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Experimental Research Vs Case Study

Case Study vs Experiment

Case study and experiment, having a definite difference between them, refer to two very different research methods used in various disciplines. These research methods allow the researcher to study and analyze the subject through various approaches. Having a variety of methods in research allows the researcher to gain both qualitative and also quantitative data. He is also able to cross check the data, through which he will be able to assign more validity to the conclusions and overall findings of the research.  A case study is a research method in which the researcher explores the subject in depth. The case study can be about an individual, a special phenomenon, a place of specific significance, etc. On the other hand, an experiment refers to a research method where there are two specific groups or else variables that are used to test a hypothesis. This highlights that case study and experiment are different from one another. Through this article let us examine this difference further.

What is a Case Study?

As mentioned in the introduction, a case study is a method where an individual, an event, or a place of significance is being studied in depth. To be more elaborative, in the case of an individual, the researcher studies the life history of the individual. This can include important days, special experiences of the individual. The case study method is used in a number of social sciences such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc.

Through a case study, the researcher can identify and comprehend the subjective experiences of an individual regarding a special topic. For an example, a researcher who studies the impact of second rape on the lives of rape victims can conduct a few case studies which will allow him to comprehend the subjective experiences of the individuals as well as social mechanisms that contribute towards this phenomenon. The case study is a qualitative research method that can be subjective.

What is an Experiment?

An experiment, unlike a case study, can be categorized under quantitative research, as it provides statistically significant data as well as an objective, empirical approach. Experiments are used mostly in natural sciences as it allows the scientist to control the variables. In the social sciences, this can be rather tricky because controlling variables can contribute towards faulty conclusions.

In an experiment, there are mainly two variables. They are the independent variable and the dependent variable. The researcher tries to test his hypothesis by manipulating the variables. When speaking of experiments, there are different types, such as laboratory experiments (which are conducted in laboratories where the conditions can strictly be controlled) and natural experiments (which take place in the real life setting).

As you can observe, case study method and experiments are very different from one another. However, most researchers prefer to use triangulation when conducting research to minimize biases.

What is the Difference Between Case Study and Experiment?

Definitions of Case Study and Experiment:

Experiment: An experiment refers to a research method where there are two specific groups or else variables that are used to test a hypothesis.

Case Study: A case study is a research method in which the researcher explores the subject in depth.

Characteristics of Case Study and Experiment:


Experiment: In an experiment, there are two variables, one independent variable, and a dependent variable.

Case Study: In a case study, the above feature cannot be explored as it is not testing the correlation between two variables


Experiment: In an experiment, a hypothesis is being tested to proof the correlation between two variables.

Case Study: In a case study it is not so; it only explores a subject in depth.

Manipulation of Variables:

Experiment: An experiment involves manipulating the variables to test the hypothesis.

Case Study: In a case study it is not so, as it is not testing any hypotheses.


Experiment: An experiment mostly provides quantitative data.

Case Study: A case study provides qualitative data.


Experiment: Experiments are used in natural sciences.

Case Study: Case studies are mostly used in social sciences.


Image Courtesy:

1. Case Study workshop at WUT Business School by Sylwia Baryga via Wikicommons [CC BY-SA 4.0]

2. Griffith experiment via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

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"Difference Between Case Study and Experiment." DifferenceBetween.Com. May 25, 2015. < http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-case-study-and-experiment/ >

Filed Under: EducationTagged With: Case Study, Case Study and Experiment Difference, Case Study Definition, Characteristics of Case Study, Characteristics of Experiment, experiment, Experiment Definition

In this blog I will be describing case studies and single case designs, and discussing the differences between them.

A single case design is basically one where the subject serves as their own control group. They’re used more often to see how effective interventions are, as we’ve seen in our behavioural lectures. In a single-subject design, there are three phases. The first is the baseline phase. This phase is where the subject is measured on their behaviour with no interventions or behaviour changes taken. The next stage is the intervention stage. This is where the subject is measured on their behaviour when the independent variable has been introduced. The final stage is the reversal stage. This is where the independent variable is removed again. The researcher should only move onto the next stage when the data is stable, so stronger results are found. Single case designs are often used because they’re far more sensitive to individual differences than cases with more than one participants.

A case study is an analysis of a single unit. It is not necessarily on just an individual person, it can also on a specific group of people or on an event. In a case study, researchers collect detailed information about the subject. An advantage of case studies is that they give very detailed information, which is sometimes on very unique and interesting cases. An example of this kind of case study would be David Reimer, who was born as a male but was raised female due to an accident in a routine circumcision. A disadvantage of case studies is that they are very subjective, both because they are only on an individual unit and also because of the researchers. Another problem is that it is hard to generalise from case studies, as they are only one person and so you can’t apply the results to the general population.

There is a big difference between case studies and single case designs, despite them superficially sounding similar. In a single case design, the researcher has much more control over the participant. They introduce an independent variable and measure the behaviour, so this allows cause and effect to be more readily established. Case studies, on the other hand, the researcher simply observes the behaviour. This means that they are not very effective at testing theories. One effective way of utilizing both designs is using a case study to initially research an unknown area, and then using single case studies to test the hypothesis more effectively.

So overall, case studies and single case designs are two different kinds of experiment design that use individuals as subjects. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, and can be effectively used in different cases.


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Posted by emilyjchurchill on March 25, 2012


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