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:
- 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.