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What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

Deep Dive into a Topic

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.


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Internet Geography

L’Aquila Earthquake

In 2009 an earthquake struck central Italy with devastating consequences.

L’Aquila Earthquake 2009

The l’aquila earthquake – background.

On 6 April 2009, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck L’Aquila in central Italy, killing 309 people. The main shock happened in the early morning hours at 3.32 am when most people were sleeping, extensively damaging the 13th-century city of L’Aquila, located only about 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Rome. The earthquake was Italy’s most devastating since the 1980 Irpinia earthquake.

L'Aquila Earthquake Map

A map showing the location of L’Aquila, Italy.

The earthquake resulted from normal faulting on the northwest-southeast-trending Paganica Fault. Several neighbouring faults are related to extensional tectonic forces associated with the opening of the Tyrrhenian Basin to the west.

There had been several thousand foreshocks and aftershocks since December 2008, more than thirty of which had a Richter magnitude greater than 3.5.

Primary Effects

The earthquake caused damage to between 3,000 and 11,000 buildings in the medieval city of L’Aquila. Many buildings also collapsed. Approximately 1,500 people were injured. Twenty of the 309 victims were children. In addition, around 40,000 people were made homeless.

The European Union estimated the total damage caused by the earthquake was US$1.1 billion.

L’Aquila’s historic buildings were severely damaged, resulting in most inhabitants abandoning their homes and the city. Fallen masonry resulted in many streets being blocked. The hospital where many of the injured were taken was damaged by a magnitude 4.8 aftershock an hour after the main earthquake.

L'Aquila Earthquake Damage

L’Aquila Earthquake Damage

Many of L’Aquila’s medieval buildings were damaged. For example, the apse of the Basilica of Saint Bernardino of Siena, L’Aquila’s largest Renaissance church, was seriously damaged, and its campanile collapsed.

However, it was L’Aquila’s modern buildings that experienced more significant damage. The earthquake-proof new wing of L’Aquila Hospital experienced extensive damage and was closed.

Approximately 40,000 people who were made homeless by the earthquake found accommodation in tented camps. In addition, 10,000 were housed in hotels on the coast.

Secondary Effects

Some effects of the earthquake occurred later and indirectly as a result of the initial earthquake itself. The secondary effects included aftershocks triggering landslides and rockfalls, causing damage to housing and transport. A landslide and mudflow were caused by a burst main water supply pipeline near the town of Paganio. The number of students at L’Aquila University has decreased since the earthquake. The lack of housing for all residents meant house prices and rents increased. Much of the city’s central business district was cordoned off due to unsafe buildings. Some ‘red zones’ still exist, which has reduced the amount of business, tourism and income.

Immediate Responses

There was a range of immediate responses . For those made homeless, hotels provided shelter for 10,000 people, and 40,000 tents were distributed. Some train carriages were used as shelters. The prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, reportedly offered some of his homes as temporary shelters.

The Italian Red Cross was searching for survivors supported by seven dog units, 36 ambulances, and a temporary hospital within an hour. In addition, the Red Cross distributed water, hot meals, tents and blankets. The British Red Cross raised £ 171,000 in support.

Mortgages and bills for Sky TV, gas and electricity were suspended. The Italian Post Office offered free mobile calls, raised donations and gave free delivery for products sold by small businesses. L’Aquila was declared a state of emergency, which sped up international aid to the area from the EU and the USA. The EU granted US$ 552.9 million from its Solidarity Fund for major disasters to begin rebuilding L’Aquila. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a UK group, did not provide aid because it considered Italy a more developed country with the resources to offer help and the help of the EU.

Long-term Responses

Long-term responses included a torch-lit procession, which took place with a Catholic mass on the anniversary of the earthquake as an act of remembrance. Residents did not have to pay taxes during 2010. Students were given free public transport discounts on educational equipment and were exempt from university fees for three years. Homes took several years to rebuild, and historical centres are expected to take approximately 15 years to rebuild. Additionally, in October 2012, six scientists and one government official were found guilty of manslaughter as they had not predicted the earthquake. They were accused of giving residents a false sense of confidence and seriously underestimating the risks. They each received six years in prison and were ordered to pay several million euros in damages. However, in November 2014, the Italian courts overturned the verdict for the six scientists.

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Earthquakes - AQA Effects and responses of earthquakes

Earthquakes are caused by the release of built-up pressure at plate margins. They can destroy buildings and infrastructure, with devastating and deadly effects.

Effects and responses of earthquakes

The effect of an earthquake is the damage which happens as a result of the earthquake. The effects of an earthquake can vary depending on:

  • The size of the earthquake on the Richter scale - the higher it is on the scale, the more destruction it can cause.
  • Level of development - whether it occurs in a rich or a poor country. Richer countries will be more likely to be able to predict, protect and prepare themselves from the effects of an earthquake.
  • The depth of the focus - if it's shallow, it can be more destructive.
  • Distance from epicentre - the effects of an earthquake are more severe at its centre.
  • Population density - the more people living in an area, the more likely that more deaths and casualties may arise.
  • The time of day - whether people are in their homes, work or travelling.

Responses are how countries react to an earthquake. They are categorised as follows:

  • Short-term or immediate - a response in the days and weeks immediately after a disaster has happened. Short-term responses mainly involve search and rescue and helping the injured.
  • Long-term - responses that go on for months and years after a disaster. It involves rebuilding destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, etc. It also involves kick-starting the local economy.

More guides on this topic

  • Natural hazards - AQA
  • Plate margins and plate tectonics - AQA
  • Volcanoes - AQA
  • Tropical storms - AQA
  • Is weather in the UK becoming more extreme? - AQA
  • Climate change - AQA

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  • Geography: Exam practice
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l'aquila earthquake case study bbc bitesize

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Case study on an earthquake in an MEDC

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  • Natural hazards Rural environments
  • Created by: emma998
  • Created on: 25-02-14 20:28
  • L'Aquila, Itlay
  • 6th April 2009
  • 6.3 on richter scale
  • Movement along a crack at a destructive plate margin
  • Laws on construction standards, modern housing
  • Civil protection department that trains volunteers to help with rescue operations
  • Around 290 deaths mostly from collapsed buildings
  • Hundreds injured
  • Thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged
  • Thousands of people made homeless
  • Bridges  collapsed and a water pipe burst
  • Aftershocks hampered rescue efforts and caused more damage
  • Fires in collapsed buildings created more damage
  • Broken water pipe near the town of Paganica caused a landslide
  • Camps were set up for homeless people with water, food and medical care
  • Ambulances, fire engines and the army were sent to rescue survivors
  • Cranes and diggers used to remove rubble
  • International teams with rescue dogs were sent in to look for survivors
  • Money was provided by the government to pay for rent and electricity and gas bills were suspended
  • Italian prime minister promised to build a new town to replace L'Aquila as the capital of the area
  • Investigations were carried out into why the modern buildings weren't built to withstand earthquakes

Report Mon 10th March, 2014 @ 23:07

Preparation, effects, short to long term response wrapped up in an MEDC case study - just what you need whatever your exam board if you are opting for this topic.

Report Fri 21st October, 2016 @ 11:15

This has been extremely helpful for a geography essay I have to write. Thanks

Report Wed 2nd November, 2016 @ 10:30

Report Sun 19th February, 2017 @ 10:52

Report Tue 1st May, 2018 @ 17:52

really good for revision

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l'aquila earthquake case study bbc bitesize

Italy scientists on trial over L'Aquila earthquake

  • Published 20 September 2011

Earthquake damage in Onna, near L'Aquila, Italy - 7 April 2009

The trial of six Italian scientists and a former government official for manslaughter over the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila has opened in the city.

The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.

Prosecutors allege the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake after studying hundreds of tremors that had shaken the city.

The defence argues that there is no way to predict major earthquakes even in a seismically active area.

The prosecutors accuse the seven of "negligence and imprudence... of having provided an approximate, generic and ineffective assessment of seismic activity risks as well as incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information".

As the trial opened, L'Aquila prosecutor Alfredo Rossini told reporters: "We simply want justice."

The defendants face up to 15 years in jail. Lawyers for civil plaintiffs - who include the local council - are seeking damages of 50m euros (£45m). The civil portion of the case will be heard alongside the criminal case.

Only one of the seven defendants - who include some of Italy's most distinguished geophysicists and members of the country's civil protection agency - was present on the opening day of the trial, which has now been adjourned until 1 October.

"I thought it was important to be here because this is my land, and I also wanted to underline the professionalism and the quality of the other public officials," said Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of the Civil Protection Agency's technical department.

"I am from Abruzzo and I owe it to the people of this area."

Killed in homes

The seven defendants were members of a government panel, the Serious Risks Commission, tasked with assessing the risks after hundreds of low-level tremors had rattled the medieval city in the months before the earthquake struck.

A week before the quake, they issued a reassuring statement, while also saying that it was not possible to predict whether a stronger quake would occur. They also recommended stricter enforcement of anti-seismic measures, particularly in building construction.

In the minutes of their meeting, held on 31 March 2009, Mr Bosci, the former president of the National Institute of Geophysics, is reported to have told the group that just because a number of small tremors had been observed, it did not mean that a major earthquake was on its way.

Mr Barberi, who headed the Serious Risks Commission, was also reported as concluding that there was "no reason to believe that a series of low-level tremors was a precursor to a larger event".

On the night of the quake, many people remained in their homes and died because of this advice, while others who had decided to remain outside in the street survived, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Vincenzo Vittorini, a doctor who founded the 309 Martyrs association after losing his wife and daughter in the disaster, said: "No-one expected to be told the exact time of the quake. We just wanted to be warned that we were sitting on a bomb."

The case has attracted the attention of the scientific community. Last year, more than 5,000 scientists signed an open letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of the defendants.

A lawyer for Mr Eva, Alfredo Biondi, said the trial was not credible.

"This is a trial which opens on very shaky foundations. You cannot put science on trial," he said.

More on this story

Can we predict when and where quakes will strike?

An extraordinary trial in L'Aquila

  • Published 16 September 2011

'Science did not do what was required'


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