Research Methods

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Literature Review

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • What is NOT a Literature Review?
  • Purposes of a Literature Review
  • Types of Literature Reviews
  • Literature Reviews vs. Systematic Reviews
  • Systematic vs. Meta-Analysis

Literature Review  is a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular field of study or line of research, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, critical bibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works.

Also, we can define a literature review as the collected body of scholarly works related to a topic:

  • Summarizes and analyzes previous research relevant to a topic
  • Includes scholarly books and articles published in academic journals
  • Can be an specific scholarly paper or a section in a research paper

The objective of a Literature Review is to find previous published scholarly works relevant to an specific topic

  • Help gather ideas or information
  • Keep up to date in current trends and findings
  • Help develop new questions

A literature review is important because it:

  • Explains the background of research on a topic.
  • Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Helps focus your own research questions or problems
  • Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas.
  • Suggests unexplored ideas or populations
  • Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic.
  • Tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.
  • Identifies critical gaps, points of disagreement, or potentially flawed methodology or theoretical approaches.
  • Indicates potential directions for future research.

All content in this section is from Literature Review Research from Old Dominion University 

Keep in mind the following, a literature review is NOT:

Not an essay 

Not an annotated bibliography  in which you summarize each article that you have reviewed.  A literature review goes beyond basic summarizing to focus on the critical analysis of the reviewed works and their relationship to your research question.

Not a research paper   where you select resources to support one side of an issue versus another.  A lit review should explain and consider all sides of an argument in order to avoid bias, and areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.

A literature review serves several purposes. For example, it

  • provides thorough knowledge of previous studies; introduces seminal works.
  • helps focus one’s own research topic.
  • identifies a conceptual framework for one’s own research questions or problems; indicates potential directions for future research.
  • suggests previously unused or underused methodologies, designs, quantitative and qualitative strategies.
  • identifies gaps in previous studies; identifies flawed methodologies and/or theoretical approaches; avoids replication of mistakes.
  • helps the researcher avoid repetition of earlier research.
  • suggests unexplored populations.
  • determines whether past studies agree or disagree; identifies controversy in the literature.
  • tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.

As Kennedy (2007) notes*, it is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers. First, there are the primary studies that researchers conduct and publish. Second are the reviews of those studies that summarize and offer new interpretations built from and often extending beyond the original studies. Third, there are the perceptions, conclusions, opinion, and interpretations that are shared informally that become part of the lore of field. In composing a literature review, it is important to note that it is often this third layer of knowledge that is cited as "true" even though it often has only a loose relationship to the primary studies and secondary literature reviews.

Given this, while literature reviews are designed to provide an overview and synthesis of pertinent sources you have explored, there are several approaches to how they can be done, depending upon the type of analysis underpinning your study. Listed below are definitions of types of literature reviews:

Argumentative Review      This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply imbedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature. The purpose is to develop a body of literature that establishes a contrarian viewpoint. Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e.g., educational reform; immigration control], argumentative approaches to analyzing the literature can be a legitimate and important form of discourse. However, note that they can also introduce problems of bias when they are used to to make summary claims of the sort found in systematic reviews.

Integrative Review      Considered a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated. The body of literature includes all studies that address related or identical hypotheses. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication.

Historical Review      Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent. Historical reviews are focused on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.

Methodological Review      A review does not always focus on what someone said [content], but how they said it [method of analysis]. This approach provides a framework of understanding at different levels (i.e. those of theory, substantive fields, research approaches and data collection and analysis techniques), enables researchers to draw on a wide variety of knowledge ranging from the conceptual level to practical documents for use in fieldwork in the areas of ontological and epistemological consideration, quantitative and qualitative integration, sampling, interviewing, data collection and data analysis, and helps highlight many ethical issues which we should be aware of and consider as we go through our study.

Systematic Review      This form consists of an overview of existing evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated research question, which uses pre-specified and standardized methods to identify and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect, report, and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question, often posed in a cause-and-effect form, such as "To what extent does A contribute to B?"

Theoretical Review      The purpose of this form is to concretely examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review help establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested. Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems. The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework.

* Kennedy, Mary M. "Defining a Literature."  Educational Researcher  36 (April 2007): 139-147.

All content in this section is from The Literature Review created by Dr. Robert Larabee USC

Robinson, P. and Lowe, J. (2015),  Literature reviews vs systematic reviews.  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39: 103-103. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12393

research methods case study literature review

What's in the name? The difference between a Systematic Review and a Literature Review, and why it matters . By Lynn Kysh from University of Southern California

research methods case study literature review

Systematic review or meta-analysis?

A  systematic review  answers a defined research question by collecting and summarizing all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria.

A  meta-analysis  is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of these studies.

Systematic reviews, just like other research articles, can be of varying quality. They are a significant piece of work (the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York estimates that a team will take 9-24 months), and to be useful to other researchers and practitioners they should have:

  • clearly stated objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies
  • explicit, reproducible methodology
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies
  • assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies (e.g. risk of bias)
  • systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies

Not all systematic reviews contain meta-analysis. 

Meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of independent studies. By combining information from all relevant studies, meta-analysis can provide more precise estimates of the effects of health care than those derived from the individual studies included within a review.  More information on meta-analyses can be found in  Cochrane Handbook, Chapter 9 .

A meta-analysis goes beyond critique and integration and conducts secondary statistical analysis on the outcomes of similar studies.  It is a systematic review that uses quantitative methods to synthesize and summarize the results.

An advantage of a meta-analysis is the ability to be completely objective in evaluating research findings.  Not all topics, however, have sufficient research evidence to allow a meta-analysis to be conducted.  In that case, an integrative review is an appropriate strategy. 

Some of the content in this section is from Systematic reviews and meta-analyses: step by step guide created by Kate McAllister.

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Methodology

  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

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Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

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research methods case study literature review

In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

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A literature review is a discussion of the literature (aka. the "research" or "scholarship") surrounding a certain topic. A good literature review doesn't simply summarize the existing material, but provides thoughtful synthesis and analysis. The purpose of a literature review is to orient your own work within an existing body of knowledge. A literature review may be written as a standalone piece or be included in a larger body of work.

You can read more about literature reviews, what they entail, and how to write one, using the resources below. 

Am I the only one struggling to write a literature review?

Dr. Zina O'Leary explains the misconceptions and struggles students often have with writing a literature review. She also provides step-by-step guidance on writing a persuasive literature review.

An Introduction to Literature Reviews

Dr. Eric Jensen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and Dr. Charles Laurie, Director of Research at Verisk Maplecroft, explain how to write a literature review, and why researchers need to do so. Literature reviews can be stand-alone research or part of a larger project. They communicate the state of academic knowledge on a given topic, specifically detailing what is still unknown.

This is the first video in a whole series about literature reviews. You can find the rest of the series in our SAGE database, Research Methods:

Videos

Videos covering research methods and statistics

Identify Themes and Gaps in Literature (with real examples) | Scribbr

Finding connections between sources is key to organizing the arguments and structure of a good literature review. In this video, you'll learn how to identify themes, debates, and gaps between sources, using examples from real papers.

4 Tips for Writing a Literature Review's Intro, Body, and Conclusion | Scribbr

While each review will be unique in its structure--based on both the existing body of both literature and the overall goals of your own paper, dissertation, or research--this video from Scribbr does a good job simplifying the goals of writing a literature review for those who are new to the process. In this video, you’ll learn what to include in each section, as well as 4 tips for the main body illustrated with an example.

Cover Art

  • Literature Review This chapter in SAGE's Encyclopedia of Research Design describes the types of literature reviews and scientific standards for conducting literature reviews.
  • UNC Writing Center: Literature Reviews This handout from the Writing Center at UNC will explain what literature reviews are and offer insights into the form and construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
  • Purdue OWL: Writing a Literature Review The overview of literature reviews comes from Purdue's Online Writing Lab. It explains the basic why, what, and how of writing a literature review.

Organizational Tools for Literature Reviews

One of the most daunting aspects of writing a literature review is organizing your research. There are a variety of strategies that you can use to help you in this task. We've highlighted just a few ways writers keep track of all that information! You can use a combination of these tools or come up with your own organizational process. The key is choosing something that works with your own learning style.

Citation Managers

Citation managers are great tools, in general, for organizing research, but can be especially helpful when writing a literature review. You can keep all of your research in one place, take notes, and organize your materials into different folders or categories. Read more about citations managers here:

  • Manage Citations & Sources

Concept Mapping

Some writers use concept mapping (sometimes called flow or bubble charts or "mind maps") to help them visualize the ways in which the research they found connects.

research methods case study literature review

There is no right or wrong way to make a concept map. There are a variety of online tools that can help you create a concept map or you can simply put pen to paper. To read more about concept mapping, take a look at the following help guides:

  • Using Concept Maps From Williams College's guide, Literature Review: A Self-guided Tutorial

Synthesis Matrix

A synthesis matrix is is a chart you can use to help you organize your research into thematic categories. By organizing your research into a matrix, like the examples below, can help you visualize the ways in which your sources connect. 

  • Walden University Writing Center: Literature Review Matrix Find a variety of literature review matrix examples and templates from Walden University.
  • Writing A Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix An example synthesis matrix created by NC State University Writing and Speaking Tutorial Service Tutors. If you would like a copy of this synthesis matrix in a different format, like a Word document, please ask a librarian. CC-BY-SA 3.0
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A Review of the Literature on Case Study Research

Profile image of Ricardo D'Ávila

This paper presents a review of the literature on case study research and comments on the ongoing debate of the value of case study. A research paradigm and its theoretical framework is described. This review focuses extensively on the positions of

Related Papers

Waleed Alabri

research methods case study literature review

An Examination of Case Studies in Management Research: A Paradigmatic Bridge

Mehedi Masud

The paper maps the value of case study in management research. In particular, it deals with the paradigmatic aspects of case study as a research strategy. In order to analyse the convergence and divergence on different dimensions of the case study research, I focus on three well-known methodology experts, namely Robert Yin, Sharan Merriam and Robert Stake. I argue that case study is a comprehensive research strategy. It has the capacity to embrace paradigm plurality representing both inductive and deductive strategies. Because of its epistemological, ontological and methodological flexibility case study has become one of the established research approaches in management. There is no fixed set of methods for the case study research. This depends on the ontological presuppositions of the researchers. The significance of the ontology becomes apparent depending on the nature of the case and the types of the research questions. As case study research is reflexive, flexible and context-specific, it allows emerging contexts to shape methods. That is why it can act as a bridge across the research paradigms. I then look at the considerable influence that the case study approach has on the management research, i.e., the role for case study in the research process. Because of its overarching role, multi-paradigmatic approach can be adopted under case study research. Case study research is, in practice a varied methodology with paradigmatic pluralism covering an array of research methods and techniques and different levels of analysis.

International Leadership Journal

Michael Neubert

Extension of theory using a multiple-case study design can contribute value to a particular theoretical perspective and further define the boundaries of the original theory. Most organizations today operate in volatile economic and social environments. Qualitative research plays an essential role in the investigation of leadership and management problems, given that they remain complex social enigmas. The multiple case study design is a valuable qualitative research tool in studying the links between the personal, social, behavioral, psychological, organizational, cultural, and environmental factors that guide managerial and leadership development. Multiple-case studies can be used by both novice and experienced qualitative researchers to contribute original qualitative data to extant theory. Multiple-case study research is particularly suitable for responding to "how" and "why" and what Eisenhardt terms as "big picture" research questions that remain unanswered in the extant leadership and management literature.

Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology

Thakur P R A S A D Bhatta

Case study research though increasingly popular in social sciences for positivist and intrepretivist research, a kind of confusion is prevalent when it is used ignoring its philosophical position. Arguably, the case study research is considered more appropriate for qualitative research because of its foremost strength ˗ the in-depth study of complex issues. This paper, drawing from the literature, discusses the philosophical position of case study research and argues that qualitative case study research is appropriate for theory building. For theory building, this paper follows the inductive approach guided by qualitative research paradigm and argues that it is not appropriate to assess theory building from the perspective of quantitative research. Very similar to other research methods, it is natural that the case study research has certain challenges; however, most of the challenges and misunderstandings overlap causing difficulty to understand the role of case study research. Hence, this paper aims to contribute to the understandings of the challenges and misunderstandings associated with the theory building from case study research. This paper argues that most of the challenges associated with theory building from case study can be addressed employing appropriate research strategies particularly clear understanding of philosophical stance and selection of appropriate case. The misunderstandings, on the other hand, are arisen due to the differences in the researcher's perspectives particularly positivistic thinking of them rather than the shortcomings inherent in the qualitative case study research design.

Florian Kohlbacher

This paper aims at exploring and discus­ sing the possibilities of applying qualitative content analysis as a (text) interpretation method in case study research. First, case study research as a research strategy within qualitative social research is briefly presented. Then, a basic introduction to (qualitative) content analysis as an interpretation method for qualitative interviews and other data material is given.

Assessment of Qualitative

15th NCVER conference

John Guenther

milton malaya

Lesley Bartlett

casestudies journal

Qualitative case-study research has experienced an upsurge in business management fields of inquiry in the recent past. A methodology is selection, justification and sequential arranging of activities, procedures and tasks in a research project. Research methodology can no longer be confined to a set of universally applicable rules, conventions and traditions. A research paradigm is a set of propositions that explains how the world is perceived. There are three basic paradigms: positivist, interpretive and critical. Qualitative " approaches to research " , " strategies of inquiry " and " varieties of methodologies " classified into five " types " or " traditions " namely; biography, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography and case study. The major criticism made of qualitative methods is that they are impressionistic and non-verifiable, post-positivists who reject this charge claiming that qualitative data is auditable and therefore dependable. The less structured qualitative methodologies reject many of the positivists " constructions over what constitutes rigour, favouring instead the flexibility, creativity and otherwise inaccessible insights afforded by alternative routes of inquiry that embrace storytelling, recollection, and dialogue. Case study research is not really a " methodology " or a method, rather an approach to research. Case studies can be ethnographic or not and some scholars identified it as a strategy of social inquiry. It is argued that, case studies are more appropriate to investigate causal relationships prevailing both in the business field as well as in wider society in general.

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Literature Reviews

  • Getting started

What is a literature review?

Why conduct a literature review, stages of a literature review, lit reviews: an overview (video), check out these books.

  • Types of reviews
  • 1. Define your research question
  • 2. Plan your search
  • 3. Search the literature
  • 4. Organize your results
  • 5. Synthesize your findings
  • 6. Write the review
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research methods case study literature review

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research methods case study literature review

Definition: A literature review is a systematic examination and synthesis of existing scholarly research on a specific topic or subject.

Purpose: It serves to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge within a particular field.

Analysis: Involves critically evaluating and summarizing key findings, methodologies, and debates found in academic literature.

Identifying Gaps: Aims to pinpoint areas where there is a lack of research or unresolved questions, highlighting opportunities for further investigation.

Contextualization: Enables researchers to understand how their work fits into the broader academic conversation and contributes to the existing body of knowledge.

research methods case study literature review

tl;dr  A literature review critically examines and synthesizes existing scholarly research and publications on a specific topic to provide a comprehensive understanding of the current state of knowledge in the field.

What is a literature review NOT?

❌ An annotated bibliography

❌ Original research

❌ A summary

❌ Something to be conducted at the end of your research

❌ An opinion piece

❌ A chronological compilation of studies

The reason for conducting a literature review is to:

research methods case study literature review

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

While this 9-minute video from NCSU is geared toward graduate students, it is useful for anyone conducting a literature review.

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Writing the literature review: A practical guide

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Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences

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So, you have to write a literature review: A guided workbook for engineers

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Telling a research story: Writing a literature review

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The literature review: Six steps to success

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Systematic approaches to a successful literature review

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Developing Your Structured Literature Review: A Case Study for Omnichannel Research

  • By: Anh Thi Van Nguyen , Nguyen Hoang Thuan & Robert McClelland
  • Product: Sage Research Methods: Business
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd
  • Publication year: 2023
  • Online pub date: March 21, 2023
  • Discipline: Marketing
  • Methods: Case study research , Literature review , Systematic review
  • DOI: https:// doi. org/10.4135/9781529669077
  • Keywords: channels , customers , domain , exclusion criteria , inclusion/exclusion , journals , market development , physical distribution management , retailing Show all Show less
  • Online ISBN: 9781529669077 Copyright: © 2023 SAGE Publications Ltd More information Less information

This case study discusses how the researchers applied a structured literature review method to study the current state of omnichannel marketing literature. Thanks to the structured literature review method, the research was able to synthesize current understanding and developments in omnichannel marketing, provide a comprehensive view of this domain, and suggest future research directions. The case study introduces a structured review method, its benefits, its classifications, and discusses the chosen method’s rationale. We outline how to conduct a structured review in an omnichannel-related context and discuss the related challenges. With the shared experience in the case study, you will be able to decide on a suitable review method for your research area and aware of the upcoming challenges when conducting a structured review. After reading this case study, you can plan and design your review project in a similar business and management research context and provide sound justifications for your related decision.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this case study, students should be able to:

  • Define and distinguish between structured literature reviews and other types of literature reviews
  • Discover the benefits of performing a structured literature review in the writing of their research or thesis
  • Identify the key factors and steps in the planning process of a structured literature review
  • Design your structured literature review and justification for the decision-making process

Project Overview and Context

The way customers interact with retail companies has changed. Traditionally, customers searched and purchased products at the retailers' or producers’ stores. Due to the rise of digital technology and the COVID-19 pandemic, customers can now use a variety of online channels (such as search engines, websites, e-commerce, and social media) in addition to offline channels (such as retailers’ stores, producers’ stores) when searching for and buying a product. As a result, retailers must invest in more online and offline channels to better communicate with customers and satisfy their needs.

In this dynamic environment, the challenge is ensuring that the customers receive the same product, service, price, or information from whichever channel they interact. Omnichannel marketing arises as the practice of integrating customer experience through customer interaction via multiple channels ( Cui et al., 2021 ). Given that, the literature on omnichannel marketing also increases significantly. In the literature, due to the use of multiple channels for retailing and communication, there are intertwined areas between omnichannel marketing and other domains, such as omnichannel retailing and management.

When starting our research, it was vital to comprehend the development state of the domain to outline the research gaps and questions. Past literature review papers on omnichannel marketing mainly focused on consumer behavior or other sub-themes. There needs to be more research looking at omnichannel marketing comprehensively ( Bijmolt et al., 2021 ). As a result, the current research is one of the first to examine omnichannel marketing by reviewing comprehensive and up-to-date literature.

This research project provides a comprehensive picture of omnichannel marketing and its connections with other domains such as management, logistics and supply chain, and retail. As a result, this research needs to systematically synthesize current understanding and developments in omnichannel marketing, enabling us to search for future research directions.

The authors decided to employ a structured literature review approach to analyze and synthesize 174 omnichannel-related papers published from 2011 to 2021. Unlike narrative literature reviews, a structured literature review applies a systematic and transparent process to examine the critical determinants of omnichannel marketing, synthesize current trends, identify research gaps, and suggest future research directions ( Paul & Criado, 2020 ; Thuan et al., 2016 ).

This case study will explain how to conduct a structured literature review. It consists of four major sections:

  • 1. First, the research design to achieve the research objectives.
  • 2. Second, practical considerations of the research method.
  • 3. Third, a step-by-step process to conduct the structured review and decisions made during the process.
  • 4. Finally, lessons learned and applications for similar business and management research.

Section Summary

The section overviews our research project on omnichannel marketing and its aim and objectives. Structured literature is a suitable research method to gain a thorough understanding of an area in literature. By reading the section, the students will be able to gain the following:

  • Omnichannel marketing is the practice of integrating customer experience when they interact with multiple online and offline channels during the search and purchase of a product.
  • The research project provides a comprehensive picture of omnichannel marketing and its relationship with other domains such as management, logistics and supply chain, and retail. The structured literature review method systematically synthesized current understanding and developments in omnichannel marketing.
  • The case study explains how the researchers used a structured literature review to examine the critical determinants of omnichannel marketing, synthesize current trends, identify research gaps in the domain, and suggest future research directions.

Research Design

When conducting a literature review, the first important decision is to decide on the review method. In this study, we must decide between a narrative review or a structured review. After examining past literature review papers, we found a rise in the usage of structured reviews since 2017 and a gap for a holistic review of omnichannel marketing. Therefore, we decided to consider the structured review. However, before the final decision, we needed to explore the critical aspects of the method:

  • 1. What is a structured literature review?
  • 2. What are the benefits of a structured review?
  • 3. What are the differences between a structured review and a narrative literature review?
  • 4. What factors should be considered when deciding on a structured review method?

1. What Is a Structured Literature Review?

A structured review is “ structured scientifically and specifically based on widely used methods, theories, constructs in the form of tables and figures, readers get insightful information from the data reported and content ( Paul & Criado, 2020, p. 2 ).” A structured review searches related studies, analyses and synthesizes information, and presents it systematically to help readers understand the main themes, theories, and methods in previous works and identify research gaps in the domain.

The structured literature review method belongs to the systematic review typology ( Paré et al., 2015 ). The systematic review typology, first introduced by Cochrane (1972) in the medical sciences, is a scientific method for reproducing the findings from existing literature. Petticrew & Roberts, 2006, p. 19 defined systematic review as a review that strives to comprehensively identify, appraise, and synthesize all the relevant studies on a given topic.

Structured literature reviews are recognized as a legitimate form of research and are prevalent in multiple disciplines ( Chandler & Hopewell, 2013 ; Tod, 2003 ). Popular domains are accounting and finance ( Massaro et al., 2016 ; Müllner, 2017 ), marketing and management ( Denyer & Tranfield, 2009 ; Tranfield et al., 2003 ), and logistics and supply chain management ( Akbari & McClelland, 2020 ; Maria Jesus Saenz et al., 2015 ).

2. What Are the Benefits of a Structured Literature Review?

The method provides a highly structured process for a rigorous and systematic search on a topic ( Chandler & Hopewell, 2013 ). This systematic and transparent approach helps a structured review mitigate researchers’ bias and information overload problems known to arise with a narrative literature review.

The transparent process helps researchers minimize bias, increases the reliability of findings, and allows the research method to be reproducible by identifying all empirical evidence that fits the pre-specified inclusion criteria to answer a particular research question ( O’Brien & Mc Guckin, 2015 ; Snyder, 2019 ). Moreover, a structured review is valuable for developing propositions, understanding research trends, and detecting gaps in the literature ( Carter & Rogers, 2008 ; Melacini et al., 2018 ).

3. What Are the Differences Between a Structured Literature Review and a Narrative Literature Review?

There are various types of systematic review research: meta-analysis, domain-based, and bibliometric analysis, of which meta-analysis and domain-based reviews are the most popular ( Hulland & Houston, 2020 ; Paul & Criado, 2020 ).

According to Davis et al. (2014) , a meta-analysis is a statistical tool for weighing and comparing several studies' findings to find trends, disagreements, or relationships among multiple studies on the same topic. However, to conduct a meta-analysis, the covered studies must share statistical measures (effect size) for comparing outcomes; therefore, performing a meta-analysis on studies that apply various methodologies is challenging ( Snyder, 2019 ; Tranfield et al., 2003 ).

Instead, domain-based reviews can address these limitations by examining research papers’ theories, methods, and outcomes in a specific domain. Domain-based reviews include structured, framework-based, bibliometric, hybrid narrative reviews, and reviews for model and framework development ( Paul & Criado, 2020 ).

A structured literature review studies a domain in a structured process. It can be applied to domains with widely used methods, theories, and constructs and present the information and content in structured forms such as tables and figures ( Paul & Criado, 2020 ). It further systematically synthesizes and compiles information in the domain. Based on the compiled information, other researchers can understand what has been applied and identify the research gaps in the domain.

In a framework-based review, researchers will develop a framework and use it for structuring their reviews. They can also base it on a framework such as ADO (Antecedents, Decisions, and Outcome) or 6W (Who, When, Where, How, What, and Why) ( Paul & Criado, 2020 ). Bibliometric reviews use statistical tools to analyze the trends, citations, authors, affiliations, and countries of a theme. They deal less with the theories, methods, and constructs than structured literature reviews. Another domain-review type is a hybrid narrative review, which combines a framework or a bibliometric review with a narrative literature review ( Paul & Criado, 2020 ).

4. Factors to Consider When Deciding on a Review Method

Two factors should be considered when deciding on a review method: past research for data availability and the research questions. Indeed, we considered these two factors in our review.

First, we looked at past omnichannel marketing research, which suggests a structured literature review to be the most suitable method. The reasons were that omnichannel marketing is a complex domain. Structured review can help researchers explore popular methods, theories, and constructs to understand the intertwined sections between omnichannel marketing and other areas such as management and logistics, and the research trends in the theme.

Second, we determined our research questions:

  • What is the current understanding of omnichannel marketing, and how is it different from omnichannel retailing?
  • When cross-examining research themes in omnichannel literature, what are the key research trends in omnichannel marketing?
  • What are potential research topics for the future development of omnichannel marketing?

A structured review is promising to answer these research questions. Further, a structured review can help to answer these questions systematically. Together, the two analyzed factors led us to use the structured literature review.

5. Steps in a Structured Literature Review

Structured reviews have well-defined protocols. For example, Bettany-Saltikov (2012) suggested a four-step systematic review of questions to identify relevant studies, quality appraisal, interpretation, and results. Tod (2003) generalized the conceptualizing, constructing, conducting, and communicating processes. Another example is a five-step review process that includes framing the questions for review, identifying relevant work, assessing the quality of studies, interpreting the findings, and summarizing the evidence ( Denyer & Tranfield, 2009 ; Khan et al., 2003 ).

Maria Jesus Saenz et al. (2015) and Koufteros et al. (2018) suggested a six-step process that separates the step of “identifying relevant work” into “determining the inclusion/exclusion criteria” and “locating potentially relevant literature.” We adopted the six-step process by Maria Jesus Saenz et al. (2015) and Koufteros et al. (2018) because of its recent updates and increasing popularity ( Figure 1 ).

The step-wise details of the process are as follows.

Framing questions for review

  • What is the current understanding of omnichannel marketing and how it is different from omnichannel retailing?
  • What are the key research trends in omnichannel marketing?

Determine the inclusion / exclusion criteria

  • Keywords or search terms; omnichannel marketing and how is it different from omnichannel retailing?
  • What are the key research trends in omnichannel marketing?’;

Locate potentially relevant literature

  • E B S C O (Business Source Complete), S C O P U S, Google scholar (cross-checking for 2020 and 2021 papers).

Assessing the quality of studies

  • Blind double-coded using Rayyan Citation to eliminate papers.
  • For journal paper; included only papers ranked in either 2019 Austratlian Business Deans Council ( A B C D) journal quality list, the Scimago journal rankings, or the C A B S hournal ranking (Chartered Association of Business Schools)
  • For conference papers; impact ratio of 8 (Beck and Rygi, 2015)

Interpreting the findings

  • Content analysis in excel and thematic analysis by Nvivo 12.

Summarizing the evidence

  • Future gaps for omnichannel retailing research.

Figure 1. Structured literature review process, adapted from Maria Jesus Saenz et al. (2015) and Koufteros et al. (2018) .

An illustration depicts the series of steps in summarizing the evidence of a review process.

Based on this process, we collected data for thematic and content analysis using Excel and NVivo12.

  • A structured review can help mitigate researchers’ bias and information overload problems. Its transparent and systematic process allows researchers to increase finding reliability and to reproduce the research later.
  • A structured review is valuable for developing propositions, understanding research trends, and detecting gaps in the literature.
  • Researchers need to examine past research for data availability and the research questions before deciding on a type of review.
  • There are six steps in the planning of a structured literature review: framing questions for review, determining inclusion and exclusion criteria, locating potential literature, quality assessment, interpreting the findings, and summarizing the evidence.

Research Practicalities

What is the biggest challenge had to be overcome in the structured review practices? One typical issue with the structured review is the researcher’s bias during the data analysis. We will eliminate this problem by incorporating triangulation during the examination. Triangulation is a widely used process in qualitative research to ensure data reliability. Denzin (1978) defined triangulation as “the combination of methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon (p. 294-307).” Authors who use triangulation to examine a phenomenon believe that using various methods produces more objective and valid results ( Jonsen & Jehn, 2009 ).

The process consists of method triangulation, investigator triangulation, theory triangulation, and data sources triangulation ( Denzin, 1978 ; Patton, 1999 ). Method triangulation uses various data collection methods for the same phenomenon. In contrast, investigator triangulation involves the participation of two or more researchers to provide multiple observations and conclusions on the same matter ( Carter, 1969 ). Researchers could also apply theory triangulation, which involves using different theories to analyze and interpret data. Finally, data sources triangulation is collecting data from different people, groups, and sources of information ( Carter, 1969 ).

This project employed investigator and data sources triangulation. First, four investigators worked in parallel during all review and data analysis steps. Second, the investigators compared the results of each step before concluding the final findings. Third, for data sources triangulation, we used at least three data sources for actions, such as databases and quality checks.

To achieve creditable results from the structured review, it is also crucial for the team to have full access to the databases, the articles, and the most current status of the works. The team was fortunate to have online access to most studies (from 2011 onwards) as omnichannel is a more recent topic. However, if you are interested in topics that date much further back, it is vital to consider the studies' online and offline availability.

  • Researcher bias is a common problem during data analysis of the structured review method. Data triangulation can be used in structured reviews to ensure data reliability.
  • This case study applied investigator and data sources triangulation.
  • Researchers should pay attention to the research studies’ availability online and offline to ensure creditable results for the structured review.

Method in Action

The review followed the six steps process strictly to ensure the systematic characteristics ( Figure 1 ). The steps were conducted in a sequential process that took six months to complete after multiple trials and errors. During each phase, there are challenges, and this section discusses our decisions to overcome these problems.

1. Framing Questions for Review

The framing questions must align with the research aim and objectives. Therefore, we outlined three framing questions:

As discussed earlier, past studies took many concepts related to omnichannel marketing from omnichannel retailing. However, when skimming past papers, we found that most authors applied the omnichannel retailing definition for omnichannel marketing. Therefore, it was necessary to differentiate the two concepts by studying their common ground and distinct perspectives. As a result, the first step was to examine the current understanding of omnichannel marketing and differentiate it from the omnichannel retailing definition.

2. Determining Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

In this step, we determined the inclusion and exclusion criteria to identify relevant works. Keywords or search terms comprised “omnichannel,” “multichannel,” “cross-channel,” “retail,” “management,” and “marketing,” including their plural forms, delimiters, and suffixes. We had two crucial decisions.

First, as omnichannel marketing literature is in its infancy stage, there will be areas lacking data if we search for omnichannel marketing only. Therefore, to ensure a holistic overview of the theme, we focused on the context of studies in omnichannel retailing and multichannel and cross-channel retailing. Second, we considered not only research with the “marketing” keyword but also “management” and “retail” as there are many intertwined areas between the domains.

The study period was from 2011 to February 2021. The reason for choosing this period was because Rigby (2011) presented the first recognized definition of omnichannel in 2011. The search range included the articles' titles, abstracts, and full text. Only peer-reviewed journals and conference papers in English were included. In terms of disciplines, we reviewed omnichannel practices in logistics and supply chains, retail, marketing, and management.

3. Locating Potentially Relevant Literature

We next identified potentially relevant literature. Using inclusion and exclusion codes, we systematically searched EBSCO (Business Source Complete) and the SCOPUS electronic databases and screened the articles via abstracts and full texts. To ensure the triangulation of data sources for 2020 and 2021, we cross-checked Google Scholar to identify the latest research. The process identified 401 omnichannel-related papers.

4. ASsessing the Quality of Studies

In the following step, we assessed the quality of the studies. A total of 401 papers from the databases were blind-double-coded using Rayyan Citation, a systematic review web application ( Ouzzani et al., 2016 ). First, using Rayyan, we skimmed through all the papers' abstracts to remove duplicate documents, reports, editor introductions, or pieces from other fields, such as technology and engineering. Next, we coded the documents based on the inclusion/exclusion criteria. One hundred seventy-five articles were removed, leaving 226 pieces for the quality check step ( Table 1 ).

Next, we used the screening technique suggested by Okoli (2015) . To ensure data triangulation, we used three quality check sources. First, we searched for the ranking of selected papers from the 2019 Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC) Journal Quality List, the Scimago Journal Ranking, and the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS). For conference papers, the impact ratio was above 8, following Beck and Rygl (2015) practice. We removed fifty-two papers for failing the quality check. After the assessment, a pool of 174 papers was finalized for review.

5. Interpreting the Findings

After finalizing the list, we analyzed the selected papers using Excel and N-Vivo 12. The analysis consisted of three steps. First, we adopted thematic analysis to identify key themes from the reviewed papers. To ensure data quality, the four researchers worked in parallel and triangulated the result of this step. Finally, the results are compared and discussed before concluding with the themes for further analysis.

Second, we studied the papers and grouped them into nodes; for example, “channel adoption” and “channel choice” were grouped under the theme of “decision-making,” developed via axial coding. These are emerging themes with appropriate levels of triangulation. The benchmark was six mentions, a rule of thumb for qualitative research coding themes. Finally, we conducted content analysis in Excel to find the statistics regarding the year, authors, journals, citations, location, and methods.

6. Summarizing the Evidence

Presentation of the findings is vital in systematic reviews. Therefore, we divided the results section into (1) descriptive results to present statistics from content analysis and (2) thematic results to present findings from each theme.

When presenting descriptive results, we needed help deciding which data to report. Authors tend to place too much importance on descriptive results and hinder the reading experience and their stories. Looking back at the purpose of presenting the data helps. We wanted to prove the popularity of omnichannel-related research and the emergence of omnichannel marketing. Therefore, we chose to show findings related to the research timeline, study location, and methods used.

Similarly, thematic results have their presentation problems. Systematic review papers cover a wide range of topics, authors, and references; therefore, they are often heavy in terms of in-text explanations. For example, while explaining the key themes, we found that referencing past papers hinders the readers' experience. So, we put all the references, coding, and explanation of each theme on a communal table ( Nguyen et al., 2022 ). The in-text was used to explain the theme development and central areas of research interest. Thanks to tables, graphs, and figures, we could convey the story more concisely.

  • When framing questions for review, the questions must align with the research aim and objectives.
  • Important decisions need to be made during the second step, such as determining inclusion and exclusion criteria, including decisions on the time frame, disciplines, keywords, and types of research.
  • The third step—locating potentially relevant literature—involves identifying the databases from which to collect data and journal articles.
  • The quality check examines journal article citations, ranking, or impact ratio.

Practical Lessons Learned

The structured approach to data allowed the project to be carried out in parallel by different researchers. Therefore, the quality and reliability of the data collection and analysis process are more assured thanks to the triangulation of researchers and data sources. As a result, the researchers can gain significant knowledge in the field and obtain several future research gaps.

However, the process can be complicated and time-consuming, which might discourage researchers ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). There are areas that researchers should pay attention to:

  • Determining clear objectives from the beginning of the project will help guide data collection and the writing process later.
  • Before determining the inclusion and exclusion criteria, it is vital to have an overview of the field for the research scope. A quick search of standard terms related to the keyword with a prefix, suffix, or British and American English versions, will help reduce the data loss risk and trial and error.
  • It is essential to check the databases carefully before collecting the data. The reason is that the databases have different standards for inclusion. Therefore, to ensure all studies are covered before the quality check, we must cross-check several databases before deciding on the pre-quality checklist.
  • For thematic analysis, it is better to determine some themes before actual analysis by reading other literature papers or skimming through the abstracts. The activity helps reduce the coding time as well as ensure a better structure for the coding.
  • Developing and coordinating a research team is vital not only for triangulation but also to help with the workload. The team will collaborate in almost every research step and must reach a mutual agreement before moving to the next steps.
  • The process for structured review can be complicated and time-consuming.
  • Structured literature review allows the project to be carried out in parallel by different researchers. Therefore, triangulation methods can be used to ensure the quality and reliability of the data collection and analysis process.
  • There are five tips to help you conduct a structured literature view more efficiently and strategically: determining clear objectives, having an overview of the field before deciding the inclusion and exclusion criteria, cross-checking the databases before data collection, pre-determined themes will help lessen the coding time, and team mutual agreement is needed from the beginning of research.

We have documented the steps to conduct a structured literature review in the omnichannel context. During each phase, we discussed the challenges and decisions we made to solve the problems and some practical lessons for future adaptation of the method. The benefits of a structured literature review include the scope of covered studies, data reliability and transparency, and application of the process for similar domains such as business and management.

The method will be advantageous when searching for research gaps, notable authors, or trends. Thus, you can adopt the technique to develop a good understanding of your research area or when searching for research ideas. Before starting your project, we recommend a carefully designed plan with clear objectives and some measures for data triangulation. If you are new to the subject matter, working on the systematic process from the beginning will help reduce time and effort during the practical approach.

Classroom Discussion Questions

  • 1. What problems do researchers need to consider before deciding on the systematic review methods?
  • 2. What are the benefits of a systematic literature review?
  • 3. How did the authors mitigate the risk of data loss during the data collection stage?
  • 4. How do researchers ensure data reliability and transparency for a structured literature review?

Multiple-Choice Quiz Questions

1. What are the main methods of data triangulation to ensure reliability for a structured literature review?

Incorrect Answer

Feedback: This is not the correct answer. The correct answer is C.

Correct Answer

Feedback: Well done, correct answer

2. Which method is suitable when researchers cannot collect statistical measures for review, and the aim is to identify the current research themes and gaps in the literature?

Feedback: This is not the correct answer. The correct answer is B.

3. What is the purpose of the triangulation methods when conducting a structured literature review?

Feedback: This is not the correct answer. The correct answer is A.

4. Why do researchers have to strictly follow the data collection steps?

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  • v.8(3); 2016 Mar

Histological Stains: A Literature Review and Case Study

Hani a alturkistani.

1 Faculty of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Faris M Tashkandi

Zuhair m mohammedsaleh.

2 Faculty of Applied Medical Sciences, University of Tabuk, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia

The history of histology indicates that there have been significant changes in the techniques used for histological staining through chemical, molecular biology assays and immunological techniques, collectively referred to as histochemistry. Early histologists used the readily available chemicals to prepare tissues for microscopic studies; these laboratory chemicals were potassium dichromate, alcohol and the mercuric chloride to harden cellular tissues. Staining techniques used were carmine, silver nitrate, Giemsa, Trichrome Stains, Gram Stain and Hematoxylin among others.

The purpose of this research was to assess past and current literature reviews, as well as case studies, with the aim of informing ways in which histological stains have been improved in the modern age. Results from the literature review has indicated that there has been an improvement in histopathology and histotechnology in stains used. There has been a rising need for efficient, accurate and less complex staining procedures. Many stain procedures are still in use today, and many others have been replaced with new immunostaining, molecular, non-culture and other advanced staining techniques. Some staining methods have been abandoned because the chemicals required have been medically proven to be toxic. The case studies indicated that in modern histology a combination of different stain techniques are used to enhance the effectiveness of the staining process. Currently, improved histological stains, have been modified and combined with other stains to improve their effectiveness.

1. Introduction

Histology is the microscopic study of animal and plant cell and tissues through staining and sectioning and examining them under a microscope (electron or light microscope). There are various methods used to study tissue characteristics and microscopic structures of the cells. Histological studies are used in forensic investigations, autopsy, diagnosis and in education. In addition, histology is used extensively in medicine especially in the study of diseased tissues to aid treatment ( Black, 2012 ).

Histological staining is a series of technique processes undertaken in the preparation of sample tissues by staining using histological stains to aid in the microscope study ( Anderson, 2011 ). The process of histological staining takes five key stages which involve; fixation, processing, embedding, sectioning and staining ( Titford, 2009 ). Great changes have been done on techniques used for histological staining through chemical, molecular biology assays and immunological techniques collectively and have facilitated greatly in the study of organs and tissues ( Shostak, 2013 ).

2. Specific Aspects of Histopathology

2.1 staining.

Staining is used to highlight important features of the tissue as well as to enhance the tissue contrast. Hematoxylin is a basic dye that is commonly used in this process and stains the nuclei giving it a bluish color while eosin (another stain dye used in histology) stains the cell's nucleus giving it a pinkish stain. However, there are other several staining technicques used for particular cells and components ( Black, 2012 ). Staining is a commonly used medical process in the medical diagnosis of tumors in which a dye color is applied on the posterior and anterior border of the sample tissues to locate the diseased or tumorous cells or other pathological cells ( Musumeci, 2014 ). In biological studies staining is used to mark cells and to flag nucleic acids, proteins or the gel electrophoresis to aid in the microscopic examination ( Jackson & Blythe, 2013 ). In some cases, various multiple staining methods are used such as differential staining, double staining or the multiple staining ( Iyiola & Avwioro, 2011 ).

2.2 Fixation

In histology, fixation refers to the use of chemicals to preserve the natural tissue structure and maintain the cell structure from degradation. Mostly, neutral buffered formalin is used in this case when a light microscope is to be used to conduct the study. Fixatives enhance the preservation of tissues and cells through an irreversible process through cross-linking proteins. However, while the process serves to preserve the structure of the cell for the purpose of histological studies, it has been found to destroy and denature proteins rendering them dysfunctional ( Young, O’Dowd, & Stewart, 2010 ). Formalin fixation denatures the DNA, miRNA and the mRNA tissues and extraction of these components for the purpose of histology may lead to flawed results ( Anderson, 2011 ).

The fixation phase retains the chemical composition of the tissues, hardens the cells or tissues for sectioning and delays degradation ( Titford, 2009 ). In addition, fixatives changes tissue penetration and influence antigen exposures which may be productive or detrimental ( Iyiola & Avwioro, 2011 ). These fixatives are administered in two ways: through perfusion and immersion of the prepared tissue. These fixatives are infused in the animals’ body through diffusion. Perfusion is a slower process, require more time and only one fixative can be used at a time ( Shostak, 2013 ). There are a number of fixatives in use, but the formaldehyde fixatives are the most commonly used ( Black, 2012 ). The neutral buffered formalin (NBF) stabilizes amino acids in proteins and offers good tissues and cell structure preservation. The paraffin-formalin (paraformaldehyde- PFA) is effective in immunostaining but requires it to be freshly prepared to enhance its effectiveness ( Iyiola & Avwioro, 2011 ). The Bouin fixative has been found to be effective in delicate and soft tissues such as small tissues, embryo and brain tissues ( Musumeci, 2014 ). Bouin fixative offers good preservation of nuclei and the glycogen, but its penetrations are slow and distorts mitochondria and the kidney tissues ( Weiss, Delcour, Meyer, & Klopfleisch, 2010 ).

Dehydration: In this step, the aim is to remove water from the selected tissues to solidify them and facilitate the cutting of thin sections of slides, more thinly for use in light microscopes and thick for the electron microscope. Water is removed from the tissues through the dehydration method through ethanol ( Shostak, 2013 ). The process is repeated through a hydrophobic clearing substance such as xylene to remove the alcohol and paraffin wax and the infiltrated agent. Resins are used to enhance cutting of thin sections of the tissues ( Titford, 2009 ).

Embedding: In staining, the process of embedding is done using paraffin wax to enhance easier extraction of cellular structures. In complex cellular tissues, plastic resin or wax is used, or combinations of fixatives are used to produce good morphology ( Musumeci, 2014 ). However, these fixatives may lead to degradation of the cell and tissue structures due to prolonged heating, and this may lead to problems when conducting the hybridization process arising from the unstable RNA. In the same line, the infiltration of paraffin wax leads to inhibition of the penetration of antibody, chemical other fixatives. In order to alleviate this problem, freezing of tissues after the embedding, removing wax after staining and the use of PFA fixatives offers a reliable solution to improved morphology ( Titford, 2009 ).

Sectioning: In histology sectioning refers to the preparation of ‘ribbon’ like microtomes of a tissue for the purpose of mounting it on a microscope slide for examination ( Cai, Caswell, & Prescott, 2014 ). In this case, a series of thin sections of tissues of required thickness are cut and prepared through the paraffin method.

Antigens Retrieval: This is the next process after fixation and embedding and focuses on retrieving antigens that have been masked. When formalin fixatives are used as well as other aldehyde fixations the cross-linking of proteins leads to masking of the antigen sites, and this leads to weaker immunohistochemical staining. The antigen retrieval process serves to break protein cross-links and unmask the epitopes and the antigens that were fixed and embedded using formalin and paraffin ( Titford, 2009 ). The overall strategy is to improve on the staining intensity of the antibodies ( Cai, Caswell, & Prescott, 2014 ).

The commonly used antigen retrieval techniques are through heat-induced and proteolytic retrieval methods. The proteolysis digestion process should take the minimal dosage and time possible to avoid over digestion that may denature the tissue structures and the epitopes ( Musumeci, 2014 ). The heat method leads to protein denaturalization and in some cases antigens are lost ( Black, 2012 ). Similarly, heating may lead to the reversal of the chemical modifications induced during the fixation period. Heating from such devices as microwaves leads to chemical reactions of the protein structure ( Shostak, 2013 ). However, a combination of enzymatic and heat retrieval methods lead to effective staining intensity ( Godwin, 2011 ).

2.3 Gross and Microscopic Examination

The gross examination is a laboratory procedure in which pathological and medical examination is done through visible aspects of the eye. In microscopic examinations, pathological changes are done using a microscope (light or electronic microscope) ( Musumeci, 2014 ). In most aspects, gross examination precedes microscopic examination in the identification of samples for microscopic examination. For instance, gross examination helps the pathologist identify the cells or tissues that have lumps (possibly cancer) but microscopic examination is used to confirm.

2.4 Some Advanced Histological Techniques

In the modern age of histology there have been significant improvements in histological stains and techniques. Advanced histological techniques are immunohistochemistry, antibody binding and electron microscopy ( Titford, 2009 ). In the same line, advanced stains include: immunohistochemical (IHC), routine hematoxylin eosin (H&E) and the in situ hybridization ( Musumeci, 2014 ). Modern stains used are;

  • Masson's Stain used in connective tissues
  • Golgi Stain used in neuronal fibresnnnn
  • Toluidine Blue
  • Immunological labeling that have fluorescent or enzymatic stains
  • Kluver-Barrera Stain used in Lipofuscin
  • Mallory's CT Stainssss
  • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) Stain used in carbohydrates

2.5 Regulations of Histologic in Different Countries

Most countries have standards and organizations that collaborate with national and international groups involved in the control and standardization of biological staining methods. Standardization is important in setting uniform criteria, methods and technical specifications of the stains used. The objective is to enhance establishment of procedures that produce stain substances that produce microscopic results capable of been reproducible in different countries in areas of cytology, bacteriology, histopathology and hematology ( Lyon & Horobin, 2010 ).

Formal regulatory bodies that standardize stains and are independent of manufacturers are: International Organization for Standardization (ISO), European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Other bodies involved in the standardization of staining substances are: the USA Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Diagnostic Manufacturers Association (EDMA) among others. These regulatory bodies accredit, evaluate and approve manufacture and the use of staining dyes, antibodies, fluorochromes and the nucleic acid probes ( Lyon & Horobin, 2010 ).

2.6 Objectives of the Study

A background study on commonly used histological staining techniques and stains indicate that some fixatives and techniques used in the histological processes are effective. However, some stains and processes are ineffective, and this leads to denaturalizationof tissues and cells which inhibit effective histological studies. The objective of this research was to assess past and current literature reviews and cases in the aim of informing ways in which histological stains have been improved in the modern histopathology. As a result, this study focuses on conducting an extensive and qualitative case study of past and present histological processes with the aim of understanding how histological strains could be improved.

3. Methodology

The research used an extensive exploration and review of historical, recent and current medical research studies and case studies in order to collect quantitative and qualitative data in regard to histological stains used in the past and recent cases ( Silverman, 2011 ). In this case, a database of clinical pathology journals involving past and recent usage of histological stains was made. The identified pathological journals, articles, and case studies were reviewed, analyzed, and important trends in the use of histological stains were made. As such, through integrative and intensive literature and case study reviews rich, data were collected in regard to stains used in the past and present to consider how histological stains should be improved. This triangulation helps to gather and assess in-depth data on past, present and future stain and staining techniques ( Silverman, 2011 ).

4. Literature Review

4.1 historical histological staining techniques in medicine and biological studies.

The history of staining indicates that the application of histological techniques is a relatively new area of diseases diagnosis ( Rodrigues et al., 2009 ). Historical staining techniques by early pathologists and surgeons were borrowed from a seventeen scientist Leeuwenhoek, who was instrumental in histology using substances such as Madder, indigo and saffron to stain tissues and using rudimentary microscopes to study them ( Titford, 2009 ). These categories of early researchers used the microanatomy to draw a relationship among differences in cells as well as delineating a normal plant cell structure from that of the animal ( Bancroft & Layton, 2013 ).

Later, newer techniques were devised to enhance the study of cell structure in detail using various laboratory chemicals to preserve tissues in their natural form before staining ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). Joseph Von Gerlach was viewed as the pioneer of microscopical staining in 1858 when he used ammoniacal carmine successfully to stain cerebellum cells ( Costa, Brito, Gomes, & Caliari, 2010 ).

The early histologists used the readily available chemicals to prepare tissues for microscopic studies; these laboratory chemicals were potassium dichromate, alcohol and the mercuric chloride to hard cellular tissues ( Iyiola & Avwioro, 2011 ). These fixatives and staining agents were ingenious and after a period colored staining agents were developed which are still applicable in current laboratory staining techniques ( Black, 2012 ). Examples of these ingenious colored stains still in use include the trichrome that is used in the liver and renal biopsies as well as the silver nitrate that is used in other organisms ( Musumeci, 2014 ).

Great development in histologic stains was shaped by the improved technologic development of microscopes and the establishment of the histologic stains (aniline dye) in 1856 in Germany which manufacture a variety of new histological stains ( Shostak, 2013 ). At the same time, research and knowledge relating to anatomy and tissues of the human body increased, and this knowledge was used to further research into new-histological techniques for the study of diseased tissue ( Titford, 2009 ).

In the wake of the nineteenth century, many medical centers hired physicians, pathologists and surgeons to handle surgical issues ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). It is this crop of pathologists who devised intraoperative staining techniques for frozen tissues sections by adapting a special staining technique in histopathology. It is during this time that the paraffin infiltration staining technique was devised ( Shostak, 2013 ). Owing to this achievement, the non-malignant and the malignant tumors were studied, and a bacterium was identified as the causal organism of the disease in the nineteenth century ( Godwin, 2011 ).

The Gram staining method was named after a Danish inventor Hans Christian Gram, who invented it as an approach to differentiating bacteria species in 1875 ( Anderson, 2011 ). It is while working at the city morgue with his colleagues that Gram devised the technique of staining for the purpose of distinguishing the type of bacterium infection and also as a way of making the bacteria visible on selected and stained lung tissues during examination ( Black, 2012 ). Although this technique was found unsuitable for certain bacterium organisms, it is still used today and competes fairly with modern molecular techniques of histology ( Shostak, 2013 ).

4.2 Important Histological Stains Used in the Past and Present

It is a commonly used stain in histology used by early botanists such as John Hill in their studies in 1770s ( Jackson & Blythe, 2013 ). The stain was used to study microscopic tissue structures when in ammoniacal solution form and it is still used today in histologic studies. In particular, the stain was used widely by Rudolph Virchow (1821–1902) in microscopic studies; Virchow is considered as the ‘father of pathology’ ( Musumeci, 2014 ).

Hematin and Hematoxylin

These are naturally occurring substances that have been in use in the history of histopathology ( Titford, 2009 ). The stain was developed by Wilhelm von Waldeyer in 1863 and was obtained from a log tree found in Central America. Hematoxylin is a weak stain and is used with a combination of other solutions in oxidized form ( Shostak, 2013 ).

In particular, the stain is combined with an oxidizer mordant to enhance its differentiating capacity of cell components; these solutions are called Hematoxylin. The versatility of the stain has enhanced the development of various Hematoxylin methods ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). Historically, Hematoxylin was made into a nuclear stain that had shorter staining time and was resistant to acidic solutions; this made it suitable for histologic stain techniques requiring several steps ( Anderson, 2011 ).

Silver Nitrate

Silver Nitrate has had a long usage in historical staining techniques and is still used in modern pathology. Initially, early researchers used silver nitrate to enhance the visibility of the tissue structure while studying it; this was done by applying solid silver nitrate on a tissue and then studying it ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). The stain substance has been developed for many compounds, and confirmatory tests are needed when silver nitrate is used ( Shostak, 2013 ). Silver nitrate stain has also been found to be reduced by argentaffin cells found in the epithelial linings of lungs, intestines, melanin and others ( Musumeci, 2014 ).

However, methods have been devised to ‘tailor’ these tissues to avoid argyrophilic reactions when silver nitrate is used during staining process ( Titford, 2009 ). In particular, methods such as the Gomori reticulin methods and the Grocott-Gomori method were devised to assess missing tissues and diseases in the liver and the rectum ( Nadworny, Wang, Tredget, & Robert, 2010 ).

Other Staining Procedures That Were Developed Recently

The Hematoxylin and Eosin Procedures

Although historically used, there have been great laboratory changes in Hematoxylin stains; nearly all tissue specimens are treated with Hematoxylin and Eosin today ( Bancroft & Layton, 2013 ). In addition, various Hematoxylin methods have been developed but all follow the same approach of staining tissue specimens in a hematoxylin, alcohol and tap or alkaline water to clear argentaffin agents. It has been found that most histopathological processes could be studied using the Hematoxylin and Eosin procedures ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). In the same line, the method is quick to execute, cheap and can be altered. However, the Hematoxylin and Eosin are inefficient in that not all features of a substance can be received and special stains must be used ( Musumeci, 2014 ).

Romanowsky Stains–Giemsa Stains

They were developed in the 1891 by Dimitri Romanowsky and popular for its multicolor in identifying blood parasites. The Giemsa Stains procedure is still used today. There has been great improvement in the stains, and its various methods make it applicable in paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed and bone marrow biopsies ( Musumeci, 2014 ).

The Gram staining method was named after a Danish inventor Hans Christian Gram, who invented it as an approach to differentiating bacteria species in 1875 ( Musumeci, 2014 ). Gram devised the technique of staining for the purpose of distinguishing the type of bacterium infection and also as a way of making the bacteria visible on selected and stained lung tissues during examination ( Shostak, 2013 ). Although this technique was found unsuitable for certain bacterium organisms, it is still used today and competes fairly with modern molecular techniques of histology ( Rudijanto, 2007 ). However, Gram technique is infallibly limited in the application on matters of environmental microbiology ( Titford, 2009 ). That aside, Gram techniques had had success when performed on biopsy of infected parts and produced results quickly especially when there is a significant difference in prognosis and treatment. The method is often used in modern histology especially in paraffin fixatives for tissue sectioning ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). In a recent case in Kuwait, the Gram staining technique was particularly effective in the diagnosis of Gonorrhea giving 99.4% effective results ( Iyiola & Avwioro, 2011 ). The method is still used today especially with paraffin sections and has been modified to suit different substances.

Trichrome Stains

Historical assessment on the use of various stains in histology indicates that most pathologists were attracted by stains that gave multicolored results on the tissue specimens. As such, trichrome stains were developed from this need ( Shostak, 2013 ). There have been various multiple stains such as blue–eosin, “triacid stain” by Ehrlich's (1888) and Masson's trichrome stain that has been popular in the modern histology. Trichrome stains show how complex the staining methods have become in the search of an efficient and consistent stain that would show fine, differentiated tissues ( Musumeci, 2014 ).

4.3 Case Study Reviews

Case Study 1

This study was done in order to compare different staining methods and assess their effectiveness. The specific aim was to assess if the newly developed staining methods, the Helicobacter pylori silver stain HpSS methods and the modified McMullen's methods in the identification of H pylori organism. The method involved selecting tissue sections of gastric biopsies of 63 patients diagnosed with dyspepsia. The section tissues were stained using the four staining methods. In all the 63 cases, 30 sections tested positive for Helicobacter pylori while 30 tested negative for all cases of pylori infection while the remaining were tested using a combination of five histological tests ( Anderson, 2011 ). The results indicated that, the interobserver stain method was the best for antibodies at 98%, followed by Giemsa at 87%, then the HpSS at 85%. At gold standard level, it was found that the Giemsa stain method was the best followed by McMullen's method ( Rotimi, Cairns, Gray, Moayyedi, & Dixon, 2000 ). The study conclusions were that in all cases of staining, the H pylori infection was revealed; however, the modified Giemsa stain was the most effective for its sensitivity, ease of use, reproducibility and cost-effectiveness.

Case Study 2

The aim was to investigate the difference in capacity among different stains: Hematoxylin and Eosin, toluidine blue Stain, neuron-specific enolase (NSE) immunostaining and the S 100 protein. These stains were applied to assess the presence of neurons and mast cells in acute appendices Specimens were collected from clinically acute appendices categorized as histologically positive and negative. In the study all the 50 appendix specimens sections were subjected to Hematoxylin and Eosin, toluidine blue Stain, neuron-specific enolase (NSE) immunostaining and the S 100 protein. Hematoxylin and Eosin were applied as a routine stain for general study of the tissues while Toluidine blue stain was applied to enhance the easier study of mast cells. In addition, neuron-specific enolase (NSE) immunostaining was used as a marker and as well as the S 100 protein.

The results indicated that when comparing Hematoxylin and Eosin stain with S 100 they? showed 100% accuracy in identifying the denatured mucosal cells. However, the combination of these different staining methods resulted in a supplementary technique effective than the conventional staining method in observing changes and the pattern of diseased cells as well as the morphological shape of nerve fibers in the inflamed appendices ( Russell & Gordon, 2009 ). In addition, the use of the several staining methods aided in confirming results of earlier stain diagnosis.

5. Results and Discussion

The literature review on staining techniques indicates that there has been great improvement in the histopathology and histotechnology. Historically, staining techniques used were carmine, silver nitrate, Giemsa, Trichrome Stains, Gram Stain and Hematoxylin among others ( Titford & Bowman, 2012 ). These staining techniques are still in use although several modifications have been made to improve their efficiency. In other cases, some stain methods used earlier have been abandoned as they were toxic. Several staining techniques have been established to improve the staining methods.

There has been a rising need for efficient, accurate and less complex staining procedures ( Harris & McCormick, 2010 ). The histopathology lab today is laden with a great work load and different types of histological assignments ( Musumeci, 2014 ). As such, most histologists are more trained on special stains for particular works to give efficient results ( Morelli, Porazzi, Ruspini, Restelli, & Banfi, 2013 ). In the history of histology, a great shift and development in histologic stains were shaped by improved technologic development of microscopes and the establishment of the histologic stains factory (aniline dye) in 1856 in Germany which manufactured variety of new-histological stains ( Godwin, 2011 ).

These pathologists devised intraoperative staining techniques for frozen tissues sections by adapting a special staining technique in histopathology ( Loreto, Leonardi, Musumeci, Pannone, & Castorina, 2013 ). It is during this time that the paraffin infiltration staining technique was devised ( Titford, 2009 ). While these changes have taken place, there are old stain procedures that are still in use today and many others have been replaced with new immunal or staining techniques.

Additionally, the complexity of stains has been enhanced for the purpose of efficient and consistent staining processes that show fine and differentiated tissues ( Ntziachristos, 2010 ).

Histological staining is a commonly used medical process in pathological diagnosis and forensic studies. The process of histological staining takes five key stages, and they include fixation, processing, embedding, sectioning and staining. Early histologists used the readily available chemicals to prepare tissues for microscopic studies; these laboratory chemicals were potassium dichromate, alcohol and the mercuric chloride to hard cellular tissues. These fixatives and staining agents were ingenious and after a period colored staining agents were developed which are still applicable in the laboratory staining techniques today.

Staining techniques used were; carmine, silver nitrate, Giemsa, Trichrome Stains, Gram Stain and Hematoxylin among others. There have been great changes in the techniques used for histological staining through chemical, molecular biology assays and immunological techniques collectively referred to us histochemistry and have facilitated greatly in the study of organs and tissues. Hematoxylin is a basic dye that is commonly used in this process and stains the nuclei giving it a bluish color while eosin (another stain dye used in histology) stains the cell's nucleus giving it a pinkish stain ( Victor, 2013 ). While these changes have taken place, there are old stain procedures that are still in use today and many others have been replaced with new immunalstaining or staining techniques ( Sine, 2014 ).

Some staining methods have been abandoned because the chemicals required have been medically proven to be toxic. Similarly, there have been great changes in workload requiring more advanced technics of staining. The case studies indicate that, in the modern histology a combination of different stain techniques are used to enhance the effectiveness of the staining process. In the modern histologic as a way of improving histological stains, several stains have been modified and combined with other stains to improve their effectiveness.

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Research Method

Home » Case Study – Methods, Examples and Guide

Case Study – Methods, Examples and Guide

Table of Contents

Case Study Research

A case study is a research method that involves an in-depth examination and analysis of a particular phenomenon or case, such as an individual, organization, community, event, or situation.

It is a qualitative research approach that aims to provide a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the case being studied. Case studies typically involve multiple sources of data, including interviews, observations, documents, and artifacts, which are analyzed using various techniques, such as content analysis, thematic analysis, and grounded theory. The findings of a case study are often used to develop theories, inform policy or practice, or generate new research questions.

Types of Case Study

Types and Methods of Case Study are as follows:

Single-Case Study

A single-case study is an in-depth analysis of a single case. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to understand a specific phenomenon in detail.

For Example , A researcher might conduct a single-case study on a particular individual to understand their experiences with a particular health condition or a specific organization to explore their management practices. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as content analysis or thematic analysis. The findings of a single-case study are often used to generate new research questions, develop theories, or inform policy or practice.

Multiple-Case Study

A multiple-case study involves the analysis of several cases that are similar in nature. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to identify similarities and differences between the cases.

For Example, a researcher might conduct a multiple-case study on several companies to explore the factors that contribute to their success or failure. The researcher collects data from each case, compares and contrasts the findings, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as comparative analysis or pattern-matching. The findings of a multiple-case study can be used to develop theories, inform policy or practice, or generate new research questions.

Exploratory Case Study

An exploratory case study is used to explore a new or understudied phenomenon. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to generate hypotheses or theories about the phenomenon.

For Example, a researcher might conduct an exploratory case study on a new technology to understand its potential impact on society. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as grounded theory or content analysis. The findings of an exploratory case study can be used to generate new research questions, develop theories, or inform policy or practice.

Descriptive Case Study

A descriptive case study is used to describe a particular phenomenon in detail. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to provide a comprehensive account of the phenomenon.

For Example, a researcher might conduct a descriptive case study on a particular community to understand its social and economic characteristics. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as content analysis or thematic analysis. The findings of a descriptive case study can be used to inform policy or practice or generate new research questions.

Instrumental Case Study

An instrumental case study is used to understand a particular phenomenon that is instrumental in achieving a particular goal. This type of case study is useful when the researcher wants to understand the role of the phenomenon in achieving the goal.

For Example, a researcher might conduct an instrumental case study on a particular policy to understand its impact on achieving a particular goal, such as reducing poverty. The researcher collects data from multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents, and uses various techniques to analyze the data, such as content analysis or thematic analysis. The findings of an instrumental case study can be used to inform policy or practice or generate new research questions.

Case Study Data Collection Methods

Here are some common data collection methods for case studies:

Interviews involve asking questions to individuals who have knowledge or experience relevant to the case study. Interviews can be structured (where the same questions are asked to all participants) or unstructured (where the interviewer follows up on the responses with further questions). Interviews can be conducted in person, over the phone, or through video conferencing.

Observations

Observations involve watching and recording the behavior and activities of individuals or groups relevant to the case study. Observations can be participant (where the researcher actively participates in the activities) or non-participant (where the researcher observes from a distance). Observations can be recorded using notes, audio or video recordings, or photographs.

Documents can be used as a source of information for case studies. Documents can include reports, memos, emails, letters, and other written materials related to the case study. Documents can be collected from the case study participants or from public sources.

Surveys involve asking a set of questions to a sample of individuals relevant to the case study. Surveys can be administered in person, over the phone, through mail or email, or online. Surveys can be used to gather information on attitudes, opinions, or behaviors related to the case study.

Artifacts are physical objects relevant to the case study. Artifacts can include tools, equipment, products, or other objects that provide insights into the case study phenomenon.

How to conduct Case Study Research

Conducting a case study research involves several steps that need to be followed to ensure the quality and rigor of the study. Here are the steps to conduct case study research:

  • Define the research questions: The first step in conducting a case study research is to define the research questions. The research questions should be specific, measurable, and relevant to the case study phenomenon under investigation.
  • Select the case: The next step is to select the case or cases to be studied. The case should be relevant to the research questions and should provide rich and diverse data that can be used to answer the research questions.
  • Collect data: Data can be collected using various methods, such as interviews, observations, documents, surveys, and artifacts. The data collection method should be selected based on the research questions and the nature of the case study phenomenon.
  • Analyze the data: The data collected from the case study should be analyzed using various techniques, such as content analysis, thematic analysis, or grounded theory. The analysis should be guided by the research questions and should aim to provide insights and conclusions relevant to the research questions.
  • Draw conclusions: The conclusions drawn from the case study should be based on the data analysis and should be relevant to the research questions. The conclusions should be supported by evidence and should be clearly stated.
  • Validate the findings: The findings of the case study should be validated by reviewing the data and the analysis with participants or other experts in the field. This helps to ensure the validity and reliability of the findings.
  • Write the report: The final step is to write the report of the case study research. The report should provide a clear description of the case study phenomenon, the research questions, the data collection methods, the data analysis, the findings, and the conclusions. The report should be written in a clear and concise manner and should follow the guidelines for academic writing.

Examples of Case Study

Here are some examples of case study research:

  • The Hawthorne Studies : Conducted between 1924 and 1932, the Hawthorne Studies were a series of case studies conducted by Elton Mayo and his colleagues to examine the impact of work environment on employee productivity. The studies were conducted at the Hawthorne Works plant of the Western Electric Company in Chicago and included interviews, observations, and experiments.
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment: Conducted in 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment was a case study conducted by Philip Zimbardo to examine the psychological effects of power and authority. The study involved simulating a prison environment and assigning participants to the role of guards or prisoners. The study was controversial due to the ethical issues it raised.
  • The Challenger Disaster: The Challenger Disaster was a case study conducted to examine the causes of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. The study included interviews, observations, and analysis of data to identify the technical, organizational, and cultural factors that contributed to the disaster.
  • The Enron Scandal: The Enron Scandal was a case study conducted to examine the causes of the Enron Corporation’s bankruptcy in 2001. The study included interviews, analysis of financial data, and review of documents to identify the accounting practices, corporate culture, and ethical issues that led to the company’s downfall.
  • The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster : The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster was a case study conducted to examine the causes of the nuclear accident that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in 2011. The study included interviews, analysis of data, and review of documents to identify the technical, organizational, and cultural factors that contributed to the disaster.

Application of Case Study

Case studies have a wide range of applications across various fields and industries. Here are some examples:

Business and Management

Case studies are widely used in business and management to examine real-life situations and develop problem-solving skills. Case studies can help students and professionals to develop a deep understanding of business concepts, theories, and best practices.

Case studies are used in healthcare to examine patient care, treatment options, and outcomes. Case studies can help healthcare professionals to develop critical thinking skills, diagnose complex medical conditions, and develop effective treatment plans.

Case studies are used in education to examine teaching and learning practices. Case studies can help educators to develop effective teaching strategies, evaluate student progress, and identify areas for improvement.

Social Sciences

Case studies are widely used in social sciences to examine human behavior, social phenomena, and cultural practices. Case studies can help researchers to develop theories, test hypotheses, and gain insights into complex social issues.

Law and Ethics

Case studies are used in law and ethics to examine legal and ethical dilemmas. Case studies can help lawyers, policymakers, and ethical professionals to develop critical thinking skills, analyze complex cases, and make informed decisions.

Purpose of Case Study

The purpose of a case study is to provide a detailed analysis of a specific phenomenon, issue, or problem in its real-life context. A case study is a qualitative research method that involves the in-depth exploration and analysis of a particular case, which can be an individual, group, organization, event, or community.

The primary purpose of a case study is to generate a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the case, including its history, context, and dynamics. Case studies can help researchers to identify and examine the underlying factors, processes, and mechanisms that contribute to the case and its outcomes. This can help to develop a more accurate and detailed understanding of the case, which can inform future research, practice, or policy.

Case studies can also serve other purposes, including:

  • Illustrating a theory or concept: Case studies can be used to illustrate and explain theoretical concepts and frameworks, providing concrete examples of how they can be applied in real-life situations.
  • Developing hypotheses: Case studies can help to generate hypotheses about the causal relationships between different factors and outcomes, which can be tested through further research.
  • Providing insight into complex issues: Case studies can provide insights into complex and multifaceted issues, which may be difficult to understand through other research methods.
  • Informing practice or policy: Case studies can be used to inform practice or policy by identifying best practices, lessons learned, or areas for improvement.

Advantages of Case Study Research

There are several advantages of case study research, including:

  • In-depth exploration: Case study research allows for a detailed exploration and analysis of a specific phenomenon, issue, or problem in its real-life context. This can provide a comprehensive understanding of the case and its dynamics, which may not be possible through other research methods.
  • Rich data: Case study research can generate rich and detailed data, including qualitative data such as interviews, observations, and documents. This can provide a nuanced understanding of the case and its complexity.
  • Holistic perspective: Case study research allows for a holistic perspective of the case, taking into account the various factors, processes, and mechanisms that contribute to the case and its outcomes. This can help to develop a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the case.
  • Theory development: Case study research can help to develop and refine theories and concepts by providing empirical evidence and concrete examples of how they can be applied in real-life situations.
  • Practical application: Case study research can inform practice or policy by identifying best practices, lessons learned, or areas for improvement.
  • Contextualization: Case study research takes into account the specific context in which the case is situated, which can help to understand how the case is influenced by the social, cultural, and historical factors of its environment.

Limitations of Case Study Research

There are several limitations of case study research, including:

  • Limited generalizability : Case studies are typically focused on a single case or a small number of cases, which limits the generalizability of the findings. The unique characteristics of the case may not be applicable to other contexts or populations, which may limit the external validity of the research.
  • Biased sampling: Case studies may rely on purposive or convenience sampling, which can introduce bias into the sample selection process. This may limit the representativeness of the sample and the generalizability of the findings.
  • Subjectivity: Case studies rely on the interpretation of the researcher, which can introduce subjectivity into the analysis. The researcher’s own biases, assumptions, and perspectives may influence the findings, which may limit the objectivity of the research.
  • Limited control: Case studies are typically conducted in naturalistic settings, which limits the control that the researcher has over the environment and the variables being studied. This may limit the ability to establish causal relationships between variables.
  • Time-consuming: Case studies can be time-consuming to conduct, as they typically involve a detailed exploration and analysis of a specific case. This may limit the feasibility of conducting multiple case studies or conducting case studies in a timely manner.
  • Resource-intensive: Case studies may require significant resources, including time, funding, and expertise. This may limit the ability of researchers to conduct case studies in resource-constrained settings.

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A case study on a novel cross-sectoral complementary merger in China: from the perspectives of leadership

  • Published: 22 February 2024

Cite this article

  • Min Hong   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2513-5126 1 ,
  • Tingzhu Chen 1 &
  • Yongtang Jia 1  

Acting as a governmental tool to enhance competitiveness and integrate research and education by merging a local university and a provincial academy of sciences, this case study provides an example of a novel cross-sectoral complementary merger in higher education in China. Through a qualitative analysis of its three-stage process and the factors influencing its preliminary positive outcomes from the university leadership perspective, this study examines a unique higher education merger, emphasizing the effects of cultural issues and leadership. This study adds an interesting example to the growing literature on higher education mergers and offers suggestions for future research and practice.

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research methods case study literature review

Source: Homepage of QLUT-SAS

research methods case study literature review

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Social Science Foundation General Program in Education (Project Name: The formation mechanism and promotion path of the attractiveness of Study in China from the perspective of differentiation): [Project No. BIA230164].

This work was funded by National Social Science Foundation General Program in Education (Grant No. BIA230164).

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Hong, M., Chen, T. & Jia, Y. A case study on a novel cross-sectoral complementary merger in China: from the perspectives of leadership. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-024-09935-8

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