Case Studies. Guidelines to writing
A case study – is a worldwide used problem-solving method to analyze subject-related tasks. If you are studying business or economics, you better perfect your line, because you are going to use it very often.
The goal of this type of work is to harden the skills of analyzing life situations by means of stored knowledge on the subject. The main idea is to help students find the right way to imply their knowledge in solving a real problem. The greatest merit of the method is formation and evolution of student's values, professional positions, and certain viewpoints. The transformation of theoretical knowledge into practical abilities to solve tasks lies in the core of the strategy. Case studies may be used as a part of team-building activities as well.
Types of Case Studies
Depending on the result you have to accomplish, the types of case studies can vary. Among the most common are the following:
- Illustrative – is a descriptive study that describes the situation based on one or two illustrations. The goal is to present the main idea and walk the reader through the situation.
- Cumulative – means “combine”. It includes several illustrations to compile general conclusions.
- Narrative – presents the situation in a narrative style of exposition, including plot and characters.
- Critical Instance –combines several situations to criticize common general conclusions. The method is useful for causal cases.
How to Write a Good Case Study Paper?
Before you start writing, check on some important moments to be mentioned and clarified.
- The novelty and originality. Ask yourself whether the case has some unusual details. Do not be afraid to challenge the case holders. A good case should be innovative in the field of study. The case works as a boost for new and original ways of researching the problem.
- Forcing the future research. The case study process should provide a deeper understanding of the problem and at the same time present future possible related cases. It may be a foundation for further related cases to be solved.
- Literature examination. Use earlier research to present new perspective interpretations of the case. Furthermore, a deep literature investigation will help you put the case in the context of previously related cases and problems. Thus, it's easier to identify what new point your case can bring to the existing common understanding of the subject.
What is the Structure?
As it goes, we start with the introduction. Introduction is basically the “setup” of the report. It should include the outline and the description of the problem that needs to be solved. Without the description, the paper would lack purpose and objective.
The main body of the work contains the brief specification of the problem. Before you actually proceed to supportive arguments, think of the target audience. Imagine they know nothing about the subject of the paper. Would they be interested in the research? Do you provide enough context for a readable and coherent paper?
In some cases, you will need a discussion to illustrate the main point. Discussion is necessary because it implies additional information for the case holders and helps you create the draft. Theories, suggestions, and ideas are also linked to the discussion and serve as a metaphor to illustrate the thinking process.
Summarizing the final pieces of advice
As case study is about solving a task, it is obvious that your final goal is to find a solution for it. If you are writing a case study paper for college, your task is to show how much gained knowledge you can apply to deal with a real-life situation. That is why make sure the exposition is clear.
Reread the case a couple of times carefully. Make sure you know all the details of the situations and understand their connection. Therefore, you will check whether all necessary elements are mentioned for case holders. Working on a case study is often challenging, though it’s exactly what makes it valuable. By forcing yourself beyond the common ways of solving the problem, you are boosting your skills and abilities significantly.
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DOING CASE STUDY?
ABDUL AZIZ HUSSIN AMN
DPA; LL.B(Hons); Dip. M. Mgmt; M.Sc. (Prjt. Mgmt.);
AMIM; Advocate and Solicitor, MMAP
In most universities especially in Master’s Programme or in any other higher learning institution, one of the subjects that students should take is “Case Study”.When the “Case Study” become one subject or paper in the said programme, then it is usually a non-examination paper.Then the teacher (lecturer or Professor) concerned hopes his students will produce a quality Case Study.But the question is:How to do a quality Case Study?
In our working environment our organization (firm/company or any other corporate body, government agency, statutory body etc.) sometimes (if not most of the time) ask us to do case study or case analysis for the said organisation’s own purposes.
The above two reasons (and/or some other reasons) is the answer as to why we do “Case Study”.
WHAT IS A CASE STUDY?
Phrase “Case Study” contains two words: “Case” and “Study”.What is the “Case” and what is “Study” and what is the case to be studied?What is the difference between “a Case Study” and an ordinary assignment?
One of the perspectives as regards to a branch of numerous case studies, Donnelly J.H., Gibson J.L. & Ivancevich J.N. state,1
“This type of research design attempts to examine numerous characteristics of a person or group over an extended period of time.Since the result achieved by a case study are usually based on a sample of one, the user cannot be certain as to their generality. Most cases studies raise questions for future research”.
For our intent and purposes, a Case Study is an attempt to examine a specific case (occasion, event, incident, person, or any specific subject-matter) over a specific period of time.It based on a specific sample.
PURPOSE OR OBJECTIVE OF DOING CASE STUDY
For students, the purpose or objective of doing Case Study is to allow students with real expertise and understanding, as well as judgement to excel.
Case Study (or sometimes called “Case Analysis”) requires the students to take risks, make judgements in uncertain situations, and to propose and select from multiple possible options, none of which may be “right” or “wrong”.2
Case Study also a case as is true in real-world, on-the-job settings.3For example, in strategic management in business, cases are typically records of actual business stuations, rather than problems that are preformulated for students to solve.The organisations, its history, and current situation are typically described, and it is left to the student to analyse what course of action the organisation should pursue.The students are put in the position of managers who must develop alternatives and propose specific actions for the firm.4
One example in real-world, as case study comparison of MAUT (multi attribute theory) with the AHP (analytic hierarchy process) use to evaluate and select the next generation of rough-terrain cargo handlers.5
INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP CASE STUDY – A MATTER OF CHOICE
A Case Study can be done individually or as a group Case Study – a Case Study done by a group of persons.We have “freedom to choose” either to do it by private individual or by a group (meaning that by persons comprising more than one),But, according to David F.R.6 strategy-formulation, implementation and evaluation decisions are commonly made by a group of individuals rather than by a single person.
Therefore, it is most advantageous (and advisable), to do Case Study by a group of individuals.As a group, members of a team, differ in their aversion to risk, their concern for the short-run versus long-run, their attitudes towards social responsibility and other key factors.7But to have the best working group, each and every member of the group should have these elements:8
· Always remember, there are no perfect people, so there are no perfect strategists;
· Use facts, figures, analyses and charts to support the group ideas;
· Be open-minded to others views (no monopolies please); and
· Be both a good listener and a good contributor.
HOW TO CONDUCT A CASE STUDY?
The very first thing to remember is:No willful action is possible without intention, so intention is necessary.9Before we conduct a Case Study, let us set our mind:What is the purpose (or intention) or the objective(s) of this Case Study?Is it only to fulfill one of the requirements for our Master’s Degree, or for our company/organization?
Whatever the objective or the purpose is, the firm/company or organization or the teacher (lecturer or professor) expects (or hopes) that we will produce a quality, valuable, matured and reach a minimum standard (at least) final product, that it is highly probable can be used as a guideline in solving a problem, giving some alternatives for plan of action, etc.
The second question is:What is (usually) or are (occasionally) the specific subject-matter(s) of the said Case Study?Or, what is the subject (something to be talked or written about or studied) to which though or attention is given?According to Digman L.A.10, it is important to gain an appreciation of the overall situation initially, as well as to learn what information is contained in the case, and in analyzing a case, on orderly, step-by-step approach often is helpful.We have to jot down the key points and issues that come to mind.11
To make it clearer, let us take the following example:
q Road accidents are not a subject-matter for a Case Study, although we can do a study on it.
A road accident occurred on 23 March 2000 at Km 35.5 North-South Highway is a case but is it suitable (or reasonable) to study?But, a road accident involving a motor-lorry bearing registration number ABCD1234 carrying 40 passengers and a motor-bus bearing registration number XYZ 8910 carrying 20 tons of sugar cane on 23 March 2000 at about 2.35 am at KM 35.5 North-South Highway probably an interesting case to be studied.The subject-matters of the above case are:
(i) a motor-lorry carrying passangers
(ii) a motor-bus carrying sugar canes
(iii) the highway (with a dual-separated-lane carriageway)
(iv) occurred at about 2.35 am
Facts should be searched on the above mentioned matters.
Whatever the subject-matter(s) is (or are) always remember the Pareto Principle12 in determining the subject-matter:
“The few having the greatest importance and the many having little importance”
In short, without subject-matter(s), there will be no Case Study!
And, in addition, please also bear in mind that firstly we have to recognize that most of the information in a case is established fact (and do not include opinion, judgements, and beliefs)13.
“Problem Statement” means statement identifies the main problem to be examined (in the analysis)14 (or in the Case Study).
According to Rowe, A.J. et.al.15, it is important to avoid pitfalls, such as confusing symptoms with problems; making premature evaluations; accepting informating at face value; and applying old stereotypes to new problems.The problem has to be stated explicity (i.e. clearly and fully expressed).The statement should also include any assumptions to be made in the analysis.16
Analyzing the Data or Facts
This is an actual first step in doing Case Study.We have to acquire relevant and important facts or data as much as we can to be used in analyzing the case.Importing the words of a group of writers17,
“Relevant data (or facts)18 might be information about environmental issue, current economic conditions in the (construction)19 industry, market share, competitive strategy, customer reaction, available funding, profit, government regulations, productive capacity, work performance and managerial style”.
This list can be added to includes labour (availability skilled and unskilled), working evironment, political stability, and etc.
In analyzing facts, as we’ve already mentioned, we need only relevant facts or data.One fact is relevant when it renders the existence of other fact probable or improbable.It is a matter of common sense and experience of each and everyone of us.
In order to have only relevant important facts (or data), it was suggested that we apply (and digest) through this “window”.
The next thing to do with the facts or data is the methods used to analyze these kinds of data or facts.
We can use a number of different methods to analyze data or facts – but usually past relevant experience in the specific field is valuable – by applying creative problem-solving or by estimating the risk.To list some of it are:
Critical success factors;
Sustainable growth; or
Organisation life cycle, etc.
The bottom line is:It is our own responsibility to analyze data or facts (No delegation of responsibility please!).It is also possible to adapt “decision tree20” or Ishikawa21 process in analyzing the facts or data according to priority of its importance and relevancy.
At the end of analysis process, we will come to the conclusion.We shall draw conclusion(s) based on our analysis, information, and also assumption (ie. logical assumption).Digman L.A.22advise us to determine alternatives and their likely outcomes.At the end we shall make recommendations.23
In giving recommendation(s), some writers24 suggest that we have to submit alternative view and not only to get (the discovery) of “one-best-way” management principle.25This is known as “case view” in which managers face the task of determining what methods will “work in every new situation.In “case view”, the principle is that, every situation is unique (in the eyes of the managers), as shown below26:
It is the managers’ task to determine alternatives and their likely outcomes.
In giving recommendation be prepared to give reason(s) (or to give justification) to our recommendation(s).Be prepared to defend ourrecommendation(s) under critical questioning27 (by the lecturer, or by organization’s leaders or their stake-holders, as the case applies).
“Presentation” connotes “submission”.In ordinary term, “submission” means put forward for opinion, discussion, decision, etc.For our purpose, it is not a technical or legal term.
Presentation can be in the form of “oral presentation” or “written presentation” – Each of it has its own advantageous and disadvantageous.And it may be in the form of discussion or only one-way presentation!When we are preparing written presentation, generally the report are more structured and more detailed compared with oral presentation.
In our presentation, especially written presentation, it is recommended that our presentation contains the following four sections28:
· Background of the case,
· Our analysis,
· Alternatives and Recommendation, and
· Implementation Plan
Written presentation usually accompanies by an “Executive Memo”, especially when we present our case to top management, board of directors or to stake-holders.According to Rowe A.J.29 executive memo (or executive summary) serves two purposes:
(i) It is a concise way of summarizing the findings and recommendations of the case analysis.Its one-page form forces the writer to address the issues clearly and succintly.
(ii) It emphasizes that the case analysis is only a basis for arriving at viable strategic alternatives.The final choice involves a number of considerations, not the least of which is the active involvement of the CEO.
Doing case study seems that not of an easy job. Unlike doing ordinary written assignment or homework, doing case study claims the efford, energy, intellect minds and timeconsuming in order to acquire fact, to analyse it and to put recommendations.It is a structured well-framed and “an intellectual property” for us.Are we prepared for it?
Importing words of Drucker, P.F.30,
“Only a clear definition of the mission and purpose of our (case study31) makes possible clear and realistic of a (case study32) objectives.It is the foundation for priorities, strategies, plans, and the work assignments.It is the starting point for (us33) ….. Structure follows strategy.Strategy determines what the key activities are in a given bussiness34.And strategy requires knowing “what our business is and what it should be!”
1Donnelly, J.H., Gibson, J.L. & Ivoncevich J.N., 1984, Fundamentals of Management, 5th Edition, Texas: Business Publication Inc., P. G3; Definition probably more suitable in case studies relating to personnels, management style, etc.
2Digman, L.A., 1990, Strategic Management-Concepts, Decision, Cases, 2nd Edition, Boston: Richard D. Irwin Inc., p.428.
5Shtub, A., Band J.F. & Globeson, S., 1994, Project Management, Engineering, Technology and Implementation, Eaglewood:Prentice-Hill, pp. 192-208.
6David, F.R., 1986, Cases in Strategic Management, Ohio:Merrill Publishing Co., p. 5.
8Ibid, Version with modification.
9Al-Hadith told by Bukhari and Muslim (“Niyya”, ie. intention of performing).
10Op. cit., footnote 2, at p. 429.
11This the procees of skimming the case to gain the overall perspective – ibid.
12By Villefredo Pareto, 18th Century – a study of the distribution of wealth in Milan, found that 20% of the people controlled 80% of the wealth – see Aquilano N.J. & Chase R.B., 1991, Fundamentals of Operation Management, Boston: Richard D. Irwin Inc., p. 457.
13David, F.R., op.cit, footnote 6, p. 4.
14Rowe, A.J., et.al., 1989, Strategic Management:A Methodological Approach, 3rd. Edition, Reading, Massachusets:Addison – Weley Publishing Co., p. 30.
17Ibid, p. 31
19Emphasis added to suit this paper.
20Field M. & Keller L., 1998, Project Management, Boston:The Open University, p. 53.
21Meaning “fish-bones” process.
22Op. cit.Footnote 2, at p. 429.
23Meaning that “suggest as wise or suitable”.
24For example, Daft R.L., 1994, Management, 3rd. Edition, Orlando:Harvard Brace College Publication, pp. 60-61; David, R., op. cit., Footnote 6, at p. 5.
27Digman, L.A., op. cit., footnote 2, at p. 429-430.
28Ibid., p. 430 (with modifications).
29Rowe A.J., et. Al., footnote 15, at p. 33.
30Drucker, P.F., “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” in The Best of Business Books, The World Executive’s Digest Library, 1989, at p. 13.
31Emphasis added, with modification.
34In our case, is our “Case Study”.