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Guide to Writing Case Studies

Case studies come in many different types. There are two primary settings where a case study may be required. These are in academic and business situations. The process for writing case studies in business – e.g. to fit specific types of circumstances, for documenting categories or locations of products and services and/or for budgetary purposes – are well defined. This article, however, looks at how case studies are used in academic circles.

Anyone who knows how to write a case study knows that this is a process used to evaluate performance in various research and other fields of study and in the cases of scientific or naturalistic investigations. The primary activity behind most case studies is investigative work. This suggests the person undertaking the study must investigate, test, examine, observe and produce a written report about a given process and the findings.

Usually, case studies have a specific purpose, which may be to test knowledge in a particular field. They can also serve to prepare students for the type of events they may encounter after their education is complete and they embark on a career. A case study prepares people in education for a later career in factory, office, school, hospital, courtroom and other environments where investigative processes may be required.

The Steps Involved in Case Study Writing

  1. You must devise a meticulous plan once the time, process, location or situation has been agreed on. What are you going to examine or observe? Who will do the work and for what time period will they do it?
  2. The vocabulary and language you use when writing a case study (and in the preliminary plan) should be clear and unambiguous. The language and terminology used must exactly match that used in the situation or setting being studied or investigated.
  3. Develop a questionnaire to help you make a decision on what data should be collected, what data is relevant to the investigation and how this data should be analyzed when gathered.
  4. These questions in your case study template should take into account any proposals that will result from the study. Choose a suitable unit of calculation for the study e.g. analog, digital, metric, etc. Make a decision on how any calculations will be connected to any resulting proposals. Choose the criteria and terms of reference for how any findings will be interpreted and/or analyzed.
  5. Remember to make a note of the objectives of your study.
  6. While any investigative work and/or observations are underway, take care to ensure all stakeholders understand the aims, objectives, procedures and desired results. In essence, you should ensure that all participants know the answer to this question, “what is a case study?”
  7. Put together all work records – any questions/questionnaires, interviews and research materials – and assemble all stakeholders. Hold meetings to make sure everything and everyone is prepared before the study commences.
  8. In the best examples of case studies, you will see how important it is to ensure that all project records, data, written work, and so on are undertaken and maintained on software and systems that are compatible. This also applies to the language used.
  9. If needs be, identify someone to undertake any double-checking and editing and identify a person to write the final paper.
  10. Make sure the project is written under the same strict conditions as any investigative work.

Selecting a Topic

There is no particular value in a case study that is not aimed at a targeted audience and where it does not address a practical problem. Hence, it is important to identify your audience and get to know it before selecting a topic for your work. It is only by understanding the people you are addressing and the issues they face that you can get a clear picture of what topics will interest them. When contemplating a topic, consider the primary problems that the topic might contain and provide an explanation as to why these are significant. Doing this will ensure your case studies focus intently on finding a solution and are, therefore, of greater value.