IV-b Using Case-Studies and Case-Based Design in Program Evaluation

Description of workshop contents

Case studies have been a fundamental part of many evaluations of development interventions for decades, yet there is still much debate in the evaluation community about the use of case studies and their capacity to generate robust evidence to answer critical evaluation questions. At the same time, there has been much methodological innovation in what is now called “case-based” evaluation approaches over the past ten years. In this workshop, both the fundamentals and some more advanced topics of using case studies for evaluation will be studied.

First, the history of case study will briefly be overviewed and the formal definition of case study. Participants will learn about the various potential uses of case studies in evaluation, and how to select the right approach depending on the evaluation question and the level of analysis at play. Both single and multiple case studies will be reviewed.

Second, participants will learn how to properly design a case-based approach. The various steps of case-based design will be introduced, including: 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.

Third, through real-world examples, participants will be introduced to more advanced topics related to case-based analysis and their related analytic techniques, including: nested case studies; comparative case analysis, and the use of Computer assisted content analysis software in case study evaluation.

Fourth, participants will learn how to judge the quality of case study design and the validity of the evidence stemming from the case, including the generalizability of findings stemming from case studies.

The workshop provides many exercises and applications for hands-on learning.

Workshop Objectives

After completing this workshop, the participant:

  • Understands the potential use and applicability of case studies in the evaluation of development interventions.
  • Selects the most appropriate case-based design to answer specific evaluation questions.
  • Understands and can apply the fundamental principles of case study design, including the identification of the case (“casing”), selection of cases, selection of data collection methods, and preparation of data collection and analysis.
  • Is aware of more advanced case-based designs and their articulation with theory-based evaluation.
  • Understands and can apply criteria for judging the quality case studies.

Recommended for

Evaluators, Project Officers, and others with responsibility for designing evaluations from NGOs, Ministries/Public Administration Institutions, bi- and multilateral development partners, Think Tanks, Universities, consultants, etc.


Covers fundamentals of case study design but goes beyond this to introduce the more advanced topics of case-based design and their related analytic techniques.


Participants should have core fundamentals in evaluation.


Linda Morra Imas
Nancy Gikandi
Donna Andrews