Approaching a case study

Case studies apply theory to practice. When approaching a case study assignment, focus on relating information from the literature to the main issues in the case. A case study narrows the focus to a particular organisation, or a specific sector, with definite needs and issues. By focusing on the IT environment of one business you can concentrate on applying your knowledge and analysis to issues in the particular case and then support your ideas with relevant evidence from the literature. Your lecturer expects you to demonstrate your skills in order to analyse the case study, apply the relevant theories and communicate your reasoning in the required format.

Why do we use real cases and where do cases come from?

Case study assignments involve a response to real life situations, since working with real problems is crucial for future IT professionals. The case at the centre of the assignment may have been formulated by the lecturer or taken from the real world.

Cases from lecturersCases from text books or journal articlesCases from the web
Cases formulated by the lecturer replicate real experience as closely as possible.
Here is an example.
Take special note of the role of the IT professional in this example

The Journal of cases on information technology is available through the library

Deloitte website offers several real world cases of innovation in information technology.

How do I analyse the case study?

The tasks required for a case study based assignment in various units may differ but you may be asked to do one or more of the following:

  • Examine a case in order to understand what has happened and why
  • Analyse a case in relation to theoretical tools or models from your course
  • Identify problems described in the case and suggest solutions

Always check assignment requirements to make sure you understand what is expected of you for a case study.  Case study based assignments are written in either a report or essay format (check this in your assignment requirements). The aims of the writing are typically to identify the major problems/issues that exist, to apply relevant theories, and in some assignments, to suggest potential solutions to these problems/issues.

Important questions to guide your case study analysis
What issues/problems emerge from this case? What does this mean for this case? How can models be applied to this case? What theories are relevant to this case?
What realistic solutions can solve the problems in this case? How might solutions be implemented in this case?

Three elements in a case study assignment

One of the most challenging tasks in writing the case study is to connect the theory to your analysis and also to the case facts.  There is an interrelationship between the case information, your analysis of the case, and the literature/theories from your course. It is important to weave together these three elements in your assignment response so that theory is integrated with practice.

Three elements in a case study assignment

Example of integration of theory

At MoneyTrust, the high level IT maintenance practices that were previously managed internally were assigned to the company providing the Cloud software. Not all security features were installed for casual staff many security features were overwritten during updates made by the external company responsible for making updates in the Cloud. Treloar (2012) suggests applying more stringent security strategies, especially those related to passwords and software updates; for example, ensuring all security features for all users are reviewed for each software update in the Cloud.

(Blue text indicates where issues from the case have been identified by the student; Black text indicates where the student has brought in facts from the case to support the issues that have been identified;Green text indicates where theory is being connected to the case)

See more of this example of integrating theory See an IT student's case study

How do I find the information I need?

It is important to find, select and evaluate quality academic sources in your assignment.

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