A case study example
A case study is an in-depth report on a single person, a small group or a process. A case study can tell a persuasive story about the impact and effectiveness of your service. Click here for more advice on how to write one.
Brief introduction (2 – 5 sentences)
Set the scene. Introduce the person who is the subject of the case study, which program or service they worked with and the presenting issue (the reason they contacted, or were referred to, your service).
eg: Susan contacted our counselling service asking for support to deal with anxiety and depression. She had been experiencing this problem for 10 months and felt its impact on her life was becoming ‘severe’.
Describe the client you are writing about, their general background and history. You would include a pseudonym (false name), their age, relationship or family status, occupation.
eg: Susan is a 35-year-old mother of three young children (aged 10, 8 and 4). She lives with her children and her partner in what she describes as a ‘good and supportive’ relationship. Prior to the birth of her youngest child Susan worked as a payroll officer for a charity. She had liked her work because she felt she was helping people, but she stopped working when she found herself too busy with the demands of three young children. She hopes to return to work when they are a little older. Susan’s mother died last year. Her father is in poor health but lives nearby and visits her often.
NOTE: Make sure you manage the confidentiality issues. Tasmania is a small place – too much information can make someone readily identifiable. It is common place to give someone a different name (a pseudonym) to ensure additional confidentiality.
The problem or issue
Describe the problem or issue which is the reason the person is using your service and then explain the impact the problem has had on their life. You might include details of the person’s history with the problem and any other attempts to get support to deal with it. This information should be given in chronological order.
eg: Susan contacted our service in April 2015 seeking support to deal with anxiety and depression which she described as ‘severe’. This problem had begun 12 months earlier after the death of her mother, whom she loved very much.
Since her mother died Susan says she has felt sad all the time, and has difficulty sleeping, no energy and no interest in the activities that normally give her pleasure, such as volunteering at her children’s school, shopping and spending time with her family and friends.
Susan is also experiencing anxiety. In November 2013 she realised that she was too anxious to leave the house and was increasingly fearful for the children’s safety when they were not at home. Susan says that this fear kept growing until by February she was ringing the children’s school three or four times a day to check they were safe.
Hint: While the description of the presenting problem might be quite recent, telling someone’s history takes you back in time. You can help the reader understand the sequence of events by doing three things:
- After you have initially explained the problem that brought the client to your service), tell the history in the order in which it happened, starting with most distant past events.
- Use grammar, especially tenses carefully. See, for example, Susan is experiencing anxiety…she was ringing the children’s school…
- Use specific dates where you can.
The response to the problem or issue
Describe the services provided, or the approach that was used. You should also explain the short-term and long-term goals your service and the client were working towards.
Eg: Susan was offered six counselling sessions. The counsellor worked with her using cognitive behavioural therapy, through which they explored the thinking patterns which were underlying the emotions Susan was experiencing. Working with the counsellor Susan set goals for her sessions and for herself. Susan’s short term goals were to overcome her fear of leaving the house and get to the counselling service, and to be able to build on this with some small excursions into the community. Her long term goal was to experience a reduction in her sense of helplessness around the anxiety she was experiencing.
Describe the outcome of the work and the longer-term outlook for this person. Describe how this outcomes data was gathered (eg, interview, focus group, survey data, observation by staff members). You may wish to acknowledge the role played by other services, or other influences on the client’s life which also supported them to achieve these outcomes at this point in the case study. It is important to take credit where it is due but not to ‘over claim’.
Eg: in her final session Susan completed an assessment. It showed that she was feeling less anxious about her own and her children’s safety and more hopeful about her future. Susan also shared that she had successfully attended a number of social events away from her home. She was planning to volunteer to help at her children’s school to ‘get that back on its old footing’.
A very brief conclusion should sum up the information about the client, what the problem or issue was and the results arising from the services provided by your organisation.
Eg: Susan said she felt the counselling service had been helpful in dealing with anxiety and depression which she had felt was ‘severe’ and which was having a very negative affect on her life. Since overcoming these problems Susan said she felt able to ‘go back to her old life’.