Altern Ther Health Med. 1998 Mar; 4(2): 44-52.
The case study as a scientific method for researching alternative therapies.
Saybrook Graduate School, San Francisco, Calif., USA.
This article argues that the case study design is a research method capable of providing valuable data and insight into alternative therapies. The background and roots of the case study in medicine and clinical practice are covered, and the status of the case study as a scientific method is examined. The highly regarded randomized controlled clinical trial--though often powerful and useful--is neither feasible nor ideal for understanding the effects of many unconventional treatment approaches. Given the complexity of the factors involved in unconventional therapeutic applications--health beliefs, changing health paradigms, patient/practitioner interactions, multiple treatment modalities, multiple symptom profiles--the case study approach offers an alternative methodological route for investigating and generating findings in this arena. Reliability and validity of data collection, data reduction, and interpretation can be enhanced through steps discussed in this article. As it continues to work with evidence that is currently unorganized, the field of alternative medicine can benefit both in clinical prowess and scientific stature from additional, carefully conducted case studies.