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What is a case study?

What is a case study?

The case study is the study of a discrete object, such as a person, an institution, or a place. Or the case study might concern itself with an issue (or issues). The intention behind a case study is to investigate a subject or issue as singular, particular and complex; that is as a single case. The subject of the case study is understood to be an integrated system; that is a whole in itself, but is also part of (integrated with) the larger social and cultural context. By examining the complex whole in the case study, we acquire greater understanding of the subject or issue, and by integrating it, we are also positioned to understand beyond the case itself. An intrinsic case study focuses on a defined subject, for example Mary Two-Axe Early, of the case study, and by examining her life, work and challenge to the Indian Act of Canada and its disenfranchisement of Indigenous women in a detailed and complex way, the researcher is able to develop an
understanding of the subject of the case, but also an increased understanding of gender ideology and how androcentrism (that is male/masculine is the normative human and at the center of analysis) and a white-settler, masculinist orientation wherein only proper (that is white-settler) men are citizens of the nation. We also are given a more complex view of the intersection of gender ideology, racism and colonization 20th century Canada.

Different kinds of case studies

There are a number of kinds of case studies, but for our assignments I have chosen the intrinsic case study as it is amenable to the on-line environment. The intrinsic case study is best suited for a tight focus on the subject of inquiry wherein specific knowledge is sought and generated about the subject within the case study. There is an “intrinsic” interest in the subject of the case. The instrumental case study, on the other hand, is best suited for the study of issues rather than discrete subjects. The case study allows one to see particulars that then may allow one to acquire insight into the issue, whatever the issue one is interested in, for example the intersection of racism and gender.

The intrinsic case study requires that a subject be identified. Therefore, to facilitate the assignments I have identified the subject of each of our three case studies, our third being the construction and performance of the male/masculine. The intrinsic case study carefully and closely examines and reflects upon a subject. To this first part the researcher engages the literature, which can be reports, theories, ethnographic material, whatever scholarly material is deemed helpful to understand the subject of the case study. This material allows the researcher to develop issue questions out of which will come research questions, the end result being the interpretation of the case study. After developing issue questions and research questions based on the literature review of the subject, the researcher interprets the results of her/his research and from this interpretation is able to make petite observations; that is directly related to the case study at
hand, and possibly some general observations; that is speaking beyond the particular case study itself.

Developing your case study

In the sections below, I have developed an outline for the completion of your intrinsic case study. I have broken the case study down into necessary sections required to complete it. The first section is your literature review and is comprised of the scholarly material and data you use to investigate your subject – that is the construction and performance of masculinity.

Once your issue questions are in place, you next develop research questions based on your literature review and your issue questions. Research questions are the means by which you question your data and from there are positioned to provide petite and general observations that you have determined from your case study. And although you might develop an outline structure as you move through your process of writing the case study, the final version of the case study is to be formally written in narrative style and requires that all material and data used be properly referenced.

Part 1 The literature review

Your literature review includes the film , Guardians of the flutes (1996), Beasley, 177-209 and 210-245, and Men, masculinity and masculinities and Gender-based violence in Evans and Williams (eds.), plus a minimum of two other academic sources.

Part 2 Issue questions

Having read the literature and viewed the film as a basis for thinking about the construction of masculinities, I want you to reflect on your material in order to develop your issues questions. The film presents us with the rite of passage for young men in New Guinea. In this location the extreme misogyny of the group requires that any contamination from the feminine be expunged from the boys transiting to men (Herdt 1994). This is the proper masculinity in this social context. Issue questions make visible our conceptual structure, while allowing the development of research questions. Issue questions basically set the stage of the case study and facilitate the research. For example, in my case study I might ask, what are the essential aspects of constructing the proper male/masculine in the context of New Guinea as seen in the film?

Part 3 Research questions

Having set out three issue questions, which allow us to get a sense of our case study, the research questions you develop are less abstract than the issue questions and allow the study to take form so that the abstract is made manifested. Research questions include not just the ideas (issue questions/statements) but the practices of these ideas. For my case study, then, I might ask several research questions such what are the implications for the larger social body – the bearers of the myth/ritual? How is the masculinity developed of value to the community?

Part 4 Interpretation

The final section of the case study requires that you interpret the results of your work and provide observations. To do this, drawing on your reflections on the literature review, answers to the issue questions and research questions, you interpret your results. Having provided an interpretation, you then make a petite generalization (largely related to what you determined about the subject of the case study itself), and a grand generalization (speaking beyond the immediate subject of the case study) based on your observations.

Format of Case Study

Your case study is to be double spaced and in 12 point font (that is, something I can read). It is to be in typical formal academic narrative style and properly referenced. Although I have no preference of Style Manual for referencing, the student must adhere to a legitimate style manual and consistently use it throughout the case study. If you are unsure what style guide to use, Chicago and APA are very straightforward and easy to use. Please ensure you proof your written work as spelling, grammar, organization and structure will be graded.


Herdt, G. 1994. Guardians of the flutes: Idioms of masculinity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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and read unit 3 to write the article.

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Category: Sample Questions