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Tips for Writing College Case Studies

written by: Stephanie Torreno•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 6/22/2010

A case study provides a detailed analysis about a particular individual or a small group. While case studies can be written for various courses, psychological case studies present information about human behavior and mental health treatment. Read this article about writing college case studies.

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    Writing College Case Studies

    A case study is an in-depth presentation of information about a real or imagined individual or small group and can include accounts of the subjects themselves. Case studies are used in academics for qualitative descriptive research and naturalistic inquiry, explaining the answers to “how?" and “why?" questions. Emphasizing exploration and description, a case study closely examines an individual or small group and draws conclusions only about that individual or group and only in the context being examined. A case study is the interaction of variables to provide as much of an understanding of an individual or situation as possible.

    Case studies can be written for business, education, and human sciences courses. In an undergraduate psychology course, for example, you may be asked to write a case study involving a client seeking psychotherapy. The client may be yourself, someone you know, or a character from a book or television show. If you are writing about someone you know, be sure not to reveal his or her identity. Although you should check with your professor for the assignment guidelines, you can use the following format and tips when writing college case studies for psychology courses.

    • Begin with a case history, or the individual’s background, including gender, age, health status, family and social relationships, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills.
    • Describe the client’s condition or physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms. Any thoughts, perceptions, and related feelings should be noted, too. Available diagnostic assessments that are used, as well as screening and test scores, should be reported and detailed.
    • In the next section of your study, give a diagnosis. Be sure to offer an explanation of how you reached your diagnosis, how and why the client’s symptoms meet the disorder (or disorders) diagnostic criteria, and any difficulties you had in reaching a diagnosis.

    In the following sections of your study, focus on how the client would respond to the three main types of therapy, which are:

    1. Psychoanalytic Approach – which includes traditional or modern styles of psychoanalysis, or psychodynamic therapy. Provide background on this approach and cite relevant references. Describe what the client would talk about or do in treatment, what the therapist is like, and how the client would respond to the therapist and the treatment.
    2. Cognitive-Behavioral Approach – which includes cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, or a combination of both. Discuss background information on this approach and describe how a cognitive-behavioral therapist would provide treatment. Provide details of therapy sessions, client response, and treatment outcomes.
    3. Humanistic Approach – including existential, gestalt, Zen, or another humanistic approach. Offer a type of treatment that could be used to treat the client. Provide information on the type you select, the client’s response, and an explanation of why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.

    When writing college case studies for psychology courses, use the client’s name instead of referring to him or her as “the client." If he or she is a real person, make up a name to protect the identity. Also remember to cite references in your case study using APA format and style.


    Cherry, K. (n.d.). How to write a psychology case study. Retrieved June 18, 2010, from

    Suler, J. (n.d). A psychotherapy case study. Retrieved June 18, 2010, from