Case Study. The diligence of Anthropology!


My last article elucidated about how and what exactly anthropology is, also about different fields under anthropology. Now let me give you some information about how does an anthropologist work. There are different methods which are undertaken by the anthropologist to do their fieldwork. They are:

  • Observational method,
  • Questionnaire method,
  • Participant observation,
  • Interview, and
  • Case Study Method

Today let’s have a look at Case Study Method, which is the most imperative method of Anthropological research. Case Study method is an important facet of Social investigation, which was first, developed in United States of America and  was voluminous used in psychology, education, sociology, economics, political science and of course in Anthropology.

Case study in the concept of Pauline V. Young is “A comprehensive study of a social unit may it be a unit of a person; a group; a social institution; a district or community is called Case Study”. Case study refers to deep investigation of a particular unit.

If we go to see, Case Study has divergent meaning in different disciplines. But veritably Case Study method means a careful and integral cognition of a particular social unit. This is a very prominent method of gaining information about personal life of an individual or a group of people.

Now let’s put some light on the Evolution of case Study Method.

It is an ancient method which was first used by Frederick Leplay; even then the brownie point for Case Study is given to Herbert Spencer, an English Philosopher who made use of this technique in his comparative study of different cultures. But the genuine introduction of Case Study was made by Thomas and Zeneniecki while performing their sociological field research.

Assumptions of Case Study Method:

The several assumptions which are made during the cast study are:

  • Uniformity of human nature:

It is assumed that there is a similarity in human nature in spite of the fact that human behavior varies according to the situations.

  • Natural history of the Unit being studied:

It gives the background for study


  • Comprehensive Study: 

Presumption of the comprehensive study of the unit

  • Homogeneity:

Cora Dubois, an anthropologist claims that, the case study is possible only because of certain basic homogeneity evidenced.

Different hitches are faced in the case study method in the different disciplines where it is used, so ‘qualitative’ technique was thought to be the clannish characteristic of Case Study before, later many other characteristics of Case Study were noticed, they are:

ü   It is a Single unit analysis

ü  It is an intensive study

ü  Case study is an integrated study

ü  It is also a Qualitative Analysis

ü  Interrelationship can be studied in Case Study

ü  Behavior Pattern can be Studied

ü  It helps to generalize Social Science

ü  Flexible method

ü  Mutual interrelationship can be studied.

After knowing so much about Case Study, it’s time to introduce, the sources of Case Study.

The two major sources that are applied in the case study method are:

  1. Personal documents: This includes personal diaries, letters, autobiographies, hidden secrets of an individual, his way of life and other personal things.
  2. Life History: The life history of a person is very essential in Case study, which can be obtained through interviews with the people and the entire life of the people, is taken into account.

There are many precautions which are to be taken into consideration, if one chooses to study the object or a unit through Case Study:

ü  Selection of the unit for case study must be made very carefully.

ü  The researcher has to be impartial and unbiased

ü  Should be cautious in identification of the problems

ü  Life history of the unit must be studied properly

ü  The researcher has to be very careful while selecting the data.

Case Study and Criticism:

Case study method even when used extravagantly by the social science researcher has been castigated by some critics who have raised their voice against the value and validity of case study. Few of them criticize affirming, it does not have a compelling and scientific reason. So some of the drawbacks of Case Study seen are:

ü  It develops overconfidence

ü  False generalization

ü  Most important drawback is that it doesn’t provide universal impersonal of the phenomena

ü  It is time , money and man power consuming

ü  Unscientific and invariable method

ü  It is difficult to apply

ü  There is a scope of error

ü  Unrealistic assumptions, and

ü  Has a limited scope.

In the conclusion, Inspite of several bars and hindrances faced by the Case Study method it is very widely being used not only in Anthropology but also in other social science research. The short coming can be taken care if little care is taken by the researcher. This is how Case Study becomes the most important part or can say Backbone of Anthropology.