examining the relationships among variables, revealing patterns and understanding complex phenomena.

The findings also suggest that qualitative approaches are gaining increasing importance and have a role to play in LIS studies. These results are comparable to the findings of Hider and Pymm [ 32 ], who observed significant increases for qualitative research strategies in contemporary LIS literature. Qualitative analysis description varied widely, reflecting the diverse perspectives, analysis methods, and levels of depth of analysis. Commonly used terms in the articles included coding, content analysis, thematic analysis, thematic analytical approach, theme, or pattern identification. One could argue that the efforts made to encourage and promote qualitative methods in LIS research [ 54 , 55 ] have made some impact. However, qualitative research methods do not seem to be adequately utilized by library researchers and practitioners, despite their potential to offer far more illuminating ways to study library‐related issues [ 56 ]. LIS research has much to gain from the interpretive paradigm underpinning qualitative methods. This paradigm assumes that social reality is

the product of processes by which social actors together negotiate the meanings for actions and situations; it is a complex of socially constructed meanings. Human experience involves a process of interpretation rather than sensory, material apprehension of the external physical world and human behavior depends on how individuals interpret the conditions in which they find themselves. Social reality is not some ‘thing’ that may be interpreted in different ways, it is those interpretations (p. 96) [ 57 ].

As stated in the introduction of this chapter, library and information science focuses on the interaction between individuals and information. In every area of LIS research, the connection of factors that lead to and influence this interaction is increasingly complex. Qualitative research searches for “ all aspects of that complexity on the grounds that they are essential to understanding the behavior of which they are a part ” (p. 241) [ 59 ]. Qualitative research designs can offer a more in‐depth analysis of library users, their needs, attitudes, and behaviors.

The use of mixed methods designs was found to be rather rare. While Hildreth and Aytac [ 43 ] found higher percentages of studies using combined methods in data analysis, our results are analogous to those shown by Fidel [ 60 ]. In fact, as in her study, only few of the articles analyzed referred to mixed methods research by name, a finding indicating that “ the concept has not yet gained recognition in LIS research ” (p. 268). Mixed methods research has become an established research approach in the social sciences as it minimizes the weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative research alone and allows researchers to investigate the phenomena more completely [ 58 ].

In conclusion, there is evidence that LIS researchers employ a large number and wide variety of research methodologies. Each research approach, strategy, and method has its advantages and limitations. If the aim of the study is to confirm hypotheses about phenomena or measure and analyze the causal relationships between variables, then quantitative methods might be used. If the research seeks to explore, understand, and explain phenomena then qualitative methods might be used. Researchers can consider the full range of possibilities and make their selection based on the philosophical assumptions they bring to the study, the research problem being addressed, their personal experiences, and the intended audience for the study [ 46 ].

Taking into consideration the increasing use of qualitative methods in LIS studies, an in‐depth analysis of papers using qualitative methods would be interesting. A future study in which the different research strategies and types of analysis used in qualitative methods will be presented and analyzed could help LIS practitioners understand the benefits of qualitative analysis.

Mixed methods used in LIS research papers could be analyzed in future studies in order to identify in which stages of a study, data collection, data analysis, and data interpretation, the mixing was applied and to reveal the types of mixing.

As far as it concerns the quantitative research methods, which predominate in LIS research, it would be interesting to identify systematic relations between more than two variables such as authors’ affiliation, topic, research strategies, etc. and to create homogeneous groups using multivariate data analysis techniques.

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Introduction to Library and Information Science

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Reed Hepler, College of Southern Idaho

David Horalek, College of Southern Idaho

Copyright Year: 2023

Publisher: College of Southern Idaho Pressbooks Network (CSI)

Language: English

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Reviewed by Kathy Evans, Reference & Archive Librarian, Shenandoah University on 11/10/23

This textbook is logically organized, with distinctive chapters covering essential practices of librarianship. Hepler and Horalek do not offer an index in this introductory text. The authors define key concepts within the text, and those words are... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

This textbook is logically organized, with distinctive chapters covering essential practices of librarianship. Hepler and Horalek do not offer an index in this introductory text. The authors define key concepts within the text, and those words are conveniently bolded and offer a "pop-out" definition. Unfortunately, these concepts are not in a glossary of terms or a helpful index. However, the text is searchable as an eBook.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

The text reads accurately in regards to librarianship. Some wording in the texts indicates bias. For example, the authors describe OCLC as a monopoly. Which is arguably true, but is it necessary to state that? The authors mention "publisher's whims." Whims? Another word may be more appropriate. Curiously, there is no mention of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Chapter 2 – History of Libraries.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Overall, the text is straightforward and relevant to the subject. Updates should be relatively easy, given the organization and format of the information.

Clarity rating: 4

Current terms may help clarify the different aspects of librarianship and library services. Some sections are wordy and lack confidence in the subject discussed, while others seem almost rushed.

Consistency rating: 4

The text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework. As mentioned under clarity, more current descriptions of library services could be added to the text to clarify the terminology used.

Modularity rating: 5

The authors do a good job organizing the sections into readable chunks of information.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The authors organized the textbook logically.

Interface rating: 5

The interface is easy to navigate. The self-check modules at the end of each section are helpful, albeit clunky, to use.

Grammatical Errors rating: 3

The text is wordy in the delivery of the material covered. Some language seems too familiar when presenting the information. Several punctuation errors are apparent.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The authors address the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in library collections.

Introduction to Library and Information Science could be a helpful textbook with some added proofreading and revisions.

Reviewed by Taylor Tharpe, Research & Digital Services Librarian, Longwood University on 7/18/23

In Part I of the textbook, the author offers consistent definitions of certain terms, such as data, knowledge, and information. The author does a great job of providing helpful resources and information to go hand-in-hand with each... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

In Part I of the textbook, the author offers consistent definitions of certain terms, such as data, knowledge, and information. The author does a great job of providing helpful resources and information to go hand-in-hand with each chapter/section. However, some of the material that is questioned in the interactive quizzes are not mentioned in that particular section.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

I noticed no bias while reading this textbook. All information is presented in an accurate and unbiased manner.

The majority of the content was relevant and up to date.

Clarity rating: 5

This textbook is written in accessible prose and provides a disclaimer and instructions for the interactive features that accompany each section/chapter.

Consistency rating: 5

The textbook is consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

Textbook is broken into three different parts, that can be separated to support different units of a course or class.

The topics presented are organized in an understandable manner. They flow together nicely.

Interface rating: 4

Pictures and graphs could use some formatting work as the some of the captions aren't directly under the image, but I think this just depends on how you are viewing the textbook. The online version of the textbook is much more user-friendly than the PDF version.

Grammatical Errors rating: 2

This textbook makes many grammatical errors. This includes capitalization, sentence structure, spelling, misusing, etc. I counted numerous errors throughout the entire text.

The author touches on the subject of demographics and knowing how to serve patrons regardless of ethnic group, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The textbook also has a section on DEI and how important it is for libraries to acquire materials and hold events that meet the DEI initiative.

The author focuses more on the application of skills associated with working within the library field, rather than just lecturing about library theory. However, the author also mentions using ChatGPT, which doesn't seem very reliable to me.

Table of Contents

  • Data, Information, and Knowledge
  • History of Libraries
  • Library Services
  • Acquisitions
  • Collection Development 
  • Classficiation and Cataloging 
  • Facilities and Funding
  • Circulation
  • Reference Librarianship 
  • Preservation
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Digitial Initiatives and Library 2.0
  • Representation in the Library
  • Patron Services
  • Reader's Advisory
  • The Modern Library Experience

Ancillary Material

About the book.

This book explores the history, present, and future of library science, both in theory and in practice. It examines the place of the librarian as arbiter of information access in a constantly-changing and modernizing global community.

About the Contributors

Reed Hepler , College of Southern Idaho

David Horalek , College of Southern Idaho

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

A case study research paper examines a person, place, event, condition, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis in order to extrapolate  key themes and results that help predict future trends, illuminate previously hidden issues that can be applied to practice, and/or provide a means for understanding an important research problem with greater clarity. A case study research paper usually examines a single subject of analysis, but case study papers can also be designed as a comparative investigation that shows relationships between two or more subjects. The methods used to study a case can rest within a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method investigative paradigm.

Case Studies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010 ; “What is a Case Study?” In Swanborn, Peter G. Case Study Research: What, Why and How? London: SAGE, 2010.

How to Approach Writing a Case Study Research Paper

General information about how to choose a topic to investigate can be found under the " Choosing a Research Problem " tab in the Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper writing guide. Review this page because it may help you identify a subject of analysis that can be investigated using a case study design.

However, identifying a case to investigate involves more than choosing the research problem . A case study encompasses a problem contextualized around the application of in-depth analysis, interpretation, and discussion, often resulting in specific recommendations for action or for improving existing conditions. As Seawright and Gerring note, practical considerations such as time and access to information can influence case selection, but these issues should not be the sole factors used in describing the methodological justification for identifying a particular case to study. Given this, selecting a case includes considering the following:

  • The case represents an unusual or atypical example of a research problem that requires more in-depth analysis? Cases often represent a topic that rests on the fringes of prior investigations because the case may provide new ways of understanding the research problem. For example, if the research problem is to identify strategies to improve policies that support girl's access to secondary education in predominantly Muslim nations, you could consider using Azerbaijan as a case study rather than selecting a more obvious nation in the Middle East. Doing so may reveal important new insights into recommending how governments in other predominantly Muslim nations can formulate policies that support improved access to education for girls.
  • The case provides important insight or illuminate a previously hidden problem? In-depth analysis of a case can be based on the hypothesis that the case study will reveal trends or issues that have not been exposed in prior research or will reveal new and important implications for practice. For example, anecdotal evidence may suggest drug use among homeless veterans is related to their patterns of travel throughout the day. Assuming prior studies have not looked at individual travel choices as a way to study access to illicit drug use, a case study that observes a homeless veteran could reveal how issues of personal mobility choices facilitate regular access to illicit drugs. Note that it is important to conduct a thorough literature review to ensure that your assumption about the need to reveal new insights or previously hidden problems is valid and evidence-based.
  • The case challenges and offers a counter-point to prevailing assumptions? Over time, research on any given topic can fall into a trap of developing assumptions based on outdated studies that are still applied to new or changing conditions or the idea that something should simply be accepted as "common sense," even though the issue has not been thoroughly tested in current practice. A case study analysis may offer an opportunity to gather evidence that challenges prevailing assumptions about a research problem and provide a new set of recommendations applied to practice that have not been tested previously. For example, perhaps there has been a long practice among scholars to apply a particular theory in explaining the relationship between two subjects of analysis. Your case could challenge this assumption by applying an innovative theoretical framework [perhaps borrowed from another discipline] to explore whether this approach offers new ways of understanding the research problem. Taking a contrarian stance is one of the most important ways that new knowledge and understanding develops from existing literature.
  • The case provides an opportunity to pursue action leading to the resolution of a problem? Another way to think about choosing a case to study is to consider how the results from investigating a particular case may result in findings that reveal ways in which to resolve an existing or emerging problem. For example, studying the case of an unforeseen incident, such as a fatal accident at a railroad crossing, can reveal hidden issues that could be applied to preventative measures that contribute to reducing the chance of accidents in the future. In this example, a case study investigating the accident could lead to a better understanding of where to strategically locate additional signals at other railroad crossings so as to better warn drivers of an approaching train, particularly when visibility is hindered by heavy rain, fog, or at night.
  • The case offers a new direction in future research? A case study can be used as a tool for an exploratory investigation that highlights the need for further research about the problem. A case can be used when there are few studies that help predict an outcome or that establish a clear understanding about how best to proceed in addressing a problem. For example, after conducting a thorough literature review [very important!], you discover that little research exists showing the ways in which women contribute to promoting water conservation in rural communities of east central Africa. A case study of how women contribute to saving water in a rural village of Uganda can lay the foundation for understanding the need for more thorough research that documents how women in their roles as cooks and family caregivers think about water as a valuable resource within their community. This example of a case study could also point to the need for scholars to build new theoretical frameworks around the topic [e.g., applying feminist theories of work and family to the issue of water conservation].

Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. “Building Theories from Case Study Research.” Academy of Management Review 14 (October 1989): 532-550; Emmel, Nick. Sampling and Choosing Cases in Qualitative Research: A Realist Approach . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2013; Gerring, John. “What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good for?” American Political Science Review 98 (May 2004): 341-354; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Seawright, Jason and John Gerring. "Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research." Political Research Quarterly 61 (June 2008): 294-308.

Structure and Writing Style

The purpose of a paper in the social sciences designed around a case study is to thoroughly investigate a subject of analysis in order to reveal a new understanding about the research problem and, in so doing, contributing new knowledge to what is already known from previous studies. In applied social sciences disciplines [e.g., education, social work, public administration, etc.], case studies may also be used to reveal best practices, highlight key programs, or investigate interesting aspects of professional work.

In general, the structure of a case study research paper is not all that different from a standard college-level research paper. However, there are subtle differences you should be aware of. Here are the key elements to organizing and writing a case study research paper.

I.  Introduction

As with any research paper, your introduction should serve as a roadmap for your readers to ascertain the scope and purpose of your study . The introduction to a case study research paper, however, should not only describe the research problem and its significance, but you should also succinctly describe why the case is being used and how it relates to addressing the problem. The two elements should be linked. With this in mind, a good introduction answers these four questions:

  • What is being studied? Describe the research problem and describe the subject of analysis [the case] you have chosen to address the problem. Explain how they are linked and what elements of the case will help to expand knowledge and understanding about the problem.
  • Why is this topic important to investigate? Describe the significance of the research problem and state why a case study design and the subject of analysis that the paper is designed around is appropriate in addressing the problem.
  • What did we know about this topic before I did this study? Provide background that helps lead the reader into the more in-depth literature review to follow. If applicable, summarize prior case study research applied to the research problem and why it fails to adequately address the problem. Describe why your case will be useful. If no prior case studies have been used to address the research problem, explain why you have selected this subject of analysis.
  • How will this study advance new knowledge or new ways of understanding? Explain why your case study will be suitable in helping to expand knowledge and understanding about the research problem.

Each of these questions should be addressed in no more than a few paragraphs. Exceptions to this can be when you are addressing a complex research problem or subject of analysis that requires more in-depth background information.

II.  Literature Review

The literature review for a case study research paper is generally structured the same as it is for any college-level research paper. The difference, however, is that the literature review is focused on providing background information and  enabling historical interpretation of the subject of analysis in relation to the research problem the case is intended to address . This includes synthesizing studies that help to:

  • Place relevant works in the context of their contribution to understanding the case study being investigated . This would involve summarizing studies that have used a similar subject of analysis to investigate the research problem. If there is literature using the same or a very similar case to study, you need to explain why duplicating past research is important [e.g., conditions have changed; prior studies were conducted long ago, etc.].
  • Describe the relationship each work has to the others under consideration that informs the reader why this case is applicable . Your literature review should include a description of any works that support using the case to investigate the research problem and the underlying research questions.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research using the case study . If applicable, review any research that has examined the research problem using a different research design. Explain how your use of a case study design may reveal new knowledge or a new perspective or that can redirect research in an important new direction.
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies . This refers to synthesizing any literature that points to unresolved issues of concern about the research problem and describing how the subject of analysis that forms the case study can help resolve these existing contradictions.
  • Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research . Your review should examine any literature that lays a foundation for understanding why your case study design and the subject of analysis around which you have designed your study may reveal a new way of approaching the research problem or offer a perspective that points to the need for additional research.
  • Expose any gaps that exist in the literature that the case study could help to fill . Summarize any literature that not only shows how your subject of analysis contributes to understanding the research problem, but how your case contributes to a new way of understanding the problem that prior research has failed to do.
  • Locate your own research within the context of existing literature [very important!] . Collectively, your literature review should always place your case study within the larger domain of prior research about the problem. The overarching purpose of reviewing pertinent literature in a case study paper is to demonstrate that you have thoroughly identified and synthesized prior studies in relation to explaining the relevance of the case in addressing the research problem.

III.  Method

In this section, you explain why you selected a particular case [i.e., subject of analysis] and the strategy you used to identify and ultimately decide that your case was appropriate in addressing the research problem. The way you describe the methods used varies depending on the type of subject of analysis that constitutes your case study.

If your subject of analysis is an incident or event . In the social and behavioral sciences, the event or incident that represents the case to be studied is usually bounded by time and place, with a clear beginning and end and with an identifiable location or position relative to its surroundings. The subject of analysis can be a rare or critical event or it can focus on a typical or regular event. The purpose of studying a rare event is to illuminate new ways of thinking about the broader research problem or to test a hypothesis. Critical incident case studies must describe the method by which you identified the event and explain the process by which you determined the validity of this case to inform broader perspectives about the research problem or to reveal new findings. However, the event does not have to be a rare or uniquely significant to support new thinking about the research problem or to challenge an existing hypothesis. For example, Walo, Bull, and Breen conducted a case study to identify and evaluate the direct and indirect economic benefits and costs of a local sports event in the City of Lismore, New South Wales, Australia. The purpose of their study was to provide new insights from measuring the impact of a typical local sports event that prior studies could not measure well because they focused on large "mega-events." Whether the event is rare or not, the methods section should include an explanation of the following characteristics of the event: a) when did it take place; b) what were the underlying circumstances leading to the event; and, c) what were the consequences of the event in relation to the research problem.

If your subject of analysis is a person. Explain why you selected this particular individual to be studied and describe what experiences they have had that provide an opportunity to advance new understandings about the research problem. Mention any background about this person which might help the reader understand the significance of their experiences that make them worthy of study. This includes describing the relationships this person has had with other people, institutions, and/or events that support using them as the subject for a case study research paper. It is particularly important to differentiate the person as the subject of analysis from others and to succinctly explain how the person relates to examining the research problem [e.g., why is one politician in a particular local election used to show an increase in voter turnout from any other candidate running in the election]. Note that these issues apply to a specific group of people used as a case study unit of analysis [e.g., a classroom of students].

If your subject of analysis is a place. In general, a case study that investigates a place suggests a subject of analysis that is unique or special in some way and that this uniqueness can be used to build new understanding or knowledge about the research problem. A case study of a place must not only describe its various attributes relevant to the research problem [e.g., physical, social, historical, cultural, economic, political], but you must state the method by which you determined that this place will illuminate new understandings about the research problem. It is also important to articulate why a particular place as the case for study is being used if similar places also exist [i.e., if you are studying patterns of homeless encampments of veterans in open spaces, explain why you are studying Echo Park in Los Angeles rather than Griffith Park?]. If applicable, describe what type of human activity involving this place makes it a good choice to study [e.g., prior research suggests Echo Park has more homeless veterans].

If your subject of analysis is a phenomenon. A phenomenon refers to a fact, occurrence, or circumstance that can be studied or observed but with the cause or explanation to be in question. In this sense, a phenomenon that forms your subject of analysis can encompass anything that can be observed or presumed to exist but is not fully understood. In the social and behavioral sciences, the case usually focuses on human interaction within a complex physical, social, economic, cultural, or political system. For example, the phenomenon could be the observation that many vehicles used by ISIS fighters are small trucks with English language advertisements on them. The research problem could be that ISIS fighters are difficult to combat because they are highly mobile. The research questions could be how and by what means are these vehicles used by ISIS being supplied to the militants and how might supply lines to these vehicles be cut off? How might knowing the suppliers of these trucks reveal larger networks of collaborators and financial support? A case study of a phenomenon most often encompasses an in-depth analysis of a cause and effect that is grounded in an interactive relationship between people and their environment in some way.

NOTE:   The choice of the case or set of cases to study cannot appear random. Evidence that supports the method by which you identified and chose your subject of analysis should clearly support investigation of the research problem and linked to key findings from your literature review. Be sure to cite any studies that helped you determine that the case you chose was appropriate for examining the problem.

IV.  Discussion

The main elements of your discussion section are generally the same as any research paper, but centered around interpreting and drawing conclusions about the key findings from your analysis of the case study. Note that a general social sciences research paper may contain a separate section to report findings. However, in a paper designed around a case study, it is common to combine a description of the results with the discussion about their implications. The objectives of your discussion section should include the following:

Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings Briefly reiterate the research problem you are investigating and explain why the subject of analysis around which you designed the case study were used. You should then describe the findings revealed from your study of the case using direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results. Highlight any findings that were unexpected or especially profound.

Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important Systematically explain the meaning of your case study findings and why you believe they are important. Begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most important or surprising finding first, then systematically review each finding. Be sure to thoroughly extrapolate what your analysis of the case can tell the reader about situations or conditions beyond the actual case that was studied while, at the same time, being careful not to misconstrue or conflate a finding that undermines the external validity of your conclusions.

Relate the Findings to Similar Studies No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your case study results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for choosing your subject of analysis. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your case study design and the subject of analysis differs from prior research about the topic.

Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings Remember that the purpose of social science research is to discover and not to prove. When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations revealed by the case study results, rather than just those that fit your hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. Be alert to what the in-depth analysis of the case may reveal about the research problem, including offering a contrarian perspective to what scholars have stated in prior research if that is how the findings can be interpreted from your case.

Acknowledge the Study's Limitations You can state the study's limitations in the conclusion section of your paper but describing the limitations of your subject of analysis in the discussion section provides an opportunity to identify the limitations and explain why they are not significant. This part of the discussion section should also note any unanswered questions or issues your case study could not address. More detailed information about how to document any limitations to your research can be found here .

Suggest Areas for Further Research Although your case study may offer important insights about the research problem, there are likely additional questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or findings that unexpectedly revealed themselves as a result of your in-depth analysis of the case. Be sure that the recommendations for further research are linked to the research problem and that you explain why your recommendations are valid in other contexts and based on the original assumptions of your study.

V.  Conclusion

As with any research paper, you should summarize your conclusion in clear, simple language; emphasize how the findings from your case study differs from or supports prior research and why. Do not simply reiterate the discussion section. Provide a synthesis of key findings presented in the paper to show how these converge to address the research problem. If you haven't already done so in the discussion section, be sure to document the limitations of your case study and any need for further research.

The function of your paper's conclusion is to: 1) reiterate the main argument supported by the findings from your case study; 2) state clearly the context, background, and necessity of pursuing the research problem using a case study design in relation to an issue, controversy, or a gap found from reviewing the literature; and, 3) provide a place to persuasively and succinctly restate the significance of your research problem, given that the reader has now been presented with in-depth information about the topic.

Consider the following points to help ensure your conclusion is appropriate:

  • If the argument or purpose of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize these points for your reader.
  • If prior to your conclusion, you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the conclusion of your paper to describe your main points and explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration of the case study's findings that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction or within a new context that emerges from your case study findings.

Note that, depending on the discipline you are writing in or the preferences of your professor, the concluding paragraph may contain your final reflections on the evidence presented as it applies to practice or on the essay's central research problem. However, the nature of being introspective about the subject of analysis you have investigated will depend on whether you are explicitly asked to express your observations in this way.

Problems to Avoid

Overgeneralization One of the goals of a case study is to lay a foundation for understanding broader trends and issues applied to similar circumstances. However, be careful when drawing conclusions from your case study. They must be evidence-based and grounded in the results of the study; otherwise, it is merely speculation. Looking at a prior example, it would be incorrect to state that a factor in improving girls access to education in Azerbaijan and the policy implications this may have for improving access in other Muslim nations is due to girls access to social media if there is no documentary evidence from your case study to indicate this. There may be anecdotal evidence that retention rates were better for girls who were engaged with social media, but this observation would only point to the need for further research and would not be a definitive finding if this was not a part of your original research agenda.

Failure to Document Limitations No case is going to reveal all that needs to be understood about a research problem. Therefore, just as you have to clearly state the limitations of a general research study , you must describe the specific limitations inherent in the subject of analysis. For example, the case of studying how women conceptualize the need for water conservation in a village in Uganda could have limited application in other cultural contexts or in areas where fresh water from rivers or lakes is plentiful and, therefore, conservation is understood more in terms of managing access rather than preserving access to a scarce resource.

Failure to Extrapolate All Possible Implications Just as you don't want to over-generalize from your case study findings, you also have to be thorough in the consideration of all possible outcomes or recommendations derived from your findings. If you do not, your reader may question the validity of your analysis, particularly if you failed to document an obvious outcome from your case study research. For example, in the case of studying the accident at the railroad crossing to evaluate where and what types of warning signals should be located, you failed to take into consideration speed limit signage as well as warning signals. When designing your case study, be sure you have thoroughly addressed all aspects of the problem and do not leave gaps in your analysis that leave the reader questioning the results.

Case Studies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Gerring, John. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education . Rev. ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1998; Miller, Lisa L. “The Use of Case Studies in Law and Social Science Research.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 14 (2018): TBD; Mills, Albert J., Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Putney, LeAnn Grogan. "Case Study." In Encyclopedia of Research Design , Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010), pp. 116-120; Simons, Helen. Case Study Research in Practice . London: SAGE Publications, 2009;  Kratochwill,  Thomas R. and Joel R. Levin, editors. Single-Case Research Design and Analysis: New Development for Psychology and Education .  Hilldsale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992; Swanborn, Peter G. Case Study Research: What, Why and How? London : SAGE, 2010; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Los Angeles, CA, SAGE Publications, 2014; Walo, Maree, Adrian Bull, and Helen Breen. “Achieving Economic Benefits at Local Events: A Case Study of a Local Sports Event.” Festival Management and Event Tourism 4 (1996): 95-106.

Writing Tip

At Least Five Misconceptions about Case Study Research

Social science case studies are often perceived as limited in their ability to create new knowledge because they are not randomly selected and findings cannot be generalized to larger populations. Flyvbjerg examines five misunderstandings about case study research and systematically "corrects" each one. To quote, these are:

Misunderstanding 1 :  General, theoretical [context-independent] knowledge is more valuable than concrete, practical [context-dependent] knowledge. Misunderstanding 2 :  One cannot generalize on the basis of an individual case; therefore, the case study cannot contribute to scientific development. Misunderstanding 3 :  The case study is most useful for generating hypotheses; that is, in the first stage of a total research process, whereas other methods are more suitable for hypotheses testing and theory building. Misunderstanding 4 :  The case study contains a bias toward verification, that is, a tendency to confirm the researcher’s preconceived notions. Misunderstanding 5 :  It is often difficult to summarize and develop general propositions and theories on the basis of specific case studies [p. 221].

While writing your paper, think introspectively about how you addressed these misconceptions because to do so can help you strengthen the validity and reliability of your research by clarifying issues of case selection, the testing and challenging of existing assumptions, the interpretation of key findings, and the summation of case outcomes. Think of a case study research paper as a complete, in-depth narrative about the specific properties and key characteristics of your subject of analysis applied to the research problem.

Flyvbjerg, Bent. “Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 12 (April 2006): 219-245.

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  • Introduction

The case study creation process

Types of case studies, benefits and limitations.

What is it like to never feel fear?

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case study , detailed description and assessment of a specific situation in the real world created for the purpose of deriving generalizations and other insights from it. A case study can be about an individual, a group of people, an organization, or an event, among other subjects.

By focusing on a specific subject in its natural setting, a case study can help improve understanding of the broader features and processes at work. Case studies are a research method used in multiple fields, including business, criminology , education , medicine and other forms of health care, anthropology , political science , psychology , and social work . Data in case studies can be both qualitative and quantitative. Unlike experiments, where researchers control and manipulate situations, case studies are considered to be “naturalistic” because subjects are studied in their natural context . ( See also natural experiment .)

The creation of a case study typically involves the following steps:

  • The research question to be studied is defined, informed by existing literature and previous research. Researchers should clearly define the scope of the case, and they should compile a list of evidence to be collected as well as identify the nature of insights that they expect to gain from the case study.
  • Once the case is identified, the research team is given access to the individual, organization, or situation being studied. Individuals are informed of risks associated with participation and must provide their consent , which may involve signing confidentiality or anonymity agreements.
  • Researchers then collect evidence using multiple methods, which may include qualitative techniques, such as interviews, focus groups , and direct observations, as well as quantitative methods, such as surveys, questionnaires, and data audits. The collection procedures need to be well defined to ensure the relevance and accuracy of the evidence.
  • The collected evidence is analyzed to come up with insights. Each data source must be reviewed carefully by itself and in the larger context of the case study so as to ensure continued relevance. At the same time, care must be taken not to force the analysis to fit (potentially preconceived) conclusions. While the eventual case study may serve as the basis for generalizations, these generalizations must be made cautiously to ensure that specific nuances are not lost in the averages.
  • Finally, the case study is packaged for larger groups and publication. At this stage some information may be withheld, as in business case studies, to allow readers to draw their own conclusions. In scientific fields, the completed case study needs to be a coherent whole, with all findings and statistical relationships clearly documented.

What is it like to never feel fear?

Case studies have been used as a research method across multiple fields. They are particularly popular in the fields of law, business, and employee training; they typically focus on a problem that an individual or organization is facing. The situation is presented in considerable detail, often with supporting data, to discussion participants, who are asked to make recommendations that will solve the stated problem. The business case study as a method of instruction was made popular in the 1920s by instructors at Harvard Business School who adapted an approach used at Harvard Law School in which real-world cases were used in classroom discussions. Other business and law schools started compiling case studies as teaching aids for students. In a business school case study, students are not provided with the complete list of facts pertaining to the topic and are thus forced to discuss and compare their perspectives with those of their peers to recommend solutions.

In criminology , case studies typically focus on the lives of an individual or a group of individuals. These studies can provide particularly valuable insight into the personalities and motives of individual criminals, but they may suffer from a lack of objectivity on the part of the researchers (typically because of the researchers’ biases when working with people with a criminal history), and their findings may be difficult to generalize.

In sociology , the case-study method was developed by Frédéric Le Play in France during the 19th century. This approach involves a field worker staying with a family for a period of time, gathering data on the family members’ attitudes and interactions and on their income, expenditures, and physical possessions. Similar approaches have been used in anthropology . Such studies can sometimes continue for many years.

Case studies provide insight into situations that involve a specific entity or set of circumstances. They can be beneficial in helping to explain the causal relationships between quantitative indicators in a field of study, such as what drives a company’s market share. By introducing real-world examples, they also plunge the reader into an actual, concrete situation and make the concepts real rather than theoretical. They also help people study rare situations that they might not otherwise experience.

Because case studies are in a “naturalistic” environment , they are limited in terms of research design: researchers lack control over what they are studying, which means that the results often cannot be reproduced. Also, care must be taken to stay within the bounds of the research question on which the case study is focusing. Other limitations to case studies revolve around the data collected. It may be difficult, for instance, for researchers to organize the large volume of data that can emerge from the study, and their analysis of the data must be carefully thought through to produce scientifically valid insights. The research methodology used to generate these insights is as important as the insights themselves, for the latter need to be seen in the proper context. Taken out of context, they may lead to erroneous conclusions. Like all scientific studies, case studies need to be approached objectively; personal bias or opinion may skew the research methods as well as the results. ( See also confirmation bias .)

Business case studies in particular have been criticized for approaching a problem or situation from a narrow perspective. Students are expected to come up with solutions for a problem based on the data provided. However, in real life, the situation is typically reversed: business managers face a problem and must then look for data to help them solve it.

Exploring the Concept of Library Use: A Research Review

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define case study in library science

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This paper revisits an analysis and typology of the concept of “library use,” published in 2011 [ 1 ] with the objectives of using the Evolutionary Concept Analysis (ECA) method to review subsequent discussion of the concept in the Library and Information Science (LIS) scholarly and professional literature for significant developments and, if needed, facilitating revision of the typology. Findings highlight emerging themes in discussions of library use and an addition to the library use typology.

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Fleming-May, R. (2023). Exploring the Concept of Library Use: A Research Review. In: Sserwanga, I., et al. Information for a Better World: Normality, Virtuality, Physicality, Inclusivity. iConference 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13972. Springer, Cham.

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Case Study: Library Management System

Tanmaya Sahu

  • October 18, 2023

define case study in library science

The Library Management System is a simple Python program that emulates the core functionalities of a library, including adding books, displaying the book catalog, lending books, and returning books. This case study presents a straightforward implementation of a library management system for educational and organizational purposes.


  • To create a text-based library management system for managing a collection of books.
  • To allow users to add books to the library catalog.
  • To provide users with a list of available books.
  • To enable users to borrow and return books.


The Library Management System consists of the following components:

  • Library Class: The Library class serves as the core of the system and contains methods for adding books, displaying the catalog, lending books, and returning books. It uses a dictionary to store book information.
  • Main Function: The main function initiates the library system and presents a menu to users for performing actions like adding books, displaying books, lending books, and returning books.

define case study in library science

Case Study Steps:

  • Launch the Library Management System.
  • The system displays a welcome message, and the main menu is presented to the user.
  • Add a Book (Option 1): Users can add books to the library catalog by providing the book’s title and author.
  • Display Books (Option 2): Users can view the list of books in the library catalog.
  • Lend a Book (Option 3): Users can borrow a book by specifying the title and their name. The system checks for book availability and records the borrower’s name.
  • Return a Book (Option 4): Users can return a borrowed book by providing the book’s title and their name. The system verifies the book’s status and updates it.
  • Exit (Option 0): Users can exit the library management system.
  • The system processes user inputs, executes the chosen action, and provides appropriate feedback.


The Library Management System presented in this case study offers a simplified way to manage a library’s book catalog. It is suitable for educational purposes and provides the core features necessary for a basic library system, such as adding, displaying, lending, and returning books. Further development could include features like due dates, user authentication, and storing book information in a database for a more comprehensive library management system.

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define case study in library science

Case Study Research Method in Psychology

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

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Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources using several methods (e.g., observations & interviews).

The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient’s personal history). In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual.

The information is mainly biographical and relates to events in the individual’s past (i.e., retrospective), as well as to significant events that are currently occurring in his or her everyday life.

The case study is not a research method, but researchers select methods of data collection and analysis that will generate material suitable for case studies.

Freud (1909a, 1909b) conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses.

This makes it clear that the case study is a method that should only be used by a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, i.e., someone with a professional qualification.

There is an ethical issue of competence. Only someone qualified to diagnose and treat a person can conduct a formal case study relating to atypical (i.e., abnormal) behavior or atypical development.

case study

 Famous Case Studies

  • Anna O – One of the most famous case studies, documenting psychoanalyst Josef Breuer’s treatment of “Anna O” (real name Bertha Pappenheim) for hysteria in the late 1800s using early psychoanalytic theory.
  • Little Hans – A child psychoanalysis case study published by Sigmund Freud in 1909 analyzing his five-year-old patient Herbert Graf’s house phobia as related to the Oedipus complex.
  • Bruce/Brenda – Gender identity case of the boy (Bruce) whose botched circumcision led psychologist John Money to advise gender reassignment and raise him as a girl (Brenda) in the 1960s.
  • Genie Wiley – Linguistics/psychological development case of the victim of extreme isolation abuse who was studied in 1970s California for effects of early language deprivation on acquiring speech later in life.
  • Phineas Gage – One of the most famous neuropsychology case studies analyzes personality changes in railroad worker Phineas Gage after an 1848 brain injury involving a tamping iron piercing his skull.

Clinical Case Studies

  • Studying the effectiveness of psychotherapy approaches with an individual patient
  • Assessing and treating mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD
  • Neuropsychological cases investigating brain injuries or disorders

Child Psychology Case Studies

  • Studying psychological development from birth through adolescence
  • Cases of learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, ADHD
  • Effects of trauma, abuse, deprivation on development

Types of Case Studies

  • Explanatory case studies : Used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles. Helpful for doing qualitative analysis to explain presumed causal links.
  • Exploratory case studies : Used to explore situations where an intervention being evaluated has no clear set of outcomes. It helps define questions and hypotheses for future research.
  • Descriptive case studies : Describe an intervention or phenomenon and the real-life context in which it occurred. It is helpful for illustrating certain topics within an evaluation.
  • Multiple-case studies : Used to explore differences between cases and replicate findings across cases. Helpful for comparing and contrasting specific cases.
  • Intrinsic : Used to gain a better understanding of a particular case. Helpful for capturing the complexity of a single case.
  • Collective : Used to explore a general phenomenon using multiple case studies. Helpful for jointly studying a group of cases in order to inquire into the phenomenon.

Where Do You Find Data for a Case Study?

There are several places to find data for a case study. The key is to gather data from multiple sources to get a complete picture of the case and corroborate facts or findings through triangulation of evidence. Most of this information is likely qualitative (i.e., verbal description rather than measurement), but the psychologist might also collect numerical data.

1. Primary sources

  • Interviews – Interviewing key people related to the case to get their perspectives and insights. The interview is an extremely effective procedure for obtaining information about an individual, and it may be used to collect comments from the person’s friends, parents, employer, workmates, and others who have a good knowledge of the person, as well as to obtain facts from the person him or herself.
  • Observations – Observing behaviors, interactions, processes, etc., related to the case as they unfold in real-time.
  • Documents & Records – Reviewing private documents, diaries, public records, correspondence, meeting minutes, etc., relevant to the case.

2. Secondary sources

  • News/Media – News coverage of events related to the case study.
  • Academic articles – Journal articles, dissertations etc. that discuss the case.
  • Government reports – Official data and records related to the case context.
  • Books/films – Books, documentaries or films discussing the case.

3. Archival records

Searching historical archives, museum collections and databases to find relevant documents, visual/audio records related to the case history and context.

Public archives like newspapers, organizational records, photographic collections could all include potentially relevant pieces of information to shed light on attitudes, cultural perspectives, common practices and historical contexts related to psychology.

4. Organizational records

Organizational records offer the advantage of often having large datasets collected over time that can reveal or confirm psychological insights.

Of course, privacy and ethical concerns regarding confidential data must be navigated carefully.

However, with proper protocols, organizational records can provide invaluable context and empirical depth to qualitative case studies exploring the intersection of psychology and organizations.

  • Organizational/industrial psychology research : Organizational records like employee surveys, turnover/retention data, policies, incident reports etc. may provide insight into topics like job satisfaction, workplace culture and dynamics, leadership issues, employee behaviors etc.
  • Clinical psychology : Therapists/hospitals may grant access to anonymized medical records to study aspects like assessments, diagnoses, treatment plans etc. This could shed light on clinical practices.
  • School psychology : Studies could utilize anonymized student records like test scores, grades, disciplinary issues, and counseling referrals to study child development, learning barriers, effectiveness of support programs, and more.

How do I Write a Case Study in Psychology?

Follow specified case study guidelines provided by a journal or your psychology tutor. General components of clinical case studies include: background, symptoms, assessments, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Interpreting the information means the researcher decides what to include or leave out. A good case study should always clarify which information is the factual description and which is an inference or the researcher’s opinion.

1. Introduction

  • Provide background on the case context and why it is of interest, presenting background information like demographics, relevant history, and presenting problem.
  • Compare briefly to similar published cases if applicable. Clearly state the focus/importance of the case.

2. Case Presentation

  • Describe the presenting problem in detail, including symptoms, duration,and impact on daily life.
  • Include client demographics like age and gender, information about social relationships, and mental health history.
  • Describe all physical, emotional, and/or sensory symptoms reported by the client.
  • Use patient quotes to describe the initial complaint verbatim. Follow with full-sentence summaries of relevant history details gathered, including key components that led to a working diagnosis.
  • Summarize clinical exam results, namely orthopedic/neurological tests, imaging, lab tests, etc. Note actual results rather than subjective conclusions. Provide images if clearly reproducible/anonymized.
  • Clearly state the working diagnosis or clinical impression before transitioning to management.

3. Management and Outcome

  • Indicate the total duration of care and number of treatments given over what timeframe. Use specific names/descriptions for any therapies/interventions applied.
  • Present the results of the intervention,including any quantitative or qualitative data collected.
  • For outcomes, utilize visual analog scales for pain, medication usage logs, etc., if possible. Include patient self-reports of improvement/worsening of symptoms. Note the reason for discharge/end of care.

4. Discussion

  • Analyze the case, exploring contributing factors, limitations of the study, and connections to existing research.
  • Analyze the effectiveness of the intervention,considering factors like participant adherence, limitations of the study, and potential alternative explanations for the results.
  • Identify any questions raised in the case analysis and relate insights to established theories and current research if applicable. Avoid definitive claims about physiological explanations.
  • Offer clinical implications, and suggest future research directions.

5. Additional Items

  • Thank specific assistants for writing support only. No patient acknowledgments.
  • References should directly support any key claims or quotes included.
  • Use tables/figures/images only if substantially informative. Include permissions and legends/explanatory notes.
  • Provides detailed (rich qualitative) information.
  • Provides insight for further research.
  • Permitting investigation of otherwise impractical (or unethical) situations.

Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants (nomothetic approach) with the aim of ‘averaging’.

Because of their in-depth, multi-sided approach, case studies often shed light on aspects of human thinking and behavior that would be unethical or impractical to study in other ways.

Research that only looks into the measurable aspects of human behavior is not likely to give us insights into the subjective dimension of experience, which is important to psychoanalytic and humanistic psychologists.

Case studies are often used in exploratory research. They can help us generate new ideas (that might be tested by other methods). They are an important way of illustrating theories and can help show how different aspects of a person’s life are related to each other.

The method is, therefore, important for psychologists who adopt a holistic point of view (i.e., humanistic psychologists ).


  • Lacking scientific rigor and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population.
  • Researchers’ own subjective feelings may influence the case study (researcher bias).
  • Difficult to replicate.
  • Time-consuming and expensive.
  • The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources.

Because a case study deals with only one person/event/group, we can never be sure if the case study investigated is representative of the wider body of “similar” instances. This means the conclusions drawn from a particular case may not be transferable to other settings.

Because case studies are based on the analysis of qualitative (i.e., descriptive) data , a lot depends on the psychologist’s interpretation of the information she has acquired.

This means that there is a lot of scope for Anna O , and it could be that the subjective opinions of the psychologist intrude in the assessment of what the data means.

For example, Freud has been criticized for producing case studies in which the information was sometimes distorted to fit particular behavioral theories (e.g., Little Hans ).

This is also true of Money’s interpretation of the Bruce/Brenda case study (Diamond, 1997) when he ignored evidence that went against his theory.

Breuer, J., & Freud, S. (1895).  Studies on hysteria . Standard Edition 2: London.

Curtiss, S. (1981). Genie: The case of a modern wild child .

Diamond, M., & Sigmundson, K. (1997). Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-term Review and Clinical Implications. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , 151(3), 298-304

Freud, S. (1909a). Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306

Freud, S. (1909b). Bemerkungen über einen Fall von Zwangsneurose (Der “Rattenmann”). Jb. psychoanal. psychopathol. Forsch ., I, p. 357-421; GW, VII, p. 379-463; Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis, SE , 10: 151-318.

Harlow J. M. (1848). Passage of an iron rod through the head.  Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 39 , 389–393.

Harlow, J. M. (1868).  Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar through the Head .  Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society. 2  (3), 327-347.

Money, J., & Ehrhardt, A. A. (1972).  Man & Woman, Boy & Girl : The Differentiation and Dimorphism of Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Money, J., & Tucker, P. (1975). Sexual signatures: On being a man or a woman.

Further Information

  • Case Study Approach
  • Case Study Method
  • Enhancing the Quality of Case Studies in Health Services Research
  • “We do things together” A case study of “couplehood” in dementia
  • Using mixed methods for evaluating an integrative approach to cancer care: a case study

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Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions

Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions (PCC). Long COVID is broadly defined as signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 infection. This definition  of Long COVID was developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in collaboration with CDC and other partners.

People call Long COVID by many names, including Post-COVID Conditions, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID. The term post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC) is also used to refer to a subset of Long COVID.

What You Need to Know

  • Long COVID is a real illness and can result in chronic conditions that require comprehensive care. There are resources available .
  • Long COVID can include a wide range of ongoing health problems; these conditions can last weeks, months, or years.
  • Long COVID occurs more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness, but anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience it.
  • People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may have a higher risk of developing Long COVID compared to people who have been vaccinated.
  • People can be reinfected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, multiple times. Each time a person is infected or reinfected with SARS-CoV-2, they have a risk of developing Long COVID.
  • While most people with Long COVID have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with Long COVID may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.
  • CDC and partners are working to understand more about who experiences Long COVID and why, including whether groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are at higher risk.

In July 2021, Long COVID was added as a recognized condition that could result in a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Learn more: Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA .

About Long COVID

Long COVID is a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems that people experience after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, so at least 4 weeks after infection is the start of when Long COVID could first be identified. Anyone who was infected can experience Long COVID. Most people with Long COVID experienced symptoms days after first learning they had COVID-19, but some people who later experienced Long COVID did not know when they got infected.

There is no test that determines if your symptoms or condition is due to COVID-19. Long COVID is not one illness. Your healthcare provider considers a diagnosis of Long COVID based on your health history, including if you had a diagnosis of COVID-19 either by a positive test or by symptoms or exposure, as well as based on a health examination.

Science behind Long COVID

RECOVER: Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery

People with Long COVID may experience many symptoms.

People with Long COVID can have a wide range of symptoms that can last weeks, months, or even years after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away and come back again. For some people, Long COVID can last weeks, months, or years after COVID-19 illness and can sometimes result in disability.

Long COVID may not affect everyone the same way. People with Long COVID may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms that may emerge, persist, resolve, and reemerge over different lengths of time. Though most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time, speaking with your healthcare provider about the symptoms you are experiencing after having COVID-19 could help determine if you might have Long COVID.

People who experience Long COVID most commonly report:

General symptoms ( Not a Comprehensive List)

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “ post-exertional malaise ”)

Respiratory and heart symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

Neurological symptoms

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
  • Pins-and-needles feelings
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety

Digestive symptoms

  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Changes in menstrual cycles

Symptoms that are hard to explain and manage

Some people with Long COVID have symptoms that are not explained by tests or easy to manage.

People with Long COVID may develop or continue to have symptoms that are hard to explain and manage. Clinical evaluations and results of routine blood tests, chest X-rays, and electrocardiograms may be normal. The symptoms are similar to those reported by people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and other poorly understood chronic illnesses that may occur after other infections. People with these unexplained symptoms may be misunderstood by their healthcare providers, which can result in a delay in diagnosis and receiving the appropriate care or treatment.

Review these tips to help prepare for a healthcare provider appointment for Long COVID.

Health conditions

Some people experience new health conditions after COVID-19 illness.

Some people, especially those who had severe COVID-19, experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions with symptoms lasting weeks, months, or even years after COVID-19 illness. Multi-organ effects can involve many body systems, including the heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain. As a result of these effects, people who have had COVID-19 may be more likely to develop new health conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, blood clots, or neurological conditions compared with people who have not had COVID-19.

People experiencing any severe illness may develop health problems

People experiencing any severe illness, hospitalization, or treatment may develop problems such as post-intensive care syndrome (PICS).

PICS refers to the health effects that may begin when a person is in an intensive care unit (ICU), and which may persist after a person returns home. These effects can include muscle weakness, problems with thinking and judgment, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD), a long-term reaction to a very stressful event. While PICS is not specific to infection with SARS-CoV-2, it may occur and contribute to the person’s experience of Long COVID. For people who experience PICS following a COVID-19 diagnosis, it is difficult to determine whether these health problems are caused by a severe illness, the virus itself, or a combination of both.

People More Likely to Develop Long COVID

Some people may be more at risk for developing Long COVID.

Researchers are working to understand which people or groups of people are more likely to have Long COVID, and why. Studies have shown that some groups of people may be affected more by Long COVID. These are examples and not a comprehensive list of people or groups who might be more at risk than other groups for developing Long COVID:

  • People who have experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, especially those who were hospitalized or needed intensive care.
  • People who had underlying health conditions prior to COVID-19.
  • People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Inequities May Affect Populations at Risk for Long COVID

Some people are at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19 because of where they live or work, or because they can’t get health care. Health inequities may put some people from racial or ethnic minority groups and some people with disabilities at greater risk for developing Long COVID. Scientists are researching some of those factors that may place these communities at higher risk of getting infected or developing Long COVID.

Preventing Long COVID

The best way to prevent Long COVID is to protect yourself and others from becoming infected. For people who are eligible, CDC recommends staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccination , along with improving ventilation, getting tested for COVID-19 if needed, and seeking treatment for COVID-19 if eligible. Additional preventative measures include avoiding close contact with people who have a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 illness and washing hands  or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Research suggests that people who get a COVID-19 infection after vaccination are less likely to report Long COVID, compared to people who are unvaccinated.

CDC, other federal agencies, and non-federal partners are working to identify further measures to lessen a person’s risk of developing Long COVID. Learn more about protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 .

Living with Long COVID

Living with Long COVID can be hard, especially when there are no immediate answers or solutions.

People experiencing Long COVID can seek care from a healthcare provider to come up with a personal medical management plan that can help improve their symptoms and quality of life. Review these tips  to help prepare for a healthcare provider appointment for Long COVID. In addition, there are many support groups being organized that can help patients and their caregivers.

Although Long COVID appears to be less common in children and adolescents than in adults, long-term effects after COVID-19 do occur in children and adolescents .

Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child has Long COVID. Learn more: Tips for Talking to Your Healthcare Provider about Post-COVID Conditions

Data for Long COVID

Studies are in progress to better understand Long COVID and how many people experience them.

CDC is using multiple approaches to estimate how many people experience Long COVID. Each approach can provide a piece of the puzzle to give us a better picture of who is experiencing Long COVID. For example, some studies look for the presence of Long COVID based on self-reported symptoms, while others collect symptoms and conditions recorded in medical records. Some studies focus only on people who have been hospitalized, while others include people who were not hospitalized. The estimates for how many people experience Long COVID can be quite different depending on who was included in the study, as well as how and when the study collected information.  Estimates of the proportion of people who had COVID-19 that go on to experience Long COVID can vary.

CDC posts data on Long COVID and provides analyses, the most recent of which can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey .

CDC and other federal agencies, as well as academic institutions and research organizations, are working to learn more about the short- and long-term health effects associated with COVID-19 , who gets them and why.

Scientists are also learning more about how new variants could potentially affect Long COVID. We are still learning to what extent certain groups are at higher risk, and if different groups of people tend to experience different types of Long COVID. CDC has several studies that will help us better understand Long COVID and how healthcare providers can treat or support patients with these long-term effects. CDC will continue to share information with healthcare providers to help them evaluate and manage these conditions.

CDC is working to:

  • Better identify the most frequent symptoms and diagnoses experienced by patients with Long COVID.
  • Better understand how many people are affected by Long COVID, and how often people who are infected with COVID-19 develop Long COVID
  • Better understand risk factors and protective factors, including which groups might be more at risk, and if different groups experience different symptoms.
  • Help understand how Long COVID limit or restrict people’s daily activity.
  • Help identify groups that have been more affected by Long COVID, lack access to care and treatment for Long COVID, or experience stigma.
  • Better understand the role vaccination plays in preventing Long COVID.
  • Collaborate with professional medical groups to develop and offer clinical guidance and other educational materials for healthcare providers, patients, and the public.

Related Pages

  • Caring for People with Post-COVID Conditions
  • Preparing for Appointments for Post-COVID Conditions
  • Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery
  • Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA

For Healthcare Professionals

  • Post-COVID Conditions: Healthcare Providers

Search for and find historical COVID-19 pages and files. Please note the content on these pages and files is no longer being updated and may be out of date.

  • Visit for a historical snapshot of the COVID-19 website, capturing the end of the Federal Public Health Emergency on June 28, 2023.
  • Visit the dynamic COVID-19 collection  to search the COVID-19 website as far back as July 30, 2021.

To receive email updates about COVID-19, enter your email address:

Exit Notification / Disclaimer Policy

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot attest to the accuracy of a non-federal website.
  • Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.
  • You will be subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link.
  • CDC is not responsible for Section 508 compliance (accessibility) on other federal or private website.


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