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Making Learning Relevant With Case Studies

The open-ended problems presented in case studies give students work that feels connected to their lives.

Students working on projects in a classroom

To prepare students for jobs that haven’t been created yet, we need to teach them how to be great problem solvers so that they’ll be ready for anything. One way to do this is by teaching content and skills using real-world case studies, a learning model that’s focused on reflection during the problem-solving process. It’s similar to project-based learning, but PBL is more focused on students creating a product.

Case studies have been used for years by businesses, law and medical schools, physicians on rounds, and artists critiquing work. Like other forms of problem-based learning, case studies can be accessible for every age group, both in one subject and in interdisciplinary work.

You can get started with case studies by tackling relatable questions like these with your students:

  • How can we limit food waste in the cafeteria?
  • How can we get our school to recycle and compost waste? (Or, if you want to be more complex, how can our school reduce its carbon footprint?)
  • How can we improve school attendance?
  • How can we reduce the number of people who get sick at school during cold and flu season?

Addressing questions like these leads students to identify topics they need to learn more about. In researching the first question, for example, students may see that they need to research food chains and nutrition. Students often ask, reasonably, why they need to learn something, or when they’ll use their knowledge in the future. Learning is most successful for students when the content and skills they’re studying are relevant, and case studies offer one way to create that sense of relevance.

Teaching With Case Studies

Ultimately, a case study is simply an interesting problem with many correct answers. What does case study work look like in classrooms? Teachers generally start by having students read the case or watch a video that summarizes the case. Students then work in small groups or individually to solve the case study. Teachers set milestones defining what students should accomplish to help them manage their time.

During the case study learning process, student assessment of learning should be focused on reflection. Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick’s Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind gives several examples of what this reflection can look like in a classroom: 

Journaling: At the end of each work period, have students write an entry summarizing what they worked on, what worked well, what didn’t, and why. Sentence starters and clear rubrics or guidelines will help students be successful. At the end of a case study project, as Costa and Kallick write, it’s helpful to have students “select significant learnings, envision how they could apply these learnings to future situations, and commit to an action plan to consciously modify their behaviors.”

Interviews: While working on a case study, students can interview each other about their progress and learning. Teachers can interview students individually or in small groups to assess their learning process and their progress.

Student discussion: Discussions can be unstructured—students can talk about what they worked on that day in a think-pair-share or as a full class—or structured, using Socratic seminars or fishbowl discussions. If your class is tackling a case study in small groups, create a second set of small groups with a representative from each of the case study groups so that the groups can share their learning.

4 Tips for Setting Up a Case Study

1. Identify a problem to investigate: This should be something accessible and relevant to students’ lives. The problem should also be challenging and complex enough to yield multiple solutions with many layers.

2. Give context: Think of this step as a movie preview or book summary. Hook the learners to help them understand just enough about the problem to want to learn more.

3. Have a clear rubric: Giving structure to your definition of quality group work and products will lead to stronger end products. You may be able to have your learners help build these definitions.

4. Provide structures for presenting solutions: The amount of scaffolding you build in depends on your students’ skill level and development. A case study product can be something like several pieces of evidence of students collaborating to solve the case study, and ultimately presenting their solution with a detailed slide deck or an essay—you can scaffold this by providing specified headings for the sections of the essay.

Problem-Based Teaching Resources

There are many high-quality, peer-reviewed resources that are open source and easily accessible online.

  • The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science at the University at Buffalo built an online collection of more than 800 cases that cover topics ranging from biochemistry to economics. There are resources for middle and high school students.
  • Models of Excellence , a project maintained by EL Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has examples of great problem- and project-based tasks—and corresponding exemplary student work—for grades pre-K to 12.
  • The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning at Purdue University is an open-source journal that publishes examples of problem-based learning in K–12 and post-secondary classrooms.
  • The Tech Edvocate has a list of websites and tools related to problem-based learning.

In their book Problems as Possibilities , Linda Torp and Sara Sage write that at the elementary school level, students particularly appreciate how they feel that they are taken seriously when solving case studies. At the middle school level, “researchers stress the importance of relating middle school curriculum to issues of student concern and interest.” And high schoolers, they write, find the case study method “beneficial in preparing them for their future.”

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What the Case Study Method Really Teaches

  • Nitin Nohria

why case study is important for students

Seven meta-skills that stick even if the cases fade from memory.

It’s been 100 years since Harvard Business School began using the case study method. Beyond teaching specific subject matter, the case study method excels in instilling meta-skills in students. This article explains the importance of seven such skills: preparation, discernment, bias recognition, judgement, collaboration, curiosity, and self-confidence.

During my decade as dean of Harvard Business School, I spent hundreds of hours talking with our alumni. To enliven these conversations, I relied on a favorite question: “What was the most important thing you learned from your time in our MBA program?”

  • Nitin Nohria is the George F. Baker Jr. Professor at Harvard Business School and the former dean of HBS.

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Do Your Students Know How to Analyze a Case—Really?

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  • Case Teaching
  • Student Engagement

J ust as actors, athletes, and musicians spend thousands of hours practicing their craft, business students benefit from practicing their critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Students, however, often have limited exposure to real-world problem-solving scenarios; they need more opportunities to practice tackling tough business problems and deciding on—and executing—the best solutions.

To ensure students have ample opportunity to develop these critical-thinking and decision-making skills, we believe business faculty should shift from teaching mostly principles and ideas to mostly applications and practices. And in doing so, they should emphasize the case method, which simulates real-world management challenges and opportunities for students.

To help educators facilitate this shift and help students get the most out of case-based learning, we have developed a framework for analyzing cases. We call it PACADI (Problem, Alternatives, Criteria, Analysis, Decision, Implementation); it can improve learning outcomes by helping students better solve and analyze business problems, make decisions, and develop and implement strategy. Here, we’ll explain why we developed this framework, how it works, and what makes it an effective learning tool.

The Case for Cases: Helping Students Think Critically

Business students must develop critical-thinking and analytical skills, which are essential to their ability to make good decisions in functional areas such as marketing, finance, operations, and information technology, as well as to understand the relationships among these functions. For example, the decisions a marketing manager must make include strategic planning (segments, products, and channels); execution (digital messaging, media, branding, budgets, and pricing); and operations (integrated communications and technologies), as well as how to implement decisions across functional areas.

Faculty can use many types of cases to help students develop these skills. These include the prototypical “paper cases”; live cases , which feature guest lecturers such as entrepreneurs or corporate leaders and on-site visits; and multimedia cases , which immerse students into real situations. Most cases feature an explicit or implicit decision that a protagonist—whether it is an individual, a group, or an organization—must make.

For students new to learning by the case method—and even for those with case experience—some common issues can emerge; these issues can sometimes be a barrier for educators looking to ensure the best possible outcomes in their case classrooms. Unsure of how to dig into case analysis on their own, students may turn to the internet or rely on former students for “answers” to assigned cases. Or, when assigned to provide answers to assignment questions in teams, students might take a divide-and-conquer approach but not take the time to regroup and provide answers that are consistent with one other.

To help address these issues, which we commonly experienced in our classes, we wanted to provide our students with a more structured approach for how they analyze cases—and to really think about making decisions from the protagonists’ point of view. We developed the PACADI framework to address this need.

PACADI: A Six-Step Decision-Making Approach

The PACADI framework is a six-step decision-making approach that can be used in lieu of traditional end-of-case questions. It offers a structured, integrated, and iterative process that requires students to analyze case information, apply business concepts to derive valuable insights, and develop recommendations based on these insights.

Prior to beginning a PACADI assessment, which we’ll outline here, students should first prepare a two-paragraph summary—a situation analysis—that highlights the key case facts. Then, we task students with providing a five-page PACADI case analysis (excluding appendices) based on the following six steps.

Step 1: Problem definition. What is the major challenge, problem, opportunity, or decision that has to be made? If there is more than one problem, choose the most important one. Often when solving the key problem, other issues will surface and be addressed. The problem statement may be framed as a question; for example, How can brand X improve market share among millennials in Canada? Usually the problem statement has to be re-written several times during the analysis of a case as students peel back the layers of symptoms or causation.

Step 2: Alternatives. Identify in detail the strategic alternatives to address the problem; three to five options generally work best. Alternatives should be mutually exclusive, realistic, creative, and feasible given the constraints of the situation. Doing nothing or delaying the decision to a later date are not considered acceptable alternatives.

Step 3: Criteria. What are the key decision criteria that will guide decision-making? In a marketing course, for example, these may include relevant marketing criteria such as segmentation, positioning, advertising and sales, distribution, and pricing. Financial criteria useful in evaluating the alternatives should be included—for example, income statement variables, customer lifetime value, payback, etc. Students must discuss their rationale for selecting the decision criteria and the weights and importance for each factor.

Step 4: Analysis. Provide an in-depth analysis of each alternative based on the criteria chosen in step three. Decision tables using criteria as columns and alternatives as rows can be helpful. The pros and cons of the various choices as well as the short- and long-term implications of each may be evaluated. Best, worst, and most likely scenarios can also be insightful.

Step 5: Decision. Students propose their solution to the problem. This decision is justified based on an in-depth analysis. Explain why the recommendation made is the best fit for the criteria.

Step 6: Implementation plan. Sound business decisions may fail due to poor execution. To enhance the likeliness of a successful project outcome, students describe the key steps (activities) to implement the recommendation, timetable, projected costs, expected competitive reaction, success metrics, and risks in the plan.

“Students note that using the PACADI framework yields ‘aha moments’—they learned something surprising in the case that led them to think differently about the problem and their proposed solution.”

PACADI’s Benefits: Meaningfully and Thoughtfully Applying Business Concepts

The PACADI framework covers all of the major elements of business decision-making, including implementation, which is often overlooked. By stepping through the whole framework, students apply relevant business concepts and solve management problems via a systematic, comprehensive approach; they’re far less likely to surface piecemeal responses.

As students explore each part of the framework, they may realize that they need to make changes to a previous step. For instance, when working on implementation, students may realize that the alternative they selected cannot be executed or will not be profitable, and thus need to rethink their decision. Or, they may discover that the criteria need to be revised since the list of decision factors they identified is incomplete (for example, the factors may explain key marketing concerns but fail to address relevant financial considerations) or is unrealistic (for example, they suggest a 25 percent increase in revenues without proposing an increased promotional budget).

In addition, the PACADI framework can be used alongside quantitative assignments, in-class exercises, and business and management simulations. The structured, multi-step decision framework encourages careful and sequential analysis to solve business problems. Incorporating PACADI as an overarching decision-making method across different projects will ultimately help students achieve desired learning outcomes. As a practical “beyond-the-classroom” tool, the PACADI framework is not a contrived course assignment; it reflects the decision-making approach that managers, executives, and entrepreneurs exercise daily. Case analysis introduces students to the real-world process of making business decisions quickly and correctly, often with limited information. This framework supplies an organized and disciplined process that students can readily defend in writing and in class discussions.

PACADI in Action: An Example

Here’s an example of how students used the PACADI framework for a recent case analysis on CVS, a large North American drugstore chain.

The CVS Prescription for Customer Value*

PACADI Stage

Summary Response

How should CVS Health evolve from the “drugstore of your neighborhood” to the “drugstore of your future”?

Alternatives

A1. Kaizen (continuous improvement)

A2. Product development

A3. Market development

A4. Personalization (micro-targeting)

Criteria (include weights)

C1. Customer value: service, quality, image, and price (40%)

C2. Customer obsession (20%)

C3. Growth through related businesses (20%)

C4. Customer retention and customer lifetime value (20%)

Each alternative was analyzed by each criterion using a Customer Value Assessment Tool

Alternative 4 (A4): Personalization was selected. This is operationalized via: segmentation—move toward segment-of-1 marketing; geodemographics and lifestyle emphasis; predictive data analysis; relationship marketing; people, principles, and supply chain management; and exceptional customer service.

Implementation

Partner with leading medical school

Curbside pick-up

Pet pharmacy

E-newsletter for customers and employees

Employee incentive program

CVS beauty days

Expand to Latin America and Caribbean

Healthier/happier corner

Holiday toy drives/community outreach

*Source: A. Weinstein, Y. Rodriguez, K. Sims, R. Vergara, “The CVS Prescription for Superior Customer Value—A Case Study,” Back to the Future: Revisiting the Foundations of Marketing from Society for Marketing Advances, West Palm Beach, FL (November 2, 2018).

Results of Using the PACADI Framework

When faculty members at our respective institutions at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and the University of North Carolina Wilmington have used the PACADI framework, our classes have been more structured and engaging. Students vigorously debate each element of their decision and note that this framework yields an “aha moment”—they learned something surprising in the case that led them to think differently about the problem and their proposed solution.

These lively discussions enhance individual and collective learning. As one external metric of this improvement, we have observed a 2.5 percent increase in student case grade performance at NSU since this framework was introduced.

Tips to Get Started

The PACADI approach works well in in-person, online, and hybrid courses. This is particularly important as more universities have moved to remote learning options. Because students have varied educational and cultural backgrounds, work experience, and familiarity with case analysis, we recommend that faculty members have students work on their first case using this new framework in small teams (two or three students). Additional analyses should then be solo efforts.

To use PACADI effectively in your classroom, we suggest the following:

Advise your students that your course will stress critical thinking and decision-making skills, not just course concepts and theory.

Use a varied mix of case studies. As marketing professors, we often address consumer and business markets; goods, services, and digital commerce; domestic and global business; and small and large companies in a single MBA course.

As a starting point, provide a short explanation (about 20 to 30 minutes) of the PACADI framework with a focus on the conceptual elements. You can deliver this face to face or through videoconferencing.

Give students an opportunity to practice the case analysis methodology via an ungraded sample case study. Designate groups of five to seven students to discuss the case and the six steps in breakout sessions (in class or via Zoom).

Ensure case analyses are weighted heavily as a grading component. We suggest 30–50 percent of the overall course grade.

Once cases are graded, debrief with the class on what they did right and areas needing improvement (30- to 40-minute in-person or Zoom session).

Encourage faculty teams that teach common courses to build appropriate instructional materials, grading rubrics, videos, sample cases, and teaching notes.

When selecting case studies, we have found that the best ones for PACADI analyses are about 15 pages long and revolve around a focal management decision. This length provides adequate depth yet is not protracted. Some of our tested and favorite marketing cases include Brand W , Hubspot , Kraft Foods Canada , TRSB(A) , and Whiskey & Cheddar .

Art Weinstein

Art Weinstein , Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has published more than 80 scholarly articles and papers and eight books on customer-focused marketing strategy. His latest book is Superior Customer Value—Finding and Keeping Customers in the Now Economy . Dr. Weinstein has consulted for many leading technology and service companies.

Herbert V. Brotspies

Herbert V. Brotspies , D.B.A., is an adjunct professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He has over 30 years’ experience as a vice president in marketing, strategic planning, and acquisitions for Fortune 50 consumer products companies working in the United States and internationally. His research interests include return on marketing investment, consumer behavior, business-to-business strategy, and strategic planning.

John T. Gironda

John T. Gironda , Ph.D., is an assistant professor of marketing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research has been published in Industrial Marketing Management, Psychology & Marketing , and Journal of Marketing Management . He has also presented at major marketing conferences including the American Marketing Association, Academy of Marketing Science, and Society for Marketing Advances.

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  • Why Students Conduct Case Studies

"Own Your Knowledge"

We want students to create their own meanings from their experiences both in and beyond class. Lecture and readings are important, of course. But they are not the best way to own knowledge. Connecting theories, knowledge, and practices you hear from the class to your lived experiences begins with an authentic question that matters to you. Simply, what do you care about? And why does it matter to you? It  does  echo the first principle of the ten. Then, how do you proceed to the next steps? You engage in the inquiry cycle originally drawn from John Dewey.

Inquiry Cycle

Once you come up with an essential question that connects with your life, you can investigate through multiple methods, sources, and media. Any tangible products can derive from investigation––the tangible product in our class will be your case study. Note that your creation is inseparable from other steps, especially discussion and reflections. You need to discuss meanings and lessons of your creation with others and then go back to previous steps, namely investigation and creation, and tinker with your creation.

In the end, you­ and your audience––now your instructors and peers but beyond that down the road––are all invited to a broad vista to “look back” at the whole inquiry process and generate further meanings together. These five steps, of course, are neither linear nor discrete. Rather, they are embedded in one another. The point here is that this inquiry cycle can break down your inquiry processes––typically complicated and less articulate––into small pieces and monitor your own meaning making experiences. In completing this process you claim the ownership of knowledge. Please see the related posts: “ The YPP Action Frame with Inquiry-Based Learning II: "Small Inquiry" and "Big Inquiry" ” and “ The YPP Action Frame with Inquiry-Based Learning I: An Inquiry Cycle ” from  the YPP Action Frame site .

[Case Study] How Students Conduct Case Studies

Team up with your peers (2 or 3 students in one group) to conduct a case study. What kind of case study? You could start by writing a captivating story around the case. We will discuss several real world cases during class, and you can imagine emulating one of them. The case study can be situated in particular theories and perspectives we discuss in class. The cases we address there are quite lengthy, but you are not necessarily required to write such a long paper. What matters most is the content and message you want to deliver through the case; this project is an exercise both to express your creativity and practice research skills. It is broken into small pieces ( P1, P2, P3-1, P3-2, and P3-3 ) to help you complete the end project  (P4)  effectively.

[Case Study] P0

P0 [Not Graded]. Please consult with Chaebong ( [email protected] ) regarding the case selection by September 29, 2016.

[Case Study] P1

P1.  “Why it matters to me/us”

Choose your case ––any case that matters to you and is  safe  enough to share with others. These first two elements already echo YPP Action Frame’s principle 1 (“Why does it matter to me?”) and principle 2 (“How much should I share?”).

The case can be any group, any organization, or any single person in connection with a large theme of the course: Youth, media, and participatory politics. Be creative and flexible in choosing your case.

Introduce the case , explaining why the case matters to you, what you want to talk about in the case, spelling out main issues you would want to explore.

Try to situate the case  in one or some of theoretical perspectives discussed in class.

You are welcome to challenge the existing viewpoints and values, as well as defending them. For instance, we see the three values––equity, efficacy, and self-protection­­––as “timeless but not dogmatic” (quoted from Tom Hayden’s reflection about  the Port Huron Statement at 50 (Links to an external site.) ). If you find other ideas and values pertain to your own case, please bring them to our class through your own inquiry-cycle.

Describe briefly a general plan  about how to investigate your issues:

What sorts of data would you need to understand the case?

Who would you want to talk with you?

What would you observe?

What existing data would you want to explore?

How do we analyze them?

What is your position in the case?

Due: Week 5 (A 6 to 8 page statement, or longer if desired)

Please talk with Chaebong beforehand

[Case Study] P3 (P3-1, P3-2, and P3-3)

P3-1.  Presentation: Week 12

P3-2.  Add  Discussions  and  Conclusion  based on feedback from the presentation

P3-3.  Individual reflection note. This portion is spared for individual reflection about the collaborative research-learning activities. As members on the same team, you share a common ground for the case, but that does not necessarily mean that you share exact thoughts with others. Thus, this individual reflection paper gives you an opportunity to flesh out your own thought­­ or ideas around your case or your collaborative thinking activities.

[Case Study] P4

Compile P1 to P3-3

Submit by due date: By 5 pm on December 17, 2016

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Case Studies

Case studies can be used to help students understand simple and complex issues. They typically are presented to the students as a situation or scenario which is guided by questions such as “What would you do in this situation?” or “How would you solve this problem?” Successful case studies focus on problem situations relevant to course content and which are relevant “both to the interests and experience level of learners” (Illinois Online Network, 2007).

Case studies can be simple problems where students “work out” a solution to more complex scenarios which require role playing and elaborate planning. Case studies typically involve teams although cases can be undertaken individually. Because case studies often are proposed to not have “one right answer” (Kowalski, Weaver, Henson, 1998, p. 4), some students may be challenged to think alternatively than their peers. However, when properly planned, case studies can effectively engage students in problem solving and deriving creative solutions.

The Penn State University’s Teaching and Learning with Technology unit suggests the following elements when planning case studies for use in the classroom.

Case studies actively involve students as they work on issues found in “real-life” situations and, with careful planning, can be used in all academic disciplines.
  • Real-World Scenario. Cases are generally based on real world situations, although some facts may be changed to simplify the scenario or “protect the innocent.”
  • Supporting Data and Documents. Effective case assignments typically provide real world situations for student to analyze. These can be simple data tables, links to URLs, quoted statements or testimony, supporting documents, images, video, audio, or any appropriate material.
  • Open-Ended Problem. Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions. Requirements can range from a one-paragraph answer to a fully developed team action plan, proposal or decision. (Penn State University, 2006, para. 2).
Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions.

Instructor Tasks

To help you get started using case studies in the classroom, a number of tasks should be considered. Following this list are tasks to help you prepare students as they participate in the case study.

  • Identify a topic that is based on real-world situations
  • Develop the case that will challenge students’ current knowledge of the topic
  • Link the case to one (or more) of the course goals or objectives
  • Provide students with case study basic information before asking them to work on the case
  • Prepare necessary data, information, that will help students come up with a solution
  • Discuss how this case would relate to real life and career situations
  • Place students in teams in which participants have differing views and opinions to better challenge them in discussing possible solutions to the case
  • Review team dynamics with the students (prepare an outline of team rules and roles)
  • Inform students that they are to find a solution to the case based on their personal experiences, the knowledge gained in class, and challenge one another to solve the problem

Student Tasks

  • Determine team member roles and identify a strategic plan to solve the case
  • Brainstorm and prepare questions to further explore the case
  • Read and critically analyze any data provided by the instructor, discuss the facts related to the case, identify and discuss the relationship of further problems within the case
  • Listen to and be open to viewpoints expressed by each member of the team
  • Assess, refine, and condense solutions that are presented
  • Prepare findings as required by the instructor

Case studies provide students with scenarios in which they can begin to think about their understanding and solutions to problems found in real-world situations. When carefully planned, case studies will challenge students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills in a safe and open learning environment. Case studies can help students analyze and find solutions to complex problems with foresight and confidence.

Illinois Online Network (2007). ION research: Case studies. https://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/casestudies/

Kowalski, T. J., Weaver, R. A., & Henson, K. T. (1998). Case studies of beginning teachers. New York, NY: Longman.

Penn State University (2006). Office of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Using cases in teaching. http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/cases/casewhat.html

Selected Resources

Study Guides and Strategies (2007). Case studies. https://www.studygs.net/casestudy.htm

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Suggested citation

Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Case studies. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide

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5 Key Benefits of a Case-Based Learning Approach

 dans 

There are many methodologies and approaches to learning that span all levels and forms of education. Case-based learning is gaining traction as an approach to learning that has many benefits for students.

This method uses collaborative discussions around real-world case studies to not only improve learning outcomes, but also help students develop a number of invaluable, transferable skills .

case based learning

What is a Case-Based Learning Approach?

Case-based learning centres around the use of concrete examples or case studies. Students will examine the case study as a group, building their knowledge while putting their analytical skills into practice by assessing the problem and coming up with potential solutions . Often, the discussion is driven by the group members, with the instructor or tutor acting as a facilitator .

This method frequently makes use of real-world examples, or may rely on detailed models that closely resemble an actual case. For example, business students may study the history of real companies and how they overcame key challenges or barriers to growth. Alternatively, they could be called upon to analyse fictional companies in accurate scenarios.

Instructors may use various types of case studies, such as:

  • Intrinsic case studies seek to understand a unique brand or subject, and how it is affected by its environment.
  • Exploratory case studies use individual examples to explore broader issues.
  • Explanatory case studies seek to hone in on the cause, and sometimes the effects, of a particular event.
  • Descriptive case studies seek to tell a story and, unlike other types of case studies, may include a conclusion with quantifiable results.

Benefits of a Case-Based Learning Approach

Case-based learning is very common in medical education, but it is being increasingly adopted in other fields thanks to its numerous advantages.

It Promotes Critical Thinking

A key part of the case-based learning method is examining and assessing real or fictitious case studies. In doing so, students have the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking is a crucial skill that is highly advantageous in a range of roles across various sectors and is one of skills in most demand by employers . In essence, it is the ability to address problems and come up with better solutions: a skill that is essential in just about any context.

Through case-based learning, students can practise their critical thinking on real-world examples, preparing them to apply the same approach in a professional setting after they graduate.

It Exposes Students to Different Approaches

Through discussing real-life cases and examples in a group setting, students gain exposure to other points of view and perspectives. By working together as a group, students will consider different aspects of a problem, come up with new solutions, and be able to think outside the box.

Perhaps even more importantly, they get to know other thought processes and methods for approaching a problem. This insight can be incredibly useful and help students to further develop their own critical thinking process.

It Helps Students Develop Collaboration Skills

Case-based learning typically requires students to critically assess case studies as a group, and discuss the challenges, solutions, and lessons they can draw from the example. This process involves a high degree of collaboration and communication, so helps students to practise and develop a range of skills necessary for productive teamwork. These skills include clearly communicating their point of view, listening to others’ opinions, disagreeing in a productive way, and dealing with conflict. All of these are invaluable skills in virtually any professional setting.

It Fosters Self-Reflection

How we view situations and the conclusions we reach are often heavily influenced by our own experiences and biases. Being able to reflect on your own thought processes and identify these biases can help you to more objectively assess problems and come up with better solutions.

The case-based learning method encourages students to break down situations, and dive deeper into their own assessments and opinions. This can be extremely useful in fostering meta-cognition, the ability to critically assess your own thought process, allowing you to identify any gaps in your thinking and develop stronger solutions to problems.

It Strengthens Relationships

Finally, by working together to solve case studies, students participating in case-based learning will develop stronger relationships with their peers. A closer student cohort can have a wide range of advantages, from better learning outcomes to group support and future networking opportunities.

Additionally, as part of studying real-world cases, learners may have the opportunity to work with professionals and industry leaders. This gives rise to further, invaluable learning and networking opportunities.

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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.

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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Case Study-Based Learning

Enhancing learning through immediate application.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

why case study is important for students

If you've ever tried to learn a new concept, you probably appreciate that "knowing" is different from "doing." When you have an opportunity to apply your knowledge, the lesson typically becomes much more real.

Adults often learn differently from children, and we have different motivations for learning. Typically, we learn new skills because we want to. We recognize the need to learn and grow, and we usually need – or want – to apply our newfound knowledge soon after we've learned it.

A popular theory of adult learning is andragogy (the art and science of leading man, or adults), as opposed to the better-known pedagogy (the art and science of leading children). Malcolm Knowles , a professor of adult education, was considered the father of andragogy, which is based on four key observations of adult learners:

  • Adults learn best if they know why they're learning something.
  • Adults often learn best through experience.
  • Adults tend to view learning as an opportunity to solve problems.
  • Adults learn best when the topic is relevant to them and immediately applicable.

This means that you'll get the best results with adults when they're fully involved in the learning experience. Give an adult an opportunity to practice and work with a new skill, and you have a solid foundation for high-quality learning that the person will likely retain over time.

So, how can you best use these adult learning principles in your training and development efforts? Case studies provide an excellent way of practicing and applying new concepts. As such, they're very useful tools in adult learning, and it's important to understand how to get the maximum value from them.

What Is a Case Study?

Case studies are a form of problem-based learning, where you present a situation that needs a resolution. A typical business case study is a detailed account, or story, of what happened in a particular company, industry, or project over a set period of time.

The learner is given details about the situation, often in a historical context. The key players are introduced. Objectives and challenges are outlined. This is followed by specific examples and data, which the learner then uses to analyze the situation, determine what happened, and make recommendations.

The depth of a case depends on the lesson being taught. A case study can be two pages, 20 pages, or more. A good case study makes the reader think critically about the information presented, and then develop a thorough assessment of the situation, leading to a well-thought-out solution or recommendation.

Why Use a Case Study?

Case studies are a great way to improve a learning experience, because they get the learner involved, and encourage immediate use of newly acquired skills.

They differ from lectures or assigned readings because they require participation and deliberate application of a broad range of skills. For example, if you study financial analysis through straightforward learning methods, you may have to calculate and understand a long list of financial ratios (don't worry if you don't know what these are). Likewise, you may be given a set of financial statements to complete a ratio analysis. But until you put the exercise into context, you may not really know why you're doing the analysis.

With a case study, however, you might explore whether a bank should provide financing to a borrower, or whether a company is about to make a good acquisition. Suddenly, the act of calculating ratios becomes secondary – it's more important to understand what the ratios tell you. This is how case studies can make the difference between knowing what to do, and knowing how, when, and why to do it.

Then, what really separates case studies from other practical forms of learning – like scenarios and simulations – is the ability to compare the learner's recommendations with what actually happened. When you know what really happened, it's much easier to evaluate the "correctness" of the answers given.

When to Use a Case Study

As you can see, case studies are powerful and effective training tools. They also work best with practical, applied training, so make sure you use them appropriately.

Remember these tips:

  • Case studies tend to focus on why and how to apply a skill or concept, not on remembering facts and details. Use case studies when understanding the concept is more important than memorizing correct responses.
  • Case studies are great team-building opportunities. When a team gets together to solve a case, they'll have to work through different opinions, methods, and perspectives.
  • Use case studies to build problem-solving skills, particularly those that are valuable when applied, but are likely to be used infrequently. This helps people get practice with these skills that they might not otherwise get.
  • Case studies can be used to evaluate past problem solving. People can be asked what they'd do in that situation, and think about what could have been done differently.

Ensuring Maximum Value From Case Studies

The first thing to remember is that you already need to have enough theoretical knowledge to handle the questions and challenges in the case study. Otherwise, it can be like trying to solve a puzzle with some of the pieces missing.

Here are some additional tips for how to approach a case study. Depending on the exact nature of the case, some tips will be more relevant than others.

  • Read the case at least three times before you start any analysis. Case studies usually have lots of details, and it's easy to miss something in your first, or even second, reading.
  • Once you're thoroughly familiar with the case, note the facts. Identify which are relevant to the tasks you've been assigned. In a good case study, there are often many more facts than you need for your analysis.
  • If the case contains large amounts of data, analyze this data for relevant trends. For example, have sales dropped steadily, or was there an unexpected high or low point?
  • If the case involves a description of a company's history, find the key events, and consider how they may have impacted the current situation.
  • Consider using techniques like SWOT analysis and Porter's Five Forces Analysis to understand the organization's strategic position.
  • Stay with the facts when you draw conclusions. These include facts given in the case as well as established facts about the environmental context. Don't rely on personal opinions when you put together your answers.

Writing a Case Study

You may have to write a case study yourself. These are complex documents that take a while to research and compile. The quality of the case study influences the quality of the analysis. Here are some tips if you want to write your own:

  • Write your case study as a structured story. The goal is to capture an interesting situation or challenge and then bring it to life with words and information. You want the reader to feel a part of what's happening.
  • Present information so that a "right" answer isn't obvious. The goal is to develop the learner's ability to analyze and assess, not necessarily to make the same decision as the people in the actual case.
  • Do background research to fully understand what happened and why. You may need to talk to key stakeholders to get their perspectives as well.
  • Determine the key challenge. What needs to be resolved? The case study should focus on one main question or issue.
  • Define the context. Talk about significant events leading up to the situation. What organizational factors are important for understanding the problem and assessing what should be done? Include cultural factors where possible.
  • Identify key decision makers and stakeholders. Describe their roles and perspectives, as well as their motivations and interests.
  • Make sure that you provide the right data to allow people to reach appropriate conclusions.
  • Make sure that you have permission to use any information you include.

A typical case study structure includes these elements:

  • Executive summary. Define the objective, and state the key challenge.
  • Opening paragraph. Capture the reader's interest.
  • Scope. Describe the background, context, approach, and issues involved.
  • Presentation of facts. Develop an objective picture of what's happening.
  • Description of key issues. Present viewpoints, decisions, and interests of key parties.

Because case studies have proved to be such effective teaching tools, many are already written. Some excellent sources of free cases are The Times 100 , CasePlace.org , and Schroeder & Schroeder Inc . You can often search for cases by topic or industry. These cases are expertly prepared, based mostly on real situations, and used extensively in business schools to teach management concepts.

Case studies are a great way to improve learning and training. They provide learners with an opportunity to solve a problem by applying what they know.

There are no unpleasant consequences for getting it "wrong," and cases give learners a much better understanding of what they really know and what they need to practice.

Case studies can be used in many ways, as team-building tools, and for skill development. You can write your own case study, but a large number are already prepared. Given the enormous benefits of practical learning applications like this, case studies are definitely something to consider adding to your next training session.

Knowles, M. (1973). 'The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species [online].' Available here .

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Case Studies

What are case studies.

Case studies are stories or scenarios, often in narrative form, created and used as a tool for analysis and discussion. They have long been used in higher education, particularly in business and law. Hatcher et al. (2018, pp. 274-5) write:

Case studies, at their core, are metaphors for larger, more general classes of administrative problems. When presented to a class, they are narratives allow students to envision themselves in the role of the protagonist and experience the application of theory to practice by struggling with and attempting to solve the problem or issue that the protagonist faces.... Out of the metaphor students can derive a series of “lessons learned” that they can apply or transfer to other, more general issues that may arise in their professional careers.

They further note (p. 276) that "[a] good case is one that achieves its learning objectives by means of a story and a critical analysis of the situation".

Cases are often based on actual events, which adds a sense of urgency or reality. Case studies have elements of simulations , although for case studies the students tend to be observers rather than participants.

Why use case studies?

Case studies are effective ways to get students to practically apply their skills and their understanding of learned facts to a real-world situation. They are particularly useful where situations are complex and solutions are uncertain.

They can serve as the launching pad for a class discussion, or as a project for individuals or small groups. A single case may be presented to several groups, with each group offering its solutions.

Used as a teaching tool, a case study:

  • engages students in research and reflective discussion
  • encourages higher-order thinking
  • facilitates creative problem solving
  • allows students to develop realistic solutions to complex problems
  • develops students' ability to identify and distinguish between critical and extraneous factors
  • enables students to apply previously acquired skills
  • creates an opportunity for students to learn from one another.

Case studies bridge the gap between a more teacher-centred lecture method and pure problem-based learning. They leave room for teachers to give direct guidance, and the scenarios themselves provide hints and parameters within which the students operate.

Common issues using case studies

The challenges with case studies are similar to those with discussions :

  • getting students to talk and keeping the class moving
  • pointless arguments, which can throw a case analysis off track.

Since case-study analysis is student-led, it can be difficult to get the class to move through various stages of analysis and arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

How to write or choose case studies

Hatcher et al. (2018, p. 276) categorise case studies as either issue-driven (focusing on a particular problem or aspects of the course material) or organisationally based (focusing on the various issues faced by a particular type of organisation). They can be based on general knowledge or adopt the viewpoint of a single protagonist, an organisation as a whole or information gathered from governent, company or other public documents.

"Like any good story" (Hatcher et al., 2018, p. 279), a case study begins with an exposition that introduces the problem and the protagonist and launches the action. Next, the narrative escalates, with complications exacerbating the problem and constraining the protagonist's choices. These complications are revealed as the protagonist discovers them, rather than as part of the background information, to increase the verisimilitude of the case study. Eventually the situation comes to a head, and the protagonist must decide on a solution. Finally, the case study relates the consequences of that solution.

A case study should be engaging, relevant and clearly written. In particular it needs to be economical: every aspect must be directly relevant to the problem the case study is examining, with no extraneous details or digressions.

How to teach effectively with case studies

Case content should reflect the purposes of the course, and should align with the course learning outcomes, other teaching strategies and assessment in your course or program.

1) Use complex cases requiring multiple perspectives

A good case has sufficient detail to:

  • necessitate research and
  • stimulate analysis from a variety of viewpoints or perspectives.

It places the learner in the position of problem-solver. Students actively engage with the materials, discovering underlying issues, dilemmas and conflict issues.

2) Assess the process of analysis, not only the outcome

The resolution of a case is only the last stage of a process. You can observe or evaluate:

  • the quality of research
  • structural issues in written material
  • organisation of arguments
  • the feasibility of solutions presented
  • intra-group dynamics
  • evidence of consideration of all case factors.

Case studies may be resolved in more than one manner.

3) Use a variety of questions in case analysis

Various ways to use questions in teaching are discussed in detail on the Questioning page. If you are using the Harvard Business School Case Method , when analysing case studies, use a range of question types to enable the class to move through the stages of analysis:

  • clarification / information seeking ( what? )
  • analysis / diagnosis ( why? )
  • conclusion / recommendation ( what now? )
  • implementation ( how? ) and
  • application / reflection ( so what? what does it mean to you?)
  • For help using media to create case studies, see Creative Development and Educational Media Production .
  • UNSW Assessment Toolkit:  Assessment by Case Studies and Scenarios
  • The HBS Case Method (Harvard Business School).
  • What the Case Method Really Teaches
  • How to write a teaching case study

Gwee, J. (2018). The case writer's toolkit. Palgrave Macmillan.

Hatcher, W., McDonald, B. D., & Brainard, L. A. (2018). How to write a case study for public affairs. Journal of Public Affairs Education , 24 (2), 274-285. https://doi.org/10.1080/15236803.2018.1444902

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5 Benefits of Learning Through the Case Study Method

Harvard Business School MBA students learning through the case study method

  • 28 Nov 2023

While several factors make HBS Online unique —including a global Community and real-world outcomes —active learning through the case study method rises to the top.

In a 2023 City Square Associates survey, 74 percent of HBS Online learners who also took a course from another provider said HBS Online’s case method and real-world examples were better by comparison.

Here’s a primer on the case method, five benefits you could gain, and how to experience it for yourself.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is the Harvard Business School Case Study Method?

The case study method , or case method , is a learning technique in which you’re presented with a real-world business challenge and asked how you’d solve it. After working through it yourself and with peers, you’re told how the scenario played out.

HBS pioneered the case method in 1922. Shortly before, in 1921, the first case was written.

“How do you go into an ambiguous situation and get to the bottom of it?” says HBS Professor Jan Rivkin, former senior associate dean and chair of HBS's master of business administration (MBA) program, in a video about the case method . “That skill—the skill of figuring out a course of inquiry to choose a course of action—that skill is as relevant today as it was in 1921.”

Originally developed for the in-person MBA classroom, HBS Online adapted the case method into an engaging, interactive online learning experience in 2014.

In HBS Online courses , you learn about each case from the business professional who experienced it. After reviewing their videos, you’re prompted to take their perspective and explain how you’d handle their situation.

You then get to read peers’ responses, “star” them, and comment to further the discussion. Afterward, you learn how the professional handled it and their key takeaways.

HBS Online’s adaptation of the case method incorporates the famed HBS “cold call,” in which you’re called on at random to make a decision without time to prepare.

“Learning came to life!” said Sheneka Balogun , chief administration officer and chief of staff at LeMoyne-Owen College, of her experience taking the Credential of Readiness (CORe) program . “The videos from the professors, the interactive cold calls where you were randomly selected to participate, and the case studies that enhanced and often captured the essence of objectives and learning goals were all embedded in each module. This made learning fun, engaging, and student-friendly.”

If you’re considering taking a course that leverages the case study method, here are five benefits you could experience.

5 Benefits of Learning Through Case Studies

1. take new perspectives.

The case method prompts you to consider a scenario from another person’s perspective. To work through the situation and come up with a solution, you must consider their circumstances, limitations, risk tolerance, stakeholders, resources, and potential consequences to assess how to respond.

Taking on new perspectives not only can help you navigate your own challenges but also others’. Putting yourself in someone else’s situation to understand their motivations and needs can go a long way when collaborating with stakeholders.

2. Hone Your Decision-Making Skills

Another skill you can build is the ability to make decisions effectively . The case study method forces you to use limited information to decide how to handle a problem—just like in the real world.

Throughout your career, you’ll need to make difficult decisions with incomplete or imperfect information—and sometimes, you won’t feel qualified to do so. Learning through the case method allows you to practice this skill in a low-stakes environment. When facing a real challenge, you’ll be better prepared to think quickly, collaborate with others, and present and defend your solution.

3. Become More Open-Minded

As you collaborate with peers on responses, it becomes clear that not everyone solves problems the same way. Exposing yourself to various approaches and perspectives can help you become a more open-minded professional.

When you’re part of a diverse group of learners from around the world, your experiences, cultures, and backgrounds contribute to a range of opinions on each case.

On the HBS Online course platform, you’re prompted to view and comment on others’ responses, and discussion is encouraged. This practice of considering others’ perspectives can make you more receptive in your career.

“You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from your peers,” said Ratnaditya Jonnalagadda , a software engineer who took CORe.

In addition to interacting with peers in the course platform, Jonnalagadda was part of the HBS Online Community , where he networked with other professionals and continued discussions sparked by course content.

“You get to understand your peers better, and students share examples of businesses implementing a concept from a module you just learned,” Jonnalagadda said. “It’s a very good way to cement the concepts in one's mind.”

4. Enhance Your Curiosity

One byproduct of taking on different perspectives is that it enables you to picture yourself in various roles, industries, and business functions.

“Each case offers an opportunity for students to see what resonates with them, what excites them, what bores them, which role they could imagine inhabiting in their careers,” says former HBS Dean Nitin Nohria in the Harvard Business Review . “Cases stimulate curiosity about the range of opportunities in the world and the many ways that students can make a difference as leaders.”

Through the case method, you can “try on” roles you may not have considered and feel more prepared to change or advance your career .

5. Build Your Self-Confidence

Finally, learning through the case study method can build your confidence. Each time you assume a business leader’s perspective, aim to solve a new challenge, and express and defend your opinions and decisions to peers, you prepare to do the same in your career.

According to a 2022 City Square Associates survey , 84 percent of HBS Online learners report feeling more confident making business decisions after taking a course.

“Self-confidence is difficult to teach or coach, but the case study method seems to instill it in people,” Nohria says in the Harvard Business Review . “There may well be other ways of learning these meta-skills, such as the repeated experience gained through practice or guidance from a gifted coach. However, under the direction of a masterful teacher, the case method can engage students and help them develop powerful meta-skills like no other form of teaching.”

Your Guide to Online Learning Success | Download Your Free E-Book

How to Experience the Case Study Method

If the case method seems like a good fit for your learning style, experience it for yourself by taking an HBS Online course. Offerings span seven subject areas, including:

  • Business essentials
  • Leadership and management
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Finance and accounting
  • Business in society

No matter which course or credential program you choose, you’ll examine case studies from real business professionals, work through their challenges alongside peers, and gain valuable insights to apply to your career.

Are you interested in discovering how HBS Online can help advance your career? Explore our course catalog and download our free guide —complete with interactive workbook sections—to determine if online learning is right for you and which course to take.

why case study is important for students

About the Author

5 Reasons Case Studies are the Best Way to Learn and Teach

Photo by Chivalry Creative on Unsplash

Case studies are a great way to learn and teach. They allow students to see a real-life scenario, and then apply their knowledge in the same scenario. This is a great way for students to learn how the concepts are applied in the real world.

The best part about case studies is that they allow students to practice what they have learned before taking tests on it. In other words, case studies are an effective learning tool because they can be used as a tool for assessment as well.

Case studies can be used by different types of educators - from kindergarteners to college professors - because of their ability to teach different topics and skill sets such as math, science, social sciences, etc.

The following are five reasons why case studies are the best way to learn and teach.

Case studies help students understand how problems get solved.

Case studies allow students to see how they can apply the knowledge they learned in their own lives.

Case studies allow students to see how other people have solved similar problems in the past.

Case studies allow students to identify key takeaways that they can use in future projects or assignments that will help them complete their work more efficiently/effectively/professionally/etc..

Case studies give teachers an opportunity for teaching moments.

Why is Case Study Research Important in Education?

Case study research is an important tool in education. It helps students understand the processes and outcomes of certain events. In order to do this, they need to take a deep look into the research process and how it can be applied in their future careers.

Case studies are used in education to help students make sense of the world around them. They help them understand how things work, what's happening, and why it's happening.

In order to make the most out of case studies, educators must be able to identify which case study is most relevant for their lesson plan.

Case Studies and Their Benefits for Teachers and Students

Case studies are a popular way of teaching students about topics that are not always easy to understand. Case studies are also employed in the field of education to provide educators with a way to learn from their mistakes and improve their teaching methods.

Case studies have many benefits for teachers and students alike. For example, case studies can provide students with an opportunity to practice the skills they will need in the future, such as problem-solving and critical thinking. Teachers can use case studies as learning tools in order to teach content material and help them better understand what is going on in their classrooms.

How to Find a Good Case Study Writing Service That's Right for You

Whether you're a student looking for case studies to help you with your assignments or an entrepreneur looking for case studies to help you with your marketing strategy, there are many case writing services out there. But which one is the best for you?

The best case study writing service Write Essay For Me is one that can provide a lot of value in the time they invest in their customers. They should be able to provide good quality case studies that can be used as examples and templates. Our partners also have writers who are knowledgeable about the topic they're trying to write about.

Here are some factors that will help you find the right case study writing service:

The number of years they've been in business;

The number of projects they've completed;

The number of clients they have.

Why are Case Studies Important in Education?

Case studies are a great way to get students involved in learning and teaching. They engage students and provide them with the opportunity to use their knowledge to solve real-world problems.

Case studies in education help students learn how to identify, analyze, and solve problems by providing relevant examples of how these problems have been solved in the past. This type of learning is effective because it engages students on a personal level.

Case studies allow educators to break down complex topics into manageable chunks that can be understood by students. Case studies also allow educators to challenge their students' thinking skills while they learn about new topics and concepts that may be difficult for them.

Using Case Studies as Learning Tools Will Help You Reach Your Goals

Case studies are a great way to learn from the mistakes of other people. They can be used as learning tools in many different ways.

There are two types of case studies - cause and effect, and process. The first one focuses on the cause-effect relationship, while the second one concentes on how a specific process was done with certain results.

The first use case for case studies is when you want to learn from other people's mistakes so you can avoid them in your own life. This is a good idea because it allows you to focus on what went wrong and what could be done differently next time. It also helps you explore various options that might have been overlooked before, which is helpful when trying to reach your goals. Another use for this type of study is when you want to explore.

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Five Benefits of the Case-Based Study Method

M.S. in Commerce Student Ryann Sheehy discusses the benefits of the case-based study method.

M.S. in Commerce student ambassador Ryann Sheehy

Ryann Sheehy

M.S. in Commerce 2022

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When I first began the process of applying to graduate school, one of my biggest questions was how the work I did during my undergraduate years would compare to what would be expected of me in a graduate program. Many of my fears surrounded how difficult the homework and projects would be or how much time I’d have to spend in the library. Instead, what I found was that it wasn’t the subjective difficulty of a course or the number of hours I put into an assignment that was so different, but the overall shift in thinking we were being asked to make.

In the first few weeks of the M.S. in Commerce Program , my classmates and I were tasked with learning the language and tools of business quickly. And, in no better way was this achieved than through the case-based approach taken by our professors.

What is the case-based study method?

The case-based study method is a learning tool that allows students to read about a company and discuss their approaches to solving a presented problem faced by the firm. While this method is widely used in MBA programs, McIntire employs it across all of its programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level to challenge its students to apply practical business skills and course concepts.

How is it utilized in the classroom?

During the fall semester in the M.S. in Commerce Program, every class you take in the core curriculum will involve discussions of cases. Although the Strategy course taught by Professor Ira Harris will tackle the largest number of cases, every class from Accounting to Marketing will ask you to think critically about a real-life case whether in your small groups or as part of a larger class discussion.

So, why is the case-based approach used at McIntire, and what can it do for you? Here are five tangible benefits I’ve seen from this method that I believe give M.S. in Commerce students an advantage in the marketplace.

1. Discuss real-world scenarios

One of the most important learning objectives of the case-based study method—and, perhaps, the most obvious—is the practice with real-world scenarios. Professor Andrea Roberts, who teaches Cost Accounting in the fall semester, equates studying cases as the next best thing to actually placing students inside a real company. Many of the cases we are assigned are based on companies you may have heard of or have a personal experience with such as Trader Joe’s, Delta Air Lines, Peloton, and Wawa.

The emphasis on the real is even more clear in our Accounting classes, as we’re tasked with sifting through and interpreting actual financial statements taken directly from company reports. Roberts says one of the main objectives of these cases is to allow students to practice gathering information and figuring out what is relevant or even correctly stated. During our Cost Accounting class this semester, the case project we completed on the Alltel Pavilion was based on a real outdoor arena and included checking the financial reports for errors before calculating the answers. Although we are assigned some textbook problems to nail down the basic concepts, Roberts says it’s important to have experience with problems as they appear in practice—not nicely formatted or easily interpreted.

2. Learn from your peers

The deep level of diversity present across the program provides many opportunities for students to learn as much from their peers as they do from the professors. Phil Choi, a Business Analytics concentrator, said, “I actually do think that the M.S. in Commerce is really diverse. It’s not just a marketing thing; it actually is. The case approach takes advantage of that because you get to hear other people—their diverse experiences, whether that’s internships, whether that’s undergrad majors, or cultural diversity.” During in-class case discussions, students are encouraged to speak about their unique perspectives, since there are often many ways to look at the problem at hand. Choi said the case approach helps students who may be more reserved become comfortable with speaking their mind, as well as helps outspoken classmates learn to value other points of view.

3. Become comfortable with ambiguity

While many students may be used to finding the one best answer to a problem, in many of the cases we discuss, there truly is no perfect or “right” solution. Roberts describes this process as becoming “comfortable with the uncomfortableness.” While this change may be shocking to some students, it’s one of the most helpful lessons to learn before entering the workforce because your employer will not have an answer key to evaluate you with, nor will you be given all the necessary information in a neatly organized problem. The uncertainty pushes you to become more creative and look at all the options before deciding. As Harris teaches in Strategy, you cannot always make the right choice, but you can make an informed one.

4. Practice applying course concepts

Besides giving students real-world practice, one of the main objectives of studying cases is to practice applying the analytical tools and course concepts from class. For example, the case Harris calls a kind of “mid-range capstone” was the Delta Air Lines case we discussed after learning about benchmarking. Not only did the case cause us to discuss what makes successful versus failed benchmarking strategies, it also pulled together many of the concepts we had learned earlier in the semester. The connection between each case and a specific concept is also made clear, because we often discuss a new concept for the first part of class and then apply it to the case in the second half. This study method ultimately serves as a great way for students to test their overall understanding and ability to use the concepts taught in class when faced with a real issue.

5. Improve critical thinking and decision making

Last, but not least, cases are one of the main ways the M.S. in Commerce Program improves your ability to think critically and make informed decisions. In Roberts’ opinion, “Everything that you learn in M.S. in Commerce is providing information and tools so that you can make a decision.” Harris echoed that sentiment when he said, “When we talk about analytical thinking, when we talk about problem solving, it almost always is the use of a few different tools in order to gain some sort of a better understanding and to solve something that a company is facing.” At the end of the program, these cases will have served to improve your gut instincts and your ability to think quickly in future decision-making situations—a skill that you will need in everything from job interviews to your future day-to-day work.

What can prospective students do to prepare for this method of learning?

Harris recommends that prospective students begin familiarizing themselves with real-world business cases as soon as possible in order to gain a surface-level understanding of some of the key concepts and vocabulary that will come up in your McIntire courses. This is as easy as subscribing to and reading some of the world’s most popular business press such as The Wall Street Journal or Financial Times. Some of your current institutions may even give you free access to these sources.

If you’re interested in learning more about the case-based study method feel free to reach out to any of the current student ambassadors .

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What is the Impact and Importance of Case Study in Education?

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Before we explain the significance of case study in education these days for high education, let us explain the first, ‘What is a case study? However, it consists of three major parts that you need to consider for writing. Starting with a problem, outline different available solutions, and offer proven results exhibits that the product or service is an optimum solution for the problem.

Importance of Case Study in Education

What is a Case Study in Education?

Well, a case study is a method of research regarding any specific questions, which allows a person to investigate why and how it happens. Based on education, a case study is that who can use the research for many purposes. It lets the student describe various factors and interaction with each other in authentic contexts. It offers multiple learning opportunities and experiences for scholars by influencing the diverse practice of theories.

Importance of Case Study in Education

It is also considered the source of valuable data regarding diversity and complexity of educational commitments and settings. It plays a vital role in putting theories into regular practice. It is always necessary for the student to realize the clarity in nature and focus of the case study. Considering the significance, Casestudyhelp.com brings the best Case Study Help Any Academic Level for students exerting for acquiring top grades.

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What are the Advantages of Case Studies in Class ?

Case studies are assigned to higher classes students, which proved very beneficial to the students, especially in the classroom. Students can actively engage in the discovery of the principles by conceptualizing from the examples. Furthermore, they develop skills like

  • Problem-solving
  • Coping with ambiguities
  • Analytical/ quantitative/qualitative tools according to the case and
  • Decision making in complex situations

Method of a Writing Case Study at Casestudyhelp.com!

When teachers give students a Case Study Topic by a teacher, they have to attack each case with the following checklist or go for best and reasonable Case Study Help for Any Topic at casestudyhelp.com!

  • Thoroughly read the case and formulate own opinions before sharing ideas with others in the class. You must identify the problems on your own, and offer solutions and best alternatives alongside. Before the study converses, you need to form your own outline and course of action.
  • Focus on the three major parts of a case study considering the starting with a problem, outline different accessible solutions, offer predictable results that exhibit the product/service is an optimal solution for the problem.
  • Prepare to engage in data collection, collecting data in the field, carry out data evaluation and analysis to write the report.

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Study shows students in ‘active learning’ classrooms learn more than they think

For decades, there has been evidence that classroom techniques designed to get students to participate in the learning process produces better educational outcomes at virtually all levels.

And a new Harvard study suggests it may be important to let students know it.

The study , published Sept. 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that, though students felt as if they learned more through traditional lectures, they actually learned more when taking part in classrooms that employed so-called active-learning strategies.

Lead author Louis Deslauriers , the director of science teaching and learning and senior physics preceptor, knew that students would learn more from active learning. He published a key study in Science in 2011 that showed just that. But many students and faculty remained hesitant to switch to it.

“Often, students seemed genuinely to prefer smooth-as-silk traditional lectures,” Deslauriers said. “We wanted to take them at their word. Perhaps they actually felt like they learned more from lectures than they did from active learning.”

In addition to Deslauriers, the study is authored by director of sciences education and physics lecturer Logan McCarty , senior preceptor in applied physics Kelly Miller, preceptor in physics Greg Kestin , and Kristina Callaghan, now a physics lecturer at the University of California, Merced.

The question of whether students’ perceptions of their learning matches with how well they’re actually learning is particularly important, Deslauriers said, because while students eventually see the value of active learning, initially it can feel frustrating.

“Deep learning is hard work. The effort involved in active learning can be misinterpreted as a sign of poor learning,” he said. “On the other hand, a superstar lecturer can explain things in such a way as to make students feel like they are learning more than they actually are.”

To understand that dichotomy, Deslauriers and his co-authors designed an experiment that would expose students in an introductory physics class to both traditional lectures and active learning.

For the first 11 weeks of the 15-week class, students were taught using standard methods by an experienced instructor. In the 12th week, half the class was randomly assigned to a classroom that used active learning, while the other half attended highly polished lectures. In a subsequent class, the two groups were reversed. Notably, both groups used identical class content and only active engagement with the material was toggled on and off.

Following each class, students were surveyed on how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “I feel like I learned a lot from this lecture” and “I wish all my physics courses were taught this way.” Students were also tested on how much they learned in the class with 12 multiple-choice questions.

When the results were tallied, the authors found that students felt as if they learned more from the lectures, but in fact scored higher on tests following the active learning sessions. “Actual learning and feeling of learning were strongly anticorrelated,” Deslauriers said, “as shown through the robust statistical analysis by co-author Kelly Miller, who is an expert in educational statistics and active learning.”

Those results, the study authors are quick to point out, shouldn’t be interpreted as suggesting students dislike active learning. In fact, many studies have shown students quickly warm to the idea, once they begin to see the results. “In all the courses at Harvard that we’ve transformed to active learning,” Deslauriers said, “the overall course evaluations went up.”

bar chart

Co-author Kestin, who in addition to being a physicist is a video producer with PBS’ NOVA, said, “It can be tempting to engage the class simply by folding lectures into a compelling ‘story,’ especially when that’s what students seem to like. I show my students the data from this study on the first day of class to help them appreciate the importance of their own involvement in active learning.”

McCarty, who oversees curricular efforts across the sciences, hopes this study will encourage more of his colleagues to embrace active learning.

“We want to make sure that other instructors are thinking hard about the way they’re teaching,” he said. “In our classes, we start each topic by asking students to gather in small groups to solve some problems. While they work, we walk around the room to observe them and answer questions. Then we come together and give a short lecture targeted specifically at the misconceptions and struggles we saw during the problem-solving activity. So far we’ve transformed over a dozen classes to use this kind of active-learning approach. It’s extremely efficient — we can cover just as much material as we would using lectures.”

A pioneer in work on active learning, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics Eric Mazur hailed the study as debunking long-held beliefs about how students learn.

“This work unambiguously debunks the illusion of learning from lectures,” he said. “It also explains why instructors and students cling to the belief that listening to lectures constitutes learning. I recommend every lecturer reads this article.”

Dean of Science Christopher Stubbs , Samuel C. Moncher Professor of Physics and of Astronomy, was an early convert. “When I first switched to teaching using active learning, some students resisted that change. This research confirms that faculty should persist and encourage active learning. Active engagement in every classroom, led by our incredible science faculty, should be the hallmark of residential undergraduate education at Harvard.”

Ultimately, Deslauriers said, the study shows that it’s important to ensure that neither instructors nor students are fooled into thinking that lectures are the best learning option. “Students might give fabulous evaluations to an amazing lecturer based on this feeling of learning, even though their actual learning isn’t optimal,” he said. “This could help to explain why study after study shows that student evaluations seem to be completely uncorrelated with actual learning.”

This research was supported with funding from the Harvard FAS Division of Science.

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  • Volume 21, Issue 1
  • What is a case study?
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  • Roberta Heale 1 ,
  • Alison Twycross 2
  • 1 School of Nursing , Laurentian University , Sudbury , Ontario , Canada
  • 2 School of Health and Social Care , London South Bank University , London , UK
  • Correspondence to Dr Roberta Heale, School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON P3E2C6, Canada; rheale{at}laurentian.ca

https://doi.org/10.1136/eb-2017-102845

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What is it?

Case study is a research methodology, typically seen in social and life sciences. There is no one definition of case study research. 1 However, very simply… ‘a case study can be defined as an intensive study about a person, a group of people or a unit, which is aimed to generalize over several units’. 1 A case study has also been described as an intensive, systematic investigation of a single individual, group, community or some other unit in which the researcher examines in-depth data relating to several variables. 2

Often there are several similar cases to consider such as educational or social service programmes that are delivered from a number of locations. Although similar, they are complex and have unique features. In these circumstances, the evaluation of several, similar cases will provide a better answer to a research question than if only one case is examined, hence the multiple-case study. Stake asserts that the cases are grouped and viewed as one entity, called the quintain . 6  ‘We study what is similar and different about the cases to understand the quintain better’. 6

The steps when using case study methodology are the same as for other types of research. 6 The first step is defining the single case or identifying a group of similar cases that can then be incorporated into a multiple-case study. A search to determine what is known about the case(s) is typically conducted. This may include a review of the literature, grey literature, media, reports and more, which serves to establish a basic understanding of the cases and informs the development of research questions. Data in case studies are often, but not exclusively, qualitative in nature. In multiple-case studies, analysis within cases and across cases is conducted. Themes arise from the analyses and assertions about the cases as a whole, or the quintain, emerge. 6

Benefits and limitations of case studies

If a researcher wants to study a specific phenomenon arising from a particular entity, then a single-case study is warranted and will allow for a in-depth understanding of the single phenomenon and, as discussed above, would involve collecting several different types of data. This is illustrated in example 1 below.

Using a multiple-case research study allows for a more in-depth understanding of the cases as a unit, through comparison of similarities and differences of the individual cases embedded within the quintain. Evidence arising from multiple-case studies is often stronger and more reliable than from single-case research. Multiple-case studies allow for more comprehensive exploration of research questions and theory development. 6

Despite the advantages of case studies, there are limitations. The sheer volume of data is difficult to organise and data analysis and integration strategies need to be carefully thought through. There is also sometimes a temptation to veer away from the research focus. 2 Reporting of findings from multiple-case research studies is also challenging at times, 1 particularly in relation to the word limits for some journal papers.

Examples of case studies

Example 1: nurses’ paediatric pain management practices.

One of the authors of this paper (AT) has used a case study approach to explore nurses’ paediatric pain management practices. This involved collecting several datasets:

Observational data to gain a picture about actual pain management practices.

Questionnaire data about nurses’ knowledge about paediatric pain management practices and how well they felt they managed pain in children.

Questionnaire data about how critical nurses perceived pain management tasks to be.

These datasets were analysed separately and then compared 7–9 and demonstrated that nurses’ level of theoretical did not impact on the quality of their pain management practices. 7 Nor did individual nurse’s perceptions of how critical a task was effect the likelihood of them carrying out this task in practice. 8 There was also a difference in self-reported and observed practices 9 ; actual (observed) practices did not confirm to best practice guidelines, whereas self-reported practices tended to.

Example 2: quality of care for complex patients at Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics (NPLCs)

The other author of this paper (RH) has conducted a multiple-case study to determine the quality of care for patients with complex clinical presentations in NPLCs in Ontario, Canada. 10 Five NPLCs served as individual cases that, together, represented the quatrain. Three types of data were collected including:

Review of documentation related to the NPLC model (media, annual reports, research articles, grey literature and regulatory legislation).

Interviews with nurse practitioners (NPs) practising at the five NPLCs to determine their perceptions of the impact of the NPLC model on the quality of care provided to patients with multimorbidity.

Chart audits conducted at the five NPLCs to determine the extent to which evidence-based guidelines were followed for patients with diabetes and at least one other chronic condition.

The three sources of data collected from the five NPLCs were analysed and themes arose related to the quality of care for complex patients at NPLCs. The multiple-case study confirmed that nurse practitioners are the primary care providers at the NPLCs, and this positively impacts the quality of care for patients with multimorbidity. Healthcare policy, such as lack of an increase in salary for NPs for 10 years, has resulted in issues in recruitment and retention of NPs at NPLCs. This, along with insufficient resources in the communities where NPLCs are located and high patient vulnerability at NPLCs, have a negative impact on the quality of care. 10

These examples illustrate how collecting data about a single case or multiple cases helps us to better understand the phenomenon in question. Case study methodology serves to provide a framework for evaluation and analysis of complex issues. It shines a light on the holistic nature of nursing practice and offers a perspective that informs improved patient care.

  • Gustafsson J
  • Calanzaro M
  • Sandelowski M

Competing interests None declared.

Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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why case study is important for students

Why Case Studies are Important

why case study is important for students

The value of case studies cannot be underestimated.

Case studies allow the student to learn the essential facts about a given topic – extracting the essential, clinical knowledge that adds relevance to their clinical career. When starting out, case studies are challenging. But they don’t need to be. With the right approach and enough practice, pharmacy case studies become insightful and quite enjoyable.

Over the past couple of years on social media , we’ve added thousands of facts. We’ve learned that students don’t want to get bogged down in unnecessary detail. Instead, they want the relevant facts– without the added depth of detail. Case studies bring you these facts in a different way, exploring the intricacies of how to approach clinical scenarios.

Case studies enhance your professional standing. You begin to think about cases from different angles and unique perspectives. You’re forced to think outside the box. Case studies bring together the body of knowledge you’ve been studying throughout your degree program – pharmaceutical chemistry to pharmacology to clinical medicine.

Case studies give you the opportunity to think like a professional. The more exposure you have to case studies, the better. By practicing pharmacy case studies , you begin to hone and refine your professional thinking. If you haven’t analysed a case study yet, we’ve added an introductory case study below – a cardiovascular-based study.

Study tips and tricks

When reviewing case studies, always bear the following factors in mind:

  • The age of the patient
  • Any pre-existing medical history
  • What symptoms the patient experiences
  • Medicines the patient is currently taking
  • How the above factors are interrelated to one another

Instead of thinking about each factor separately, think about each factor as one part of a complex web system – interlinking components that impact upon each other. In other words, think of the case study from a holistic perspective. From there, you can think through, reflect upon and ultimately arrive at the correct conclusion.

Let’s take a few moments to review an introductory case study.

Introductory Case Study

A 70-year old man visits his local physician reporting chest pain. On subsequent review, his physician learns that his chest pain manifests when the patient applies effort – such as when he’s walking upstairs or when he’s lifting furniture.

What is the likely diagnosis for this patient?

With this diagnosis in mind, which of the following medicines is the most appropriate treatment option?

  • Atorvastatin
  • Sublingual nitroglycerin

Explanation :

The patient is experiencing stable angina.

Stable angina is also known as “effort angina”; a form of chest pain that arises on exertion. Examples of exertion include stress, cold weather and exercise. Pain usually subsides within a few minutes or after use of sublingual nitroglycerin.

From the treatment options available, metoprolol is the most appropriate choice.

Beta-blockers, of which metoprolol is a member, are first-line agents in the prevention of stable angina. Metoprolol has two functions – first, it reduces heart rate and myocardial contractility. In turn, this reduces the level of work the heart must perform and, consequently, reduces the amount of oxygen needed.

Sublingual nitroglycerin is used to relieve an acute attack of chest pain. It can also be used to reduce angina before exertion-based events, such as exercise. However, it is not as effective at preventing angina to the same extent as beta-blockers.

Some drugs in the list – such as enalapril, aspirin and atorvastatin – do not prevent angina. A statin may be prescribed to reduce risk of cardiac events. Patients with atherosclerotic disease may be prescribed an ACE inhibitor or aspirin to reduce the risk of recurrent cardiovascular events or death.

Other drug classes – such as calcium channel blockers (eg. nifedipine) and long-acting nitrates – may also be considered as alternatives to beta-blockers.

Correct answer – e) Metoprolol

Maximize Your Learning

The case study above requires you to understand:

  • The difference between stable and unstable angina
  • Symptoms and how best to diagnose those symptoms
  • Analyse the suitability of medicines to meet this diagnosis

And that’s the fundamental essence of case studies.

Filtering your knowledge through the prism of case studies is what maximizes your professional learning.

PharmaFactz is a leading online resource that helps students get to grips with drugs and medicines; a passionate believer that, through applying yourself to case studies, you can come out the other end a more competent, knowledgeable healthcare professional.

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why case study is important for students

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March 18, 2018, study materials for pharmacists.

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Aug 1, 2018 | coursework writing , case study , research paper , Writing

why case study is important for students

A case study is research method that involves an up-close, in-depth and detailed investigation of a subject of study and its related contextual position. They can be produced following a form of research. A case study helps in bringing the understanding of a complex issue or object. It can extend experience or add strength to the existing knowledge through previous research. Their contextual analysis revolves around a limited number of events or conditions and how they relate. The case study has been used by researchers for a long time and has been applied in different disciplines. It has been widely used in social sciences as a qualitative research method to investigate contemporary real-life situations and has provided a foundation of application of ideas and extension of methods.

It has been defined as an empirical inquiry that examines a contemporary phenomenon within the context of its real life. However, some people have disagreed with this research method arguing that the study of a small number of cases does not offer enough ground to establish reliability or generality of findings. Others have argued that a case study is only used when applied as an exploratory tool, yet most researchers continue using it successfully in carefully planned studies that concern real-life situations, problems, and issues.

Case studies will more often than not appear in journals or professional conferences instead of popular works. A case study may be an individual, organization, action, event existing in a given time and place. For instance, there are case studies of individuals and clinical practices. When the term “case” is used in a claim, an argument, or a proposition; it can be the subject of a litany of research methods. A case study will involve quantitative and qualitative methods of research.

Researchers, on the other hand, are always spoilt for choice when they are determining the tools to use in dealing with their research question. This is because there is an array of both qualitative and quantitative research tools. They can be based on in-depth case studies or desk-based literature reviews. When using case study, the researcher will get an in-depth investigation of a phenomenon, individual, or an event. They help in investigating and understanding the underlying principles in an occurrence within a real-life context.

  • They are comprehensive Case studies enable a holistic review. A researcher can use a range of tools which he would otherwise not apply when using other stand-alone research techniques. This gives his time to develop an in-depth understanding of the topic and establish a credible platform to investigate the factors that affect a case study in extensive detail.
  • Case studies reduce bias They give room to the diversity of perspectives as opposed to when one is using a single view of a person you get with a survey response or an interview. It eliminates chances of potential bias by giving an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the subject under investigation. Lack of bias dilutes the agenda of a given individual.
  • Broad relevance One of the criticisms that case study method gets is that the findings cannot be generalized. However, when a case study is part of broader research can explore common problems in detail.
  • Permissions The identity of the research participants is crucial in painting a real picture of whatever that is taking place. Many researchers have found out that participants are more comfortable in situation s where they are sure that the identity will remain anonymous. However, this presents a challenge given the comprehensive nature of the study. In-depth case studies will require one to seek confirmation that the leading research participant agrees that the material is accurate and anonymous. This enables the confidence on the part of the researcher as well as the participant. Gaining permission can take quite some time and could culminate to additional restatements of the published research.
  • Time Case studies consume time. You have to plan for multiple interviews, waiting for the data to come in; coordinating focus groups can take quite a substantial, amount of time. For instance, if you are depending on a voluntary case study participant who is going on with his daily business, that might present a challenge. You can overcome these issues by offering incentives to your participants and then outline what you expect from each of them from the onset and sending deadline notifications in advance. This helps in receiving the data early enough.
  • Decide and define the research questions
  • Select your case studies and determine the techniques for data collection and analysis
  • Prepare to engage in data collection
  • Collect data in the field
  • Cary out data evaluation and analysis
  • Write your report

You have to decide on the questions you want to use in your research . They are a referral for the researcher as he seeks to provide answers to them. The researcher has to establish the focus of the student by coming up with questions that concern the problem or the situation being studied and to determine the purpose of the study. The case study here might involve a program, an entity, a person, or a group of people. Each object has a relationship that is connected to social, political, historical, and personal issues. This provides wide-ranging possibilities for questions and adds complexities to the case study.

The case study must answer questions that begin with “why” or “how.” These questions are directed to a limited number of events or conditions and their inter-relationships. One way that enables researchers to formulate these questions is by conducting a literature review. This allows them to establish what previous researchers found out, and they enable in formulating insightful questions necessary for the examination of the problem. Well defined questions from the onset direct one on where to get more evidence and also helps in determining analysis method for the study, The definition of case study purpose, the literature review and the early decision on the potential audience for the final report will help in providing guidance on how the study will be conducted and published.

The design phase of the case study research gives the researcher an opportunity to decide what the approach will be when it comes to selecting the single or multiple real-life cases for examination. It will also help in deciding the data gathering approaches and the instruments used. When working with multiple cases, each case is treated individually. The conclusion of the individual case can be used as information that contributes to the whole study.

Excellent case studies often select and carefully examine the existing choices in the research tools at disposal with the objective of raising the study validity. You can create boundaries when you do careful discrimination when you are carrying out the selection. One of the strengths of case study method is by the use of multiple techniques and sources in the process of gathering data. The researcher makes an early determination of the evidence he has to gather and the analysis method he will apply for him to answer the research questions. The data gathered may be largely qualitative but can also be quantitative. One can use surveys, interviews, observation, documentation review, or the collection of physical artifacts as tools of data collection. The researcher ought to distribute the data gathering tools systematically when collecting the evidence. The researcher must ensure that the research is constructed to achieve, internal validity, external validity, construct validity and reliability. This should be achieved during the design phase.

Case study often generates big amounts of data from multiple sources. As such, it is important to organize your data systematically to prevent cases of confusion or getting overwhelmed by the incoming data. This helps the researcher to maintain sight of the original research purpose and questions.

One can prepare databases to help in sorting, categorizing, storing, and retrieving data for analysis. Some of the best case studies carries out training for the researchers to establish clear protocols and procedures early enough before the fieldwork kicks off. They also conduct a pilot study well in advance to remove barriers and problems in the field. Once the training is done, the last step is to select a pilot site where each data gathering method is put to the test to uncover problem areas and correct them early.

The researcher must ensure that the evidence and the issue under investigation are have maintained their relationship. It is possible for the researcher to enter data into a database and physically store it. However, he has to document, classify, and cross-reference all evidence for it to be efficiently recalled for examination and sorting as the study continues.

The researcher must collect and store data comprehensively and systematically. This should be done in formats that are easy to reference and sort to enable him in identifying possible lines of inquiry. Successful case studies utilize field notes and databases in categorizing and referencing data, so that is it readily available for interpretation. Field notes take records of feelings, intuitive hunches; pose questions, document work in progress. Stories, testimonies, and illustrations are useful in later reports. Some techniques require the researcher to place information into arrays, matrices of categories, flow charts or other displays as well as tabulations of event frequency. If there is conflicting evidence, the researcher must probe the differences deeper and identify the source of conflict. The researcher must provide answers to the “how” and “why” research questions.

The researcher has to examine raw data using different interpretations. This enables him to draw linkages between the outcomes and the research object bearing in mind the research questions. The researcher must have an open mind during the data evaluation and analysis process. The researcher can strengthen the research findings and conclusion thanks to the multiple data collection methods and analysis techniques he had applied.

The kind of tactics used by the researcher during the analysis compels him to go beyond the initial impressions to improve chances of reliable and accurate findings.

  • Preparing the report

Excellent case studies interpret data in ways that they make it easy to understand a problem hitherto complex. It allows the reader to question and examine the study and arrive at an understanding that the researcher was independence. The written report aims to convey to the reader a simplified experience of the issue that was once complex. With case studies, the reader can access the information publicly in ways that may lead him to utilize the experience in his real-life situation.

The report can be written in a manner that handles each case on its separate chapter or giving it a chronological recounting. The researchers at times use the report writing process to do a critical examination of the document to identify ways through which the report might be incomplete. The researcher can use the representative audience to carry out a review and present comments on the same. The comments are the premise upon which the revisions of the documents are made. Sometimes it is recommended to have a journalist in the review audience whereas others argue that the participants should review the document. Those are the steps used in a case study research.

With case studies, the researcher will get a more concrete and unbiased understanding of a given complex situation. This is achieved using a range of search tools. With a real-life view, the research can give leeway for the recommendation of practical solutions to challenges. Case studies are important, and the challenges involved can be surmounted planning, background research and an informed selection of all the participants. If the case study approach works for you, utilize it.

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Why Are Case Studies Important? Top 4 Reasons

Updated February 2023: Has a boss or colleague ever asked you, “Why are case studies so important?” This is a question all SaaS marketers must be able to answer, especially when it comes time to create your marketing budget for the year.

SaaS case studies are the #1 marketing tactic to increase sales

The importance of a case study can’t be underestimated. For the second year in a row, SaaS marketers ranked case studies the #1 most effective marketing tactic to increase sales —ahead of general website content, SEO, blog posts, social media and other marketing tactics. 

Marketers rank case studies at #1 most important marketing tactic to increase sales

These metrics come from the 123 SaaS marketers we surveyed for our 2023 SaaS Case Studies Trends & Insights Report . (We’d encourage you to check out the report.)

Importance of a case study is undeniable

Why are case studies so important? What is the need and significance of a case study? Case studies are top-tier marketing tools for SaaS companies to showcase the value of their products to potential customers, helping to drive sales and revenue.

Customers are our best marketers. I love getting to know our customers through these stories, especially because documenting their successes helps advance their careers and gives more senior leaders the chance to celebrate their teams.

Megan Donaldson

Why are case studies important in marketing?

Case studies are essentially a play-by-play of how your customer recognized that they had a challenge they needed to overcome, why they chose you, what products or services you provided, and how those products or services helped them solve their challenge.

And what makes case studies even more valuable? They’re a great investment because case studies can be repurposed so heavily —everything from PDFs and videos to infographics to social.

In this post, we’ll demonstrate the importance of a case study in business and discuss the top 4 advantages of using case studies in your marketing mix.

Need a hand with writing case studies? We are a SaaS content marketing agency that specializes in writing case studies for companies like ClickUp, WalkMe and LeanData. Check out our case study writing services .

What are 4 advantages of case studies?

1. case studies demonstrate your expertise in your niche.

why case study is important for students

As a SaaS marketer, your job is to know how to produce a business case study in a way that makes your product or service stand out among your competitors.

Creating case studies is an effective way to capture the attention of buyers in your industry because the content—including the products, services and use cases covered in the piece—will be highly relevant to your target audience and will therefore have a strong chance of resonating with them.

If you’re still wondering, “Why are case studies important?”, then put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Say you’re evaluating several different customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. All three vendors have an eye-catching website with informative and clever product copy, but only one has a repository of case studies that illustrate how its clients have landed 50% more sales since they’ve implemented this particular CRM. Sounds like a winner to us (and it demonstrates case study importance)!

Case studies are important because our prospects want to see that we’ve helped customers who are in the same industry and have similar pain points. Reference calls are helpful, but it’s important to have stories that sales folks can share easily.  

Michelle Cloutier

2. Case studies provide social proof in an original way

why case study is important for students

What is the importance of a case study? Well, nearly 90% of consumers read product reviews before they make a purchase, which means gathering and publishing social proof is a crucial activity for your SaaS company.

Changing consumer behavior is another reason why case studies are important. Case studies give your readers what they’re looking for, which is confirmation from other B2B buyers just like them that your products and services are the real deal.

Another advantage of case studies is that by nature, they’re original stories about individuals with specific challenges and goals. Knowing how to write a case study that goes beyond generic product reviews is critical.

When writing a case study, dig deep into everything from how your team helps customers implement your software to what your customer’s future use cases could include. This type of content gives your prospect thorough insight into what it’s like to use your products and work with your company.

Case studies offer social proof for how we provide value to our customers. Our sales team uses our case studies to build credibility and offer “proof points” for why (and how) Crossbeam can solve their problems.

Jasmine Jenkins

3. Case studies help your SaaS company close sales

why case study is important for students

Let’s quickly recap the last 2 points:

1) Case studies capture your buyers’ attention with highly relevant content that positions your SaaS company as an expert in the products or services you deliver.

2) Case studies also build trust by sharing social proof in an interesting format that uses storytelling to weave a narrative. For those two reasons, case studies are fantastic content marketing tools to help you close sales. 

In addition, especially if your offerings are complex, it’s essential to help potential customers understand how your software will meet their needs. Case studies give you an opportunity to explain— with real-world examples and visual aids —the more complicated aspects of your products and services.

Case studies are important because they provide real-life examples of positive customer outcomes and sentiment—a critical part of gaining buy-in from prospects during a sales cycle.

Jake Sotir

4. Strengthen customer relationships

why case study is important for students

If you’re hesitant to ask your customers to participate in case studies, you’re not alone. It’s normal to feel like you might be imposing on a customer by asking them to take time out of their busy schedule for an interview, but chances are they’d be happy to help you craft a case study to illustrate your mutual success working together.

When it comes to the question, “Why are case studies important?”, one of the best answers is that they can help you strengthen customer relationships by letting your customers know you believe they have a valuable story. This gesture of goodwill can increase customer retention, which can in turn grow your SaaS company’s revenue by as much as 95% .

Case studies are important because they give you the opportunity to celebrate an existing customer, which in and of itself is of immense value. Secondarily, for both customers and prospects alike, they always prefer to “see someone like them” rather than just hear you spew what-ifs at them.

Patrick Clore

Need a hand with your case studies ?

Now that you understand why case studies are so important, it’s time to take action—and we can help.

As a SaaS content marketing agency , we write case studies for high-growth B2B SaaS companies like ClickUp, WalkMe and Okta. Check out our case study writing service then get in touch.

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As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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The HBCU Center

Hbcu students’ basic needs and capacity building: a multiple case study exploration.

Funded by the ECMC Foundation, the project “ HBCU Students’ Basic Needs and Capacity Building: A Multiple Case Study Exploration ” aids the HBCU Center’s mission to support a thriving HBCU ecosystem by developing research-informed strategies to better serve the holistic needs of students. According to Dahl and colleagues (2022), nearly two thirds of HBCU students experienced basic needs insecurity during the pandemic, and nearly half of these students faced food and housing insecurity within that year.

Guided by ECMC’s Foundation's mission to “improve higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation,” the purpose of this study is to conduct a multi-campus exploration focused on HBCU undergraduate students’ basic needs. This study explores campus policies, interventions, and practices that promote HBCU students’ holistic wellbeing.

The following are the the expected outcomes of this study:

- To identify today’s most pressing HBCU students’ basic needs

- To evaluate the infrastructure of HBCUs for serving their students’ basic needs.

- To build capacity across HBCUs through research-informed practices

- To ignite coalition among HBCUs committed to serving their students’ needs holistically

Other key aspects about this study include:

- The HBCUs targeted for this study are mostly residential, research-intensive, and bachelor’s degree granting. This study is seeking HBCUs with undergraduate enrollment of 25% or more of students who are Pell-grant recipients.

- Through individual interviews and focus groups, data will be collected from the following:

- Staff , particularly frontline staff (e.g., student affairs professionals)

- Faculty , particularly those who teach core/signature/general education courses

- Select senior administrations , including but not limited to vice president of student affairs and chief academic officer.

Efforts will rely on campus liaisons who will provide assistance on identifying participants who fit the criteria for this research. Campus liaisons will receive a one-time honorarium of $1,500 for their participation. If you wish to enlist your institution and/or serve as a campus liaison for this study, please contact the PI, Dr. Jorge Burmicky at [email protected]

IRB protocol #2024-1257: HBCU Students' Basic Needs and Capacity Building

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The case study approach

Sarah crowe.

1 Division of Primary Care, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Kathrin Cresswell

2 Centre for Population Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Ann Robertson

3 School of Health in Social Science, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Anthony Avery

Aziz sheikh.

The case study approach allows in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life settings. The value of the case study approach is well recognised in the fields of business, law and policy, but somewhat less so in health services research. Based on our experiences of conducting several health-related case studies, we reflect on the different types of case study design, the specific research questions this approach can help answer, the data sources that tend to be used, and the particular advantages and disadvantages of employing this methodological approach. The paper concludes with key pointers to aid those designing and appraising proposals for conducting case study research, and a checklist to help readers assess the quality of case study reports.

Introduction

The case study approach is particularly useful to employ when there is a need to obtain an in-depth appreciation of an issue, event or phenomenon of interest, in its natural real-life context. Our aim in writing this piece is to provide insights into when to consider employing this approach and an overview of key methodological considerations in relation to the design, planning, analysis, interpretation and reporting of case studies.

The illustrative 'grand round', 'case report' and 'case series' have a long tradition in clinical practice and research. Presenting detailed critiques, typically of one or more patients, aims to provide insights into aspects of the clinical case and, in doing so, illustrate broader lessons that may be learnt. In research, the conceptually-related case study approach can be used, for example, to describe in detail a patient's episode of care, explore professional attitudes to and experiences of a new policy initiative or service development or more generally to 'investigate contemporary phenomena within its real-life context' [ 1 ]. Based on our experiences of conducting a range of case studies, we reflect on when to consider using this approach, discuss the key steps involved and illustrate, with examples, some of the practical challenges of attaining an in-depth understanding of a 'case' as an integrated whole. In keeping with previously published work, we acknowledge the importance of theory to underpin the design, selection, conduct and interpretation of case studies[ 2 ]. In so doing, we make passing reference to the different epistemological approaches used in case study research by key theoreticians and methodologists in this field of enquiry.

This paper is structured around the following main questions: What is a case study? What are case studies used for? How are case studies conducted? What are the potential pitfalls and how can these be avoided? We draw in particular on four of our own recently published examples of case studies (see Tables ​ Tables1, 1 , ​ ,2, 2 , ​ ,3 3 and ​ and4) 4 ) and those of others to illustrate our discussion[ 3 - 7 ].

Example of a case study investigating the reasons for differences in recruitment rates of minority ethnic people in asthma research[ 3 ]

Example of a case study investigating the process of planning and implementing a service in Primary Care Organisations[ 4 ]

Example of a case study investigating the introduction of the electronic health records[ 5 ]

Example of a case study investigating the formal and informal ways students learn about patient safety[ 6 ]

What is a case study?

A case study is a research approach that is used to generate an in-depth, multi-faceted understanding of a complex issue in its real-life context. It is an established research design that is used extensively in a wide variety of disciplines, particularly in the social sciences. A case study can be defined in a variety of ways (Table ​ (Table5), 5 ), the central tenet being the need to explore an event or phenomenon in depth and in its natural context. It is for this reason sometimes referred to as a "naturalistic" design; this is in contrast to an "experimental" design (such as a randomised controlled trial) in which the investigator seeks to exert control over and manipulate the variable(s) of interest.

Definitions of a case study

Stake's work has been particularly influential in defining the case study approach to scientific enquiry. He has helpfully characterised three main types of case study: intrinsic , instrumental and collective [ 8 ]. An intrinsic case study is typically undertaken to learn about a unique phenomenon. The researcher should define the uniqueness of the phenomenon, which distinguishes it from all others. In contrast, the instrumental case study uses a particular case (some of which may be better than others) to gain a broader appreciation of an issue or phenomenon. The collective case study involves studying multiple cases simultaneously or sequentially in an attempt to generate a still broader appreciation of a particular issue.

These are however not necessarily mutually exclusive categories. In the first of our examples (Table ​ (Table1), 1 ), we undertook an intrinsic case study to investigate the issue of recruitment of minority ethnic people into the specific context of asthma research studies, but it developed into a instrumental case study through seeking to understand the issue of recruitment of these marginalised populations more generally, generating a number of the findings that are potentially transferable to other disease contexts[ 3 ]. In contrast, the other three examples (see Tables ​ Tables2, 2 , ​ ,3 3 and ​ and4) 4 ) employed collective case study designs to study the introduction of workforce reconfiguration in primary care, the implementation of electronic health records into hospitals, and to understand the ways in which healthcare students learn about patient safety considerations[ 4 - 6 ]. Although our study focusing on the introduction of General Practitioners with Specialist Interests (Table ​ (Table2) 2 ) was explicitly collective in design (four contrasting primary care organisations were studied), is was also instrumental in that this particular professional group was studied as an exemplar of the more general phenomenon of workforce redesign[ 4 ].

What are case studies used for?

According to Yin, case studies can be used to explain, describe or explore events or phenomena in the everyday contexts in which they occur[ 1 ]. These can, for example, help to understand and explain causal links and pathways resulting from a new policy initiative or service development (see Tables ​ Tables2 2 and ​ and3, 3 , for example)[ 1 ]. In contrast to experimental designs, which seek to test a specific hypothesis through deliberately manipulating the environment (like, for example, in a randomised controlled trial giving a new drug to randomly selected individuals and then comparing outcomes with controls),[ 9 ] the case study approach lends itself well to capturing information on more explanatory ' how ', 'what' and ' why ' questions, such as ' how is the intervention being implemented and received on the ground?'. The case study approach can offer additional insights into what gaps exist in its delivery or why one implementation strategy might be chosen over another. This in turn can help develop or refine theory, as shown in our study of the teaching of patient safety in undergraduate curricula (Table ​ (Table4 4 )[ 6 , 10 ]. Key questions to consider when selecting the most appropriate study design are whether it is desirable or indeed possible to undertake a formal experimental investigation in which individuals and/or organisations are allocated to an intervention or control arm? Or whether the wish is to obtain a more naturalistic understanding of an issue? The former is ideally studied using a controlled experimental design, whereas the latter is more appropriately studied using a case study design.

Case studies may be approached in different ways depending on the epistemological standpoint of the researcher, that is, whether they take a critical (questioning one's own and others' assumptions), interpretivist (trying to understand individual and shared social meanings) or positivist approach (orientating towards the criteria of natural sciences, such as focusing on generalisability considerations) (Table ​ (Table6). 6 ). Whilst such a schema can be conceptually helpful, it may be appropriate to draw on more than one approach in any case study, particularly in the context of conducting health services research. Doolin has, for example, noted that in the context of undertaking interpretative case studies, researchers can usefully draw on a critical, reflective perspective which seeks to take into account the wider social and political environment that has shaped the case[ 11 ].

Example of epistemological approaches that may be used in case study research

How are case studies conducted?

Here, we focus on the main stages of research activity when planning and undertaking a case study; the crucial stages are: defining the case; selecting the case(s); collecting and analysing the data; interpreting data; and reporting the findings.

Defining the case

Carefully formulated research question(s), informed by the existing literature and a prior appreciation of the theoretical issues and setting(s), are all important in appropriately and succinctly defining the case[ 8 , 12 ]. Crucially, each case should have a pre-defined boundary which clarifies the nature and time period covered by the case study (i.e. its scope, beginning and end), the relevant social group, organisation or geographical area of interest to the investigator, the types of evidence to be collected, and the priorities for data collection and analysis (see Table ​ Table7 7 )[ 1 ]. A theory driven approach to defining the case may help generate knowledge that is potentially transferable to a range of clinical contexts and behaviours; using theory is also likely to result in a more informed appreciation of, for example, how and why interventions have succeeded or failed[ 13 ].

Example of a checklist for rating a case study proposal[ 8 ]

For example, in our evaluation of the introduction of electronic health records in English hospitals (Table ​ (Table3), 3 ), we defined our cases as the NHS Trusts that were receiving the new technology[ 5 ]. Our focus was on how the technology was being implemented. However, if the primary research interest had been on the social and organisational dimensions of implementation, we might have defined our case differently as a grouping of healthcare professionals (e.g. doctors and/or nurses). The precise beginning and end of the case may however prove difficult to define. Pursuing this same example, when does the process of implementation and adoption of an electronic health record system really begin or end? Such judgements will inevitably be influenced by a range of factors, including the research question, theory of interest, the scope and richness of the gathered data and the resources available to the research team.

Selecting the case(s)

The decision on how to select the case(s) to study is a very important one that merits some reflection. In an intrinsic case study, the case is selected on its own merits[ 8 ]. The case is selected not because it is representative of other cases, but because of its uniqueness, which is of genuine interest to the researchers. This was, for example, the case in our study of the recruitment of minority ethnic participants into asthma research (Table ​ (Table1) 1 ) as our earlier work had demonstrated the marginalisation of minority ethnic people with asthma, despite evidence of disproportionate asthma morbidity[ 14 , 15 ]. In another example of an intrinsic case study, Hellstrom et al.[ 16 ] studied an elderly married couple living with dementia to explore how dementia had impacted on their understanding of home, their everyday life and their relationships.

For an instrumental case study, selecting a "typical" case can work well[ 8 ]. In contrast to the intrinsic case study, the particular case which is chosen is of less importance than selecting a case that allows the researcher to investigate an issue or phenomenon. For example, in order to gain an understanding of doctors' responses to health policy initiatives, Som undertook an instrumental case study interviewing clinicians who had a range of responsibilities for clinical governance in one NHS acute hospital trust[ 17 ]. Sampling a "deviant" or "atypical" case may however prove even more informative, potentially enabling the researcher to identify causal processes, generate hypotheses and develop theory.

In collective or multiple case studies, a number of cases are carefully selected. This offers the advantage of allowing comparisons to be made across several cases and/or replication. Choosing a "typical" case may enable the findings to be generalised to theory (i.e. analytical generalisation) or to test theory by replicating the findings in a second or even a third case (i.e. replication logic)[ 1 ]. Yin suggests two or three literal replications (i.e. predicting similar results) if the theory is straightforward and five or more if the theory is more subtle. However, critics might argue that selecting 'cases' in this way is insufficiently reflexive and ill-suited to the complexities of contemporary healthcare organisations.

The selected case study site(s) should allow the research team access to the group of individuals, the organisation, the processes or whatever else constitutes the chosen unit of analysis for the study. Access is therefore a central consideration; the researcher needs to come to know the case study site(s) well and to work cooperatively with them. Selected cases need to be not only interesting but also hospitable to the inquiry [ 8 ] if they are to be informative and answer the research question(s). Case study sites may also be pre-selected for the researcher, with decisions being influenced by key stakeholders. For example, our selection of case study sites in the evaluation of the implementation and adoption of electronic health record systems (see Table ​ Table3) 3 ) was heavily influenced by NHS Connecting for Health, the government agency that was responsible for overseeing the National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT)[ 5 ]. This prominent stakeholder had already selected the NHS sites (through a competitive bidding process) to be early adopters of the electronic health record systems and had negotiated contracts that detailed the deployment timelines.

It is also important to consider in advance the likely burden and risks associated with participation for those who (or the site(s) which) comprise the case study. Of particular importance is the obligation for the researcher to think through the ethical implications of the study (e.g. the risk of inadvertently breaching anonymity or confidentiality) and to ensure that potential participants/participating sites are provided with sufficient information to make an informed choice about joining the study. The outcome of providing this information might be that the emotive burden associated with participation, or the organisational disruption associated with supporting the fieldwork, is considered so high that the individuals or sites decide against participation.

In our example of evaluating implementations of electronic health record systems, given the restricted number of early adopter sites available to us, we sought purposively to select a diverse range of implementation cases among those that were available[ 5 ]. We chose a mixture of teaching, non-teaching and Foundation Trust hospitals, and examples of each of the three electronic health record systems procured centrally by the NPfIT. At one recruited site, it quickly became apparent that access was problematic because of competing demands on that organisation. Recognising the importance of full access and co-operative working for generating rich data, the research team decided not to pursue work at that site and instead to focus on other recruited sites.

Collecting the data

In order to develop a thorough understanding of the case, the case study approach usually involves the collection of multiple sources of evidence, using a range of quantitative (e.g. questionnaires, audits and analysis of routinely collected healthcare data) and more commonly qualitative techniques (e.g. interviews, focus groups and observations). The use of multiple sources of data (data triangulation) has been advocated as a way of increasing the internal validity of a study (i.e. the extent to which the method is appropriate to answer the research question)[ 8 , 18 - 21 ]. An underlying assumption is that data collected in different ways should lead to similar conclusions, and approaching the same issue from different angles can help develop a holistic picture of the phenomenon (Table ​ (Table2 2 )[ 4 ].

Brazier and colleagues used a mixed-methods case study approach to investigate the impact of a cancer care programme[ 22 ]. Here, quantitative measures were collected with questionnaires before, and five months after, the start of the intervention which did not yield any statistically significant results. Qualitative interviews with patients however helped provide an insight into potentially beneficial process-related aspects of the programme, such as greater, perceived patient involvement in care. The authors reported how this case study approach provided a number of contextual factors likely to influence the effectiveness of the intervention and which were not likely to have been obtained from quantitative methods alone.

In collective or multiple case studies, data collection needs to be flexible enough to allow a detailed description of each individual case to be developed (e.g. the nature of different cancer care programmes), before considering the emerging similarities and differences in cross-case comparisons (e.g. to explore why one programme is more effective than another). It is important that data sources from different cases are, where possible, broadly comparable for this purpose even though they may vary in nature and depth.

Analysing, interpreting and reporting case studies

Making sense and offering a coherent interpretation of the typically disparate sources of data (whether qualitative alone or together with quantitative) is far from straightforward. Repeated reviewing and sorting of the voluminous and detail-rich data are integral to the process of analysis. In collective case studies, it is helpful to analyse data relating to the individual component cases first, before making comparisons across cases. Attention needs to be paid to variations within each case and, where relevant, the relationship between different causes, effects and outcomes[ 23 ]. Data will need to be organised and coded to allow the key issues, both derived from the literature and emerging from the dataset, to be easily retrieved at a later stage. An initial coding frame can help capture these issues and can be applied systematically to the whole dataset with the aid of a qualitative data analysis software package.

The Framework approach is a practical approach, comprising of five stages (familiarisation; identifying a thematic framework; indexing; charting; mapping and interpretation) , to managing and analysing large datasets particularly if time is limited, as was the case in our study of recruitment of South Asians into asthma research (Table ​ (Table1 1 )[ 3 , 24 ]. Theoretical frameworks may also play an important role in integrating different sources of data and examining emerging themes. For example, we drew on a socio-technical framework to help explain the connections between different elements - technology; people; and the organisational settings within which they worked - in our study of the introduction of electronic health record systems (Table ​ (Table3 3 )[ 5 ]. Our study of patient safety in undergraduate curricula drew on an evaluation-based approach to design and analysis, which emphasised the importance of the academic, organisational and practice contexts through which students learn (Table ​ (Table4 4 )[ 6 ].

Case study findings can have implications both for theory development and theory testing. They may establish, strengthen or weaken historical explanations of a case and, in certain circumstances, allow theoretical (as opposed to statistical) generalisation beyond the particular cases studied[ 12 ]. These theoretical lenses should not, however, constitute a strait-jacket and the cases should not be "forced to fit" the particular theoretical framework that is being employed.

When reporting findings, it is important to provide the reader with enough contextual information to understand the processes that were followed and how the conclusions were reached. In a collective case study, researchers may choose to present the findings from individual cases separately before amalgamating across cases. Care must be taken to ensure the anonymity of both case sites and individual participants (if agreed in advance) by allocating appropriate codes or withholding descriptors. In the example given in Table ​ Table3, 3 , we decided against providing detailed information on the NHS sites and individual participants in order to avoid the risk of inadvertent disclosure of identities[ 5 , 25 ].

What are the potential pitfalls and how can these be avoided?

The case study approach is, as with all research, not without its limitations. When investigating the formal and informal ways undergraduate students learn about patient safety (Table ​ (Table4), 4 ), for example, we rapidly accumulated a large quantity of data. The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted on the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources. This highlights a more general point of the importance of avoiding the temptation to collect as much data as possible; adequate time also needs to be set aside for data analysis and interpretation of what are often highly complex datasets.

Case study research has sometimes been criticised for lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalisation (i.e. producing findings that may be transferable to other settings)[ 1 ]. There are several ways to address these concerns, including: the use of theoretical sampling (i.e. drawing on a particular conceptual framework); respondent validation (i.e. participants checking emerging findings and the researcher's interpretation, and providing an opinion as to whether they feel these are accurate); and transparency throughout the research process (see Table ​ Table8 8 )[ 8 , 18 - 21 , 23 , 26 ]. Transparency can be achieved by describing in detail the steps involved in case selection, data collection, the reasons for the particular methods chosen, and the researcher's background and level of involvement (i.e. being explicit about how the researcher has influenced data collection and interpretation). Seeking potential, alternative explanations, and being explicit about how interpretations and conclusions were reached, help readers to judge the trustworthiness of the case study report. Stake provides a critique checklist for a case study report (Table ​ (Table9 9 )[ 8 ].

Potential pitfalls and mitigating actions when undertaking case study research

Stake's checklist for assessing the quality of a case study report[ 8 ]

Conclusions

The case study approach allows, amongst other things, critical events, interventions, policy developments and programme-based service reforms to be studied in detail in a real-life context. It should therefore be considered when an experimental design is either inappropriate to answer the research questions posed or impossible to undertake. Considering the frequency with which implementations of innovations are now taking place in healthcare settings and how well the case study approach lends itself to in-depth, complex health service research, we believe this approach should be more widely considered by researchers. Though inherently challenging, the research case study can, if carefully conceptualised and thoughtfully undertaken and reported, yield powerful insights into many important aspects of health and healthcare delivery.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors' contributions

AS conceived this article. SC, KC and AR wrote this paper with GH, AA and AS all commenting on various drafts. SC and AS are guarantors.

Pre-publication history

The pre-publication history for this paper can be accessed here:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2288/11/100/prepub

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the participants and colleagues who contributed to the individual case studies that we have drawn on. This work received no direct funding, but it has been informed by projects funded by Asthma UK, the NHS Service Delivery Organisation, NHS Connecting for Health Evaluation Programme, and Patient Safety Research Portfolio. We would also like to thank the expert reviewers for their insightful and constructive feedback. Our thanks are also due to Dr. Allison Worth who commented on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

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K-12 students learned a lot last year, but they're still missing too much school

Cory Turner - Square

Cory Turner

Headshot of Sequoia Carrillo

Sequoia Carrillo

why case study is important for students

From 2022-2023, chronic absenteeism declined in 33 of the 39 states AEI looked at. But it was still a persistent problem: In a handful of places, including Nevada, Washington, D.C., Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon, roughly 1 in 3 students – or more – were chronically absent. LA Johnson/NPR hide caption

From 2022-2023, chronic absenteeism declined in 33 of the 39 states AEI looked at. But it was still a persistent problem: In a handful of places, including Nevada, Washington, D.C., Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon, roughly 1 in 3 students – or more – were chronically absent.

It's going to take aggressive interventions to repair the pandemic's destructive impact on kids' schooling.

That's the takeaway of two big new studies that look at how America's K-12 students are doing. There's some good news in this new research, to be sure – but there's still a lot of work to do on both student achievement and absenteeism. Here's what to know:

1. Students are starting to make up for missed learning

From spring 2022 to spring 2023, students made important learning gains, making up for about one-third of the learning they had missed in math and a quarter of the learning they had missed in reading during the pandemic.

That's according to the newly updated Education Recovery Scorecard , a co-production of Harvard University's Center for Education Policy Research and The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University.

6 things we've learned about how the pandemic disrupted learning

6 things we've learned about how the pandemic disrupted learning

The report says, "Students learned 117 percent in math and 108 percent in reading of what they would typically have learned in a pre-pandemic school year."

In an interview with NPR's All Things Considered , Stanford professor Sean Reardon said that's surprisingly good news: "A third or a quarter might not sound like a lot, but you have to realize the losses from 2019 to 2022 were historically large."

When the same team of researchers did a similar review last year, they found that, by spring of 2022, the average third- through eighth-grader had missed half a grade level in math and a third of a grade level in reading. So, the fact that students are now making up ground is a good sign.

These results do come with a few caveats, including that the researchers were only able to review data and draw their conclusions from 30 states this year.

2. Despite that progress, very few states are back to pre-pandemic learning levels

The Harvard and Stanford study of student learning includes one sobering sentence: "Alabama is the only state where average student achievement exceeds pre-pandemic levels in math." And average achievement in reading has surpassed pre-pandemic levels in just three of the states they studied: Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. Every other state for which they had data has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels in math and reading.

"Many schools made strong gains last year, but most districts are still working hard just to reach pre-pandemic achievement levels," said Harvard's Thomas Kane, one of the learning study's co-authors.

3. Chronic absenteeism also improved in many places ... slightly

The rate of chronic absenteeism – the percentage of students who miss 10% or more of a school year – declined from 2022 to 2023. That's according to research by Nat Malkus at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He found chronic absenteeism declined in 33 of the 39 states he studied.

Yes, "the differences were relatively small," Malkus writes, but it's improvement nonetheless: "the average chronic absenteeism rate across these states in 2023 was 26 percent, down from 28 percent for the same 39 states in 2022."

Glass half-full: Things aren't getting worse.

4. But, again, chronic absenteeism is still high

Malkus found chronic absenteeism was at 26% in 2023. Before the pandemic, in 2019, those same states reported a rate of 15%. That adds some painful context to the "good news" two-point decline in absenteeism from 2022 to 2023. Sure, it's down, but it's still so much higher than it was and should be.

Think of it this way: In 2023, roughly 1 student out of 4 was still chronically absent across the school year.

In a handful of places, including Nevada, Washington, D.C., Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon, roughly 1 in 3 students – or more – were chronically absent. That's a crisis.

Research shows a strong connection between absenteeism and all kinds of negative consequences for students, including an increased likelihood of dropping out of school.

Chronic absenteeism also hurts the students who don't miss school. That's because, as the learning study's authors point out, when absent students return, they require extra attention and "make it hard for teachers to keep the whole class moving."

5. Poverty matters (as always)

Both the learning and the chronic absenteeism studies capture the headwinds that constantly buffet children in poverty.

"No one wants poor children to foot the bill for the pandemic," said Harvard's Kane, "but that is the path that most states are on."

On learning: Reardon told NPR "the pandemic really exacerbated inequality between students in high-poverty and low-poverty districts and students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds."

In 2023, students' academic recovery was relatively strong across groups, which is good – but it means "the inequality that was widened during the pandemic hasn't gotten smaller, and in some places it's actually gotten larger," Reardon told NPR.

In fact, the report says, "in most states, achievement gaps between rich and poor districts are even wider now than they were before the pandemic." The learning study singles out Massachusetts and Michigan as the states where those gaps in math and reading achievement widened the most between poor and non-poor students.

Similarly, Malkus, at AEI, found that, between 2019 and 2022, rates of chronic absenteeism rose much more in high-poverty districts (up from 20% to 37%) than in low-poverty districts (up from 12% to 23%).

"Chronic absenteeism has increased the most for disadvantaged students," Malkus writes, "those who also experienced the greatest learning losses during the pandemic and can least afford the harms that come with chronic absenteeism."

6. Families must play an important role in learning recovery

Both studies acknowledge that families must play an important role in helping students – and schools – find a healthy, post-pandemic normal. The problem is, surveys show parents and guardians often underestimate the pandemic's toll on their children's learning . "Parents cannot advocate effectively for their children's future if they are misinformed," says the learning study.

To combat this, the learning researchers propose that districts be required to inform parents if their child is below grade-level in math or English. Those parents could then enroll their students in summer learning, tutoring and after-school programs, all of which have benefitted from federal COVID relief dollars. That funding is set to expire this fall, and some of these learning recovery opportunities may dry up, so the clock is ticking.

7. There's a "culture problem" around chronic absenteeism

Reducing chronic absenteeism, Malkus says, will also depend on families.

"This is a culture problem," Malkus tells NPR. "And in schools and in communities, culture eats policy for breakfast every day."

By "culture problem," Malkus is talking about how families perceive the importance of daily attendance relative to other challenges in their lives. He says some parents seem more inclined now to let their students miss school for various reasons, perhaps not realizing the links between absenteeism and negative, downstream consequences.

"Look, the patterns and routines of going to school were disrupted and to some degree eroded during the pandemic," Malkus says. "And I don't think we've had a decisive turn back that we need to have, to turn this kind of behavior around, and it's going to stay with students until that culture changes."

How do you do that? Malkus points to some low-cost options — like texting or email campaigns to increase parental involvement and encourage kids to get back in school – but says these, alone, aren't "up to the scale of what we're facing now."

Higher-cost options for schools to consider could include door-knocking campaigns, sending staff on student home-visits and requiring that families of chronically absent students meet in-person with school staff.

The learning study goes one step further: "Elected officials, employers, and community leaders should launch public awareness campaigns and other initiatives to lower student absenteeism." Because, after all, students can't make up for the learning they missed during the pandemic if they don't consistently attend school now.

What both of these studies make clear is there is no one solution that will solve these problems, and success will require further investment, aggressive intervention and patience.

Malkus says, even the high-cost, high-return options will likely only drive down chronic absenteeism by about four percentage points. A big win, he says, "but four percentage points against 26% isn't going to get us where we need to go."

Edited by: Nicole Cohen Visual design and development by: LA Johnson and Aly Hurt

Black History Month: What is it and why is it important?

Black History Month - A visitor at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories. Image:  Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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why case study is important for students

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Stay up to date:, economic progress.

This article was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated .

  • A continued engagement with history is vital as it helps give context for the present.
  • Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement.
  • This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts.

February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change. Here's what to know about Black History Month and how to celebrate it this year:

Have you read?

Black history month: key events in a decade of black lives matter, here are 4 ways businesses can celebrate black history month, how did black history month begin.

Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history." This historian helped establish the field of African American studies and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History , aimed to encourage " people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the Black experience ".

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” ― Carter G. Woodson

His organization was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and is currently the oldest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.

Why is Black History Month in February?

February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery. Woodson also understood that members of the Black community already celebrated the births of Douglass and Lincoln and sought to build on existing traditions. "He was asking the public to extend their study of Black history, not to create a new tradition", as the ASALH explained on its website.

How did Black History Month become a national month of celebration?

By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil-rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week was celebrated by mayors in cities across the country. Eventually, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month. In his speech, President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month and its mission. But it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that many in the country began to observe it formally. The law aimed to make all Americans "aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity".

Why is Black History Month celebrated?

Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans' contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative.

Now, it's seen as a celebration of those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements. In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with Black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight Black leaders and accomplishments.

What is this year's Black History Month theme?

Every year, a theme is chosen by the ASALH, the group originally founded by Woodson. This year's theme, African Americans and the Arts .

"In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount," the website says.

Is Black History Month celebrated anywhere else?

In Canada, they celebrate it in February. In countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ireland, they celebrate it in October. In Canada, African-Canadian parliament member Jean Augustine motioned for Black History Month in 1995 to bring awareness to Black Canadians' work.

When the UK started celebrating Black History Month in 1987, it focused on Black American history. Over time there has been more attention on Black British history. Now it is dedicated to honouring African people's contributions to the country. Its UK mission statement is: "Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger".

Why is Black History Month important?

For many modern Black millennials, the month-long celebration for Black History Month offers an opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead. But for many, the forces that drove Woodson nearly a century ago are more relevant than ever. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the opening of the Washington D.C.'s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honouring our struggle and ancestors by remembering".

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Key influences on university students’ physical activity: a systematic review using the Theoretical Domains Framework and the COM-B model of human behaviour

  • Catherine E. B. Brown 1 ,
  • Karyn Richardson 1 ,
  • Bengianni Halil-Pizzirani 1 ,
  • Lou Atkins 2 ,
  • Murat Yücel 3   na1 &
  • Rebecca A. Segrave 1   na1  

BMC Public Health volume  24 , Article number:  418 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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Metrics details

Physical activity is important for all aspects of health, yet most university students are not active enough to reap these benefits. Understanding the factors that influence physical activity in the context of behaviour change theory is valuable to inform the development of effective evidence-based interventions to increase university students’ physical activity. The current systematic review a) identified barriers and facilitators to university students’ physical activity, b) mapped these factors to the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) and COM-B model, and c) ranked the relative importance of TDF domains.

Data synthesis included qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research published between 01.01.2010—15.03.2023. Four databases (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, and Scopus) were searched to identify publications on the barriers/facilitators to university students' physical activity. Data regarding study design and key findings (i.e., participant quotes, qualitative theme descriptions, and survey results) were extracted. Framework analysis was used to code barriers/facilitators to the TDF and COM-B model. Within each TDF domain, thematic analysis was used to group similar barriers/facilitators into descriptive theme labels. TDF domains were ranked by relative importance based on frequency, elaboration, and evidence of mixed barriers/facilitators.

Thirty-nine studies involving 17,771 participants met the inclusion criteria. Fifty-six barriers and facilitators mapping to twelve TDF domains and the COM-B model were identified as relevant to students’ physical activity. Three TDF domains, environmental context and resources (e.g., time constraints), social influences (e.g., exercising with others), and goals (e.g., prioritisation of physical activity) were judged to be of greatest relative importance (identified in > 50% of studies). TDF domains of lower relative importance were intentions, reinforcement, emotion, beliefs about consequences, knowledge, physical skills, beliefs about capabilities, cognitive and interpersonal skills, social/professional role and identity, and behavioural regulation. No barriers/facilitators relating to the TDF domains of memory, attention and decision process, or optimism were identified.

Conclusions

The current findings provide a foundation to enhance the development of theory and evidence informed interventions to support university students’ engagement in physical activity. Interventions that include a focus on the TDF domains 'environmental context and resources,' 'social influences,' and 'goals,' hold particular promise for promoting active student lifestyles.

Trial registration

Prospero ID—CRD42021242170.

Peer Review reports

Physical activity (PA) has a powerful positive impact on all aspects of health. Regular PA can prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases [ 1 , 2 ], build resilience against the development of mental illness [ 3 ], and attenuate cognitive decline [ 4 ]. Given these pervasive health benefits, increasing participation in PA is recognised as a global priority by international public health organisations. Indeed, a core aspect of the World Health Organisation’s action plan for a “healthier world” is to achieve a 15% reduction in the global prevalence of physical inactivity by 2030 [ 5 ].

Despite international efforts to reduce physical inactivity, university students frequently do not meet the recommended level of PA required to attain its health benefits. Approximately 40–50% of university students are physically inactive [ 6 ], many of whom attribute their inactivity to unique challenges associated with university life. For many students, the transition to university coincides with new academic, social, financial, and personal responsibilities [ 7 ], disrupting established routines and imposing additional barriers to the initiation or maintenance of healthy lifestyle habits such as regular PA [ 8 ]. Students’ PA tends to decline further during periods of high stress and academic pressure, such as exams and assignment deadlines [ 9 ]. This pattern has been observed across diverse university populations and cultural contexts [ 10 , 11 , 12 ], highlighting the importance of understanding the factors that contribute to physical inactivity among this cohort globally.

Understanding the barriers and facilitators to PA in the context of the university setting is an important step in developing effective, targeted interventions to promote active lifestyles among university students. A recently published systematic review found that lack of time, motivation, access to places to practice PA, and financial resources were primary barriers to PA for undergraduate university students [ 13 ]. A corresponding and complementary synthesis of the facilitators of PA, however, has not yet been conducted. Such a synthesis would be valuable in enabling a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence students' PA and identifying facilitators that could be leveraged in intervention design. Furthermore, applying theoretical frameworks to understand barriers and facilitators to PA can guide the development of theory-informed, evidence-based interventions for university students that purposely and effectively target factors that influence their participation in PA.

The Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) [ 14 , 15 , 16 ] and the COM-B model of behaviour [ 17 ] are two robust, gold-standard frameworks frequently used to examine the determinants of human behaviour. The TDF is an integrated framework of 14 theoretical domains (see Additional file 1 for domains, definitions, and constructs) which provide a comprehensive understanding of the key factors driving behaviour. The TDF was developed through expert consensus, synthesising 33 psychological theories (such as social cognitive theory [ 18 , 19 ] and the theory of planned behaviour [ 20 , 21 ] and 128 theoretical constructs (such as ‘competence’, ‘goal priority’, etc.) across disciplines identified as most relevant to the implementation of behaviour change interventions. Identifying the relative importance of theoretical domains allows intervention designers to triage which behaviour change strategies should be prioritised in intervention development [ 22 , 23 ]. The TDF has been widely applied by researchers and practitioners to systematically identify which theoretical domains are most relevant for understanding health behaviour change and policy implementation across a range of contexts, including education [ 24 ], healthcare [ 25 ], and workplace environments [ 26 ].

The 14 TDF domains map onto the COM-B model (Fig.  1 ), which is a broader framework for understanding behaviour and provides a direct link to intervention development frameworks. The COM-B model posits that no behaviour will occur without sufficient capability, opportunity, and motivation. Where any of these are lacking, they can be strategically targeted to support increased engagement in a desired behaviour, including participation in PA. Within the COM-B model, capability can be psychological (e.g., knowledge to engage in the necessary processes) or physical (e.g., physical skills); opportunity can be social (e.g., interpersonal influences) or physical (e.g., environmental resources); and motivation can be automatic (e.g., emotional reactions, habits) or reflective (e.g., intentions, beliefs). The COM-B model was developed through a process of theoretical analysis, empirical evidence, and expert consensus as a central part of a broader framework for developing behaviour change interventions known as the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) [ 17 ].

figure 1

The TDF domains linked to the COM-B model subcomponents

Note. Reproduced from Atkins, L., Francis, J., Islam, R., et al. (2017) A guide to using the Theoretical Domains Framework of behaviour change to investigate implementation problems. Implementation Science 12, 77.  https://doi.org/10.1186/s13012-017-0605-9

Using the TDF and COM-B model to understand the barriers and facilitators to university students’ participation in PA is valuable to inform the development of effective evidence-based interventions that are tailored to address the most influential determinants of behaviour change. As such, this systematic review aimed to: a) identify barriers and facilitators to university students’ participation in PA; b) map these factors using the TDF and COM-B model; and c) determine the relative importance of each TDF domain.

Study design

The systematic review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) [ 27 ]. The review protocol was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42021242170).

Search strategy

Search terms and parameters were developed in collaboration with a Monash University librarian with expertise in systematic review methodology. The following databases were searched on 15.03.2023 to identify relevant literature: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and SPORTDiscus. Key articles were also selected for citation searching via Scopus. In consultation with a librarian, these databases were selected due to their unique scope, relevance, broad coverage, and utility. This process ensured the identified literature aligned with the aim and research topic of our systematic review. A 01.01.2010—15.03.2023 publication period was purposefully specified to account for the significant advancements in digital fitness support and tracking tools within the past decade [ 28 ], All available records were searched using the following combination of concepts in the title or abstract of the article: 1) barriers, facilitators, or intervention, Footnote 1 2) physical activity, 3) university, and 4) students. Each search concept was created by first developing a list of search terms relevant to each concept (e.g., for the ‘physical activity’ concept search terms included ‘physical exercise’, ‘physical fitness’, ‘sports’, ‘inactive’, ‘sedentary’, etc.). To create each concept, search terms were then searched collectively using the operator ‘OR’. Each search concept was then combined into the final search by using the operator ‘AND’. Search terms related to concepts 1, 2 and 3 included indexed terms unique and relevant to each database (i.e., Medical Subject Heading Terms for MEDLINE, Index Terms for PsycINFO, and Thesaurus terms for SPORTDiscus). The search was performed according to Boolean operators (e.g., AND, OR) (see Additional file 2 for the complete search syntax for MEDLINE). Unpublished studies were not sought.

Selection criteria

Articles were included if they: (a) reported university students’ self-reported barriers and/or facilitators to physical activity or exercise Footnote 2 ; (b) were written in English; and (c) were peer-reviewed journal articles. Articles encompassed studies directly investigating barriers and/or facilitators to students’ participation in PA and physical exercise intervention studies, where the latter reported participants’ self-reported barriers and/or facilitators to intervention adherence (see Table  1 below for full criteria).

Study selection

Identified articles were uploaded to EndNote X9 software [ 30 ]. A duplication detection tool was used to detect duplicates, which were then screened for accuracy by CB prior to removal. The remaining articles were uploaded to Covidence to enable blind screening and conflict resolution. Articles were screened at the title and abstract level against the inclusion and exclusion criteria by author CB, and 25% were independently screened by BP. The full text of studies meeting the inclusion criteria was then screened against the same criteria by CB, and 25% were again independently screened by BP. Differences were resolved by an independent author (KR). Inter-rater agreement in screening between CB and BP was high (0.96 for title and abstract screening, 0.83 for full-text screening). The decision to dual-screen 25% of studies was strategically chosen to balance thoroughness with efficiency, ensuring both the validity of the screening criteria and the reliability of the primary screener’s decisions. This approach aligns with the protocols used in similar systematic reviews in the field (e.g., [ 31 , 32 ]).

Data extraction

Key article characteristics were extracted, including the author/s, year of publication, country of origin, participant characteristics (e.g., enrolment status, exercise engagement [if reported]), sample size, research design, methods, and analytical approach. Barriers and facilitators were also extracted for each article and subsequently coded according to the 14 domains of the TDF and six subcomponents of the COM-B model. Quantitative data were only extracted if ≥ 50% of students endorsed a factor as a barrier or facilitator. This cut-off criterion was applied to maintain focus on the most common variables of influence and aligns with other reviews synthesising common barriers and facilitators to behaviour change (e.g., [ 26 , 33 ]).

A coding manual was developed to guide the process of mapping barriers and facilitators to the TDF and COM-B. All articles were independently coded by at least two authors (CB and BS, BP or KR). The first version of the manual was developed a priori, based on established guides for applying the TDF and COM-B model to investigate barriers and facilitators to behaviour [ 14 , 34 ], and updated as needed via regular consultation with a co-author and TDF/COM-B designer LA to ensure the accuracy of the data extraction. Barriers and facilitators were only coded to multiple TDF domains if deemed essential to accurately contextualise the core elements of the barrier/facilitator, and when the data in individual papers was described in sufficient detail to indicate that more than one domain was relevant. For example, if ‘lack of time due to competing priorities’ was reported as a barrier to PA, this encompassed both the ‘environmental context and resources’ (i.e., time) and ‘goals’ (i.e., competing priorities) domains of the TDF. Coding conflicts were resolved via discussion with LA.

Data analysis

The following three-step method was utilised to synthesise quantitative and qualitative data:

Framework analysis [ 35 ] was conducted to deductively code barriers and facilitators onto TDF domains and COM-B subcomponents. This involved identifying barriers and facilitators in each article, extracting and labelling them, and determining their relevance against the definitions of the TDF domains and COM-B subcomponents. This process involved creating tables to assist in the systematic categorisation of barriers and facilitators into relevant TDF domains and COM-B subcomponents.

Within each TDF domain, thematic analysis [ 36 ] was conducted to group similar barriers and facilitators together and inductively generate summary theme labels.

The relative importance of each TDF domain was calculated according to frequency (number of studies), elaboration (number of themes) and the identification of mixed barriers/facilitators regarding whether a theme was a barrier or facilitator within each domain (e.g., if some participants reported that receiving encouragement from their family to exercise was a facilitator, and others reported that lack of encouragement from their family to exercise was a barrier). The rank order was determined first by frequency, then elaboration, and finally by mixed barriers/facilitators.

This methodology follows previous studies using the TDF and COM-B to characterise barriers and facilitators to behaviour change and rank their relative importance [ 22 , 23 ].

Study characteristics

Following the removal of duplicates, 6,152 articles met the search criteria and were screened based on title and abstract. A total of 5,995 articles were excluded because they did not meet the inclusion criteria (see Fig.  2 below for the PRISMA flowchart). After the title and abstract screening, 157 full-text articles were retrieved and assessed for eligibility. One additional article was identified and included following citation searching of selected key articles. Thirty-nine articles met the inclusion criteria (see Additional file 3 for a summary of these studies). Eight studies were conducted in the USA, seven in Canada, three in Germany, two each in Qatar, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, and one each in Australia, Belgium, Columbia, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.

figure 2

PRISMA flowchart illustrating the article selection process

Relative importance of TDF domains and COM-B components

Twelve of the 14 TDF domains and all six subcomponents of the COM-B model were identified as relevant to university students' PA. The rank order of relative importance of TDF domains and associated COM-B subcomponents are presented in Table  2 . The three most important domains were identified in at least 54% of studies.

Barriers and facilitators to student’s physical activity

Within the TDF domains, 56 total themes were identified, including 26 mixed barriers/facilitators, 18 facilitators and 12 barriers (Table  3 ). The barriers and facilitators identified within each TDF domain are summarised below (with associated COM-B subcomponent presented in parentheses), in order of relative importance:

1. Environmental context and resources (Physical Opportunity) ( n  = 90% studies)

The most frequent barrier to PA across all TDF domains was ‘lack of time’, most often in the context of study demands. Time constraints were exacerbated by long commutes to university, family responsibilities, involvement in co-curricular activities, and employment commitments. Students’ need for ‘easily accessible exercise options, facilities and equipment’ was a recurring theme. PA was deemed inaccessible if exercise facilities and other infrastructure to support PA, such as bike paths and running trails, were situated too far from the university campus or students’ residences, or if fitness classes were scheduled at inconvenient times. ‘Financial costs’ emerged as a theme. The costs associated with accessing exercise facilities, equipment and programs consistently deterred students from engaging in PA. The desire for ‘safe and enjoyable’, ‘weather appropriate’ environments for PA were frequently reported. Participating in outdoor PA in green spaces or near water increased enjoyment, provided the environment felt safe and weather conditions were suitable for PA. Factors related to students’ home, work, and university environment impacted their participation in ‘incidental PA’. Incidental PA was influenced by whether students engaged in domestic house chores, and manual work, and actively commuted to university and between classes on-campus. Students’ ‘access to a variety of physical activities’ and ‘information provision regarding on-campus exercise options’ impacted their PA. Students most often had access to a wide variety of physical activities, however, it could be difficult to access information about what types of activities were available on-campus and how to sign up to participate. The ‘lack of personalised physical activities to cater to individual fitness needs’ was a barrier, particularly for students with low levels of PA who required beginner-oriented programs. Another barrier was the ‘lack of university policy and promotion to encourage PA’, which led students to perceive that there was no obligation to participate in PA and that the university did not value it. ‘Health-concerning behaviours associated with university’, including poor diet, increased alcohol intake and sedentary behaviour, negatively impacted students’ PA. ‘Listening to music while exercising’ was a facilitator.

2. Social influences (Social Opportunity) ( n  = 72% studies)

Within social influences, ‘exercising with others’ emerged as the most frequent theme. Doing so increased students’ accountability, enjoyment and motivation, and helped them to overcome feelings of intimidation when exercising alone. Having a lack of friends to exercise with was a particular concern for students who were new to exercise or infrequently participated in PA. Receiving ‘encouragement from others to be physically active’, such as family members, friends, peers, and fitness instructors, shaped students’ values toward PA and enhanced their motivation and self-efficacy. Students’ family members, friends and teachers discouraged PA if it was not valued, or in favour of other priorities, such as academic commitments. Another recurrent theme was ‘competition or relative comparison to others’. While most students were motivated by competition, a minority felt demotivated if they compared themselves to others with higher PA standards, especially if they failed to achieve similar PA goals. Sociocultural norms influenced barriers/facilitators to PA across different cultures, and between various groups, such as international versus domestic students, and women versus men. Students from Japan and Hawaii viewed PA as an important part of their culture, in contrast to students from the Philippines who described the opposite. Participation in PA enabled international students to integrate with domestic students and learn about the local culture, however cultural segregation was a barrier to participation in university team sports. For female students from some middle-eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, cultural norms made it impermissible for women to engage in PA, particularly compared to men. Religion also differentially impacted barriers/facilitators between women and men. Muslim women reported that Islamic practices, such as needing to engage in PA separately from men, be accompanied by a male family member while going outdoors, or dress modestly, posed additional barriers to PA. However, one study reported that Islamic teachings generally encouraged PA for both women and men by emphasising the importance of maintaining good health. Other gender-specific barriers were identified. Women often felt unwelcome or intimidated by men in exercise facilities, partly due to the perception that these facilities were tailored toward “masculine” sports and/or dominated by men. ‘Being stared at while engaging in PA’ was another barrier, impacting both women and students with a disability. A less common facilitator was the influence of both positive and negative ‘exercise role models’. For example, students practiced PA because they aspired to be like someone who was physically active, or because they did not want to be like someone who was not physically active.

3. Goals (Reflective Motivation) ( n  = 54%)

‘Prioritisation of PA compared to other activities’ was the most common theme within goals. Students frequently prioritised other activities, such as study, social activities, or work, over PA. However, those who played team sports or regularly practiced PA were more inclined to prioritise it for its recognised health benefits (i.e., stress management), and its role in enhancing confidence. Additional facilitators included ‘engaging in PA to achieve an external goal’, such as improving one’s appearance, and ‘setting specific PA-related goals’ as a means to enhance accountability.

4. Intentions (Reflective Motivation) ( n  = 44%)

Within intentions, ‘motivation to engage in PA’ was the most common theme. Students most often noted a lack of self-motivation for PA. Less frequent barriers included perceiving PA as an obligatory or necessary "chore", and ‘failing to follow through on intentions to engage in PA’. Conversely, ‘self-discipline to engage in PA’ emerged as a facilitator that assisted students in maintaining a regular PA routine.

5. Reinforcement (Automatic Motivation) ( n  = 38%)

The most frequent facilitator within reinforcement was ‘experiencing the positive effects of PA’ on their health and wellbeing. These included physical health benefits (i.e., maintaining fitness), psychological benefits (i.e., stress reduction), and cognitive health benefits (i.e., enhanced academic performance). Conversely, barriers arose from ‘experiencing discomfort during or after PA’ due to pain, muscle soreness or fatigue. ‘Past and current habits and routines’ was a theme. Students were more likely to participate in PA if they had established regular exercise routines, and that forming these habits at an early age made it easier to maintain them later in life. However, maintaining a regular PA routine was difficult in the context of inflexible university schedules. Students’ ‘sense of accomplishment in relation to PA’ was a theme. Students were less likely to feel a sense of accomplishment after participating in PA if it was not physically challenging. Consistent facilitators were ‘receiving positive feedback from others’ after engaging in PA, such as compliments, and ‘receiving incentives’, such as reducing the cost of gym memberships if students participated in more PA. ‘Experiencing a sense of achievement’ after reaching a PA-related goal or winning a sports match also served as a facilitator.

6. Emotion (Automatic Motivation) ( n  = 38%)

‘Enjoyment’ was the most frequently cited emotional theme. Most students reported that PA was fun and/or associated with positive feelings, however, a minority described PA as unenjoyable, boring, and repetitive. Students’ ‘poor mental health and negative affectivity’ (such as feeling sad, stressed or self-conscious, as well as fear of injury and pain), adversely impacted their motivation to be physically active.

7. Beliefs about consequences (Reflective Motivation) ( n  = 31%)

‘Beliefs about the physical health consequences of PA’ was the most recurrent barrier/facilitator. Most students understood that PA was essential for maintaining good health and preventing illness. However, some students who rarely or never engaged in PA believed they could delay pursuing an active lifestyle until they were older without compromising their health. Participating in PA to ‘maintain or improve one’s physical appearance’ acted as a facilitator. This motivation was most often cited in contexts such as increasing or decreasing weight, changing body shape or enhancing muscle tone. Beliefs about the positive environmental, occupational and psychological impacts of PA also served as facilitators. Students were motivated to participate in PA due to the environmental benefits of using active transport. They also acknowledged the importance of being physically fit for work and believed that being active was beneficial for mental health. ‘Receiving advice to participate in PA from a credible source’, such as a health professional, further facilitated students’ motivation to be active.

8. Knowledge (Psychological Capability) ( n  = 28%)

'Knowledge about the benefits of PA’, encompassing an understanding of the various types of benefits (i.e., physical, mental, or cognitive) and the biological mechanisms by which PA brings about these changes was identified as the most common knowledge theme. Being aware of these benefits positively influenced students’ motivation to be physically active. Conversely, students’ lack of knowledge about the gym environment and the programs available were barriers to PA. Regarding the gym environment, students’ ‘lack of knowledge about how to navigate through the gym, what exercises to do, and how to use exercise equipment’ amplified feelings of intimidation. Likewise, ‘lack of knowledge about the types of exercise programs and activities that were available on-campus, and how to sign up to participate’ were all barriers. A unique theme emerged concerning ‘knowledge about how to adapt physical activities for students with a disability’. Students with a disability described how fitness instructors often had a limited understanding of how to modify activities to enable them to participate. However, students with a disability were able to overcome this barrier if they possessed their own knowledge about how to tailor physical activities to meet their specific needs.

9. Physical skills (Physical Capability) ( n  = 21%)

The most prevalent theme within physical skills was ‘having the physical skills and fitness to participate in PA’. A lack of physical skills was most frequently a hindrance to PA. Additional obstacles to PA included being physically inhibited due to a ‘lack of energy’ or ‘physical injury’.

10. Beliefs about capabilities (Reflective Motivation) ( n  = 18%)

Within beliefs about capabilities, ‘self-efficacy to participate in PA’ was the most recurrent theme. Students who doubted their success in becoming physically active or who lacked confidence in their ability to initiate PA or participate in sport were less motivated to take part. A less frequent facilitator was students’ ‘self-affirmation to participate in PA’, often referring to positive cognitions about one’s own physical abilities.

11. Cognitive and interpersonal skills (Psychological Capability) ( n  = 15%)

‘Time-management’ was the only theme identified within cognitive and interpersonal skills. Students who struggled to manage their time effectively found it difficult to incorporate regular PA into their daily routine.

12. Social/professional role and identity (Reflective Motivation) ( n  = 8%)

The most frequent theme within social/professional role and identity was ‘perceiving PA as a part of one’s self-identity’. Students who engaged regularly in PA often considered it integral to their identity. Conversely, students who perceived they did not align with the aesthetic and superficial stereotypes commonly associated with the fitness industry felt less motivated to be active. A specific facilitator emerged among physiotherapy students, who were motivated to be active due to the emphasis on PA within their profession.

13. Behavioural regulation (Psychological Capability) ( n  = 3%)

Within the domain of behavioural regulation, two facilitators were equally prevalent: ‘self-monitoring of PA’ and ‘feedback on progress towards a PA-related goal’. By keeping track of their step count and receiving feedback on walking goals, students were motivated to exceed the average number of daily steps or achieve their personal PA targets.

14. Memory, attention, and decision process (Psychological Capability); Optimism (Reflective Motivation) ( n  = 0%)

No barriers or facilitators relating to the TDF domains of memory, attention and decision process, or optimism were identified.

This systematic review used the TDF and COM-B model to identify barriers and facilitators to PA among university students and rank the relative importance of each TDF domain. It is the first review to apply these frameworks in the context of increasing university students’ participation in PA. Twelve TDF domains across all six sub-components of the COM-B model were identified. The three most important TDF domains were ‘environmental context and resources’, ‘social influences’, and ‘goals’. The most common barriers and facilitators were ‘lack of time’, ‘easily accessible exercise options, facilities and equipment’, ‘exercising with others’, and ‘prioritisation of PA compared to other activities’.

The most common barrier to PA was perceived lack of time. This is consistent with previous findings among university students [ 13 , 74 ] and across other populations [ 24 ], For students, lack of time was frequently attributed to a combination of competing priorities and underdeveloped time management skills. Students predominantly prioritised study over PA, as performing well at university is a valued goal and there is a common perception that spending time exercising (at the expense of study) will impede their academic success [ 53 , 58 ]. Evidence from cognitive neuroscience research, however, suggests that this is a mistaken belief. In addition to its broad physical and mental health benefits, a growing body of evidence demonstrates regular PA can change the structure and function of the brain.

These changes can, in turn, enhance numerous aspects of cognition, including memory, attention, and processing speed [ 4 , 75 , 76 , 77 ], and buffer the negative impact of stress on cognition [ 78 ], all of which are important for academic success. However, students are typically unaware of the brain and cognitive health benefits of PA and its potential to improve academic performance, particularly compared to the physical health benefits [ 37 , 40 , 64 ]. Interventions that position participating in PA as a conduit for helping, rather than hindering, academic goals could increase the relative importance of PA to students and therefore increase their motivation to regularly engage in it. The impact that interventions of this nature have on students’ PA is yet to be empirically assessed.

Ineffective time management also contributed to students’ perceived lack of time for PA. Students reported tendencies to procrastinate in the face of overwhelming academic workloads, which left limited time for PA [ 53 ]. Additionally, students lacked an understanding of how to organise time for PA around academic timetables, social and family responsibilities, co-curricular activities, and employment commitments [ 9 , 44 , 53 , 59 ]. To address these challenges, efforts to develop students’ time management skills will be useful for enabling students to regularly participate in PA. Goal-setting and action planning are two specific examples of such skills that can be integrated into interventions to help students initiate and maintain a PA routine [ 79 ]. For example, goal-setting could involve setting a daily PA goal, and action planning could involve planning to engage in a particular PA at a particular time on certain days.

While the most common determinants of university students’ PA levels were not influenced by specific demographic characteristics, several barriers disproportionately impacted women and students with a disability. These findings are in keeping with evidence that PA is lower among these equity-deserving groups compared with the general population [ 68 , 80 ]. For women, particularly those from Middle Eastern cultures, restrictions were often tied to religious practices and sociocultural norms that limited their opportunities to engage in PA [ 45 , 48 , 66 ]. Additionally, a substantial number of women felt intimidated or self-conscious when exercising in front of others, especially men [ 48 , 49 ]. They also felt that exercise facilities were more often tailored towards the needs of men, leading to a perception that they were unwelcome in exercise communities [ 45 , 48 ]. Consequently, women expressed a desire for women-only spaces to exercise to help them overcome these gender-specific barriers to PA [ 47 , 48 , 66 ]. Furthermore, students with a disability faced physical accessibility barriers and perceived stigmatisation that deterred them from PA [ 50 , 52 ]. The lack of accessible exercise facilities and suitable equipment, programs, and education regarding how to adapt physical activities to accommodate their needs limited their opportunity and ability to participate [ 52 ]. Moreover, students with a disability felt stigmatised by others for not fitting into public perceptions of ‘normality’ or the aesthetic values and beauty standards often portrayed by the fitness industry [ 50 ]. These barriers for both equity-deserving groups of students are deeply rooted in historical stereotypes that have traditionally excluded women and people with a disability from engaging in various types of PA [ 81 , 82 ]. Despite growing awareness of these issues, PA inequalities persist due to narrow sociocultural norms, and a lack of diverse representation and inclusion in the fitness industry and associated marketing campaigns [ 83 , 84 ]. A concerted effort to address PA inequalities across the university sector and fitness industry more broadly is needed. One approach for achieving this is to develop interventions that are tailored to the unique needs of equity-deserving groups, emphasise inclusivity, diversity, and empowerment, and feature women and people with a disability being active.

The “This Girl Can” [ 85 ] and “Everyone Can” [ 86 ] multimedia campaigns are two examples of health behaviour interventions that were co-developed with key stakeholders (i.e., women and people with a disability, respectively) to tackle PA inequalities. The “This Girl Can” campaign has reached over 3 million women and girls, projecting inclusive and positive messages that aim to empower them to be physically active. Following the widespread reach of the “This Girl Can” campaign, the “Everybody Can” campaign was launched to support the inclusion of people with a disability in the PA sector. Although not tailored for university students, these campaigns provide a useful example for developing interventions that are specifically designed to address key barriers preventing women and people with a disability from participating in PA.

Across the tertiary education sector globally, efforts to elevate opportunities and motivation to include PA as a core part of the student experience will be beneficial for promoting students’ PA at scale. Two intervention approaches that can be implemented to facilitate such an endeavour are environmental restructuring and enablement [ 17 ]. These intervention approaches should involve the provision of accessible low-cost exercise options, facilities, and programs, integrating PA into the university curriculum, and mobilising student and staff leadership to encourage students’ participation in PA [ 9 ]. Although there is evidence that these approaches can be effective in promoting sustained PA throughout students’ university years and beyond [ 87 ], implementation measures such as these are complex. Implementation requires aligning student activity levels with broader university goals and is further complicated by having to compete with other funding priorities and resource allocations. Notably, due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on university students’ physical and mental health [ 88 , 89 ], the post-pandemic era has seen many universities prioritise enhancing student health and wellbeing alongside more traditional strategic goals like academic excellence and workforce readiness. Despite the potential for PA to be used as a vehicle for supporting these strategic goals there is an absence of data on the extent to which this is occurring in the university sector. The limited evidence in this area suggests that some universities have made efforts to support students’ mental health by referring students who access on-campus counselling services to PA programs [ 90 ]. However, the uptake and efficacy of such initiatives is rarely assessed, and even less is known about whether PA is being used to support other strategic goals, such as academic success. Therefore, while the potential is there for the university sector to use PA to support students’ mental health and academic performance, to be successful this needs to become a strategic university priority. Given that these strategic priorities are set at the senior leadership level, engaging senior university staff in intervention design and promotion efforts is important to enhance the value of PA in the tertiary education sector.

Implications for intervention development

The current findings provide a high-level synthesis of the most common barriers and facilitators to university students’ physical activity. These findings can be leveraged with behavioural intervention development tools and frameworks (e.g., the BCW [ 17 ], Obesity-Related Behavioural Intervention Trials model [ 91 ], Intervention Mapping [ 92 ], and the Medical Research Council guidelines for developing complex interventions [ 93 , 94 ]) to develop evidence-based interventions and policies to promote PA. Given that the TDF and COM-B model are directly linked to the BCW framework, applying this process may be particularly useful to translate the current findings into an intervention.

Additionally, current findings can be triangulated with data directly collected from key stakeholders to assist in the development of context-specific interventions. Best practice principles for developing behavioural interventions recommend this approach to ensure a deep understanding of the barriers and facilitators that need to be targeted to increase the likelihood of behaviour change [ 17 ]. Consulting stakeholders directly (i.e., university students and staff) to understand their perspectives on the barriers and facilitators to students’ PA also enables an intervention to be appropriately tailored to the target population’s needs and implementation setting. Studies continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, especially when framed within the context of frameworks directly linked to intervention development frameworks, such as the TDF [ 95 ].

Strengths and limitations

The findings of this review should be considered with respect to its methodological strengths and limitations. The credibility and reliability of the research findings are supported by a systematic approach to screening and analysing the empirical data, along with the use of gold-standard behavioural science frameworks to classify barriers and facilitators to PA. The inclusion of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies of both barriers and facilitators to students’ PA allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence students’ PA that have not previously been captured.

While the present review elucidates students’ own perspectives of the factors that influence their activity levels, other stakeholders such as university staff, will also influence the adoption, operationalisation, and scale of PA interventions in a university setting. It will be important for future research to explore factors that influence university decision-makers in these roles to inform large-scale strategies for promoting students' PA.

Additionally, only one study included in the review used the TDF to explore barriers and facilitators to PA [ 47 ]. Therefore, it is possible that certain TDF domains may not have been identified because students were not asked relevant questions to assess the influence of those domains on their PA. For instance, domains such as ‘memory, attention, and decision process’, and ‘optimism’ are likely to play a role in understanding the barriers and facilitators to PA despite not being identified in this review.

Moreover, quantitative data were only extracted if ≥ 50% of students endorsed the factor as a barrier or facilitator to PA. This threshold was purposefully applied to maintain a focus on the TDF domains most universally relevant to the broad student population in the context of understanding their barriers and facilitators to PA. It is possible that less frequently reported barriers and facilitators, which may not be as prominently featured in the results, could be relevant to specific groups of students, such as those identified as equity-deserving.

Lastly, a quality appraisal of the included studies was not undertaken. This decision was informed by the aim of the review, which was to describe and synthesise the literature to subsequently map data to the TDF and COM-B rather than assess the effectiveness of interventions or determine the strength of evidence. However, this decision, combined with dual screening 25% of the studies and excluding unpublished studies and grey literature, may introduce sources of error and bias, which should be considered when interpreting the results presented.

PA is an effective, scalable, and empowering means of enhancing physical, mental, and cognitive health. This approach could help students reach their academic potential and cope with the many stressors that accompany student life, in addition to setting a strong foundation for healthy exercise habits for a lifetime. As such, understanding the barriers and facilitators to an active student lifestyle is beneficial. This systematic review applied the TDF and COM-B model to identify and map students’ barriers and facilitators to PA and, in doing so, provides a pragmatic, theory-informed, and evidence-based foundation for designing future context-specific PA interventions. The findings from this review highlight the importance of developing PA interventions that focus on the TDF domains ‘environmental context and resources’, ‘social influences’, and ‘goals’, for which intervention approaches could involve environmental restructuring, education, and enablement. If successful, such strategies could make a significant contribution to improving the overall health and academic performance of university students.

Availability of data and materials

The review protocol is available on PROSPERO. The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study and materials used are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

The term ‘intervention’ was included to identify student barriers and facilitators to engaging in implemented physical activity interventions.

Physical exercise is defined as “a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive”, and purposefully focused on the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness, whereas physical activity is defined as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure” [ 96 ].

Abbreviations

Behaviour Change Wheel

Capability, Opportunity, Model-Behaviour

  • Physical activity

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews

Theoretical Domains Framework

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Acknowledgements

The authors extend their gratitude to the funder, the nib foundation, for its financial support, which was instrumental in facilitating this research. We are also indebted to the Wilson Foundation and the David Winston Turner Endowment Fund for their generous philanthropic contributions, which have supported the BrainPark research team and facility where this research was conducted. Special thanks are owed to the library staff at Monash University for their expertise in conducting systematic reviews, which helped inform the selection of databases and the development of the search strategy.

This research was supported by nib foundation. The nib foundation had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, and in writing the manuscript. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the nib foundation.

Author information

Murat Yücel and Rebecca A. Segrave share senior authorship.

Authors and Affiliations

BrainPark, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Catherine E. B. Brown, Karyn Richardson, Bengianni Halil-Pizzirani & Rebecca A. Segrave

Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London, London, UK

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Murat Yücel

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Contributions

CB, KR, BP, LA and RS developed the review protocol. CB and BP conducted the search and screened articles, and KR resolved conflicts. CB, KR, BP, LA and RS extracted the barriers and facilitators, mapped barriers and facilitators to the TDF and COM-B model, and interpreted the results. CB drafted the paper. All authors read, revised, and approved the submitted version.

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Correspondence to Catherine E. B. Brown .

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Theoretical Domains Framework domains, definitions, and constructs.

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Brown, C.E.B., Richardson, K., Halil-Pizzirani, B. et al. Key influences on university students’ physical activity: a systematic review using the Theoretical Domains Framework and the COM-B model of human behaviour. BMC Public Health 24 , 418 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-17621-4

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Received : 26 August 2023

Accepted : 30 December 2023

Published : 09 February 2024

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-17621-4

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