Writing a case study

Writing a case study

Text Version

Writing a case study

There are two different approaches to case studies:

Type 1:  The analytical approach

The case study is examined in order to try and understand what has happened and why.  It is not necessary to identify problems or suggest solutions.

Type 2:  The problem-oriented method

The case study is analysed to identify the major problems that exist and to suggest solutions to these problems.

This QuickRef focuses on Type 2: The problem-oriented method

(Always check with your lecturer to confirm which type is required.)

A successful case study analyses a real-life situation where existing problems need to be solved. It should:

  • Relate the theory to a practical situation; for example, apply the ideas and knowledge discussed in the coursework to the practical situation at hand in the case study.
  • Identify the problems.
  • Select the major problems in the case.
  • Suggest solutions to these major problems.
  • Recommend the best solution to be implemented.
  • Detail how this solution should be implemented.
Note: The Case is the "real life" situation
          The Case Study is the analysis of this situation

Writing a Case Study

There are usually eight sections in a case study:

Synopsis/Executive Summary

  • Outline the purpose of the case study.
  • Describe the field of research – this is usually an overview of the company.
  • Outline the issues and findings of the case study without the specific details.
  • Identify the theory that will be used.
  • Here, the reader should be able to get a clear picture of the essential contents of the study.
  • Note any assumptions made (you may not have all the information you'd like so some assumptions may be necessary eg: "It has been assumed that…",  "Assuming that it takes half an hour to read one document…").


  • Identify the problems found in the case.  Each analysis of a problem should be supported by facts given in the case together with the relevant theory and course concepts. Here, it is important to search for the underlying problems; for example, cross-cultural conflict may be only a symptom of the underlying problem of inadequate policies and practices within the company.
  • This section is often divided into sub-sections, one for each problem.


  • Summarise the major problem/s.
  • Identify alternative solutions to this/these major problem/s (there is likely to be more than one solution per problem).
  • Briefly outline each alternative solution and then evaluate it in terms of its advantages and disadvantages.
  • There is no need to refer to theory or coursework here.


  • Sum up the main points from the findings and discussion.


  • Choose which of the alternative solutions should be adopted.
  • Briefly justify your choice explaining how it will solve the major problem/s.
  • This should be written in a forceful style as this section is intended to be persuasive.
  • Here integration of theory and coursework is appropriate.


  • Explain what should be done, by whom and by when.
  • If appropriate include a rough estimate of costs (both financial and time).


  • Make sure all references are cited correctly.

Appendices (if any)

  • Attach any original data that relates to the study but which would have interrupted the flow of the main body.