Topics for Psychology Case Studies

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At some point in one of your psychology classes, you might be asked to write a case study of an individual. What exactly is a case study? It is essentially an in-depth psychological investigation of a single person or group of people. Case study topics often focus on people who are experiencing symptoms of an illness or on people who have had experiences that cannot be replicated in a lab.

What Should Your Case Study Be About?

The format of your case study might vary depending upon the requirements of the assignment and your instructor's expectations, but most include a detailed background of the individual, a description of the problem the person is facing, a diagnosis, and a description of an intervention using one or more therapeutic approaches.

Of course, the first step in writing a case study is to select a subject. In some cases, you might be allowed to conduct a case study on an actual volunteer or on someone you know such as a friend or family member. In other cases, your instructor might prefer that you select a less personal subject such as an individual from history or a famous literary figure.

Psychology Case Study Ideas

Looking for a good subject for your case study? Here are just a few ideas that might inspire you:

Write About a Famous Psychologist

Famous or exceptional individuals can make excellent case study topics. There are plenty of fascinating figures in the history of psychology who would make for an interesting case study.

Sigmund Freud, Harry Harlow, Erik Erikson, B. F. Skinner, and many other famous thinkers led interesting lives that offer plenty of material for a great case study. Examining their upbringing, experiences, and lives can provide insight into how they developed their theories and approached the study of psychology.

Focus on a Famous Patient in Psychology

Some of the most famous people in psychology sometimes aren't psychologists at all. Instead, the patients, clients, and cases studied by psychologists might prove even more interesting. Think of people like Anna O., Phineas Gage, and Genie. Other individuals you might want to consider include Kitty Genovese, Little Albert, and David Reimer.

By taking a closer look at the lives of these patients, you can gain greater insight into their experiences. It can also be interesting to see how mental health treatments were different in the past compared to those that might have been used today.

Write About a Famous Historical Figure

Other famous historical figures can also make excellent case study topics. Eleanor Roosevelt, Napoleon, Adolf Hilter, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and many other famous (and infamous) people could potentially serve as a subject for your case study. Obviously, this will involve some reading and research on your chosen subject's life and accomplishments, but it could certainly make for an interesting paper.

Focus on a Fictional Character or a Famous Literary Figure

Another fun and interesting approach is to conduct a case study of one of your favorite fictional characters. You might opt to tackle a classic character such as Shakespeare's Macbeth or Romeo or Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet or Fitzwilliam Darcy. Or instead, you might opt to focus on a more contemporary literary character such as Suzanne Collins's Katniss Everdeen or J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.

Write About Someone You Know

In some cases, your instructor may allow you to write your case study on a person that you know. Such a project may, however, require special permission from your school's Institutional Review Board. You may also be required or simply prefer to use a pseudonym in order to protect the identity and privacy of your subject. This type of project often requires interviewing your subject and possibly talking to other sources who know the subject such as friends and family members. 

A Word From Verywell

As you can see, there are plenty of great options out there when selecting a subject for your case study. First and foremost, always start by paying attention to the directions given by your instructor. In many cases, there will be specific guidelines about whom and what you are allowed to write about. Talk about your case study topic idea with your instructor before you begin to make sure that you have permission to proceed with your project.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.