Case History vs. Case Study

What's the Difference?

Case history and case study are both research methods used in various fields such as psychology, medicine, and social sciences. However, they differ in their approach and purpose. A case history is a detailed account of an individual's personal and medical background, including their symptoms, medical history, and treatment. It is often used in medical settings to understand the progression of a disease or to inform treatment decisions. On the other hand, a case study is a comprehensive analysis of a particular case or phenomenon, often involving multiple individuals or groups. It aims to explore and understand complex issues, behaviors, or events in a specific context. While case histories focus on an individual's unique experiences, case studies provide a broader perspective and can be used to draw generalizable conclusions.


AttributeCase HistoryCase Study
DefinitionA record of past events, experiences, or treatments related to a specific case or individual.An in-depth analysis and examination of a particular case or situation, often used in research or academic settings.
PurposeTo provide a comprehensive overview of a case's background, medical history, and treatment progression.To investigate and understand a specific case or situation, often to derive generalizable knowledge or insights.
FocusPrimarily on the individual case and its unique characteristics.On the broader context, patterns, and generalizability of findings.
Data CollectionRelies on existing records, interviews, observations, and medical tests related to the case.May involve interviews, surveys, observations, experiments, or analysis of existing data.
Sample SizeUsually involves a single case or a small number of cases.Can involve a single case or a larger sample size, depending on the research design.
Time FrameCan cover a short or long period, depending on the case's history and relevance.Varies depending on the research objectives, but can span from a few weeks to several years.
AnalysisFocuses on understanding the case's unique characteristics, patterns, and treatment outcomes.Emphasizes identifying themes, trends, and generalizable findings across cases.

Further Detail


When it comes to conducting research and analysis in various fields, two commonly used methods are case history and case study. Both approaches involve in-depth examination and investigation of a particular subject or individual. However, there are distinct differences between the two methods in terms of their objectives, scope, and data collection techniques. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of case history and case study, shedding light on their unique characteristics and applications.

Definition and Objectives

Case history refers to the detailed record of an individual's personal, medical, or psychological background. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the subject's life, including their experiences, behaviors, and relevant events. Case history is often used in medical and psychological research to understand the development and progression of a particular condition or disorder.

On the other hand, a case study is an in-depth analysis of a specific phenomenon, event, or group. It involves examining a particular case or cases to gain insights into broader patterns or theories. The primary objective of a case study is to explore and understand complex issues, often within a specific context or setting. Case studies are commonly used in social sciences, business, and education research.

Data Collection

When it comes to data collection, case history primarily relies on retrospective information. Researchers gather data by reviewing existing records, such as medical charts, personal diaries, or interviews with the subject or their close associates. The emphasis is on reconstructing the subject's past and understanding the factors that have influenced their current situation.

In contrast, case study researchers collect data through various methods, including interviews, observations, surveys, and document analysis. The data collection process is often more extensive and involves multiple sources to provide a comprehensive understanding of the case under investigation. Researchers may also employ a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques to gather and analyze data.

Scope and Generalizability

Case history typically focuses on a single individual or a small group of individuals with similar characteristics or conditions. The scope is narrow, aiming to provide an in-depth understanding of the specific case. Due to the limited sample size and specificity, the generalizability of case history findings to a broader population is often limited.

On the other hand, case studies often aim for broader generalizability. They explore patterns, theories, or phenomena within a specific context, aiming to provide insights that can be applied to similar cases or situations. Case studies often involve multiple cases or a larger sample size, allowing for more robust conclusions and generalizability of findings.

Analysis and Interpretation

In case history, the analysis and interpretation of data primarily focus on the individual case. Researchers aim to identify patterns, triggers, or factors that have influenced the subject's life or condition. The analysis often involves a detailed examination of the subject's personal history, behaviors, and experiences to understand the underlying causes or mechanisms.

Case study analysis, on the other hand, involves a broader perspective. Researchers aim to identify common themes, trends, or theories that emerge from the analysis of multiple cases. The interpretation of data often involves comparing and contrasting different cases to identify similarities, differences, or underlying principles.


Case history is commonly used in medical and psychological research to understand the development, progression, and treatment of specific conditions or disorders. It provides valuable insights into individual experiences and helps inform clinical decision-making. Case history is also utilized in legal settings, where it can provide crucial background information for legal proceedings.

Case studies, on the other hand, have a wide range of applications across various disciplines. In social sciences, case studies are used to explore complex social phenomena, such as organizational behavior, cultural dynamics, or political processes. In business and management, case studies are often employed to analyze real-world challenges, develop strategies, and inform decision-making. Case studies are also widely used in education research to examine teaching methods, student learning outcomes, and educational policies.


While both case history and case study involve in-depth examination and analysis, they differ in terms of their objectives, scope, and data collection techniques. Case history focuses on the detailed record of an individual's personal, medical, or psychological background, aiming to understand the factors that have influenced their current situation. On the other hand, case study involves the analysis of a specific phenomenon, event, or group, aiming to explore broader patterns or theories within a specific context. Understanding the attributes and applications of these research methods is crucial for researchers and practitioners across various fields.

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