Case Study Research


Case study research is used to conduct an in-depth investigation of an issue at a specific instance and location. When used in social science research, case studies may help determine the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of groups the researchers wish to examine, as well as describe the interactions among those groups. Case study research may also involve assessing economic or behavior trends within a community. Case study research involves collecting in-depth information in a limited area and usually includes many social science tools such as surveys and demographic information.


Development of case studies concerning resource management areas is an effective way for managers to explain social trends related to a particular area or issue, thus allowing them to make more informed decisions. For example, a resource manager could use case study research to determine what user groups think of a new policy or regulation. It could also be used to record traditional practices within a specific area.


  • Powerful means to portray a situation, study, or event to others

  • Fully depicts the experiences, processes, and lessons learned from a situation, study, or event


  • Time-consuming to collect, organize, and describe

  • Represents depth of information rather than breadth

Expertise Needed

NOAA CSC Social Science Methods for Marine Protected Areas Managers

Related Partners

NOAA is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere. It plays several distinct roles within the Department of Commerce.

Resources: Books and Publications

  • Yin, R.K. 2002. 3rd Edition. Case Study Research : Design and Methods (Applied Social Research Methods). SAGE Publications.

  • Yin, R.K. 2002. 2nd Edition. Applications of Case Study Research (Applied Social Research Methods). SAGE Publications

Resources: Websites

  • Case Studies
    H. Ken Cordell. A study illustrating the utility of demographic analysis for natural resource and protected area management

  • Basics of Developing Case Studies
    This resource from the Free Management Library for nonprofits and for-profits includes insightful information on the uses for and development of case studies, as well as some sample case study reports.
    Credit: NOAA CSC Social Science Methods for Marine Protected Areas Managers