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Case Study

  1. Patricia A. Duff

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0121

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Duff, P. A. 2012. Case Study. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


Case study is a very common and important approach to research in applied linguistics and many other academic and professional fields. Case studies are frequently qualitative and interpretive, but they can also be combined with, or can include, quantitative analyses and other approaches to knowledge generation. Case studies generally involve rich contextualization and a deep, inductive analysis of data from a small set of participants, sites, or events in order to understand aspects of language learning or use. Sometimes the focus of study is the knowledge, performance, or perspectives of a single individual, such as a language learner or teacher. Other types of case study may focus less on the individuals involved and more on a single speech event, activity, institution, policy, country, or scenario in which particular language issues figure prominently and are the focus of analysis. Regardless of what constitutes the case (a person, site, or situation), by definition, one or more single bounded units are selected for study because of their complexity, the types of interactions among their constituent parts, or how the cases relate to existing knowledge or theories about the way language operates in the world. The cases may confirm, disconfirm, complicate, illustrate, describe, explain, or extend existing knowledge in a variety of ways and drawing on a variety of epistemologies and theoretical and methodological frameworks. Despite the range in types and purposes of case studies, one commonality is that they provide concrete instances of a phenomenon of interest.


  • bilingualism;
  • qualitative research methods;
  • research methods in applied linguistics;
  • second language acquisition;
  • identity;
  • multilingualism;
  • sociocultural language studies