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II-d: Using case-studies and case-based design in Evaluation

Part of
Session Two
July 16 - 17
Recommended for
Comissioners, Evaluators, Management


I do case studies. You do case studies. We all do case studies, or likely will! The case study is probably the most used but least understood of our evaluation methods. Case studies have the capacity to generate robust evidence to answer critical evaluation questions. This is important in the face of the complexity in which many development interventions operate today. This workshop is about doing case studies with rigor.

First, we briefly review the history of case study and understand the formal definition of case study. Participants learn about the various types of case studies and their potential uses in an evaluation. They select the right approach depending on the evaluation question and the level of analysis at play. We cover both single and multiple case studies.

Next, participants learn how to properly design a case-based approach. We review the various steps of case-based design, including: developing the theory of change, choosing the right unit of analysis (the “case”); determining the boundaries of the case (“casing”); developing robust selection criteria; selecting the right data collection tools; developing a comparative approach (when relevant), and elaborating a rich, yet parsimonious case protocol. We learn about the three key sources of evidence and key analytic techniques.

Through real-world examples, we introduce more advanced topics related to case-based analysis and their related analytic techniques: nested case studies; comparative case analysis, and the use of computer assisted content analysis software in case study evaluation.

Finally, participants learn what makes an exemplary case study and address the issue of generalizability of findings from case studies.

The workshop provides many exercises and applications for hands-on learning. We find out how good we are at observation, for example, and we practice content analysis.

Please note that this workshop is NOT about developing the teaching case study!


The participants

  • Know the potential uses and applicability of case studies in the development evaluation;
  • Are able to select the most appropriate case-based design to answer specific evaluation questions;
  • Can apply the fundamental principles of case study design;
  • Can use case study analytic techniques and determine the strength of the evidence;
  • Gain awareness of more advanced case-based designs and their relationship with theory-based evaluation;

Can apply criteria for judging the quality of case studies.

recommended for

This workshop is suitable for evaluators and project officers who manage evaluations and others with responsibility for designing or commissioning evaluations. It is suitable for those from public, private, and NGO sectors.


This is an intermediate or mid-level workshop. Participants should have core fundamentals in evaluation. For example, this workshop assumes participants have some familiarity with theory-based evaluation and only covers its applicability to case studies.


Participants should have attended the IPDET Core Course or equivalent Training.