The modern case study is a pretty powerful weapon in the arsenal of SEO-rich online content. Increasingly, entities of all types are coming to realise the power of the case study for establishing authority in their specific field as well as improving their online reputations.
Yet there are also those that don’t really understand what the case study is all about. It is this latter group I will address in this post. Suffice to say there is more to writing a case study than many people know.
Below is a brief history of the case study dating back to the early nineteenth century, followed by an explanation of why that history is important.
The First Case Study
There is some debate over where the case study originated, but it is generally accepted that the methodology adopted for writing such studies originated with French economist, engineer, and sociologist Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play. He is believed to have created his method in 1829 to better examine statistical data and its relationship to family budgeting.
From Le Play’s methodology came the written documents we know today as case studies. Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists and others began using Le Play’s methods for testing their own theories and hypotheses before publishing the results. The popular Grounded Theory paper published by sociologists Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss is but one example of such work.
By the middle-to-late nineteenth century, case studies had become the norm as teaching tools for developing new theories and hypotheses. By the start of the twentieth century, industrialists began looking at using the case study to develop their own theories relating to efficiency, manufacturing, supply lines, and so forth.
Today, the case study is a document that is no longer confined to just developing theories and hypotheses. It is a document that also makes a case for a particular solution to a given problem. This is where it is most valuable as SEO-rich online content.
Why the History Is Important
Modern culture tends to not pay attention to history as much as we should. That’s a mistake in any area, including using case studies as online content. The history here is important because search engines and audiences still rely on case studies to offer a certain kind of information presented in a certain way.
The history of the case study shows it being a document laid out using strict methodology. It is not a hodgepodge of disconnected ideas. In other words, a case study begins by presenting the topic or challenge at hand. It then goes on to develop that topic with details, evidence, etc. It concludes by offering a solution or detailed explanation.
A case study developed without strict adherence to methodology tends to be more random and generic in its presentation. In the end, it is not truly a case study at all. It is merely an opinion piece that may or may not pertain to the topic being covered.
The history of the case study can tell us an awful lot about how this form of writing can and should be utilised in the twenty-first century. If you’re planning on writing a case study yourself, it might be helpful for you to do a little bit of research into the history of this form of writing before you begin.