There are different research methods like a case study, naturalistic observation, correlation research, survey research and experimental methods used for psychological research. Each method has its own merits and demerits. This paper makes a comparative study of two of the above methods, namely, case study method and survey research method.
Case study method
Case study method refers to conducting researches based on case studies. For example, when studying or conducting research on psychological disorders in children, the cases of one or more who have psychological disorders can be studied, and based on that research can be done. The case study methods are rarely used in psychological researches. For studying a special situation, individuals or focus point, case study method is used in psychological research. “The case study is often used by psychologists in order to research into aspects of the human psyche, such as personality, and can be based on an individual, a family, a social group, event, or series of events.” (Keirs,2009, para.1).
Survey method is one of the popularly used methods of psychological research. Survey method is defined as “questioning a large group of people about their attitudes, beliefs, etc.” (Methods of research, 2000, Definition, para.1). In survey method, different questions are designed for getting the answers from the sample population of the survey. The samples are selected in such a way that, the selected samples must have almost all the qualities of the population and they should represent the population. For example, when studying about the lifestyle after retirement, a college student who is at the age of 21 cannot be included in the samples.
Use and application of different techniques in case study and survey method
The survey method is preferably used for identifying the intensity of certain variables in the society. Different types of techniques are used for doing a survey as part of the research. Among all these techniques, questionnaire is the most popular one; but it is not a restricted method. In questionnaire method, a printed booklet that includes instructions and questions is sent or given to the potential participants. In questionnaire method, preparation of questionnaire is an important part. For implementing the questionnaire method or interview method questions are necessary and the questions are user-friendly, simple, clean and welcoming. In the beginning session of all these survey methods, the researcher explains to the participants the purpose of the survey. Questions are prepared in a straightforward manner, which encourages the participants to give correct answers. Including response scale will help to understand the response means correctly and it helps to do more specific analysis. (Haslam, & McGarty,2003, p.126).
Another survey technique is interview. In the interview method the researcher conducts interviews. Her interview can be conducted through face-to-face mode or through telephonic conversation mode. In face to face interview, the interviewer prepares notes or records the interviewee’s response to each question. In the telephonic conversation mode, computer helps the interviewer to identify the questions one by one rapidly. Surveys can be conducted through internet also. For conducting surveys through Internet, questions and instructions are prepared and uploaded into the internet.
Case study method is preferably used for identifying the intensity of variables in a particular person. According to the opinion of S. Alexander Haslam and Craig McGarty in their book Research methods and statistics in psychology “it is possible to apply experimental techniques to the investigation of a single case by experimentally manipulating a given variable over time.” (Haslam, & McGarty,2003, p.58).
In the case study method, the researcher can use either small sample case studies or large-scale studies. Case study is done by observing the client’s activities and environmental features. Case studies can be done in two ways. One is experimental case study, in which the researcher makes suitable assumptions. The second one is observational case study, which provides an opportunity for the thorough assessment of the psychological phenomenon. For conducting a case study, first select the case and then make a study and evaluation. Based on this study prepare a report. (The case study as a research method: uses and users of information- LIS 391D.1- spring 1997, 2006).
The reliability, validity and generalizability of two methods
The survey method is more reliable and valid compared to case study method. The very reason is that in the survey method first-hand information is received; therefore this information will have the highest degree of accuracy and reliability. When speaking about generalizability, the case study method of psychological research offers less generalization compared to the survey method of research where a high amount of generalization exists. The reason is that, in the case study method the samples of study are very less or one, but in the survey method, there is large number of information which means there is a generalization.
Comparison and contrast of two research methods
Case study is a good method of creating hypothesis. It provides deep information related to person. Survey method is also good for developing hypotheses but it provides lot of data from many people. In case of study, unusual or impractical cases may be considered for the research. In survey methods, the possibility for this kind of consideration is very less.
In case of study, probability of missing vital information is very high and the case study report interpretation is very difficult, but in survey chance for missing information is very less and one can interpret the survey result very easily. In case of study, the person being interviewed may have selective or incorrect memory. This problem will not arise in the survey method, because it focuses on more than one person. Case study considers one person as a representative of the population, but in survey method large number of people are involved. (Table 1.3: Research methods in psychology: Their advantages and disadvantages, n.d.).
In some situations surveys involve manipulations by the researcher, for example, survey which uses Split-ballot technique have manipulations. That is, in a psychological survey, there may have several independent variables, the researcher considers them as causal. In this aspect in the book Research methods and statistics in psychology, authors S. Alexander Haslam and Craig McGarty say “under certain conditions, survey methods can allow researchers to falsify causal hypotheses.” (Haslam, & McGarty,2003, p.106).
In some psychological researches survey is the best method. The reason is that the researcher cannot use independent variables as per the personal interest. In experimental case study method the chance for manipulation is very less. In an observational case study the researcher cannot make a conclusion about the reason and its effect related to the case study. In survey methods like questionnaires and internet-based surveys, the number of participants is very large. It helps to collect information from more than one person and to create an output based on information from different sources. In case of study, it focuses only on one person, so it is difficult to develop a conclusion that can be considered general for all. That is, case study gives specific output from particular to general while survey method generates an output from general to particular.
From the above discussion it is clear that each method has its advantages and disadvantages. The use of a particular method depends on the nature of the research and some other factors like time, population…etc. Whatever method is used for the research, the important matter is the reliability and validity of the result.
The different methods of psychological research have their own advantages and disadvantages. The methods used for the research depend on the purpose and the population of the study. In this paper, two methods, namely, case study method and survey research method are compared. Different techniques are used in different methods of research. Also the selection of research method depends on the required reliability and accuracy of the research. In the case study method the research is conducted in the form of particular to general, but in survey method it is general to particular.
- Haslam, S A., & McGarty, Craig. (2003). Research methods and statistics in psychology. SAGE. 2nd edition. 126. Web.
- Keirs, E. (2009). Understanding the case study in psychology. Helium.
- Methods of research: Survey method: Definition. (2000). CIBER lab: for Psychological Research.
- The case study as a research method: uses and users of information- LIS 391D.1- spring 1997. (2006).
- Table 1.3: Research methods in psychology: Their advantages and disadvantages. (n.d.). Web.