Course description


List of assigned projects 

List of Readings and references 



College of Education

Case Study Methods
Fall 2010

Department of Educational Psychology
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Robert E. Stake

Methods of intensive study of an individual program, curriculum, school, person or other entity, not primarily a study of phenomena, relationships, values or comparisons.

In the past, this course has carried the title, Case Study Research Methods. In adopting a narrow definition of research to emphasize large-scale generalization, the Institutional Review Board has made this 490 course title potentially misleading.  This is a course in particularization, not generalization, a set of inquiry methods leading to the understanding of a particular case.  It remains a research methods course as widely defined but not as defined by IRB.

There are many case study methods, qualitative and quantitative.  This course focuses on naturalistic study of cases within education and social service.  Its topics include: field study, ethnographic observation, interviewing, issues as structuring, epistemology, validation, and experiential writing.

It is a fieldwork course more than a theory course. One major aim is to discover how ordinary common-sense inquiry needs to be modified (not replaced) and disciplined to provide good qualitative case studies. Reading assignments are to be adapted by the students to suit one's own learning themes and pace. The researcher is shown to be a visible part of the conceptualization and writing, but his/her inclination to generalize is often seen to be over-interpretation. Ties with literature research are not emphasized. Program evaluation gets a mention but students need not have any interest in program evaluation.

Our evaluation of student performance for 4 credit registration is based on the sophistication shown in (1) producing one substantial case study, (2) completing the projects, and (3) participating in class discussion.  Studied acquaintance with the concepts  (such as mentioned above) is critical. Of all who have registered for this course in over ten years, about 70% have received a grade of A or A-. The drop rate has been about 15% and those who have failed to complete the case report are another 15%. Only about a third have finished the case report by the end of the semester. So it's lots-of-work and all too hurried.  A final examination will not be held except for students feeling inadequate opportunity earlier to demonstrate their achievement. Usual credit: 4 credits. Students may register for 2 credits now and, if so choosing, do the remaining 2 credits of field work (Projects F & H) by independent study later.

Instructors: Bob Stake & Luisa Rosu

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Last updated: Oct 4, 2010