Comparative case studies

Comparative case studies can be useful to check variation in program implementation. 

Comparative case studies are another way of checking if results match the program theory. Each context and environment is different. The comparative case study can help the evaluator check whether the program theory holds for each different context and environment. If implementation differs, the reasons and results can be recorded. The opposite is also true, similar patterns across sites can increase the confidence in results.


Evaluators used a comparative case study method for the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP). The aim of this program was to expand cancer research and deliver the latest, most advanced cancer care to a greater number of Americans in the communities in which they live via community hospitals.

The evaluation examined each of the program components (listed below) at each program site. The six program components were:

  • increasing capacity to collect biospecimens per NCI’s best practices;
  • enhancing clinical trials (CT) research;
  • reducing disparities across the cancer continuum;
  • improving the use of information technology (IT) and electronic medical records (EMRs) to support improvements in research and care delivery;
  • improving quality of cancer care and related areas, such as the development of integrated, multidisciplinary care teams; and
  • placing greater emphasis on survivorship and palliative care.

The evaluators use of this method assisted in providing recommendations at the program level as well as to each specific program site.

Advice for choosing this method

  • Consider the cases to be examined. For example:
    • Compare cases with the same outcome but differences in an intervention (known as MDD, most different design)
    • Compare cases with the same intervention but differences in outcomes (known as MSD, most similar design)

Advice for using this method

  • Consider the variables of each case, and which cases can be matched for comparison.
  • Provide the evaluator with as much detail and background on each case as possible. Provide advice on possible criteria for matching.

National Cancer Institute, (2007). NCI Community Cancer Centers Program Evaluation (NCCCP). Retrieved from website:

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