The Study of the Case: Conceptualising Case Study Research


  • This article is an edited version of a previously published paper: Radley, A., & Chamberlain, K. (2001). Health psychology and the study of the case: From method to analytic concern. Social Science & Medicine, 53, 321–332.

Alan Radley, Social Sciences, Loughborough University, Ashby Road, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK.



This paper recommends that the study of the case be seen as of primary analytic concern to social and community psychologists. Criticism is made of the idea that a case is merely an instance or a methodological option. Instead, we argue that psychologists should re-direct their attention to the ‘study of the case’ as being central to issues concerning social life. There are three reasons for doing this. First, case study is basic to any procedure that involves collecting information about the context in which psychology is practised. Second, communication between professionals involves presenting the situation of their clients as storied accounts, so that cases are made, not found. Third, the communication of experience involves presentational work, which is basic to how individuals come to be understood as ‘cases’. The paper explores differences between these different forms of case, while emphasising portrayal as a key feature of all of them. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.