Developing the DESCARTE Model: The Design of Case Study Research in Health Care

Qual Health Res. 2016 Apr;26(5):626-39. doi: 10.1177/1049732315602488. Epub 2015 Sep 3.


Case study is a long-established research tradition which predates the recent surge in mixed-methods research. Although a myriad of nuanced definitions of case study exist, seminal case study authors agree that the use of multiple data sources typify this research approach. The expansive case study literature demonstrates a lack of clarity and guidance in designing and reporting this approach to research. Informed by two reviews of the current health care literature, we posit that methodological description in case studies principally focuses on description of case study typology, which impedes the construction of methodologically clear and rigorous case studies. We draw from the case study and mixed-methods literature to develop the DESCARTE model as an innovative approach to the design, conduct, and reporting of case studies in health care. We examine how case study fits within the overall enterprise of qualitatively driven mixed-methods research, and the potential strengths of the model are considered.

Keywords: case studies; health care; methodology; mixed-methods; qualitative; research design.

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design*