Survey Research Methodology and Case Study Methodology

Executive Summary

Case study and survey research are methodologies used in research. This paper explains the use of survey research methodology and case study methodology. It also explains the application of these types of methodologies and their suitability in different types of research e.g. micro-finance and women empowerment. It further looks at the disadvantages and advantages of using these methods.


A case study is frequently used in social science-based on an examination of single persons, events, or clusters. Case studies are used to investigate the cause of events and find the reasons behind these causes (Patton, 1980). The use of case studies in testing theories has grown only in the current decades. Case study method has gained fame especially in education.

Case study methodology stands out in making us understand a compound issue and can add meaning to a fact proved by initial research (Paris, 1988). Case studies highlight elements of events and situations and their associations (Chang, 1974). They respond to questions that start with “why” or “how”. These questions are aimed at a few conditions. In the case of women empowerment, case studies can be used to answer various questions: “Is there a need for women empowerment and why women should be empowered?” It may also be used to find out the role of women empowerment in society.

Those who do not approve of the case study method claim that studying cases in minute quantities does not provide grounds for determining the consistency or generality of results (Swisher & McClure, 1984).Some researchers feel that extreme display of the case studies may prejudice the results of the results( DuMont, 1975). They reject case study as a research instrument and claim that it is only important while used as an exploratory instrument.

The types of case studies used are Descriptive; which needs a descriptive hypothesis to be built before conducting the research, Explanatory; which is used for conducting fundamental investigations and Exploratory; which is at times regarded as a prologue to social research (Eisenhardt, 1989). Methods used in Case studies entail studying events over a long time (Yin, 1984). Case studies offer an efficient way of event examination, data collection data, analysis of information, and reporting of outcomes (Weiss & Bucuvala, 1980). The researcher may now be in a better position to tell what is needed in future research of the same kind. This is because case studies help the researcher have a clear understanding of the turn of events (Simons, 1980). While conducting case studies, the researcher is expected to use information-oriented sampling rather than random sampling.

Advantages and Disadvantages of using case study methodology

Case study exploits skills in solving problems (Lawson, 1971). This is an important aspect as problems are encountered every day; problems cannot be avoided and must therefore be dealt with. Case studies also permit the examination of solutions to these problems and the application of the skills acquired. They offer detailed reports of definite or rare circumstances and present a proper basis of hypotheses.

The disadvantages that come along with case-studies include the fact that case studies sometimes provide inadequate information which leads to results that are not suitable to the study (Goldhor, 1972). Case studies may result in the alteration of behavior by the specimen since the researcher comes to close contact with them. When the researcher goes to the field to conduct research using case study methodology, he has to interact with the respondents to get information. This might cause the respondents to alter their way of life thus not providing the adequate answers needed.

Case studies cannot obtain cause and effect associations or test theories. It is also impossible to simplify the results to large populations of people when using case studies. The researcher may be selective on whom to interview which may give inaccurate answers unlike in cases of survey methodology.

Survey Methodology

Survey methodology consists of measurement practices that entail asking respondents questions. This is especially used when the researcher needs to do a study on incidences that cannot be observed directly. Survey method is therefore the best method to be used when conducting research in microfinance. Various approaches and characteristics of different subjects of micro-finance can be surveyed. Surveys are either cross-sectional or longitudinal. Cross-sectional surveys collect information on different phenomena over a short period of time. They attempt to assess the association between the two aspects. Longitudinal surveys collect data over a long period of time. The researcher then evaluates the changes that have occurred over time and try to come up with a conclusion or explanation.

Surveys are further divided into questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires are usually answered by the respondents on paper (Taylor, 1967). It consists of questions that may be open-ended or closed. Questionnaires are not expensive instruments. They are duplicated into many copies and given to the respondents to fill them at their convenient time. However, all the questionnaires administered may not be answered and this may affect the results of the research. Questionnaires can also be administered in groups where respondents are gathered and react to the questions constructed. This is mainly done for convenience purposes. Clarification is often sought after in cases of uncertainty by the respondents. This method is often preferable in organizations as it is easy to bring together the various employees and administer the questionnaires. Micro-finance research is best done by use of the survey method.

Interviews on the other hand are answered by the researcher according to the answers provided by the respondent (Powell, 1985). The researcher works hand-in-hand with the respondent. Unlike with the questionnaires, the researcher can ask questions from the questions he intends to interview with. This leaves the researcher even more satisfied with the answers (Emory & Cooper, 1991). A lot of training is required for the interviewer especially on how to react to emergencies during the research. Interviews unlike questionnaires are very expensive and require a lot of dedication in terms of time.

Surveys are however criticized to be badly designed and governed. This results in inaccurate data which may not be reliably used. Surveys are always a success when constant methods of response are used. The questions should not be personal as this may provoke bad feelings and misunderstanding by the respondents (McClure & Hernon, 1991).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Survey method

Surveys can be able to extract information from large numbers. They include the forms and quantity of variables that may be studied. They are also very easy to formulate and administer. Surveys can provide information about different attitudes of people that cannot be presented using observation methods (Miles & Huberman, 1984). Surveys method also saves time and money when a few elements are to be studied.

In cases where an explanation of historical frameworks of the population is required, survey methods may not be the best method to be used. Cases of biasness may be evident in survey methods in cases where sufficient response is not provided by the respondent (Miller, 1986). The respondents may also choose to hide some information from the researcher which may result in inaccuracies. They may not be in a position to give full information about the events that occurred in the past. They may also not be in a position to rate their individual behaviors as expected by the respondent.


The case study and survey methods have been seen to have both advantages and disadvantages. It is where they are applicable in research that matters most (Stake, 1995). The case study has been identified to be the appropriate method for research on women empowerment while the survey method is appropriate in micro-finance studies.

The methodology of the case study has been inspected and criticized severally (Busha & Harter, 1980). The case study is only consistent when implemented with a lot of attention. Procedures to augment the reliability and validity of the case study as a methodology in research should be carried out.

Case studies are very important because they apply to real-life situations. They help us to solve our problems in society and help us understand the turn of events in our day-to-day life (Wholey, Hatry & Newcomer, 1994). This includes the experiences we encounter while running our daily activities. Women empowerment solutions for example can be well provided using case studies.

When the case study approach is handled well, it can be very beneficial in the preparations of various careers in management and also provides a platform to build skills in decision making to be able to counter challenges in the various occupations in the future. Survey methods are however accurate when it is accurate and there is a definite ratio representation of the phenomena under study. Randomization is therefore vital during sampling. Randomization provides an equal opportunity for participation by the respondents. Equal participation by the respondents will give accurate results. Stratification is also important to further ascertain that study is a definite representation of the phenomenon. Surveys only provide approximately for the existent population and not accurate measurements.


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